ask the readers: how can we help gender transitions at work go well?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I’m a leader in my company’s LGBT employee group, and we are working on a set of Gender Transition Guidelines to be used by transgender employees who transition while at our company, as well as their managers, coworkers, and HR to ensure a positive experience.

We’ve based the guidelines on industry best practices (Human Rights Campaign and others), and as I’m working on the document I’m wondering what others have experienced in their own workplace transitions, both good and bad.

I’d love for readers to weigh in — those who have transitioned at work or been part of a employee’s transition. I’m sure there are plenty of stories about what went wrong, but I’d also love to hear about anything that was done right. Was there anything that the manager or HR or others did that was especially meaningful? Any advice on how to handle the issues that inevitably arise?

The last time someone at our company transitioned (a few years ago), it was handled pretty terribly by leadership, and I’d like to do everything I can to make it different for the next person that comes along. Clearly there’s an element of culture change and education here — which we’re working on — but this document will be what folks rely on when the situation arises.

Let’s hear in the comment section from people with direct experience with this — people who have transitioned at work or have observed how a workplace handled an employee’s transition well or not so well.

{ 656 comments… read them below }

  1. F*

    — work out where data is kept. My workplace updated central records quickly, but other departments had lists of staff names that weren’t updated initially
    — consider external as well as internal. I use Mx at work and my workplace supports this. The payslip company however doesn’t have this option

    1. LGBT OP*

      Thank you! Yes, data is somewhat of an issue, plus the fact that certain changes can only be made once someone has legally changed their name. Working through all of this though.

      1. S.*

        I work in the data department at my organization, and we’ve gotten around that by basically having two sets of fields for people’s “legal name” and their “lived name.” This accounts for all kinds of variations in people’s naming preferences that may vary from their legal documents without having a special hurdle for trans folks. It helps people who are changing their name but haven’t done so legally yet, but also people go by their middle name, people who have an “American” name they prefer to be called, people who have double barreled last names but in practice only use the first one, the usual Jim/James scenario, all kinds of situations.

          1. mxsparks*

            I’d love it if an employer decided to flip the script on this one and use “Name” and “Tax Name” — the former being what an employee calls themself in real life, the latter protected as strongly as their social security number and direct deposit information.

            1. Cat*

              It depends though. Jim might actually want to put James on certain formal documents. So it’s not going to be the same for everyone.

            2. mxsparks*

              Also: is there any reason why it would ever be important to record an employee’s “legal” gender? The EEO-1 is based on self-reporting, there’s official guidance at for reporting nonbinary employees, and (as I understand it) insurance carriers just care that you tell them *something.*

              Speaking of insurance carriers, it helps if HR is willing to get aggressive with them on behalf of your employees (and your employees understand that that’s one of HR’s core competencies).

              1. Miss Muffet*

                I work in benefits administration and it totally depends on the carrier. Some are getting on board with allowing no gender or a non-binary, or whatever “alternate” … problem is, the alternate is uniform across companies (that have the employees) and carriers, so it can get really tricky. As an employer, I can say, I want X to be the indicator for not-F or -M but when I send that X to this medial carrier that takes it but that dental carrier only can handle F or M, or they prefer the ‘non’ indicator to be … N or whatever, it’s a big mess.
                We just need like, the entire US to just decide that something will be the indicator if M or F doesn’t work, and get everyone to get on board. But I can hear you all laughing now. Between different states and their laws and “preferences”, and the same with employers and carriers…i don’t think it will be any time soon!

                1. Healthcare Pro*

                  Connect with your healthcare carrier as well and find out if they have a way to manage the M/F data marker. In most lab / health data scenarios, the lab will require the individual’s biological gender for medical tests even after transition.

            3. SometimesALurker*

              Agreed, “Name” and “Legal name, if different” or something along those lines is much better. I know of at least one company that does that. Some people who are in the process of changing their names (trans people, people dealing with family estrangement, etc) have some trauma around their legal name, why poke at that bruise when you don’t have to? It also reinforces for everyone who may work with those documents that the employee’s name is their name, not just a preference.

            4. JSPA*

              Have to iron out issues like “required certification” or “required clearance” name. “Alias” is too loaded, but “Other Identifiers” might work.

              Displayed certificates and degrees is another place that this comes up; people can generally get these re-issued, but not every college is equally accommodating.

        1. Atalanta0jess*

          oooh, thank you for the “lived name” terminology. That’s so much better than preferred name.

          1. Astra Nomical*

            It makes sense too, because that person’s pre-transition name is quickly becoming their ‘dead’ name :)
            So for example – Jim is transitioning to Mary. Jim becomes their ‘dead’ name, Mary their ‘living.’

        2. Stornry*

          You’ve inspired me! I can’t do anything about *Gov’t entity* data but I can add the field to my Department’s database. I’m adding that to my to-do list …. then onward to populate that field with what, up until now, only I have had to know (i.e. both legal and lived names). On behalf of my (someday) successor, thanks for that insight.

        3. M*

          This also benefits women who want to keep their maiden name at work despite changing it legally. My last company could deal with people going by something other than their legal first name, presumably because it’s very common among men, but my coworker was forced to change her name at work because she’d changed it legally and her reports just started going out that way.

          1. NotVeryActiveHere*

            I had a long legal name and prefered using just Firstname Lastname, especially in my e-mail address. I did, for fifteen years, and then the IT department changed things – and claimed they had a legal obligation to use people’s full names before the @. (There is no such legal obligation in this country.)

            I actually had to change my name legally by dropping my two middle names (sniff) so I could keep the e-mail address I had been using professionally for so many years.

        4. George*

          We have that. They ignore “preferred name” for emails and such. Very confusing. My legal name is something like Georgia, but I go by something like Addison. When another Georgia showed up, it got extra confusing! Also, it’s in the phone system, so when I call IT they pick up and go, “What can I do for you today, Georgia?” UGH!

      2. Dahlia*

        I hope you can move towards not requiring legal changes – that can be very difficult. A friend of mine had to go to court for their name change/marker change.

      3. Apparently very nit-picky*

        OP, we have started a checklist of all corporate systems where name/gender need to be changed, so that when the employee is ready to update, we can change everything (such as email name, online photo, PeopleSoft info, Skype, Teams, and so on) all at once. It’s hard to do, but our transitioning employees have been really grateful that they don’t have to have a month of updates with their deadname out there.

    2. Kyle*

      Considering how slow and inconsistent even updating a last name can be after a marital status change, this is a great thing to look out for

      1. Nom de Plume*

        Seriously. I reverted to my original name after my divorce, and I’m annoyed that my logins to the time tracking system and benefits system use my old last name. I can see how something like that could be traumatizing for someone to see their deadname repeatedly.

        1. Ralkana*

          They finally, several years after she remarried, changed my coworker’s display name to her married name. Her actual email address is still her maiden name though.

    3. Elemeno P.*

      Oh man, data updates are a huge pain! I work for a huge company, and while most things are good about name updates (email and HR, especially), there are some hidden things in our databases where the names don’t change and I wish they would. This has been so frustrating when I’m looking for someone’s name in the database but they have a different legal first name (sometimes transition-related but sometimes just preference) or a different legal last name, and I have to contact them to find out any other names they might have so I can do my work. It feels so invasive and I don’t want to bother them like that if I don’t have to!

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Oh yeah, one obscure HR database has people’s legal names, I guess, so once a year I have to remember this one’s married name that she doesn’t use at work, and that one’s less-common basis for the nickname she goes by. That would be a nightmare for a trans coworker if they couldn’t get the change fully propogated!

    4. Zona the Great*

      How do I pronounce Mx? Can you tell me how to prounounce some other common prefixes and pronouns?

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Huh. I always pronounced “hir” as “”hire”. Not sure why I decided a long “i” was the way to go. Thanks for the pronoun resource!

        1. Flora*

          You are literally replying to a thread that starts with someone indicating zie uses Mx. in place of Miss/Mr/Mrs. While it’s not a pronoun, it is a prefix.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Echoing to ask!

          Most don’t flinch if you can’t pronounce someone’s name to ask. Same goes for pronouns or any words kicking around. There’s no shame in asking, barring tone issues, most would prefer to be asked when you’re uncertain.

      1. Wren*

        I have heard that although Mx is usually pronounced like mix in North America, in the UK, I’m told, they rhyme it with books. Any UK readers can confirm?

    5. FtM Anon*

      It’s also worth looking at if data is auto-update or auto-loaded from anywhere, especially if the source requires legal name.

      I transitioned at my job over three years ago, and I still have to contact IT once a year to change the name attached to my email account. It auto-updates yearly to match our payroll system (so the accounts of people who are no longer employed get deleted), and every time it does my name gets reset to my legal name, which I don’t use. So every year there’s at least a week or two where my email displays a name that isn’t anywhere else, and people are inevitably confused.

