Pride Month at Work: less ‘love is love’, more trans inclusion and protection – and here’s how

By Claudia Leonescu

The trans and non-binary communities in the UK, US, and globally are being stripped of their rights, subjected to daily attacks, and used as political pawns.  

In April, UK Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch proposed changing the legal definition of ‘sex’ under the Equality Act 2010 to refer to biological sex – the sex assigned at birth. Consequently, this change could exclude trans people from same-sex spaces even if they hold a gender recognition certificate. Also, this year, The Rainbow Map ranking all 49 European nations on their “legal and policy situation” regarding LGBTQIA+ rights, saw the UK drop their ranking again. This ranking is a result of factors such as “hostile reporting” by media, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson excluding transgender people from the promised outlawing of conversion therapy, and the anti-trans group, LGB Alliance, which excludes trans people, achieving charity status. Transphobic hate crimes, which increased by 56% according to official police figures, were also noted. 

There’s a saying in the community that just existing as trans is a radical act. It takes courage, self-love, and resilience to live authentically in a world that invalidates and seeks to erase you with every opportunity.  

Pride was and always will be a protest against injustice and inequality. The festival-esque cloak that has fallen on it in recent years and, in some instances, the exploitation as a marketing opportunity, are a consequence of commodifying a community whose struggles do not evaporate because of a rainbow-themed corporate logo or a team waving branded flags at a parade.  

LGBTQIA+ employees have sat through years of ‘fireside chats’ where leadership teams discuss what could and should change, have put up with being showcased as ‘employee spotlights’ and case studies for June, and have helped inform training on gender identity and sexuality, all while waiting for the promised change that never seems to come.  

Marking Pride Meaningfully: Moving Away from Commitments  

Regardless of the scale of your business or organisation, chances are that a current or a future colleague identifies as trans or gender non-conforming (GNC), whether out or not.  

No business or organisation can claim they are LGBTQIA+ inclusive if their actions are seasonal and only focus on the ‘non-controversial’ part of the community. No real impact can be made without involving and listening to the most marginalised voices. Progress cannot happen without sustained effort and investment. Yet, it’s not the daunting and resource-consuming task many make it out to be.  

As starting points, below are three questions to ask yourself instead of what panel discussion or social media post should go out during Pride.  

  • Does your employee handbook cover trans-inclusive policies? 

If these already exist, ensure they are up to date, written down, and everyone is aware and has access to the handbook. Not all trans employees will feel comfortable and confident asking; therefore, ensuring it is available and easy to find means anyone can understand the various policies and processes without having to out themselves.  

If these don’t exist, now is the time to develop them. Critically, this should not be undertaken without proper input and review from a trans expert with lived experience. Some key policies to consider include bullying and harassment in the workplace and guidance for transitioning at work. Similarly, any language used across policies and contracts should use gender-inclusive language and terminologies. 

A specialised consulting agency can also support in reviewing existing policies and providing recommendations.  

  • Do your office facilities cater for trans employees? 

Ensuring trans employees can use male and female toilets and showers where these align with their gender is the very least employers can do. The most inclusive employers work towards providing gender-neutral bathrooms. In addition, having sanitary products available in all bathrooms is equitable, easy to implement, and sends the right message.  

  • Are you considering trans employees in your ways of working and culture? 

In the past couple of years, we’ve seen a wave of businesses and organisations adding pronouns to their email signature. At its core, this is an excellent method to let others know how to refer to you. Done by itself, without any underlying work to facilitate understanding and respect, it will do very little to avoid misgendering. Most people will revert to using the pronouns that align with their assumption of someone’s gender. This rings especially true in cases where GNC people use more than one set of pronouns. 

This is not to say that having pronouns included in email signatures and across social media and dating apps has been unbeneficial in helping trans and GNC people come out more easily and feel seen. However, as is the case with representation, done in isolation without addressing core issues and having in place protection and accountability mechanisms like a Code of Conduct, it does more harm than good. 

[Image courtesy of DOM&INK]