Transgender Awareness Week: How you can support the community
- Posted on November 13, 2019
- Estimated reading time 6 minutes
Each November we observe Transgender Awareness Week, a time for us to raise awareness for and celebrate the trans, nonbinary and gender nonconforming communities, while also educating and discussing the concerns that face the communities at large. The week leads up to Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), where we honor the memories of those who were lost to acts of discrimination and violence. This year we’re bringing a few different perspectives together – a father, a CMO and an employee resource group leader – to talk about how you can support the trans community.
Provide every bit of positivity you can
Chris Anderson, Advisory Services
I have a beautiful son, Abraham, whose mother and I love with every piece of our hearts. Anyone who knows me understands that I have never had any concerns or questions about supporting this young man 100% in anything and everything he does and stands for. A big part of that support was fully recognized this past summer, as Abe, who had just turned 18 in May, was able to complete his transition with a trip to San Francisco for gender reassignment surgery. Our family spent the last two years prepping for this procedure, and the results were simply perfect.
With the help of Avanade’s outstanding health insurance, and our company travel policies, which allowed us to use both hotel points and airline miles, the entire trip, including the surgery, was even less costly than many family trips we’ve taken in the past. I’ll always be appreciative of my job here at Avanade, the people I work with and the friends I’ve made here to date, but this experience with our son certainly put this company over the top for me, and I feel I owe them a great deal of gratitude.
Certainly not every parent, sibling or relative of any kind has the luxuries that we’ve had through our family’s personal journey. The advice I want to shout out to any parent of a transgender child is very simple: Support and love them, always, at all costs. The world is hard enough on trans-youth as it is, and they need every bit of positivity you as a parent can provide. Help them feel included. Help them feel important. Help them feel loved. Help them assimilate to their surroundings in a world that, in some cases, won’t be as accepting as you.
Will you have questions along the way? Maybe. Will you have concerns? Most certainly you will. However, the more focused you are, the more accepting you are, the more loving you are, trust me when I say that it will make a world of difference in the eyes of your child.
Build a supportive and inclusive workplace
Stella Goulet, Chief Marketing Officer
As executive sponsor of Avanade’s Prism LGBT+ Employee Resource Group, workplace inclusion and diversity is a key focus for me. Which is why I was excited to attend the recent Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Washington, D.C. The jam-packed agenda was filled with many great sessions, but I found one of the workshops on transgender workplace policies and benefits to be particularly enlightening.
Topics included not only anti-harassment and equal employment, but also the importance of gender-neutral policies and practices, like gender-neutral dress codes and restrooms. We also talked about the importance of making your transgender policies, practices, guidelines and resources easily visible and accessible so people don’t have to feel vulnerable asking for things. It’s also essential to build a supportive community, including providing mentors and one-to-one support in the form of experienced health “concierges” rather than a general phone number; helping transgender employees connect directly into HR; providing training and educational material for employees, managers and families; and holding panel discussions to raise awareness and understanding.
We also learned about some great resources to help organizations provide a safer and more inclusive workplace for transgender employees. These include:
- The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), “Standards of Care for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming People”
- The Williams Institute, part of the UCLA School of Law, which conducts rigorous, independent research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy
Speak up, speak out and lift those around you
Christopher Mostello, Prism LGBT+ Employee Resource Group Lead
We’re living in times that carry uncertainty for many. An example is currently being fought in the U.S. Supreme Court. Last month the court heard multiple cases arguing equal employment for the LGBT+ community, which included the argument of gender identity and expression being a terminable basis. Imagine that for a second. Your colleague, coming to work as their authentic self, may not come back to work the next day if that employer doesn’t believe in that value – the value that everyone can and should bring each and every part of who they are to the workplace.
The journey of one’s identity is not an easy one. But to also have the weight of employment added to the mix? Not the epitome of support we want for everyone, in my opinion. Until the decision comes out next year, the LGBT+ community sits in the wind while the decision to fire us for who we are is decided. The majority may be unable to directly relate but consider this: your employer contemplating your employment based purely on who you are. I would expect an uneasy feeling. That being said, I’m proud to say that Avanade stands by all of our employees in fostering an inclusive and diverse community.
That’s only one, very current example of what the trans community is facing, among the , not even considering the countless stories that go unspoken and unreported. And keep in mind those examples are U.S.-specific; there’s still a global community to think about. Last November, one of our colleagues shared their story and experiences in Japan. With the continued discrimination and ongoing inequity, this isn’t something that we can lay by the wayside. When you have a voice and have the ability: Speak up, speak out and lift those around you. Recognize any sort of advantage that you might have and use that to “throw the rope over” to help someone else and bring someone along with you.
That’s something that each and every one of us can take away from this year’s Trans Awareness Week and Month. Hear the stories. Share the stories. And then, if you can, find ways to champion the community. Small acts add up. Supporting your colleagues, however you define that, won’t only affect their work life, but their entire life. By each of us helping to cultivate an environment where we all can do our best work, we can all succeed that much more. I’ll leave you with a few things to remember:
- Listen. To understand someone’s experience, you first need to hear them. And when you do hear them, listen and let them lead. Respect their boundaries just as you would also want that respect. Create and nurture an environment where stories can be openly told and shared.
- Recognize. Reflect on and acknowledge the differences you’re hearing. Whether they’re differences from your experiences, or from others you may have heard. It’s OK to learn. Be open to learning.
- Act. Think about how you can impact someone’s experience for the better. Consider a small act, such as respecting someone’s pronouns. Or a big act, such as supporting someone who may be undergoing a transition. Of course, these two examples aren’t exclusive but know that support comes in many forms and is something each of us can do for one another.
At Avanade, we commit to the respect and integrity of every individual we work with. How are you championing that ethos each and every day?
LGBT+ 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).