    6. Buttercup*

      There is a trans woman in my company who transitioned after she’d been working here for several years. For reasons I have never been able to understand, her name cannot be updated in the payroll and security systems, so her paychecks are still addressed to her deadname. I think she has not been able to legally change her name, which may explain it, but it still seems to me to be inhumane. Her ID has been printed with her “preferred”, aka real, name, and her name displays correctly in the employee directory, but we can’t give her the same courtesy on her checks or in the security system? It baffles me. It also forces her to out herself every time she needs to get a new ID, or go through a keycard-access door (every person who scans their keycard shows up on a security terminal nearby, and it shows their name from the security system). There’s no dignity in it.

      1. RoseMai*

        This is tough, because if she’s filing her taxes under her deadname, then payroll needs to have it. Most payroll systems don’t have an option to show a preferred name (you can store it, but it won’t print on checks). Benefits also require legal name, and most benefit vendors don’t have any gender options other than Male or Female, and they’ll require you to pick one.

        It’s the worst; waiting for the government and vendors to get with the times.

        1. ASW*

          Exactly. It’s not about courtesy. Payroll has to send out a W-2 with the legal name. That information gets sent to the Social Security Administration. We sometimes get notices from the IRS if the name on a 1099 we sent out doesn’t match the name the IRS has on file, so I imagine it’s similar if the W-2 name and SSN don’t match. Also, if she hasn’t legally changed her name, I wouldn’t think she would be able to open a bank account with her preferred name since that all goes through some kind of federal security check these days. It’s going to be a lot easier to deposit checks when the name on the check matches the name on the checking account.

          We also recently implemented a policy that the names used to determine our email addresses has to be the name on our social security card. When I asked why (we have several people who go by their middle names) and I was told it had something to do with the Dept. of Homeland Security and either Office 365 or the new email scanning software that is certified by DHS. That kind of sounds like BS to me, but what do I know?

          1. SusanIvanova*

            That excuse sounds ridiculous – eventually there will be multiple people with the same name, and then what?

            1. Cath*

              Typically they just add a number, so Jane.Smith ends up getting emails meant for Jane.Smith2. Happens a lot at big companies. (I have a very common name. )

          2. anem0ne*

            Fairly sure it has nothing to do with Office365; the company I worked with used the preferred name before my transition and after my transition for the email.

            In the back-end system that does the payroll and bank stuff, yeah, I’ve always had to use my legal name, which meant that until I had the legal documents changed, it was in the old legal name.

            1. anem0ne*

              To be more clear, until post-transition, my professional name/email has never matched my legal name, by choice. The old name was just very long and difficult to pronounce, and so I always used a shortened nickname instead.

            2. Financial Regs, Yo*

              In our office, it has to do with regulations concerning financial data. I work at a law office that represents banks and in order to maintain our business (i.e., if we didn’t do these things, our clients would no longer be able to hire us) we had to update our server, update our securities protocols and make sure that our email addresses matched the name on our SSN. We have a woman who is getting divorced who went back to her maiden name and IT changed her email address, and then had to change it back because her name hasn’t been legally changed yet.

              1. TrixM*

                I would love to know what financial regulation specifies what name someone uses on their email address. I don’t know of any, in three countries.

                The name someone uses to file tax returns and sign contracts, yes (although, actually, what’s IN your signature doesn’t matter either).

                But for logon names and email addresses in an IT system, there’s no requirement I’m aware of. An email address or logon name is not a legal entity (“person”). If there are IT systems that take names out of an internal directory that require legal names to be appended (e.g. law firms with contract-generation software) then it is very very easy to specify a “legal name” and “preferred name” field for that kind of purpose.

                Some places want a logon ID that is linked to an HR record, which is also fine. In that instance the HR record should indeed store the legal name, although all the HR systems I’m aware of have the capability of storing a preferred name as well.

          3. NotAnotherManager!*

            Yeah, if it’s not a legal name, it’s going to be tough to get a government entity ot recognize that, too. Name discrepancies are one of the ways the IRS identifies fraudulent use of SSNs, and, if someone’s using your SSN for their W-2, you’re probably going to be grateful at some point, that they caught it before your refunds start being withheld or something goes wonky with your records. Someone stole my aunt’s SSN several years ago and it was a mess to clean up, but it was flagged because it showed Jane Smith and Bob Jones both using the same number.

            We used to require people’s emails to be their legal names, but they changed that about five years ago and it’s been much easier to deal with when I can’t figure out why Alex Johnson’s email is bouncing because they’re in the system as PJohnson instead of AJohnson. HR has everyone’s legal and preferred names on file, and there are far fewer complaints and no need to manage exceptions.

          4. Jessen*

            I have a government email address. With my preferred name in it. I’m not even trans (well, ok, maybe, but that’s not at all relevant to my name here), it’s just a somewhat uncommon shortening of my legal first name. So I would be really shocked if those of us who actually work for the federal government can have email addresses using our preferred names, but a private company can’t because of DHS rules.

    7. Monokeros de Astris*

      Also internal-use data systems that are run by third parties.

      My workplace was simply unable to change my name. Yes, I changed it legally. I mean, it *mostly* changed, but I was deadnamed irregularly for the entire ten months I stayed until I quit because it was too painful to keep going. Google GSuite. Workday. Slack. *Everything* had unresolvable issues and I was apparently the first person to ever care enough to fight for it. To be fair, previous trans people who had transitioned at that employer had all been fired shortly thereafter, so I was the first one in a position to even try.

      But it’s not like women whose marital status changed didn’t have the same problem! I’d say that’s the place to start: find people whose names change for other reasons and keep an eagle eye out for places where the old name keeps showing up.

      I was extremely hurt by the situation. I gave up the highest paying job I’ll probably ever have, and perhaps the best workplace, because their *computer systems* could not call me by name. I don’t think I’ll ever really forgive them for that, no matter how “supportive” the people claimed to be.

      1. Not Australian*

        Dammit, even if they couldn’t *change* your name on the system, surely they could have removed you under Deadname and created a new entry for Livename? That’s not a system problem, it’s a human-being-who-can’t-be-arsed problem; I’m very sorry you had to endure it.

        1. Joelle*

          This is a workaround that I don’t entirely understand why more people are unwilling to do. I understand the payroll/IRS reporting issues, but not the resistance to create new accounts for any/everything else!

          1. Corrvin*

            I had that Google problem a few years ago! As nearly as I recall it was this: if you change your display name on your Google account, then it appends the new display name to your emails, BUT if you email someone who you’d emailed before the name change, they’d see the old name because you were in their contacts that way. The only way we found to fix it– and there might be another– is to have the person getting the old name delete your email address from their contacts, and then when you emailed again, it’d re-add with the new name.

            It’s terrible because it puts the burden on other people to change your name in their records. And yes, creating a brand new Gmail address would fix it but then you’d have to juggle two addresses (forwarding and send-as), which could be done, but shouldn’t have to be done.

      2. Prof. Kat*

        Wow, that’s awful. I’m so sorry.

        You bring up a really good point, too: even if a given workplace hasn’t had anyone transition, women who have changed their names (or men, although that’s statistically less likely) are a great resource to work out any kinks in a company’s name change system, if there even is one. They can tell you which things were the hardest to change, and why. Use that information to (a) improve the current system, and (b) write a set of instructions you can send to anyone changing their name in the future.

      3. Mimi*

        GSuite is really terrible for any sort of name changes — the names live *in every individual person’s contacts* unless you have a centralized system that hands out a contacts list, so the only way to completely change it is to make every person who’s ever emailed with the person whose name is changing to delete the old contact.
        And, for bonus points, it remembers previously-existing email accounts, so even if you delete the old account, if the new one has the same address (or even email alias) the old name and picture will pop up.

        I have a whole spiel about “I can change your email login, BUT…”
        And you’re right, it not only affects trans and nb folks, but also people who get married (or divorced!) and change their name, etc.

        I hate it. And the only thing I can do about it is submit a ticket to google saying, “You’re deadnaming my users and it’s awful.”

        1. bard*

          Is that why my maiden name shows up on my email, despite me changing every profile box I can find?

          Google is indeed … special.

          1. Mimi*

            If it’s showing up in other people’s inboxes, almost certainly. (The good news is that you can tell them to clean up their contacts to fix it. The bad news is … all the users have to manually change their contacts to fix it.)

          2. Merlin (they/them)*

            Have you tried changing it under Gmail settings -> Accounts and Import -> Send mail as?

            That’s what I did so my pronouns would show up in people’s emails.

            Google is definitely a bit much with all the services. There’s profile settings, then service specific settings, and sometimes even the services have multiple places to change the same setting.

        2. No Regerts*

          Hilariously, this is why I show up as “best wife ever” in some of my friends’ email accounts – because they *also* email my husband and google spreads that around like a virus.

