Workplace Diversity – Transgenders

The word “Diversity” has been frequently used in the 21st century and is popularly defined as the inclusion of variety of people from different cultures and races.  In business, this is especially used as a tactic in which the company can better serve a heterogeneous customer base.  In HR, the intent of many diversity programs is to build a culture of understanding within the employees there are in a company, no matter what their background is.  Within this culture of understanding, we learn of the wonderful things about each other from traditions to celebrations, food, etc.

Although when we think of “diversity” we normally think of the different cultures and races.  Perhaps not thought of much is the GLBT (or sometimes referred to as LGBT) community.  GLBT is the acronym which stands for Gay, Lesbians, Bisexual and Transgender.  I attended a luncheon sponsored by the SW Washington HR Management Association in which the Reid Vanderburgh was the speaker.   He speech gave me a much broader understanding of the challenges a person has when they are struggling with their own identity, the transgenders.  The gay & lesbian and bisexual are very much different than transgenders because it deals with relationships with others.   Transgenders deal with one’s own relationship with oneself.  But transgenders are lump in together with gay, lesbians and bisexuals for convenience in understanding…

A term I was not familiar with was introduces, this term was cisgender.  Wikipedia describes cisgender as “”someone who is comfortable in the gender they were assigned at birth”, and is the antonym of transgender.   Therefore, people can be either cisgender or transgender.   I have previous thought that transgender meant just having a sex change operation.  But I have learned that changing one’s sex is the culmination or the result of one coming to grips with their inner self.  There is a whole process one must go through before this sex change operation and while in that process, people can be considered being transgender (sometimes people are confused with cross dressers, but I understand cross dressers are more comfortable about their gender, rather they have a fetish of looking or dressing like the other gender).

With this understanding, the point I took from the speaker was that transgender need an ally to help them.  Once the transgender person makes the self-realization that they were mind and thoughts are of the opposite gender that their body is, it is a painful decision they make.  Basically, to continue living without the pain there are faced with 2 choices of either completing a gender change or unfortunately, to end their life.  As HR professionals, being an ally means to divorce one’s own opinion about transgenders, and applying the same methods we would use for any other culture or race.  It always starts with communication with the transgender so that there is a basic understanding of performance standards are still need to be met, but also need to understand what if anything the company can do to assist.  There needs to be a timeline discussed, efforts to remove barriers (i.e. changing gender on forms and systems), educating the workforce.   Transgender people go through a very private experience, similar to anyone with cancer or loss of a loved one,  but this private experience has a very public face and understanding is crucial.

I enjoy these luncheons where I learn so much.   Looking forward to any comments you may have!

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