If you are transgender and are involved in the workplace in any way then you have probably run across problems, issues and complications due to your transgender status. That is not to say that any of these issues are acceptable, they are not. Any situation directly resulting from your race, sexuality, religion or gender have no place at work; however as we know this is not the case. Your gender is going to come up from the interview until your final day at work at that location. There are of course exceptions to this rule, for example is you pass or blend perfectly well then most of this will not be an issue, but if you’re just starting your transition, part way through or don’t pass well, then chances are you may run into the following issues in the workplace.
- The Washroom: It’s inevitable that this issue is going to come up. Go to one washroom and get yelled at, go to the other and get beat up! It’s the classic dilemma and cannot be ignored. This is where the employer has to come in, they will tell you which washroom they are comfortable with you using, which may not be appropriate for your situation. Ideally they will have a gender neutral washroom facility or a specific, one person at a time, washroom that you can use. Regardless of the local laws on the situation employers can do whatever they can get away with, people in the office are going to object and pressure management to make you conform. So find out from the beginning, ideally during the interview, what their washroom policy is in regards to transgender people.
- Transgender Friendly: Is it a transgender friendly workplace? Do they even know what the word transgender means? It’s going to make a huge difference to your experience at the workplace, so find out as soon as possible if they are aware of transgender employees needs and have policies in place to make it a transgender friendly workplace. If they are not aware of transgender issues and you are blazing a trail in the company, the be ready to not only do your regular work, but also become a transgender advocate and consultant to just about everyone there.
- Harassment: People are people and they are going to be curious and talk about you. There are going to be times when you look over and see a circle of people all just standing there looking at you. You are going to hear whispers and get “looks” from people who either disagree with your existence or just don’t understand. Some of them will say mean things to you or insist on using the wrong gender pronoun. You could spend all day in the boss’s office complaining about this kind of stuff. Sadly, the truth is there is nothing you can do about it. No one is going to get fired for backhanded comments or dirty looks. There are however some lines that cannot be crossed. It is your job to find out what the company policies are in regards to harassment in the workplace, become very familiar with it. The lines are fuzzy so be careful and pick your battles. Your employer does not want trouble, and thought it’s not right, they will remove what is causing the problem. Inevitably YOU will be seen as the problem and then your days are numbered. If you are being physically harassed, for example my fellow employees would walk past my chair and punch the back, which is a form of assault. The person they caught doing it got a one week suspension.....FOR ASSAULT! I suggest you go to the police and file a report; it will help your case when you are later applying for employment insurance. Your safety is paramount so be careful, the guy who got suspended for a week somehow found out where I lived and came with a bunch of his friends to scream “Die @#$% Tranny!” outside my window. The police told me to be careful, uh huh.
- Discrimination: Expect it! There is going to be discrimination on the job ranging from the very slight to getting passed over for promotions because the management does not want you to have to deal with the public. I was personally told to “hide” when a client came into a local company I worked for. Just in case I put them off with my “freakishness”. Despite this fellow employees view of me I ended up at the reception desk. The mailman took one look at me and stopped coming in to chat over the mail, and would instead drop the mail out on the street in front of our office. So in the end they moved me too a position of cleaning toilets; I left soon after. Which of course is what they wanted and I left wondering why they hired me in the first place? In other places you can just be simply fired for being transgender or coming out as such. Find out what the laws are in your province or state so you have knowledge, which of course give you more power over the situations you may find yourself in at work.
Transitioning in the workplace is one of the most vulnerable times in the life of transgender people. Everything is changing and the footing is unsure, it is imperative that you have the most transgender friendly workplace to support you during this critical time. Sadly you have to explain your sexuality to not only the job interviewer, but everyone in the coffee room and hear their opinions about your sexuality one way or the other. Can you imagine ANY of this happening to a cisgender woman, I think not!