          (I changed it once as a joke shortly after we got married. He never changed it back… and now I think it’s too late.)

      4. Flora*

        That is the worst “to be fair” ever. I’m sorry you experienced a hostile environment where that’s the FAIR thing to say, and sorry it was so hard to fix.

    8. Ariadne*

      Start with the procedures for women changing their name upon marriage and then decide what additional steps need to be taken.

      My guess is most companies are either geared up for people using alternative names and can adapt or they haven’t even given it the base level thought.

    9. Caz*

      Another part of thinking externally – our sickness reporting system specifies that some illnesses are “Male only” or “female only”. Find out if your organisation is anything similar and challenge it. (I’m working as part of the LGBT staff group with the equality and diversity team to challenge mine.)

      1. Zephy*

        Sickness reporting system? Do you have to indicate an illness from a drop-down menu when you call in? That’s messed up.

        1. Mimi*

          I don’t know about this particular system, but I do know people who have chosen to not change their legal gender markers because they still want to have their health needs covered by insurance, and if you’re legally “F” you often can’t get care that the insurance thinks only “M” people need, or vice-versa.

          1. Burned Out Supervisor*

            There is a specific diagnosis code that can be attached to medical bills that denote services that are contradictory to the person’s transitioned-to gender because they may not have gone through gender reassignment surgery or are mid-transition. This is predicated on your doctor’s office coding it that way though (and some insurances are dumb and disregard it).

        2. 'Tis Me*

          We do, but it’s quite broad strokes e.g.


          There are some others (which I can’t remember although probably one for bacterial infection) and there is a box to expand on your symptoms etc; it also asks if it’s a certified absence (i.e. You got a doctor’s cert) or not.

          It means that if you had e.g. a nasty UTI you could give the details as “infection causing fever and intense pain, requiring antibiotics” which should be perfectly adequate to explain why you couldn’t work for 3 or 4 days without going into any awkward details, even if it’s your sixth absence spanning/adjacent to a weekend in 2 months, so somebody does actually need to look into whether this is bad luck or a pattern of absenteeism. We can also self-certify up to 5 days, needing a doctor’s note for longer.

    10. Bibliovore*

      Absolutely this. Also name-based usernames / email addresses; ideally the new will take precedence and be used in all listings, a global search can be done to update email- or login-based memberships/subscriptions/notifications/directories/etc., and a policy can be in place for how long emails to the old address can be auto-forwarded to the new address before the old is deleted.

  2. AlexandrinaVictoria*

    When my friend transitioned from MtF, my workplace handled it very well except in one respect. She met with HR, worked out the details of name change, legal gender change, and got guidance in how to let people know. She announced the change to co-workers in small groups. The only issue – the company made her go down 7 floors to use the single-occupancy restroom rather than the ladies room on the floor she worked at. We all thought that was ridiculous, and let HR know, but they, rightfully I suppose, wouldn’t speak with us about her business. My goodness, just let trans people pee! After a couple of months, this restriction was lifted and no one freaked out. But be aware that this might be an issue, though hopefully not with the transitioning person’s co-workers.

    1. MB*

      That was the first thing my HR rep told me–I had as much right to use the ladies room as anyone and to send anyone who gave me shit to her. It set the tone for what ended up being a very smooth transition for me.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        I’m so glad your HR was supportive and your transition was smooth.

        My agency handled this by simply switching all our restrooms to gender-neutral. But we’re very small so our restrooms were single occupancy anyways.

        1. Cinnamon*

          My level has single occupancy bathrooms that are labeled one for women and one for men. When we have visitors I occasionally will get some weird looks coming out of the men’s room because I needed to go NOW and I couldn’t wait for Jane to finish in the “appropriate”bathroom *eye roll*.

          1. Flora*

            I explicitly email businesses with single-user gender-labeled restrooms asking them to explain why in the world they would do something hurtful without even the excuse of other people’s delicate eyefeelings. I have so far convinced at least three businesses in my city to change their ways. There is generally a restroom which is labeled to match my gender anyway, but this is not the point.

            1. Mike*

              If you are in California it is the LAW that single occupancy bathrooms must be labeled as gender neutral. Been that way for almost three years but it isn’t completely well known.

              1. Ugh*

                I’m in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’m glad this is the law, but it is not at all widely followed. I’d say I still see more gendered single occupant restrooms than gender neutral ones, unless the place only has one restroom.

          2. iglwif*

            I have always done this — like, since childhood, because my mom has no patience for the ridiculousness that is single-occupancy gendered washrooms — and while most people now seem to agree with me, it’s kind of astonishing how many people don’t. Like, it’s literally a room with a toilet, a sink, and a trash can? Just like your washroom at home? And it even has a working lock on the door!

    2. LGBT OP*

      Ugh, what an awful thing for your friend to deal with. I’ve heard about this at other companies in my industry as well.
      Fortunately, we’ve got this covered both in our facilities policies (must have single-occupancy restroom on every floor) plus our guidelines say that the transitioning employee must be allowed to use whichever restroom they prefer, and if anyone is uncomfortable with that, they should be the ones to use a different restroom.

      1. Soni*

        This is often considered as a way to ensure transgender individuals feel safe using the restroom that matches their identified gender. But it’s also essential if the transitioning person doesn’t feel safe or comfortable using their gender-identified restroom. For example, some AFAB individuals may never feel comfortable using the restroom with cis-men, especially if they do not have and/or do not wish to have lower surgery or are dealing with menstruation-related concerns, due to the high degree of sexual and other violence perpetrated by cis-men against those they view as “gay” or trans or otherwise feminine (including the sort of non-physical bullying, threats, hazing and terrorism that leaves no physical or other evidence you can take to HR).

        Another thing to consider is whether or not you have non-gendered options (restrooms, but also options for multi-person travel accommodations, etc) for those who are trans non-binary. Because that is absolutely a thing and assuming all transgender individuals will be identifying as either male or female is a mistake I see a lot of businesses make.

        1. Elizabeth Proctor*

          Single occupancy restrooms benefit so many people. People who are non-binary, people with children, people with IBS, people who are disabled, to name a few. They may not be the most efficient use of space but they’re so necessary.

          1. Merlin (they/them)*

            I wish restrooms were similar to the ones Google has. There’s a row of sinks and opposite that are a bunch of private toilet rooms with doors. Everyone gets an individual stall, with a proper set of doors and walls, with a lock. Having separate bathrooms has always been dumb.

          2. F*

            Our policy makes it clear that trans women are welcome to use women’s toilets. One employee said they would be uncomfortable being in the toilet while a trans woman was there. So we wrote into the policy that single occupancy toilets must be available on site so that anyone who is uncomfortable can use that toilet. In this way, we ensured everyone had a usable toilet but still prioritised trans people’s access to their toilet of choice.

        2. anem0ne*

          I 100% agree that single-occupancy restrooms are super valuable. Even though HR let me know once I informed them regarding my transition that I was welcome in the women’s restrooms, it was at least a year and some change before I felt comfortable using them when the single-occupancy/accessible bathroom was occupied.

          I think people often don’t understand how much more apprehensive trans folk are about using restrooms than cis folk are about us.

    3. Yvette*

      NYC allows for self gender identification and applies that for rest-room use as well. When the executive order was making its way to being signed, the company I worked for retro-fitted all stalls in the bathroom with metal strips to cover the usual stall gap between the free edge of the door and the upright next to it, allowing for privacy. I always thought they should have that anyway.

        1. Temperance*

          There are really cheap options for this, too. My law firm has ones that look like really stiff brush bristles.

      1. Spreadsheets and Books*

        My company has those, too. I don’t know if that’s the reason, but I do appreciate it.

      2. Mimi*

        In Rotterdam all the bathroom stalls are legit rooms with legit doors, even in a multi-stall restroom. It made me so mad that we US folks have been conditioned into doing our business in something that provides a vague impression of privacy.

      3. Merlin (they/them)*

        As far as I can tell, the gaps were only ever done to save money, and not for any real purpose. They shouldn’t exist.

        The self gender identification is more progressive and a step in the right direction, but it does nothing for nonbinary and gender nonconforming folks.

      4. Maeve*

        I am not actually ok with anyone of any gender watching me use the restroom, every stall should have this!

    4. Arctic*

      That’s pretty terrible.
      I think people forgetting pronouns or not changing gender and name in every place where it could be listed (in some disorganized organizations, like mine, this could be many places) aren’t great but also honest mistakes.
      Not letting a person use the bathroom seems overtly hostile to me. It’s like calling her a predator.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is why with our new facility I dug my heels down deep on all gender neutral restrooms. We don’t have anyone on staff now but I’m not waiting for it to happen before I’m prepared in regards to these details we’re publically aware of currently!

