Transgender Matters at Work – FAQ’s by Karly May

At 21 we have been getting a number of queries re transgender issues at the workplace and we thought this would be the perfect time to address this in view of the fact that it is Transgender Awareness Week (12th to the 19th November). Karly May, who has first hand experience and who is doing her best to raise awareness on transgender matters, has kindly agreed to address some frequently asked questions.

Some background….

A transgender person is someone whose own gender identity or expression is different from the sex assigned at birth. Sex relates solely to the biological characteristics while gender embraces the biological, mental and social features of a person including their identity and expression.

Therefore a person’s gender identity refers to the way a person perceives and feels about themselves. Cisgender is the term which is used for people whose gender identity matches their biological sex, whilst for transgender people their gender identity and sex do not correspond one with the other.

Transgender people might choose to undergo gender reassignment surgery in order to align their sexual characteristics with the gender that reflects their identity, but this is not the case with everyone. There might be various reasons for this decision such as financial, access to medical treatment or other personal choices.

What issues do transgender people face in the workplace?

If the person is already employed, and transitions during said employment, the most common issue in Malta is harassment and discrimination. Harassment can happen by using the wrong pronouns, referring to said individual by their birth name and of course making fun of the person to their face, behind their back, or both.

If the person is in the early stages of their transition, and is applying for jobs, their birth name might still be listed on all their legal documents, which is why it is crucial people conducting interviews are knowledgeable in how to address said situations. Do not make a big deal about it and just refer to them in the name and pronoun of their choice. If it comes to a job offer, the person issuing the contract would need to clarify the name to list them under, normally this is the same as what is on the person’s ID card. If these differ, the contract is issued in said name, however ideally company information should be listed as per the person’s preference.

How can companies take steps to make the workplace inclusive of transgender employees?

Implementing LGBTIQ* policies is the best manner an employer can support transgender employees in the workplace. HR should ensure that all other existing policies are updated to ensure they are gender-neutral. Moreover organising informative talks about LGTIQ* will clearly show that the workplace is an inclusive one and would also ensure that all employees are knowledgeable about current legislation and also issues faced by the LGBTIQ* community.

Any tips of how one can support during transition?

Every transition is unique and therefore the company should have guidelines which should be flexible so as to meet the particular needs of a transitioning employee, while sufficiently detailed so as to provide a consistent basis that reduces misperception.

Such guidelines should include:

  • The complete process for effecting transition-related administrative workplace changes, such as adjusting HR records,
  • The expectations of Management regarding the transitioning employees and vice-versa,
  • A transgender person should use the bathroom of the gender they identify with even before completing the full transition. Gender neutral bathrooms can be introduced so as to make the work place more inclusive,
  • The communication plan, once agreed with the employee, so as to advice co-workers and clients.

Will the worker’s name change? Should we update our records?

That depends on the person’s choice but in most cases yes the name of the person will change and HR should update all records as per legislation.