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What companies can do to support transgender employees

  • Posted on June 22, 2020

Pride Month celebrates the LGBTQ+ community in June, and at Avanade, this is an important celebration for us. Throughout the month and across the globe, we host Pride Month activities that bring together our people to demonstrate our visible support and raise awareness of current issues facing the LGBTQ+ community. In conjunction with Pride Month, we took the opportunity to connect with two of our colleagues from Brazil and Japan.

They are Allan Crisafulli Santos from Avanade Brazil, and our Avanade Japan colleague who has chosen to remain anonymous for this article. We’d like to thank both of them for sharing their personal stories, which are incredibly powerful, and for the insights and visibility into the transgender community.

The transgender experience is not monolithic

To start, our Japanese colleague shares her experiences living in Japan, “Everyday life is not that hard in Japan where I live, at least for me. But for those who are in the process of changing their sex, there are lots of things to overcome. For example, the law is not in our favor and the cost is overwhelming. The starting point is when you have transitioned, so if you have not begun your journey to the new ‘you,’ you are stuck in a muddle.”

It's important to note that the transgender experience is not monolithic; her experience in Japan is different from what someone transitioning in another part of the world might go through.

“In Japanese society, there are still very strong gender stereotypes,” she adds. “Due to this, if your ‘uniqueness’ is visible, it becomes harder. If you are transitioning from male to female, it takes time to transition, not just physically but also culturally because there are certain mannerisms that are expected of each gender.”

Allan from our Brazil team shares how difficult it can be to begin a transition journey and that it took him a while before he felt ready.

“I knew from a very young age that something was not right, but I didn't have the information until about 24 years of age,” Allan explains. “After that, everything I felt before started to make sense. When I joined Avanade, I introduced myself as a lesbian woman even though I already knew I was a transgender. I was not prepared to start the transition yet. In fact, I started the transition while at the company.”

The importance of a safe workplace

At Avanade, we’re committed to making sure everyone feels inspired, confident and cared for – that each of us can bring our whole self to work without fear of discrimination. Once Allan made the decision to transition, he says he felt supported by Avanade’s effort to create this sort of workplace.

“Avanade is increasingly trying to make a better environment,” he says. “They are in constant contact on subjects related to the transition to understand and improve the company. They’re also helping me at the same time; it’s a two-way exchange.”

Our colleague in Japan echoed his sentiments, explaining that Avanade Japan has worked to adjust practices to make all employees feel safe and included.

Avanade has addressed issues regarding dress code, use of chosen names, restrooms, gender at birth and others, and shown flexibility for minorities,” she says. “It was impressive that this was all done within a year and everyone accepted it. With new people coming in every month, I thought it might be a bit awkward, but all are accepting the diversity as a part of Avanade’s culture, which is just great!”

The spirit of Pride needs to exist all year

So, what more can companies like Avanade do to support the transgender community? Allan believes storytelling and sharing knowledge more widely can help, while our Japanese colleague feels that companies should refrain from asking people to make business trips to countries that are stricter and more dangerous for transgender people.

Companies can learn from one another and incorporate best practices. And while Pride Month is a chance to learn from and lift up the LGBTQ+ community, we must remember that becoming more inclusive and supportive is not a once-a-year opportunity; the spirit and conversation of Pride must exist all year long.

*LGBTQ+ is an abbreviation that refers to people with diverse sexual orientation, sex or gender identity. They include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, and other sexuality, sex and gender-diverse people, regardless of their term of self-identification. The abbreviation can vary and can include additional letters, such as I (intersex) and Q (queer/questioning) or even appear in a different order (e.g., GLBTI).

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