    6. Ariadne*

      I personally prefer mixed-gender bathrooms with fully closed individual stalls and shared washing area. I feel much safer. After all, no invisible barrier prevents some creep from strolling into the restrooms designated for women. But having other men around may be a deterrent to them as there are plenty of men who care about what other women will do but not about what women will feel.

      These are popping up all over the place now. I’ve even seen them in several conservative Southern cities.

      I don’t understand why in 2019 we still have to segregate ourselves when we are doing the same thing in the stalls.

      There is some argument for a urinal only room, but, even then, most men I know tell me they’d rather go into a private stall than use a urinal. I only know one dude who prefers a urinal, but he’s really, really well endowed and looks like a Navy Seal, so no other dudes are going to bug him.

      Lastly, I think that using the same facilities would really destigmatize a lot around menstruation and gender transition both.

      1. Vicky Austin*

        No thanks. I don’t want to share a public restroom with cisgender men. There are just so many ways that could go wrong.

        1. Allypopx*

          Honestly I don’t even like it when bathrooms are separate but like at the end of a long hall so there’s a risk of me sharing that long isolated hallway with cisgender men. I’m sure I’m not in a huge minority there.

        2. Burned Out Supervisor*

          Meh, I don’t think I would have a problem with it, but I’m a cisgender woman and don’t feel a lot of personal fear around men. Although, I can see why others wouldn’t like it, and that’s OK too. It would def be awkward though…

        3. Smol Queer Teacher*

          The way I’ve seen it mostly done is that the washing up area is pretty open. Like, these aren’t toilets that are hiding down an isolated corridor. I have a far amount of trepidation around burly dude-types in public, and these bathrooms were actually really freeing because they had intense privacy for the vulnerable part (actually using the toilet) but made the rest of the experience communal and integrated. They felt much safer than a room that was isolated and closed, but whose safety depended on people following rules, rather than being supported by being in community.

      2. Maeve*

        I prefer these types of bathrooms SO MUCH. Those stalls with the one-inch gaps…no thanks. Just give me privacy and then I don’t care who’s outside.

      3. iglwif*

        I like that type of washroom setup, too.

        Although I think my most favorite setup–I’ve only seen it once, and the pool hall it was in has now closed, alas–had big enough stalls that each stall had its own wee sink as well as the toilet (and menstrual product disposal etc.). I remember thinking the first time I went in there how great it would be for like … those really embarrassing and private cleanup problems one occasionally has…

        1. 'Tis Me*

          It took me a second to realise you were using “wee” as in “small” lol – intentional word choice? ;-)

          The idea of people literally being able to make eye contact with you while you go is so weird for me (UK-based). While some stalls have gaps at the bottom of the door/under the side partitions/about 7 foot up but below the ceiling, the doors close properly. And loads of places have proper ceiling to floor privacy in the stalls.

          Our work set-up has a ladies’ and gents’ on each floor (the ladies’ has 3 or 4 stalls in – I think 4 but can’t remember – each offering complete privacy, with shared sinks; I assume the gents’ is either set up the same or has a couple of stalls and some urinals), and a single occupancy gender neutral disabled loo/shower room with its own sink.

          1. iglwif*

            OMG no, I 100% did not mean that to be a pun XD XD

            Where I live (Canada), the trend seems to be more and more towards taller stalls with better-sealed doors, which I am entirely in favour of.

        2. Noblepower*

          I like that setup, and all-gender bathrooms like our bathrooms at home. I‘m a big fan of everyone having as much privacy as possible when going to the bathroom. I am a cis-gender female and have always both hated multi-stall bathrooms that often come with giant gaps under the door or poorly hanging doors, as well as the idiocy of having two single-person bathrooms that are assigned to separate genders (usually that seemed to leave one of those genders in a huge line) instead of just first come, first served.

      4. Merlin (they/them)*

        I much prefer this. Having a bathroom for everyone is the most inclusive since it works for nonbinary folk as well. Then have some additional single use restrooms next to it for the people who are more concerned.

        1. ...*

          I simply cannot FATHOM pooping in a room with a male co worker or boss as a female. I’d seriously be using Starbucks.

          1. Anon anonymous*

            Seems like in the near future we don’t have a choice, if we are moving toward inclusivity. Cis men will be listening to the rip of the adhesive backing off of our maxi pads and hearing us poop. Cause we’re all human, right?

          2. Dingbat*

            Me neither. I don’t have a reason like fear of my coworkers or anything, it’s just very unusual and would make me uncomfortable.

      5. ...*

        Yeah I simply don’t feel comfortable handling menstruation in a room with men even with dividers. So that’s not for me. It sounds like you are talking about individual rooms which then I would be fine with so long as they are truly rooms.

    7. some dude*

      The bathroom thing is a thing. A lot of the office buildings in my area only have male/female restrooms, and if you share a floor you can’t defacto degenderize the restrooms (not to mention I think there are legit privacy issues with degenderizing multi-stall restrooms). So we either send someone twenty floors down to the basement to pee in the one gender-neutral restroom in our building, or we tell people to use whatever restroom feels right to them, which is fine until it isn’t. Since making multi-stall gendered restrooms gender neutral while maintaining privacy is often pretty expensive, it’s not something that is easily fixed.

  3. Rockin Takin*

    Do allow them to use bathrooms. When my co-worker transitioned, the non-profit we worked for said he could use only unisex one stall restrooms. The nearest available one was about 1/4 mi to 1/2 mi away on the campus.

    Don’t create double standards.
    My co-worker had to jump through hoops with HR to get his legally changed name corrected on all documents at work. When I went to HR to tell them I’d gotten married and my last name changed, they didn’t ask for any verifying documents. They simply pulled up my file and changed it, no questions asked, no fuss.

    It’s great that your company is being proactive about this issue!

    1. many bells down*

      Also, if you have free menstrual products in employee bathrooms (and you should if at all possible), make sure they’re available in all restrooms.

          1. many bells down*

            Oh wow I never even thought that male-designated bathrooms might not have trash cans in the stalls

          2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            This is another one of those things that wouldn’t hurt anyone and could benefit people for a range of reasons (e.g. a cismale with incontinence issues who needs a place to discreetly dispose of insert pads).

      1. so many resumes, so little time*

        Yes! I suggested this several years ago at my workplace, right after they started supplying them in the women’s restrooms. People didn’t take the suggestion seriously then, but last year, they began supplying products in all the restrooms (we have men’s, women’s, and single use). It seems to be a non-issue now, showing how the office culture has shifted in just a few years.

        1. many bells down*

          I had just mentioned to my boss at the nonprofit where I work that I noticed our men’s* room didn’t have any, so she stocked it last week. We have a lot of older clients so we thought someone might complain but so far we haven’t heard a peep.

          (*the restrooms are gender-marked but we have a sign that says all restrooms are gender-affirming)

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      1/4 mile to use the bathroom?? Please tell me they gave up that notion immediately and let him use the bathroom in his building like a normal company would.

      1. Rockin Takin*

        I think now they do, but the years I was there he wasn’t allowed to. There was a unisex bathroom on the 2nd floor of our building, but we didn’t have access to that area and he wasn’t allowed to be granted access for bathroom use only. This was probably 8 or so years ago by now, and I assume they’ve gotten better about helping people with transitions since then.

    3. cacwgrl*

      How are companies able to/justify telling someone, in any circumstance, they are or are not explicitly allowed to use a specific restroom? I understand that I’ve never had to consider that situation or navigate it myself, but I have a hard time wrapping my head around the concept of saying to someone “you must use XX facility only”, whether they are cis, in transition, non-binary… We all use the restrooms, it would never cross my mind to tell someone “I support you, but go only here to do your business”. Is it a protection for that person thing?

      1. A Trans Man*

        I’m not a company, just a trans person with trans friends, but I’ve heard a few things:

        1. Other people or customers might be uncomfortable, and we value their comfort over yours bc there’s more of them and we rely on them for business

        2. If you, a trans woman, use the women’s restroom, we would have to let the cis men use it too. What’s to stop anyone from claiming to be trans and using the restroom that they’re comfortable with? It would be anarchy. Aka “we can’t make an exception for you”

        3. We can’t guarantee your protection if you use the gendered restrooms aka it’s for your own good. This one’s not as widely used

        4. Even though you see yourself as a woman, we see you as an “other”. You obviously can’t use the woman’s restroom because we used to call you “he”, but you’re insisting that you can’t use the men’s room. Well, our hands are tied then, you can only use the gender-neutral restroom over there.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          We had a manager who believed very strongly in #2 on that list and it caused a real issue for one employee. It got unpleasant until HR stepped in and told the manager to stop policing the toilets.

