1-What do you think the current climate is like for trans people now compared to recent years? How have things improved for our trans colleagues?
It looked as if things were improving in terms of discrimination for transgender people in our society, much like they have been for the wider LGBT community. However, as a large portion of society has become more accepting, other groups are pushing back. As I see it, transgender people have become caught in the friction between the left and far-right; they have been put in the spotlight. For a group of people that are already living with a lack of inclusion and acceptance, this is not helpful.
2-Have you ever encountered transphobia, in the workplace or otherwise?
I’d like to say no – but I live on Earth. Transphobia is totally ingrained in our society and we start teaching it to our children at a young age – for example, with the evil ugly sisters. The media is filled with negative stereotypes and misinformation – just the other day the Metro published a full page anti-trans advert!
Things are fantastic here at MMC. I’m not sure I know any colleagues that would let an explicit transphobic comment pass unchallenged, but as per everywhere, you can occasionally pick-up on a little unconscious bias. When I overhear such comments, it is rare not to hear a prompt immediately after than – did you mean that? – and if I don’t hear it, I say it.
3-How is your organisation supporting and protecting its trans employees?
MMC supports its transgender staff in many ways. Firstly, through its inclusive policies; our handbook, The Greater Good, makes it clear that discrimination against any group will not be accepted. We also have documented guidelines for transitioning in the workplace – which include guidance for trans colleagues, for their line managers and their colleagues. We are one of the first UK companies to include treatment for gender dysphoria on our Medical insurance. We run many D&I workshops looking at different minority groups – many of which have been to highlight trans issues.
4-How do you personally support your LGBT+ colleagues?
I support my LGBT+ colleagues by being out, being clearly visible, supporting our PRIDE LGBT+ BRG events and initiatives and by raising the profile of our allies.
5-How many trans employees are members of your LGBT+ employee resource group and how many trans-focused activities have you done this year? Do you have anything planned for next year?
To be frank, I don’t know. I know I have trans colleagues that are out, but I personally only know one. In terms of trans-focused activities, there has been many:
1. Our medical policy supports treatment for gender dysphoria (as I mentioned before);
2. Ensured gender neutral toilet facilities are available in all offices;
3. A session was run for specifically for our digital design team highlighting and discussing the impact of design decisions on the transgender community;
4. We have run several panel discussions and hosted speakers, including:
a. In This Together - Day Conference on intersectionality;
b. MMC PRIDE Glasgow Unbundling Event - An Audience with Natalie Scott;
c. LGBT and Mental Health Unbundling event – panel discussion.
We are currently in the process of communicating our new policy created to support colleagues transitioning in the workplace.
7-What are your advice would you give for people wanting to be better trans allies?
I would recommend that, first and foremost, we think of transgender people as people. Whilst the trans community has specific problems with acceptance, each trans individual has the same basic human needs as a cisgender person. They want to feel accepted, acknowledged, admired, appreciated - loved. If you are showing that you do these things – you will most likely get away with the occasional mistake.
Having said that there are some things you should avoid, but these apply just as much to cisgender people as those that have or are transitioning:
- · Avoid asking personal questions about people’s bodies and sexual preferences;
- try not to misgender people – if you use their name, pronoun (he/per/she/they/etc), gender – use the correct one. If you are not sure what to say, ask, and if you get it wrong apologies briefly and move on – but do try to get it right next time;
- Take time to learn about the issues society causes for transgender people in your community. You can feel supportive towards transgender people, but if you don’t take actions that demonstrate this nobody will know. Come out as an ally; show your support on social media, put it on your email footer (perhaps make one including your pronouns) and gently challenge conscious and unconscious bias when you encounter it.
8- What is your view on the debate currently surrounding the Gender Recognition Act in the UK?
I have mixed feelings. Whilst the debate is necessary to advance the rights afforded to the transgender members of our community; it has stirred up a hateful response from some parts of society. I’ve seen full page articles in newspapers like the Metro referring to transgender women as “male-bodied people”, I’ve seen people wanting to exclude transgender people from single-sex spaces misframed as feminist and I’ve seen the far right launching anti-trans campaigns on social media. I know there are two sides to every debate, but I’ve found this backlash distasteful and disappointing.
I’m looking forward to the debate being closed and really hope that, from it, we see the advancement in personal freedom that is so clearly required.