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When John Becomes Josie: What Companies Can Do to Support Gender Transitioning in the Workplace – Part 3

Sep 05, 2023
Image featuring symbols for male, female, and intersex genders, representing diverse gender identities.


As we arrive at the final installment of this series, let’s take a moment to look back at the remarkable journey we've undertaken together.

In PART 1, we delved into the profound significance of supporting workplace transitions and explored the underlying reasons that drive organizations to embrace this vital change.

In PART 2, we addressed the barriers that individuals often encounter and provided an exhaustive checklist which will be a valuable resource to ensure your organization is fully equipped to facilitate these transitions.

Now, in the concluding Part 3, I will share insights from trailblazers who have led their organizations through this transformative process. Additionally, I will present a curated list of gender-transitioning vocabulary, further enriching our collective understanding.


What Experts Suggest

According to the NCLR (National Center for Lesbian Rights), there is still no federal law that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in employment or public accommodations, although Congress recently enacted protections against hate crimes based on gender identity.

At the state level, only fifteen states and the District of Columbia have passed laws that offer explicit protections for transgender people. It is very important for organizations to familiarize themselves with the specific laws in their states. Because the reality is that if your state’s law protects employees against gender identity discrimination, you have no choice but to come up with a company policy that complies with the law.

The good news is that, despite the complexity, there are solutions to this situation. In fact, other companies have been through this and have worked out how to adjust. Below are some of their recommendations.

The first order of business is ensuring the employee’s privacy is respected throughout the process. The HR Department needs to work closely with the individual to determine the most comfortable way to communicate their transition to the broader organization. Together, they should develop a plan to sensitively share the news. This communication plan should emphasize the organization's commitment to inclusion and belonging and remind everyone of the importance of treating the employee with the same respect and professionalism they have always demonstrated.

Expect that not everyone will be on board. There will be employees who find gender-transitioning objectionable either for moral, ethical, or religious reasons. These employees will likely worry that cooperation will be seen as an endorsement of gender transition. What they need to understand is that they can hold on to their beliefs; however, at the very minimum, they will have to be civil to the transitioning colleague.

It is also important for the organization to provide opportunities for employees to work through their misperceptions, questions, and fears. They may ask: Why is the organization condoning such an unhealthy or immoral lifestyle?

The bottom line is that the organization cannot pass judgment on employees’ personal lives and choices. It is OK for individuals to have values that differ from those of the company and no employee should be expected to change their values. However, during work hours, everyone has to adhere to the company’s policy of making the workplace as inclusive as it can possibly be for everyone.

Finally, don’t wait until someone walks in the door and tells you they are transitioning. It is crucial for organizations to proactively establish policies addressing gender identity and transition in the workplace. This approach showcases a commitment to inclusion and belonging, to legal compliance, and to employee well-being. It prevents discrimination and ensures a smooth transition process. Better to get your ducks in a row now.


Gender Transitioning Vocabulary

As conversations surrounding gender identity continue to evolve, understanding the diverse terminology is crucial for promoting inclusion and belonging and fostering respectful discussions.

Whether you are new to the concepts or seeking to expand your knowledge, this list will provide you with a few essential terms to navigate and contribute to these important dialogues with sensitivity and awareness.

Gender Identity Terms

 Cisgender: A term used to describe individuals whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Transgender: An umbrella term for individuals whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.

Transitioning Methods

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Medical treatment involving the use of hormones to align an individual's physical characteristics with their gender identity.

Top Surgery: A type of gender-affirming surgery involving the chest area, which may include breast augmentation or chest reconstruction for transgender individuals.

Bottom Surgery: Gender-affirming surgery involving the genital area, which may include procedures such as vaginoplasty or phalloplasty.

Voice Therapy: Training to modify the pitch and resonance of one's voice to better align with their gender identity.

Electrolysis/Laser Hair Removal: Hair removal methods used to eliminate facial or body hair.

Gender-Related Terms

 Gender Dysphoria: Distress experienced by an individual due to the incongruence between their gender identity and assigned sex at birth.

Non-binary: An umbrella term for gender identities that do not exclusively align with the binary concepts of male or female.

Genderqueer: A term used by individuals who reject traditional gender labels and may identify as neither exclusively male nor female.

Genderfluid: Describes a gender identity that is not fixed and may shift over time.

Agender: Refers to individuals who do not identify with any gender.

Social and Legal Aspects

Preferred Pronouns: The pronouns an individual wishes to be addressed with, such as he/him, she/her, they/them, ze/hir, etc.

Name Change: Legal process of changing one's name to align with their gender identity.

Gender Marker Change: Changing the gender designation on legal documents like IDs or passports.

Support and Community

Coming Out: The process of revealing one's gender identity or sexual orientation to others.

Support Groups: Gatherings of individuals sharing similar gender identities or experiences to provide emotional and practical support.

Allyship and Awareness

 Gender Affirmation: Actions and attitudes that validate and support an individual's gender identity.

Transphobia: Prejudice, discrimination, or hostility towards transgender individuals.

Gender-Neutral Bathrooms: Restrooms that are accessible to people of all gender identities.


Remember that language evolves, and new terms may emerge over time. The key is to be respectful and open to learning and to use the language that individuals prefer for themselves.


Final Thoughts

Undoubtedly, working through a colleague's transition in the workplace, much like any uncharted territory, can be inherently challenging.

So, be patient with yourself, have empathy, and be open to seeing the situation through diverse lenses. Remember that you don’t have to relinquish your own convictions. You just need to be open to the fact that there are others.

It's also vital to acknowledge that the journey for those transitioning is profoundly more arduous. As underscored in the inaugural installment of this series we need to understand that this journey isn't embarked upon due to fleeting curiosity about unconventional ways of life.

And just to prove my point of how complicated things can get, just watch this:

You can thank me later 😂 😂 😂.

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