        2. This happened at my office*

          I think one issue with the gendered bathrooms can be to survivors of sexual violence. If HR knows that a cisgendered woman had been raped/has a documented fear of being alone in a space with someone who has a penis, they may lean really strongly toward the trans person using the gender neutral single bathroom, even if it’s in conveniently located. That doesn’t make it right, and it’s placing a perceived fear of violence to the cis woman over the needs/dignity of the trans woman/person, but sometimes when we don’t know why HR is SO insistent on that course of action, it could be for that reason.

      2. Not Australian*

        Actually, until quite recently I had a boss who told me I could only use a specific restroom at our workplace. That person has now left, and all of a sudden nobody cares. She’d tried to represent it as workplace policy, whereas it was actually just her own rule – which always seemed arbitrary and nonsensical, and would no doubt have seemed even worse if I’d actually been trans.

      3. darsynia*

        I feel like the answer to this is along the lines of a power imbalance. Like, ‘the employees are there at the pleasure of their employers, so if they make waves, they’ll be fired, so they’ll pee where we tell them to!’ kind of deal.

        As a humanity-related issue, no freaking idea.

  4. Former HR Disney Princess*

    I hired someone transitioning from male to female. I made sure to have their email account set up with their name of choice rathe than legal name which is how they are typically created. I also made sure this person felt comfortable using the restroom of their choice and that everyone was to address them by their chosen name. I was nervous about how the staff was going to be because it was a pretty conservative company, but honestly there were no issues and the person was very pleased with how we handled the transition since it was very early in the process. At the end of the day, it was just about the golden rule: treat people how you want to be treated.

    1. Yvette*

      Do you think it was easier because they were new and had no real history with anyone there? If you have worked with someone for years and knew them as “he/him, Jonathan” using the new pronouns and name can take some getting used to.

    2. Ariadne*

      LW – this post makes me think about how we handled this back in grad school in the 90s. A group of us knew Dave was transitioning to Davina. We got a group of us together and approached Davina And stated that if she needed anything at all, just let us know. We expressly told her that if she wanted people to serve as escorts to and from class or to bathrooms, we’d be there. For a long time, she didn’t ask anything. At one point, she asked one of the group who was taking a class in the Spring. She was worried about the professor. Several in our group were, and sat around her.

      If there are people you know to be allies, you can build a support structure. Let the person transitioning know they have people there who will be there for them if they need. Sometimes just seeing others care can help one get through horrible times.

      There is real streght in numbers.

    3. SW*

      Just to double-check, this person does use they/them, correct? Otherwise if this trans woman uses she/her pronouns, you’re misgendering her here.

      1. AT*

        @SW, I think “they” was being a reference to any trans person. In the first paragraph, the anecdote uses she/her.

    4. jen*

      we had someone transition at work. I’m not sure what would have been the best way to handle it. I found out from a client that the person was changing their name and the client had some questions like would my co-worker be upset if she slipped with names, etc. I was definitely caught off guard. I would have preferred to hear from either the co worker or my boss and have the chance to talk about how they wanted us to handle any questions. I also felt bad because I kept calling the co worker by their former name for probably weeks because no one told me differently. If I knew they changed their name I would have definitely called them by their preferred name.

  5. Banach*

    A story about a transition that was not handled well: I was in high school, and the person transitioning was a college student volunteer coach of a team I was on. This was ten years ago, and it was the first time I had ever heard of the concept of transgender, and probably the same for many of my peers. I can’t speak for the adults. My coach came out as transgender on facebook, with a very well-written and thoughtful “note” that explained what transgender was. I read it, noted the new name and pronouns, and thought it was the end of it.

    Not so. Some parents of kids on the team made a big deal out of it when they found out. They insisted on having a special team meeting with our coach and the whole team and any parents who wanted to attend, with school counselors present, as if it were a whole crisis, putting our coach on the spot answering questions about their gender, putting us on the spot asking what we thought of it and if we were traumatized or upset by their transition (we weren’t), etc. They made a huuuge deal out of it.

    Like I said, this was ten years ago. I’ve become way more educated since then and I hope my former school district has too.

    1. Bernice Clifton*

      Ugh, I hate when adults grill children in situations like this, “Are you sure you’re not upset? Are you sure that you don’t want to talk about this some more?” Children aren’t stupid. They know this implies that they *should be* upset.

      1. Burned Out Supervisor*

        People really love to use their children as stand ins for their own hang ups and prejudice. Same with the argument about “how am I supposed to explain this to my kid” crap. I dunno, Karen, you’re the parent, google it and figure it out. Sheesh.

        1. 'Tis Me*

          Same way you explain a million other things a day to them, surely? At a level they understand and that satisfies them, calmly, promoting kindness and respect, etc.

          “Well, are you happy being a [girl/boy]? If somebody else decided you were a [boy/girl] and called you by a [boys’/girls’] name and insisted you were a [boy/girl] how would it make you feel? Sad and angry? Sometimes everybody thinks that somebody is a [girl/boy] but really they’re a [boy/girl], and it makes them sad and angry too. Sometimes you can know somebody like that for years and not know they’re really a [boy/girl] and every time you call them by the name you have always called them it hurts them, until they tell you they’re actually a [girl/boy] and would rather you call them by a new name. Or maybe they don’t feel like a girl or a boy, and would like you to use different words to talk about them, like non-binary, genderqueer, agendered, or gender fluid. The kind and respectful thing to do is to listen to them and trust that they know themselves best, and use the name and words they ask you to use.”

          IDK. Trying to explain the concept of a colour seems more complicated to me… Actual conversation with 2 year old earlier while she played with sticklebricks:

          2: [burble that sounds like “yellow”]
          Me: Yellow? Close – one of those is orange and one is white. Do you know which one’s orange?
          2: No.
          Me: The long one is white and the square one is orange. Do you know which one the square one is?
          2: [burble that sounds like it might be “orange”]
          Me: Yes, the orange one with a hole in the middle.

          We also have orange cardboard and crayons, etc, so from context and repetition of this sort of conversation she will work it out but colour is a really weird thing to try to explain.

        2. Elenna*

          To paraphrase a fic I read once (can’t remember the name, unfortunately):

          “How will I explain this to my kids?”
          “I suggest using your words, or in dire situations perhaps graphs.”

    2. Dragoning*

      My high school, after I graduated, had a trans student wear a bracelet to identify himself so he could use…the single-occupancy teacher’s restroom.

      This is Exhibit A of how not to handle this.

      1. Vemasi*

        At my school currently, there is a trans student who comes to me to get a key for the teacher’s restroom when they need it. Not because they like me, but because it has been assigned that way by administration due to the placement of my room. If I knew them better I would ask (I don’t even know what pronouns they use, and they never told me their new name–I heard from one of their teachers), but I hope this is due to their choice. There are other trans students in the school who do not have this setup, so I don’t know why it turned out this way.

        1. TreenaKravm*

          If you’re comfortable, please reach out and check in on the student! A friendly, “Hey, I’ve been giving you this key for x time and I just realized I don’t even know your name–no one told me!” [response] “Which pronouns do you use?” [response] “How’s everything going?” etc.

    3. Anonymouse*

      The first openly trans person I knew was a fellow student in high school. In my junior year there was a freshman in one of my classes named Alex (not real name–but a similar name that could be either male or female) and I didn’t know if Alex was male or female. This was twenty years ago and I didn’t know it was ok to ask what pronouns someone preferred or how to address it, or that there was any such thing as nonbinary so I was just always careful to say Alex instead of he or she. Halfway through the year I heard a teacher using female pronouns (didn’t cross my mind that the teacher might be misgendering) so I started using female pronouns too.
      The next year at the beginning of the year it spread around school that Alex had transitioned to male over the summer and now used masculine pronouns. So I started using masculine pronouns for Alex. As far as I know he used the regular male bathrooms and locker room. I wasn’t in any classes with him that year so the only contact I had was when we were both in the school drama production that year–Alex got the male lead.

    4. iglwif*

      I really wish more adults would take their cues from the kids in situations like this! I mean, the administrative stuff (especially when dealing with big computer systems, sigh) can be a pain in the ass to change and update, but the underlying concept is just … really not that hard to grasp?? There’s absolutely no reason for anyone to have any outward reaction other than some variation of “Cool! Congrats!”

    5. Smol Queer Teacher*

      Sadly, not much has changed. A coworker at my school transitioned about 5 years ago, and it was a meeting coming out to the admin, then to the faculty, then to the assistant and support staff, then a letter to the parents of the whole school, then a town hall meeting for parents to ask her questions and air their concerns, then she got to tell her students. And they video recorded the conversation with her class. They did not set ground rules for the town hall.

      But also like…it is the head of school’s job to protect their faculty from the parents in this situation. If they wanted to hold a meeting with, say, a noted child psychologist who could talk about children and gender and answer any questions like “will my child need a therapist because of this? Will the school offer one?” so that the teacher isnt subjected to it.

