Transgender Awareness in the Workplace
By Lenore MacAdam
The LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) community has made tremendous strides over the past 40 years, culminating in corporate diversity departments and same-sex marriage legislation around the world. However I feel that awareness and understanding of the transgender community has lagged behind.
When I took on the role as the National Chair of Deloitte Canada’s LGBTQ employee resource group in November 2014, I wanted to ensure that we didn’t overlook the “T” in our otherwise well-known acronym. Early in 2015, I helped to launch a transgender awareness initiative.
Now that I’ve started down this path, I’m realizing how much there is to learn. While I’m incredibly lucky to be working in a firm that has been so supportive, we are nevertheless charting new territory. I’m writing this series of posts to share my experiences and generate discussion. I hope to hear from others who are doing similar work, or want to be doing similar work, so that we can learn from each other.
Socializing an idea - especially one that is fraught with misconceptions like transgender awareness - is more about listening than talking
When I started this journey, I had visions of PowerPoint presentations and seminars. However not only did the PowerPoint approach not hit the mark, I discovered that one on one interactions worked most effectively. I also discovered that the most successful conversations were the ones where I talked the least and listened more. There were a few reasons for this:
- People are more comfortable asking (what they perceive as) “stupid questions” one on one than in a group.
- You tend to speak more authentically one on one. It doesn’t come across as a presentation.
- You can tailor the conversation. Some people may have more understanding of the transgender community than you do, while others may not know anything….yet!
This approach takes time. However remember that what you’re trying to do is build a baseline of support, and hopefully create a few champions, who will then build support within their own networks.
Personal connections are how you change a culture.