Time to consider where your organisation sits on transgender inclusion
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Unified Against HB2 Legistaion in Asheville
John van der Luit-Drummond, Editor

Each year between 13 and 19 November, people around the globe observe Transgender Awareness Week. This week-long event leads up to Transgender Day of Remembrance on 20 November, a day that memorialises the victims of transphobic violence.

To date, 375 transgender people have been killed in 2021, making this year the deadliest since records began. While most murders occurred in Central and South America – most prominently in Brazil, which accounted for one-third of all deaths – 45 killings have been reported in the US. The findings from the Transrespect versus Transphobia Worldwide group reinforce beliefs among the LGBTQ+ community that anti-trans hostility is on the rise worldwide.

Rarely a week goes by without a debate over trans rights making headlines. Here in the UK, a philosophy professor at Sussex University announced she was resigning her post after students called for her to be sacked for expressing her personal views on gender identity.

Meanwhile, in the centre of legal London, barristers have publicly clashed online over the inclusion of an “anti-trans” and “gender-critical” speaker on a panel discussion at Middle Temple. With the UK considering restrictions on controversial conversion therapy, Naomi Cunningham, a barrister who specialises in employment and discrimination law at Outer Temple Chambers, described transitioning as the “most savage conversion therapy ever”.

More broadly, anti-LGBTQ+ laws continue to gain traction in Eastern Europe and more than 250 bills designed to restrict trans rights have been brought in US state legislatures this year. This is despite the US Supreme Court’s Bostock ruling and polling that found 68% of Americans believe they have never personally met a trans person. This is perhaps unsurprising given the findings in a new report from McKinsey.

Twice as likely to be unemployed, transgender people are underrepresented in the US workforce, the report found. Those employed make less money than their cisgender colleagues and are more likely to face challenges in job application and career advancement processes. Many are reluctant to be their true selves at work, often choosing to remain in the closet. Those who are out often feel excluded and unsafe in the workplace.

Given the often open hostility trans people face in some countries, it is nearly impossible to truly judge the scale of the problems facing the community worldwide. We do know the US is home to more than 2 million transgender people and it is estimated around 1.5 million trans people are living across Europe. A not inconsiderable number of workers.

In the working world, employers walk a tightrope between protecting trans workers from harassment and discrimination while respecting protected beliefs and being wary of stamping down on employees’ freedom of expression. There are no easy fixes but, arguably, greater inclusion will benefit everyone by helping to facilitate better understanding between coworkers. So, as we reach the end of Transgender Awareness Week, now is the time to reflect on where your organisation sits on trans inclusion.