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Tips For Creating Equity For Transgender People At Your Workplace

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This past Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ workers are protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, meaning they cannot be discriminated against in the workplace. Before this ruling, workers could be fired in 26 states just for being trans. The ruling is a victory for the LGBTQ community, but it does not mean that attitudes and practices magically disappear. Being openly trans on the job can be difficult, especially when it feels unsafe to advocate for yourself.

Tuck Woodstock, host of the "Gender Reveal" podcast, teamed with NPR's Life Kit to provide some tips about how you can make your workplace, digital or otherwise, more equitable for trans people.

TUCK WOODSTOCK: When we talk about trans equity, bathroom access usually comes up first. So why are gender-neutral bathrooms such a big deal? It turns out there are many reasons why trans people might not feel safe in single-sex restrooms.

CHASE STRANGIO: Other co-workers may either make remarks or look at people in ways that feel dismissive or questioning of people's right to be in certain spaces.

WOODSTOCK: That's Chase Strangio. He is one of the lawyers who defended the plaintiffs for this week's Supreme Court ruling. Strangio suggests that allies ask themselves a few key questions.

STRANGIO: What does it mean for a person to enter the workplace, and what access to resources do they have? And how much do they have to struggle in order to sort of experience the workday on equal footing as their colleagues?

WOODSTOCK: And that's our first takeaway. Trans rights are human rights, so make sure that your trans co-workers have access to the same basic rights and resources as everybody else in the office. By the way, that includes the right to be addressed with the correct name and pronouns. So what should you do if you hear someone get misgendered at work?

STRANGIO: Often what I will do is ask the person, you know, I think I heard you get misgendered in this meeting, but it was your boss. In that situation, do you want me to intervene? Or - you know, are you concerned for whatever retaliation reason? And then, if you know that the person is struggling and needs support, then I think it can and should be a very simple and straightforward intervention - at least, you know, the first time, which is, so-and-so uses they/them pronouns.

WOODSTOCK: Correcting someone at work can feel awkward or even rude. But it's actually much ruder to knowingly misgender someone. So our second takeaway is that language matters. Correct people around you. And if you use the wrong words or pronouns for someone, model good behavior by apologizing and gracefully correcting yourself. As you get to know your trans co-workers, you may be tempted to ask questions about what it's like to be transgender.

STRANGIO: A lot of times, just people will put the burden on trans people in the same way that, you know, white people put the burden on people of color in the workplace and men put the burden on women in the workplace.

WOODSTOCK: But even if you mean well, it's not appropriate to ask people to share personal details with you in a workplace setting.

STRANGIO: I think it's a reminder to cis people when you have trans colleagues, they are not the only people who can answer questions for you about transness.

WOODSTOCK: And that's our last takeaway - do your homework. If you're genuinely curious about trans experiences, check out the wealth of books, videos, podcasts and other resources created by trans people.

MARTIN: Tuck Woodstock, host of the podcast "Gender Reveal." Tuck did a whole episode about how to create equitable workplaces for trans and non-binary people for NPR's Life Kit. You can find that at npr.org/lifekit.

(SOUNDBITE OF SUPERVISION'S "ARCANE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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