How to stand up for your trans colleagues

  • Posted on March 30, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
How to stand up for your trans colleagues

International Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV), recognized each year on March 31st, is a day for celebrating and supporting our transgender and gender non-conforming communities while also raising awareness for the inequalities, violence and phobia that the communities face from others. It’s a day to learn about the community and the history that you may not be aware of. It’s a day to bring that much needed visibility to light. TDOV should empower each of us to think about how we’re supporting our trans colleagues, family and friends.

Today’s story is from one of our career advisers who took the opportunity to support and mentor to heart.

Being a career adviser at Avanade gives me a great opportunity to influence the careers and personal development of employees on my team. This happens mostly through the regular connects where I learn about challenges they face or objectives they have for their careers, and I can share my personal experience and guidance with them.

I must admit that I was quite taken by surprise when I got to know a new employee and they shared their trans identity with me. For those who don’t know, a trans person has realized at a point in their life that they were assigned the wrong gender at birth.

For myself, I instantly knew that this would not make any difference in my relationship with them, but I wanted to do my part to make sure that would be the case for all of our team and our clients. I wanted to ensure my advisee knew that I would have their back so they would feel respected, valued and cared for in a supportive and inclusive environment. My first reaction was to communicate this clearly and ask my new colleague to directly contact me in the event that anybody didn’t behave appropriately. Standing up for our trans colleagues is a key behavior to rightfully consider ourselves an ally.

What I’ve learned about being a visible trans ally

This has been a new experience for me, and as such I have learned along the way and I want to share my learnings in the hope that more and more people will take on the role of visible trans allies.

What I have learned from my new advisee is that our team does live up to our core values and makes our workplace an inclusive environment where everybody feels welcome to the largest extent. But the same is not true in all situations. It is important to me that we all become more sensitive to misgendering and stand up for our trans colleagues in such situations.

This might require some learning and practice to be able to react immediately when it happens. It can be really difficult to openly correct the person who made this mistake by responding in a constructive way that encourages long-term behavioral changes. And to be honest, I wasn’t comfortable correcting the person when it happened in my presence for the first time. I felt insecure about whether it was appropriate to address the mistake or if it is better to ignore it. Today, I know that I made the wrong decision and I learned from it.

Although everybody should try to avoid making mistakes, they can happen. I experienced that the trans community is forgiving as long as you are willing to learn and honestly apologize for it. When you use the wrong pronoun, correct yourself or accept being corrected, apologize for it without making drama out of it and continue your conversation. If you witness somebody else making this mistake, don’t hesitate to correct them. Being applied the wrong gender in a conversation, especially in larger groups, is very painful for someone who’s trans. Therefore, we all should make it a natural behavior to actively support the community by correcting such mistakes. This also applies to situations where the trans individual may not even be present.

Take a stand against all hate

My recommendations after one year as a career adviser of a trans person are:

  • Stand up for your trans colleagues. Correct misgendering for them, and you can even do so in creative ways. And do so always, not only when a trans person is around.
  • Don’t out anybody. The decision to tell somebody that they’re trans is up to the trans person themself. If you’re asked about someone, just state that you refuse to speculate. Help to educate the person asking however you can.
  • Always take a stand against all hate, discriminatory behavior and disrespectful comments even if they’re labelled or dismissed as banter. Adopt a zero-tolerance approach to any harassment and bullying and communicate that clearly.

I am proud to be part of an open and inclusive work environment that welcomes everyone in full. We have a work culture that values differences, where everyone counts and where everyone is encouraged to be themselves and bring their whole self to work. Being given the opportunity to become a career adviser for a trans colleague has allowed me to gain new experiences and to grow myself. Looking forward, I am confident I will be able to continually increase our diversity by intentionally displaying inclusive behaviors every day in everything I do. And I truly believe that we will all benefit from it both as individuals and as a company.

*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).

John Bellairs

Thomas, thanks for the insight and for some really clear and easy to implement advice and guidance, for example refusing to speculate.

April 3, 2020

David Stenzel

Thomas, thanks for sharing your story and insights.  I'm proud to work at a company were valuing diversity in not just a corporate buzzword, but where people actually do respect and value each and every individual.

April 2, 2020

Jay Liebowitz

Thanks for sharing your story and thank you for being an ally....we need more people like you in the world!

April 1, 2020

Stella Goulet

Thank you for sharing your insights, Thomas. Like you, I became a more active trans ally after a colleague generously shared her experiences and ideas on how to help improve the work lives of other trans colleagues. Your recommendations are clear and practical -- great advice!

March 31, 2020

Zora Bryant

Thank you for sharing.  We all need to be informed and educate ourselves and build an environment of  acceptance, trust, and support for all human race regardless of any differences.  

March 31, 2020

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