Many transgender and non-binary people are regularly subjected to unnecessary standards and barriers making their jobs more challenging than they need to be. Transgender and non-binary individuals face discrimination, stigma, and hostility within the workplace. They are often pressured to manage and conceal their identities in line with social expectations. These experiences cause psychological and emotional responses that can affect both personal well-being as well as job satisfaction.
As women, we know what it’s like to face unnecessary barriers and standards at work. At Yellow Eve, we believe that no one should be excluded from the workspace no matter what their gender identity and/or gender expression. We need to advocate equality for non-binary and transgender individuals both in and out of work.
Our founding editor Lauren Webb spoke to Mx. Harris Hill, Gender Educator, and NLP Coach about trans-inclusivity in the workplace, as Harris is a leading expert and advocate in this space. In this article, we have summarised the key takeaways from their conversation and hope to leave you with new knowledge and inspiration for your own allyship.
“My passion for people being treated well really pushed me into the whole conversation around rights”
Harris got into trans-advocacy about seven years ago. “I think, that year, I began seeing a lot more conversation around women’s rights and I wasn’t out at the time – I didn’t know that I was trans. I was posting things on Facebook and it was really p*ssing off my friends. Back then, the unfollowing option did not exist.
“My passion for people being treated well really pushed me into the whole conversation around rights. The more I got involved in it, the more stuff I started to see, the more I wanted to share.
“Then I came across the idea of non-binary. The second that I read it, I instantly knew… It all just culminated in me basically starting my own Facebook page. It became a platform for me to talk about things that I cared about, unlike talking about difficult things. But also caring about each other and really promoting inclusivity. There is zero gatekeeping on my page.”
Harris’s Facebook page, Genders Together with Harris, now has over 28,000 followers.
As Harris explains, there has recently been a lot of discourse around removing gender-neutral bathrooms and there has been growth in right-leaning feminism that advocates trans-exclusion. These things are further problematising workplace experiences for transgender and non-binary individuals. In turn, forcing them to conceal their gender identity at work.
Harris feels that gender as a subject is potentially a prison for everyone. “If the way that you’ve been modelled by your gender by somebody else doesn’t work for you, or it isn’t your reality, you should not be pressured to conform to it.” Harris believes that gender is something that should work for the individual in whatever way that they are going to do it.
Many people engage in these conversations but aren’t really interested in it, besides just getting involved for the sake of it; “So often their concern is, ‘Oh, you know, we’re getting rid of gender altogether? Or, you know, ‘Can’t we say or do these things now?’ The point, however, is that it should work for each person… There are options available that are flexible.”
Harris supports people in making their decisions for themselves that they like, what works for them and how they want to advocate for that. “As passionate as I am about being trans and non-binary, I’m equally as passionate for other people to be able to have their gender the way that they need to have it. You know, I don’t need them to fit my ideas. Like, that’s the whole point that – everybody gets to do it in a way that’s authentic.”
Emotional intelligence and handling change
Harris says that the foremost thing is for organisations to become more mindful of how they treat their employees. Likewise, colleagues also need to make sure that they show respect and care to other colleagues despite their personal beliefs. It can become difficult to address gender theory and to know exactly the way in which it should be approached as a subject matter.
“Individuals tend to bring out their own beliefs about the world. At times, they can be very comfortable in what they believe, so it is uncomfortable for them to believe that anything else is possible, or that other people don’t operate the way that they think that everybody operates. Many people have ideas that the world is straightforward and do not like to deviate from their preconceived notions.”
As Harris explains, some individuals are accepting and welcoming of change, and those people are naturally empathetic and take the time to understand the little details. On the other hand, there are people who lack emotional intimacy, do not feel comfortable expressing vulnerability and/or admitting that they are an amateur in a subject area. For this latter group, it is about focusing on strategy and how that translates into the workplace much like other areas of employee wellbeing.
Harris says that their approach is “really functional.” “The majority of what we end up talking about is how people feel, and how they are managing or not managing to interact with the subject.”
Adults don’t like to get it wrong
As we already know, often people express reservations towards changes or new policies at work. In terms of trans-inclusivity, they may be reluctant to use gender pronouns at work. This reluctance can actually be a fear of getting it wrong, Harris explains. Gender pronouns is a relatively new phenomenon and some people may take longer to adapt to it than others. Therefore, they may be rather hesitant to use pronouns in the workplace to avoid getting them wrong.
Harris says, “adults do not like being treated as amateurs. It can be very triggering for them to be an amateur at something. To know that there’s a high possibility at the beginning of these conversations that you’re going to make a lot of mistakes, it can be nerve-wracking for some people. Different people will react differently to these conversations. Some people may behave rather irrationally and respond impulsively. During situations as these, you will have to display compassion despite not agreeing with the other person. It can become exhausting but it needs to be done.”
Changes Harris wants to see in the next five to ten years
“I want to get to a place where using transphobic slurs or transphobic jokes that are making fun of trans people is not acceptable. I want us to get to a point where we automatically include everyone regardless of their gender identity. These slurs and jokes are emotionally distressing to all of us.
“There needs to be an emotional connection, you need to begin to see people for actually who they are and not what they look like. There needs to be more compassion because there is an absolute lack of it in the world. I would like people to not face unnecessary challenges both in and out of the workplace”.
Visit Harris’s website for further information about their work and coaching.