Jennie Kermode lists the biggest gripes for trans people in the workplace
Being transgender used to be seen as a dirty secret. Now it’s widely accepted that trans people are just people like anyone else, but with a less common experience of gender. More and more trans people live openly, at home and at work and lots of cis people these days totally get it. Even so, they still have to put up with some pretty annoying treatment. Could you be contributing to it, without even meaning to? Let’s count down the top 5 most annoying things cis people say and do around their trans workmates!
- It’s a pronoun, get used to it!
Respecting people’s gender is simply good manners. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to use the right terms, but there are always some people who can’t be bothered, or who deliberately try to provoke. This is a particular problem for non-binary people who use non-standard pronouns. Occasional slip-ups are not the end of the world, but if you can’t remember most of the time, are you really fit to be at work?
- You are not a historian, back off!
Why ask about who we were ‘before’? Although some trans people are comfortable talking about life before starting to transition, others have had to deal with painful things like family rejection, and would much rather forget about it. You really don’t need to know their old names or what they used to look like, no matter how curious you may be. If they want to share things with you, they’ll do so in their own time.
- I beg your pardon?
Would you ask colleagues who weren’t trans what their genitals look like? Well…that’s what trans people get asked all the time! And it’s every bit as rude and intrusive. What’s more, some trans people don’t feel they need surgery, or want it but can’t have it for medical reasons. They should be respected for what’s between their ears without regard to what’s between their legs.
- Sorry…was that supposed to be a compliment?
Often people who want to be supportive try to make trans men or women feel good by telling them they pass well. This implies that you think they’re doing a good impression of men or women, rather than that you respect them as men or women. It also implies that they must desperately want to look ‘normal’, when they might be perfectly happy just being themselves, even if they look a bit unusual.
- Easy tiger!
Being trans is nothing to do with sex or sexuality, yet for some reason, lots of people assume that their trans colleagues must find them irresistible. Unwanted sexual attention is never cool, and it can be a big problem at work. Besides, you run the risk of making yourself look like an idiot – your trans colleagues have enough to contend with without feeling embarrassed on your behalf!
Trans people aren’t hypersensitive – they just have to put up with a lot, and sometimes it can get wearing. If you want to make life easier for them, avoiding the above is a good place to start. It makes for a happier workplace all round.
Jennie Kermode is the author of ‘Transgender Employees in the Workplace: a Guide for Employers‘ chair of Trans Media Watch and content director at Eye For Film