5 Ways to Support Trans and Nonbinary Employees Year-Round

While Pride Month is an opportunity to celebrate gender non-conforming colleagues, your tech company should support them every day if it values humanity, diversity of thought and innovation.

Written by Kelly L. Campbell
Published on Jun. 10, 2024
5 Ways to Support Trans and Nonbinary Employees Year-Round
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Creating an inclusive and supportive environment for transgender and nonbinary employees is the right thing to do. It’s also beneficial for companies seeking to foster diversity, innovation and a psychologically safe company culture where everyone is working toward the same vision. 

We know that employees and colleagues thrive in safety and belonging, which is no different from what we each came into this world needing.

Transgender and nonbinary individuals have long faced discrimination, marginalization and a lack of acceptance in many aspects of society, especially in the workplace. It has prevented us from reaching our full potential, contributing our unique perspectives and feeling truly valued for who we are.

Maintaining a workplace culture that embraces diversity and promotes inclusion is essential for companies to attract and retain top talent from all backgrounds. When employees feel safe and respected, they are more likely to be engaged, productive and innovative, ultimately driving the success of the organization.

Let’s explore five actionable ways we can support and empower employees year-round who are transgender, nonbinary, genderqueer or genderfluid.

5 Ways You Can Support Trans and Nonbinary Employees

  1. Normalize all gender identities, and always use the name and pronouns a person has specified for themselves.
  2. Speak up on behalf of trans and nonbinary employees, especially when they are not in the room.
  3. Beyond allyship, be an accomplice. Join a Pride ERG if your company has one.
  4. Believe and support trans and nonbinary employees who report discrimination, aggressions or injustice within the workplace.
  5. Don’t make any decisions for LGBTQIA+ people without including them in the conversation.

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Normalize Expressions of All Gender Identities

It took me a very long time to change my pronouns from she/her to they/she. It wasn’t until I was 42 years old that I felt comfortable enough to come out — for a second time — as genderfluid, using they/she pronouns (meaning that I use both they/them and she/her, in that order).

When someone uses my they/them pronouns either verbally or in writing, it lights me up because it’s the truest representation of how I feel inside.

You have your own experience of gender expression and sexual identity, which might be cisgender and heterosexual, and everyone is entitled to their own as well. Avoid assumptions and be willing to correct yourself respectfully if you misgender someone. Making this effort signals your respect for their identity and dignity as a human being.

Pronouns are not preferred; they are part of someone’s identity. If you have difficulty using they/them pronouns, for example, consider how that centers your experience instead of helping someone else feel seen. If you stumble or get it wrong, just make it right and keep the conversation going.

Normalizing the unique experiences of all people looks like creating an environment where individuals feel comfortable expressing their authentic selves without fear of judgment or repercussions. We can achieve this by openly discussing and educating others about gender identity, using inclusive language and fostering an atmosphere of respect and acceptance for all.

 

Speak Up on Your Trans Colleagues’ Behalf

There is a lot that goes said and unsaid in the presence of transgender and nonbinary employees at tech companies, let alone when we are not in the room. One of the best ways to support us is to say something on our behalf.

Call out homophobic or transphobic jokes. They are always harmful.

Speak up when you hear misgendering or the use of inappropriate language, even if the person targeted is not present. Your voice can make a difference in shifting the workplace culture towards greater inclusivity.

Use your privilege and platform to amplify marginalized voices and advocate for change. When you witness discrimination or bias, say something and challenge these behaviors, even if you become the target amid the conversation. Your actions can create a ripple effect, inspiring others to stand up for those who may not be able to stand up for themselves.

 

Get Involved in Pride ERGs and Other Initiatives

If you want to show your support beyond allyship — which has lost some meaning for us in the queer community because it’s become largely performative — you can be an accomplice instead.

What about joining your company’s Pride ERG or LGBTQIA+ ERG? I know, it’s a lot of letters, but you’ll get a sense of how the community works together, the myriad issues we face in the workplace and in the world, and how to advocate for real inclusion.

Attend Pride events and listen to life experiences that take vulnerability to share. Get involved in ERG initiatives that bring awareness and change to collective mindsets.

Support organizations like GLAAD, The Trevor Project, The Transgender Law Center or the Marsha P. Johnson Institute. This shows solidarity, helps you become a practiced accomplice and gives you confidence to invite new accomplices into the fold.

 

Believe Colleagues Who Report Discrimination

Remember that LGBTQIA+, Indigenous and Black and Brown employees are marginalized. This means that we are on the receiving end of a lot of systemic discrimination, whether overt or covert.

And according to McKinsey, trans and nonbinary respondents are far more likely than cisgender people to remain in entry-level positions. Systems that were not designed for us are the ones in which we must operate, and it can be exhausting to encounter injustice at every turn.

Marginalized people with similar experience and expertise as their non-marginalized counterparts have to fight against discrimination during the hiring process, unequal wages and compensation practices, fewer advancement opportunities, healthcare benefits roadblocks and organizational policies.

Additionally, there are no such things as microaggressions. They are all aggressions. Workplaces often normalize and downplay toxic behavior because so few LGBTQIA+ and people of color are represented in leadership.

Believe and support all of us when we give voice to being mistreated, attacked or slighted, because it takes courage to advocate for ourselves in a society where we are not equal. When an employee brings an incident to light, take them seriously, thoroughly investigate and take appropriate actions to hold people accountable and prevent future occurrences.

Provide inclusion training or workshops for all employees, hire trauma-informed coaches to support employees who experience discrimination and offer mediation sessions to help repair the harm that has been done.

 

Include LGBTQIA+ People in Decision-Making

You’ve likely heard the adage, “Nothing about us without us,” which became the call of activists in the South African disability rights movement in the 1990s. The same holds true for LGBTQIA+ people in your organization.

Amplify trans and nonbinary voices in decisions about bathrooms, workplace policies, healthcare, paid family leave and other employee benefits.

Including employees in conversations that will directly impact them, their bodies, their well-being and their families on an ongoing basis is a high-conscious leadership practice. This is leadership removed from the sole purpose of making money and aimed toward improving lives and the world at large.

Similar Perspectives4 Ways to Support Black Employees Year-Round — Not Just for a Holiday

 

Create a Truly Inclusive Workplace

An inclusive workplace for transgender and nonbinary employees requires active effort from all colleagues and leadership.

By consistently using correct names and pronouns, calling out discrimination, participating in employee groups, believing reports of bias incidents and ensuring that trans/nonbinary voices are centered in decisions that impact them, we create an environment where more colleagues feel truly valued and empowered to thrive.

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