Everyone plays a part in promoting and supporting an inclusive workplace. Employees, supervisors and managers have a shared responsibility to promote the dignity and respect of transgender, non-binary and Two-Spirit employees. As part of building a safe and validating campus, the workplace should reflect the diversity of our larger communities and every person should be treated equitably. The following information aims to help increase the understanding of gender identity and provide resources for trans, non-binary and Two-Spirit people and those who support them.
Gender identity is one’s felt sense of being a woman, a man, both, in between or neither. Understandings of gender can be shaped by culture, relationships, and media (among many other things!), but only you can determine your gender identity.
Gender expression is the external display of one’s gender, and can include style of dress, voice, hairstyle, and demeanor. Gender expression is often described on spectra of masculinity and femininity, covering everything in between and beyond as well. It also varies by context. You may change how you express yourself depending on the situation you are in such as at school or work, home alone or out with friends.
When someone is transgender, also known as trans, their gender identity differs from the sex that they were assigned at birth (usually male or female, although about 1.5% of the population are intersex). People may know from a young age that the gender they have been assigned doesn’t fit with who they really are. Other people come to this realization as adults.
Some trans people take steps towards aligning their social and physical experience with their gender identity. In doing this, each trans individual makes a personal choice about which changes (if any) they want to make and when. Some trans people may change their name, pronouns, gender markers (i.e. on identification) and/or their presentation. Some may explore medical options like hormone therapy or gender-affirming surgeries. Every trans person’s transition will be unique to them – there is no “right way” to be trans or to transition. The choices someone makes are personal and private; as colleagues, the main point to remember is that this person needs to be treated with the same respect we afford everyone else.
While sexual orientation and gender identity can be connected, they aren’t the same thing. Like anybody, trans people may identify as straight, pansexual, queer, asexual, bisexual, lesbian, gay or another orientation. Language is continuously evolving – the definitions provided are not meant to label individuals, but rather to assist employees and managers to better understand and support colleagues with diverse backgrounds and experiences.
Support: If you are trans
If you are trans, it’s important to know that UVic has a commitment to fair treatment for all employees, and does not permit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. We provide support for managing a transition in the workplace, and for any discrimination or harassment you might encounter through Human Resources and the Equity and Human Rights office. You are welcome to contact whichever office or person feels most appropriate and comfortable for you.
If you would like to find support in planning for or managing your transition, there are local and online groups as well as resources through UVic:
- UVic’s trans,two-spirit & non-binary resource website
- Your health care provider.
- A therapist or other counsellor.
- Employee and family assistance program
- Work Life Consultants (medical leaves and return to work program)
Some useful services, resources, and online organizations:
- Ambit Gender Diversity Consulting (Victoria-based)
- Promoting Trans-Literacies (UBC-based)
- Transgender Health Information Program (BC-based)
- Trans Rights BC
- The 519 – Creating Authentic Spaces (Toronto-based)
- PFLAG Canada
- Trans 101: Learning modules (Australia-based)
- GLAAD: Tips for allies of transgender people (US-based)
Support: Supervisor, Manager, Colleague or Parent
It is up to the employee to decide if and when they wish to inform people at work about their gender identity, and what supports they will find most helpful to bring ease to this process. Remember, this is everyone’s transition: you can play a role in pushing for social and environmental changes so that your trans colleagues don’t have to. Your responsibilities include:
- Educate yourself on trans issues: Support for trans employees: A guide for employees and managers
- Consult with the employee to learn their needs and concerns and develop a plan for sharing their transition, manage any problems that might arise over the succeeding months, and maintain communication to ensure that you are aware of any concerns as well as positive developments. EQHR and HRCs are available to help you plan and deliver what is needed.
- Consider education for your unit on the transition to set up the employee and unit for success.
- Learn to use the right pronouns (“he,” “she,” “they,” “him,” “her,” ‘them”). Instead of relying on your perception of who is trans and who isn’t, build in practices for asking everyone in your workplace about pronouns (and offering the option to pass on answering). If the person is changing their name (from Dennis to Sarah, for example), use that new name (and pronouns) in all communications with or about the person.
- If you slip up on names or pronouns, whether the person is present or not, acknowledge the mistake, commit to doing better, and move on with the conversation.
- Make sure you get support and information. Supporting someone who is trans may be a new experience for you. You can contact someone through the Employee and Family Assistance Program for support, or connect with supports in the community
- Review the following resources:
*With thanks to Kingsley at Ambit for your assistance with this post.