      Whole thing set my gender journey back YEARS. I use they/them exclusively almost everywhere else. It’s finally in my work bio. But I don’t want to subject myself to a group of people who think they have the right to ask me private questions or say ignorant things to me just because my job involves their children. Radical opinion but teachers are people too.

  6. De Minimis*

    I wasn’t around for the earlier part of the process, but my workplace apparently has handled this very well. One of our managers is transgender and I believe she came out while employed here.

    One thing I’ve seen is that our employer really celebrates transgender employees. This particular manager has been really put forward as one of the public faces of the organization in our online presence, in our marketing, and at events. Some of that is her job, but I imagine other employers might be hesitant to do that.

    1. ThatGirl*

      As long as she’s not being paraded around as a symbol of their diversity! I imagine that could feel tokenizing. But if she’s comfortable with it, then good, it IS good that she’s not being hidden in a back room somewhere.

      1. De Minimis*

        No, it’s not like that though I can see how that can happen. It’s more along the lines of she represents the organization by working with partners and different community working groups, and she is often part of the team at various conferences.

  7. Maggie*

    As someone who handles a lot of internal data, I’d love to be looped in on this at the very least because I manage several systems and I could be helpful in making sure they all “agree”.

    1. LGBT OP*

      Totally on board with this – we have a list of stakeholders to weigh in on the document once we’re ready, and that includes our internal data folks :)

    2. Junior Dev*

      If it’s possible to make clear what names (legal vs used in office) should go where, it’d be good to document that so that employees know “I should put X name in the HR system and Y name in the instant messaging system.” In my office there’s some things that automatically propogate updates to other systems so that would be nice to have written out.

      1. AMT*

        Yep, definitely a good idea to have a procedure in place for that, especially since it’s going to be different for everyone (e.g. one person might change their legal name everywhere right away, but another might say “I need to be Marv in my email but Mary for my paychecks”).

  8. techRando*

    I don’t know all of the details about how our company actually handles gender transitions, but I know they have a file that has the entire process listed out. It’s in the same place where they explain the process for doing anything that changes legal details that affect work benefits: marriage, having a baby, adoption, changing your name. All of those files are entirely available to the employees without needing to ask anyone for them. It’s reassuring to have answers to questions about all of those subjects available without needing to express interest (and out yourself) to someone.

    So: have all the process info available to any employee along with all of your other HR information.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I cannot emphasize this enough. My company says they’re supportive, and they’ve got general policies that are good (re: gender-neutral dress code, bathroom policies, etc), but if you’re actually contemplating a transition in the workplace… the HR portal for “life changes – gender transition” offers one paragraph of general platitudes and a link to a support email. So I can’t find out any specifics without outing myself, specifically, as someone who is looking into this matter. Just let me read over a page or policy set on our intranet, please!

      This is especially true since a lot of us hold various licenses with regulatory organizations, and hoo boy do I have questions about how that’s gonna get handled.

      1. techRando*

        Yeah, I specifically skimmed the actual page BECAUSE I assumed it would be a paragraph of platitudes, like what you’re describing. But nope, it was a list of steps for how to initiate the process and things about what could be done before changing your name legally, and there was a link to something about the special program they have for trans healthcare coverage. (They don’t require you to go in-network for top or bottom surgery, but they want you to contact the insurance company once you know the surgeon you want so they can try to negotiate ahead of time. They don’t cover laser hair removal or things like facial feminization surgery, but they cover more than I’ve seen any other healthcare system cover, tbh.)

        Oh, as a side note on health stuff: even if you can’t make more specifically-trans healthcare needs covered (which you should try for) then at a minimum: remove weird gender-limits on what IS covered. Don’t say pap smears are covered only for women, don’t say prostate exams are covered only for men. This isn’t just a language problem it literally makes it so trans people can’t get their necessary preventative care covered if their legal gender marker has been changed.

        1. LGBT OP*

          We have some trans-related healthcare coverage and are working on getting more. That is an excellent suggestion to ensure that certain procedures are not limited by gender – thank you for bringing that up!

        2. Pizzaboi*

          Obamacare says that is illegal gender discrimination! I know because I had to use that clause to defend my right to get pap smears, which feels like a terrible hill to die on, to be honest. Haha.

          Whole heatedly co-signed.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Definitely an issue–a friend needed a hysterectomy and had to go through weeks of hoops to get the insurance company to even understand. As he put it, ‘it was like they thought that stuff came out auto-magically when my driver’s license changed!”

        4. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          My heterosexual, ciswoman coworker with an obviously female name (Like Jane, or Barbara) some years ago spent hours on the phone with HR/Benefits and our insurance provider trying to get them to cover her well-woman visit. Somehow, somewhere along the line, they had her sex down as “male” in the computer system and thus autorejected coverage for her gyn appointments, even though they had covered her gyn appointments for the previous 7 years or so that she’d worked for our company with the same insurance provider.

          It was a bureaucratic nightmare for her to get fixed.

          1. NerfHerder*

            This happened to my wife. I’m also female, so apparently the insurance company couldn’t fathom the idea of two women being married, so she got plugged into their systems as a dude, which meant that her pap smear fees kept getting bounced back by the insurance company. It took weeks and multiple calls to fix, and the whole time, we were saying, “Jesus, good thing you’re not a trans guy, or who even knows what they would do?” The actual people we spoke to were understanding and apologetic about the situation, but it was still a huge pain to get it all taken care of. Like, this is not hard, people.

        5. Dahlia*

          Also neutral language regarding pregnancy, breastfeeding, and parental leave – plenty of trans people are parents.

        6. AnonyNurse*

          Also, anyone who is a receptive partner of anal sex should have PAPs as part of routine care, irrespective of gender identity or sexual orientation. PAPs are testing for changes that occur with HPV infections, which cause most cervical and anal cancers. Unfortunately, not nearly enough care providers know this and offer testing, even when it is routine for people with a cervix.

    2. LGBT OP*

      This is definitely part of the plan – not just posting the document internally, but linking to it from several locations so it’s easy to find.

    3. FtM Anon*

      Try to be detailed with it, too, as much as you reasonably can. I don’t just want to contact HR in general, I want to contact a specific person in HR, preferably one who can run me through the whole process so I don’t have to re-explain the circumstances to every HR assistant in the building.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Maybe a specific role/title in HR, so it’s not vacant when That Special Person takes a vacation or retires.

  9. Marny*

    I work for a state government and recently completed the mandated Sexual Harassment and Gender Discrimination training. I was (pleasantly) surprised that things like intentionally using someone’s incorrect pronouns (after being informed of the correct pronouns to use) was included as a form of harassment and specific mention that policing people’s choice of gendered bathroom was unacceptable. If your company has SH training, I would recommend specifically including this topic to show trans employees the company has their back.

    1. LGBT OP*

      Great idea, thank you! I also like the idea of including a statement about policing people’s choice of gendered restrooms being unacceptable, will definitely incorporate this.

      1. Talia*

        This leads to a bigger point I was going to make: it is critical to thoroughly review all language in place with any existing anti-harassment and/or inclusion policies on the books for your organization. Having clear policy for transition planning, records updates, and the like is fantastic, but too-often those policies get shoehorned into being a weird catch-all for everything a trans employee may encounter. This can create a misperception of special treatment, or give rise to a belief that one set of standards applies to trans employees, and another to cis employees. Include things like misgendering, “bathroom policing”, comments on dress and mannerisms in the general anti-harassment section, etc. That will not only make it clear that this applies to everyone equally, it helps set the tone for new hires to see that the company culture does value all employees.

      2. hamsterpants*

        I want to echo having a clearly-defined training about this. While nothing can stop a determined jerk, I think that hearing a directive from management can guide a lot of people in the right direction. Trans issues are still new to many cis folks and if you’ve never thought about it before you could accidentally stumble into something discriminatory. While a general expectation that people be empathetic and inclusive is better in principle, basic guidelines are really helpful to get people to *behave* the right way, even if they don’t “get it” yet.

        Ideally it would be done as part of the regular anti-bias training rather than “Hello, John is transitioning to Jane, you must all sit through this mandatory course today.”

    2. CountryLass*

      That’s the thing that worries me about if I interact with someone who is transitioning, especially if I have always known them as “Jane/James” and then have to remember that it is now “James/Jane”. Especially when I’m busy or focused, most things get delegated to the autopilot part of my brain, and I would hate to think I was consistently mis-gendering (is that the term?) someone or upsetting them!

      I mean, my CHILD has just asked that I don’t use the derivative of their name that I have called them for 7 years, and use their full name, and I keep forgetting!

      I’ve never really got the whole bathroom thing though. I mean, there are stalls aren’t there? Y’know, with those big panels, and the movable one in front to stop people looking at you. And lets face it, if someone is perverted enough to peek over or under a toilet stall it doesn’t really matter what gender they are or claim to be…

      Possibly open-plan changing rooms but that’s more from the concern over people pretending to be a different gender so they can ogle others. That’s a pervert thing though, not a transgender thing.

