Module 6: 2SLGBTQIA+ and Transgender Inclusion
What comes to mind when you think of an ideal image of a worker? How do they dress? How do they act?
The “acceptable” employee is influenced by the White hetero- and cisnormative lens, which causes individuals who express their gender or are sexuality that is not the “normal” image to be marginalized and excluded.
Imagine going to your workplace every day, dealing with the stress of having a job. Then, on top of that, there is an additional amount of energy and emotion that is expelled to navigate spaces that pressure you to deny fundamental aspects of your identity. The 2SLGBTQIA+ community, who are gender-diverse and part of sexual minorities, face stigma and discrimination based on their gender identity, sexuality and gender expression. It can be traumatic and isolating when tasked with consistently validating your gender identity, expression or sexuality.
Attitudinal behaviours and systemic discrimination are embedded in the organizational process of the workplace, starting from recruitment to day-to-day operations. Failing to address these factors of underrepresentation and retention issues will continue to result in exclusive and unsafe workplaces.
Check out this infographic on barriers to employment and training for 2SLGBTQ+ folks – The519.
Applying an intersectional lens highlights exacerbated results of underrepresentation, specifically when race is intersected with gender and sexuality. Check out a study done through McKinsey & Company.
Trans Experience at Work
Trans people face especially sharp barriers to advancement in the workplace, and their experience is distinct from others within the community. In social situations, especially in the workplace, trans persons may face stigma and discrimination, as well as antagonism from others and pressure to “manage” their identities. The experiences of harassment, isolation and microaggressions from colleagues and clients can be detrimental. It is important to mention that Black trans individuals and other IPOC face higher risks of discrimination and barriers because of the intersection of race. These events can trigger a cascade of psychological responses that can negatively impact trans people’s turnover intentions, work happiness, and emotional well-being.
A poll and study done by McKinsey & Company found that transgender people, whether straight or LGBQ+, find their gender or sexual orientation as a barrier to employment advancement. It was mentioned previously how salient gender is to one’s identity. Having a positive and inclusive workplace is vital to people’s mental health so they can bring their full selves to work.
Microaggressions and Unconscious Bias
Transphobia, homophobia, and overall prejudice can be direct hostility to threats, name-calling, and violence; but for many who experience this every day, it is just the tip of the iceberg. In the chapter focusing on “Key Concepts,” microaggressions were defined as: “everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership” (Sue 3).
Culturally, society has made transphobia, homophobia, and ignorance acceptable. Regardless of intent, the impacts of these aggressions are the same. The lack of education and bigotry are direct causes of invalidating, harassing and creating unsafe exclusive environments that negatively affect individuals.
For many 2SLGBTQIA+ people in the workplace, microaggressions, discrimination, and unconscious biases can look like:
Microaggressions against the 2SLGBTQIA+ community:
- “You’re too pretty to be a lesbian.”
- “Wow, I’m so surprised. You don’t look or sound gay!”
- “But are you sure you’re [insert identity here]?”
- “Aren’t you a [man/woman]? Why are you wearing [clothes]?
Microaggressions against transgender, non-binary or gender-diverse people:
- Excess focus on anatomical sex markers, most usually reproductive organs
- Avoidant behaviour, such as moving away or leaving out of a group
- “So you’re really a man, right?” (when talking to a trans woman) or “So you’re really a woman, right?” (When talking to a trans man)
- “I also wanted to be a boy when I was a child.”
- “What’s your real name?”
- “You’re just dressing for effect.”
Talking about a trans person “passing” as if it is an achievement implies that a trans person’s gender expression determines their worth, which is false.
The concepts and impacts discussed in this section are scratching the surface of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community’s experience in learning and working environments. Below are resources you can explore to discover real stories and strategies from 2SLGBTQIA+ employees navigating homophobia, transphobia, ignorance and microaggressions.