How to deal with a transgender person in the workplace
With so much media focus on Caitlyn Jenner’s transition from male to female this week, it seems a good time to talk about what to do if you find yourself working alongside a trans person.
This is a big issue these days, and there are a lot of people out there who might be wondering what they should do and how they should behave in this situation. I’m going to try to address your concerns and answer any questions you might have in this handy-dandy guide to dealing with trans people in the workplace.
If one of your colleagues has opted to change his or her gender from male to female or female to male, follow this one simple rule you should follow that will help you get through any and all interactions:
Don’t worry about it.* Treat a trans person like you would anyone else. I know! That seems like a totally crazy idea. But it’s a crazy world out there, and trans people are just regular people who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity in the workplace.
That’s really all you need to know, but I understand that you might have some questions, so I’ve gone ahead and anticipated some of those questions, and answered them, below.
Here you go.
Q. Does being trans affect someone’s ability to do their job?
A. No! You’ll be pleased to learn that, unless that job is something very gender specific, like professional sperm donor (I don’t know if that’s actually a thing), transitioning from one gender to another does not affect an individual’s ability to do their job. Mary will be just as good a developer, dentist, or dietitian as Marcus was.
Q. What if the person uses the same bathroom as me?
A. It’s OK. Everything will be fine. They’re not actually in there to check you out. If you’re confused, I’d like to refer you to a book by Taro Gomi titled Everyone Poops. It’s about how all living things eat, so all living things poop. That should clear things up for you.
Q. OK. So, what if the person who has transitioned wants me to refer to them by their new gender pronoun and I don’t want to?
A. Do it anyway. Think of it this way, if you make a life-changing move, such as converting to Judaism, people don’t get to totally ignore your conversion and insist that you are still a Presbyterian (or whatever). That would be weird. And rude.
Q. What if I’m still worried about it?
A. That’s OK. It’s OK to be uncomfortable, confused, even disapproving. Nobody can tell you what to think or how to feel. But it’s not OK to be rude or insensitive. So, refer back to the advice at the beginning of this article and just be polite, friendly, and respectful, even if you are uncomfortable.
You will very likely begin to realize that another person’s decision to change his or her gender – unless you’re married to or closely related to that person** – has absolutely no direct effect on you or your life, and more specific to the purpose of this article, no effect on your ability to do your job. Believe it or not, you will be just as good a developer, dentist, or dietitian even though Marcus is now Mary.
And then maybe you will be less worried about it. At least, I hope you will.
I hope I answered some of your more burning questions.
It should be noted that, while this article is tongue in cheek, it does address the real issue of transphobia. Caitlyn Jenner’s transition is being heralded as a triumph by much of the media and the public, so it’s easy to overlook the fact that not everyone’s story is such a “fairytale,” is it’s referred to in this CBC story, which is a good place to start if you’re looking for more information.
*I’ve taken this advice from someone else’s viral tweet and expanded upon it.
**If that is the case, and you are looking for support, there are many resources where you can find it, such as Toronto’s SOY and Access Alliance.
(Image: Vanity Fair)