International Trans Visibility Day – Why We Are Visible For All The Wrong Reasons
Observed on March 31st every year, Transgender Visibility Day is dedicated to raising awareness about the transgender community and the issues we face in the ongoing fight for equality, whilst promoting acceptance and understanding. But are we more visible at the moment for all the wrong reasons?
We read about trans people every day in the media and everyone has an opinion. Who should be in which prison? Who should use what toilet to stop trans individuals from attacking women and children? And of course, whether trans athletes should be allowed to compete in sports that match their gender identity. Each controversy, stereotype and misconception fuels toxic rhetoric against the millions of transgender people around the world who just want to live their lives as themselves in an inclusive and accepting culture. What we don’t hear much about are the serious negative impacts of the toxic narrative on the mental and physical health of trans people and on their ability to work, and access healthcare, education and other essential resources.
So who is talking about our valuable contributions to society? Who is acknowledging the resilience and strength of transgender people in the face of discrimination? Is your business showing support for trans rights and working towards a more inclusive and accepting workplace?
The good news
Whilst it is difficult to determine with certainty if there are actually more transgender people or if more people are feeling comfortable identifying as transgender due to greater acceptance and understanding in society, there has been an increase in visibility and awareness of transgender people in recent years due in part to greater social representation, allies and advocacy efforts. According to a 2017 study by the UK government’s National LGBT Survey, which surveyed over 108,000 people, approximately 1.8% of respondents identified as transgender.
Transgender visibility varies greatly on a number of factors, including geographical location, cultural and societal attitudes, and access to media and information. Legal and policy changes, for example the 2021 executive order by President Biden that allows transgender people to serve openly in the military, are likely to increase the visibility and acceptance of transgender individuals.
Sadly discrimination still exists.
Despite this progress, transgender people continue to face high levels of discrimination and marginalization including at work. According to a 2019 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality, 47% of transgender people reported experiencing some form of employment discrimination, 29% reported being denied a promotion, and 17% reported being fired.
What can your business to do to promote transgender awareness and support?
I am afraid there is no magic panacea. It takes commitment.
Bust the myths. There are so many myths that create a negative perception about transgender individuals such as they are just confused and gay, or going through a phase, or have mental health issues. Transgender individuals are a threat to others in public restrooms when in fact transgender individuals are more likely to be the victims of harassment and violence. Transgender individuals are just cross-dressers or drag queens and being transgender is a choice and is for attention seekers. Transgender individuals are people just like everyone else, and deserve to be treated with respect, dignity, and compassion.
Reject negative rhetoric. Rebuffing toxic narrative starts with educating oneself about the experiences of transgender individuals and the issues they face. Listen to trans voices to educate yourself about their experience. Challenge transphobia when you encounter it, whether it’s online or in person. Top of Form
Ensure diversity and representation. Diversity is a process of open dialogue and opportunity where differences are celebrated. Diversity is integral to learning, growth, and development because it increases acceptance. In the case of the transgender community, diverse workplaces are more likely to have people who can relate to the experiences of transgender individuals such as imposter syndrome and a feeling of not belonging, which can have a positive impact on mental health and well-being for starters.
Address discrimination: Address any incidents of discrimination or harassment immediately. This sends a message that discriminatory behaviour will not be tolerated and can help create a safer workplace for all employees and reduce the stigma against transgender people.
Use inclusive language: Use inclusive language in all workplace communications, including emails, newsletters, and social media posts. This can help demonstrate your commitment to having an inclusive workplace.
Create a support system: Establish a support system for transgender employees, such as an employee resource group or a mentorship program. This can help provide a safe and supportive environment for transgender employees to share their experiences and feel heard.
Provide training: Conduct training sessions for all employees to educate them about transgender people, their experiences, and the challenges they face. This can help increase awareness and sensitivity towards the community.
Update policies: Update your workplace policies to be more inclusive of transgender employees. This can include gender-neutral language, updating dress codes, and ensuring that restroom and locker room facilities are accessible to all employees. Triple check there is equity in your healthcare services, legal protections, and employment opportunities.
Offer benefits: Ensure that your workplace benefits, such as healthcare and insurance, cover transgender-specific needs such as hormone therapy.
Overall while transgender visibility has increased in recent years, there is still a long way to go in terms of achieving full acceptance and equal rights for transgender people and the solution lies in the need to see trans visibility in a more positive light. It is also important to recognise and support the diversity of all gender identities and expressions.
Author: Inclusive Culture Expert, Joanne Lockwood, CEO & Founder of SEE Change Happen