      1. TrixM*

        If you make a mistake with someone’s pronouns, just go “oops, sorry about that!” and continue on. Please don’t make a big deal about it – quick apology, done. Everyone slips up, including, sometimes, transpeople themselves at first!
        Although, if someone persists in *never* remembering pronouns, it does eventually become a big deal.

  10. Junior Dev*

    To the extent you can, make it so employees’ legal names and legal sex are treated as private information, like their social security number, and not possible for other employees (who don’t need that information, like HR) to look up. I’ve heard of a coworker whose teammates looked up her deadname that way and she felt really horrible having them know that information. Same with any ID documentation like passports, drivers licenses, and whatever documents are related to things like bank accounts and health insurance; those are private and no one should be able to see them if they don’t need to for their job.

    Definitely make it easy for them to choose the names they will be represented by in any email, online profile, and instant messaging system, and work with IT to change any alias that contains their old name and set up appropriate forwarding for old emails while also removing any references to the old name/alias. So for example, if John Smith transitions to Amy Smith, she shouldn’t have to have an email address like anymore, but emails should be automatically forwarded from the jsmith address for some period of time.

    Make sure your health insurance covers transition care and that the sick leave policy allows them enough time to actually access that care.

    1. LGBT OP*

      That is horrendous that your coworker had to deal with that and a great suggestion of something for us to watch out for. No one outside of HR should require that information or documentation.

      1. Junior Dev*

        I agree! It’s pretty awful! I’m glad you are looking out for this.

        Another thought I just had is to make sure that 1) HR people are trained in how to handle all this correctly (eg don’t give out info that’s not needed about people, refer to people by their correct name and pronouns, ask if unsure) and 2) that if you have a benefits helpline (or if someone in HR fills this function) they are versed in how to deal with weird healthcare bureaucracy problems that come up, like “my account said female so insurance wouldn’t cover testosterone, so I changed it to male, and now they won’t cover Pap smears” (or similar situations within the hospital/clinic system‘s records). Ask what training the Helpline’s staff have in these matters and insist that they get it or change providers for that service.

    2. JL*

      Seconding the point about legal names and legal sex designations.

      I am a transgender person who works in administration at a large university, and while overall the people I work with and the institution are supportive, so many of our internal systems will only display legal name (which I have not changed yet). Someone gives me delegate privileges to process their receipts? They see my legal name. Someone approves a shopping cart I submitted? They see my legal name. I understand why payroll needs my legal name, but things like that are frustrating and result me being “outed” to pretty much everyone I work with.

    3. Dingbat*

      Agreed. My company uses Workday and employees come up when you search for any name they have ever held, former/legal/preferred. It’s more like Google than a directory. So if someone has changed their name, or you spelled it wrong when it was entered, that employee will always come up in search.

    4. TrixM*

      Ugh, I’m having a big fight right now at work re a new account domain we’re setting up, and I’m like “do we need the gender information?” (from the legacy system). And they are like, yes, we need it for staff demographics and student records.

      When I point out that the information is stored in the HR system and actual student record system, there’s a lot of foot-shuffling and so on, but no decision to omit it. I’m omitting it for now. As far as I’m concerned, all they need is their preferred title (Mr, Ms, Dr…) in the directory system.

    5. SpaceySteph*

      Yes on the IT stuff. I am not trans, but when I changed my name for marriage it was a huge pain, there was no official process, everything was word of mouth and calling a bunch of different help desks. I have been married 7 years and still have accounts that use my former name. For the most part its funny if slightly annoying to me, but it’d be great not to put a trans person (or anyone really) through all that.

      Also if possible, let them change when they are ready vs waiting for specific documentation. My work requires you to have your IDs before they will change your name (social security card, DL, passport, etc) which can take a lot of time (and in some states the DL can be a major hurdle) so if you can divorce the IT “name” from the legal name, that would be awesome.

  11. Ruth (UK)*

    I’m on the staff pride committee at my workplace, and I am LGBT+ but not trans. The committee includes a nonbinary (they/them) person and several trans members.

    One thing that we have been doing which can be helpful is to normalise including pronouns in things like email signatures

    Ruth UK (she/her)
    Teapot Assistant.

    Or normalising wearing pronoun pins or badges. When it becomes the norm for lots of people do this, then it doesn’t so much ‘other’ the people who do this because their gender is not what might be assumed by people looking at them or hearing/seeing their name (eg. nonbinary or trans).

    A few years ago I worked in a call centre and had a co-worker who was a trans woman. Her voice was very deep (ie. deep even for what one might expect from a man). On the phone she’d give her name (a common female name, like Sarah, and I’d hear her repeat it and even spell it as people would ask her again what her name was – they’d think they were hearing wrong because they weren’t expecting a female name. Sometimes I’d get calls back from people who had spoken to her and say something like “oh yes, that was my colleague, Sarah” (and sometimes when we dealt with certain people we did need to make sure we’d all know who spoke to whom) and they’d often say something like “no, it was definitely a man”. In this case, Sarah did not want it to be discussed with callers that she was a trans (we never dealt with them in person), and so I would reply something like, “Sarah has a very deep voice”. A point here is that I discussed with Sarah how she would like me to reply/handle that query. I think that’s an important thing: ask people how they would like you to handle this type of situation eg. if someone queries their name or gender. Depending on the person and situation, they may not wish to be ‘outed’.

    1. merula*

      THIS! My company doesn’t have this as a standard, and we have “signature standards” that don’t include pronouns. A handful of us put our pronouns on our intranet Employee Profile, but that’s not as visible.

      I’m a cis woman, but I work with people all over the world. While my name is a “girl’s name” in my language, both the industry and my job specifically are male-dominated, so I am often misgendered by people who aren’t as familiar with my language, (think “Dear Mr Helen Smith”). Pronouns are helpful for business reasons, not just for trans/nonbinary people.

      Any suggestions for changing a conservative corporate culture to promote pronouns in introductions and everyday business?

      1. LizCase*

        How global is your company? Having pronouns would help a lot with names from different cultures than the dominant one. This is especially important if the convention is to use the last name (e.g. Frau Pica or Herr Jones)

        1. merula*

          Most of the operations are in the US, but we have offices in Europe, South America and Asia. Prevailing norms are first-name basis; no meaningful operations in last-name-norm places.

          I think one of the issues is that while my job works across the organization, 95% of our employees just work within their own norms, so they don’t see it as an issue. (Combined with the overall conservativism of the industry.)

        2. sacados*

          This is very true! For example, when looking at a Chinese or Thai first name, I don’t have that intuitive sense of whether the name is a male or female one the way I would with an English name. So with a colleague that I’m emailing with but wouldn’t actually meet in person, it can be hard to figure that out!

        3. Dingbat*

          Yes, I have seen this done in conservative/ignorant companies for this exact reason.
          Instead of pronouns, we included the gendered honorific: Akira Yamada (Mr.)

            1. TrixM*

              If Dr Yamada prefers to be addressed as such, then I’m sure he’ll update his honorific.

              Otherwise – and including the names of colleagues in unfamilar languages – we don’t actually *need* to know someone’s gender for work purposes. Does it make any difference whatsoever if Dr Yamada is a man, woman or neither? (If there are demographic considerations, I’d expect that to be handled in the HR system)

              1. TTDH*

                No, of course it doesn’t matter. That was just a joking response to how this idea is used in more conservative settings. How literal…

              2. Smol Queer Teacher*

                It does to the person receiving it, sometimes. Gender conforming cisgender people are usually okay with the occasional accidental misgendering, because it is infrequent, and because they are not constantly being told that their gender is incorrect. People who don’t tick the “right” gender boxes get misgendered constantly, and it is really hurtful. Many trans people receive deliberate misgendering as an act of violence, and even when it’s an accident, it still hurts.

    2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      I am glad someone mentioned the labeling of pronouns in their signatures. I had a conversation with our former diversity officer not that long ago and she had indicated she thought those could have a patronizing effect (i.e., that someone transgender or nonbinary would see that for a cisgendered person and think, “No, that’s not for you.”) I definitely saw her point, but on the other hand if EVERYONE is using their pronouns in their email signature, those who DO need this don’t feel singled out by doing so (which I think is the intent.)

      For the record, we are both cisgendered, and I have been meaning to ask/research this question for some time, so I was hoping someone would bring this up when I saw this ATR posted!

      1. Ruth (UK)*

        In my signature, after my pronounce, is says in subtext: [what does this mean?]

        Which is a hyperlink that goes here:

        Some people who do it link to their specific pronoun page on that website (especially people who use they/them)

        I think answer to your patronising effect worry, I personally have only met with people who want to encourage this sort of thing as the norm. I’m sure someone somewhere would have the reaction you worry about, but I think more people will see it as a positive thing.

      2. Llama Wrangler*

        To my knowledge* there is some debate over whether and how to frame requests about pronouns in group settings — I know some of my trans and non-binary friends prefer to not have full group introductions include a required question about pronouns if it’s a primarily cisgender group. I’ll see if I can find links with alternatives/suggestions and put them in the comments. But I’ve never heard any suggestion that people should not put their pronouns in bios or signatures, and have seen the explicit recommendation that cisgender people normalize pronoun conversations by introducing themselves with their pronouns when they get introduced.

        *I just want to clarify that I am cisgender, so my perspectives are shaped by my trans, non-binary, and genderqueer friends, not personal experience.

        1. Pizzaboi*

          Just co-signing here. Not all trans and non-binary folks are big fans of a whole pronoun introduction at the beginnings of meetings especially if we are the only trans person. Like I don’t care because I am very out and extroverted and because I like educating folks, but not everyone does and it can feel super weird.

          1. Mad Harry Crewe*

            I hate, hate, hate pronoun introductions or requiring them in email sigs. It’s fine for anyone who’s out (including cis folks and out trans or nb folks), but for anyone who is still in the closet or unsure, they have to pick between lying and outing themselves. Super not great.

        2. Llama Wrangler*

          Before sharing links, just so it doesn’t get lost in the nuance of the debate I just want to reiterate that we should absolutely refer (and insist our colleagues refer) to people by their correct pronouns. This is, rather, a question about how we are expecting people to share information with us about their gender in group settings.

          Most of what I’ve seen is about higher ed, but here are two articles that have a bit of a broader perspective (though neither is written by a trans or nb person; if someone has better links, let me know!) and

          Here’s a twitter thread specifically talking about working with undergraduate students, but that also could apply to some professional contexts (conferences or professional development):

        3. JT*

          Yep. Never force people to share their pronouns – you could inadvertently force a person questioning their gender to come out (or lie) before they’re ready to.

          But definitely offer your pronouns! It normalizes pronoun discussion AND tells anyone queer that you’re likely a safe person with whom to talk. :)

          1. Monokeros de Astris*

            Yes. This happened to me in my workplace’s LGBTQ ERG. Which was dominated by cis gay men who were not exactly the most supportive trans allies in the long run, so I feel that my fears were justified.

            So, I was required to give “my” pronouns, and saying literally anything other than my assigned pronouns would have constituted coming out at least as questioning. I was forced to misgender myself out loud, and that was much, much more painful than just letting people assume.

          2. metageeky*

            I often point people to this actually good New York Times Op-Ed on Pronoun Privilege:

            Not every trans person is comfortable sharing their pronouns, especially to relative strangers. I don’t. Generally, people getting my pronouns correct with my prompting is a huge boost against my daily gender dysphoria. Plus, the question can trigger a PTSD episode for me as I was almost egregiously assaulted in a bathroom with demands to declare if I was a he or she (happened before living full time).

            So yes, offer your pronouns. Don’t demand pronouns from everyone. Don’t require it.

          3. Indywind*

            Cosigning basically JT’s entire comment: offer your own, don’t require others to declare, especially don’t require others to declare in a standardized, limited way.

            Also, gender-fluid is a thing; my friend’s kid is gender-fluid and uses he/him/his OR she/her/hers ( family and close friends take the kid’s cue about which is appropriate any given time; people who aren’t close can make their best guess from the kid’s presentation and kid’ll accept that) but NOT they/their/theirs, and that’s way too much to unpack in a signature.

            I’m nonbinary trans and I don’t have a preferred (I use that word advisedly, don’t come at me, people whose pronouns are no means a preference, rather an essential) nor correct pronoun-set; they all fit me about equally well or badly. I very much prefer to be referred to by my name wherever possible (or social role or job title in social or work situations respectively), but I’ll accept any pronouns commonly used for humans, and tolerate Mr., Mx., or Ms. though I greatly prefer no title. Absolutely no Sir or Ma’am or Miss, nor am I included in “Ladies” or “Gentlemen” (fine alternatives: Folks, friends, team, people, colleagues, staff, etc. ad nauseum). But again, that’s material for a chat with people one has repeated interactions with, FAR too much to burden an email signature with, or a single interaction with a new or transient acquaintance.

            1. Arabella Flynn*

              When I work as an emcee (or an usher), I use the greeting “Ladies and Gentlepersons…” It probably varies by region, but seems to go over well in the socially liberal, LGBT+ friendly milieu in which I spend my time.

        4. Valprehension*

          This for sure! I was so happy when I came back from extended leave (new baby!) and saw that several of my (cisgender – as far as I know, anyway) colleagues had added their pronouns to their email signatures. I am already technically out as non-binary at my work, but with staffing changes there’s always people who don’t know my pronouns, and this made me feel like I could add mine without it being a huge *thing*. I would have felt less good about it if it were some standard/mandatory thing, though, since I have had trans coworkers who weren’t out about it here as well.

        5. some dude*

          cisdude here – I’m not a huge fan of the pronoun introductions because I think it puts too much emphasis on people’s gender and gender identity in professional spaces where that shouldn’t be in the forefront. In most of the situations I have been in where the pronouns are given, it just seems to highlight the 1% of the room that is non-binary/non-conforming, which often feels the opposite of being inclusive.

          1. Llama Wrangler*

            Some dude — As a cis person who was part of starting this specific conversation, I just want to push back a little and say that one of the things you (as a cis person) can do IS to share your pronouns in group introductions, whether or not you think there are trans/nb people in the room. This has been said elsewhere on the thread, but offering it as an *option*, and normalizing that options allows people to share their pronouns if they want to.

            As a facilitator, now that I’m mostly in spaces where pronoun usage has been normalized, I typically say something like the following (crafted with the help of a non-binary colleague) “share your name, and, if you’d like, share your pronoun or how you would like other people to refer to you if they’re referencing one of your comments.” [sometimes with a little more explanation]
            Do other people have other suggestions of phrasing’s that allow for the option but does not require it?

            1. some dude*

              But how is it “normalizing” when, in general, it just illustrates that 99% of people in a given space are cisgendered? The practice also makes a person’s gender one of the first things we learn about them in spaces where their gender should not matter. And as we read in these comments, there is a percentage of the non-binary/trans community who dislike disclosing their pronouns. I just feel that it is a practice that is well-meaning but ultimately clumsy and counter-productive in most instances.

              1. Llama Wrangler*

                I don’t think there’s a perfect answer, but I think the two themes I saw in the comments from trans/non-binary people were “you should make sharing pronouns optional so no one is put on the spot” and “it helps me feel comfortable sharing my pronouns if cis people are also regularly doing it.” Other people should jump in if I’m wrong, but I want to be cautious about cis people seeing this debate and thinking “oh, that’s a relief, trans/nb people ALSO don’t like talking about pronouns, so I guess I can just go back to assuming people’s gender and never saying anything.” (I am being slightly hyperbolic here to make a point; I don’t know if that is what you were saying.)

                I guess what I’m not understanding (and I saw some other cis people further down saying the same thing) is how sharing your pronouns makes you more aware of someone’s gender. Aren’t we generally aware of people’s (perceived) gender whether they explicitly say their pronouns or not?

                1. some dude*

                  My experience has been that it puts the emphasis on someone’s gender/gender identity. We are generally (but not always!) can assume someone’s gender identity, but having someone say “i’m a she! I’m a he!” puts it that much more center, which sometimes feels less than ideal. It’d be the same if they said “I’m caucasian! I’m African-American!” It would make their ethnic identity much more front and center than it might need to be.
                  I will always do my pronouns if asked, I will always use peoples preferred pronouns (or just call them by their name) and if announcing pronouns makes people in the room feel more comfortable fine, but I think sometimes the way we approach this issue ends up centering gender more than it needs to be centered.

                2. TTDH*

                  It’s interesting; I partly agree with each of you. On the one hand, normalizing talking about pronouns is helpful. It is! On the other hand, as a woman in a male-dominated field it doesn’t really make me feel great to be bringing up my gender or pronouns when there isn’t a pressing reason because when I’m the only she/her, it feels a little like saying “lady doctor” or “female engineer”.

                  I also happen to naturally have a very androgynous look and voice, and am sometimes misread as a trans man, so it’s doubly annoying to feel like these discussions are probably only happening because of my presence. I don’t mind being asked my pronouns or having them used in introductions one-on-one, but the pronoun round robin comes off feeling like people are trying to prove how “woke” they are by asking what they think is a trans person for their pronouns, then getting mildly disappointed when that isn’t the case…

                3. Smol Queer Teacher*

                  If I do not introduce myself with my pronouns, I get misgendered 99% of the time. I hate when people assume my pronoun is she/her (side note: I have never heard a trans person say ‘did you just assume my pronoun??!?!?’ That is a cis people thing). But in a space where pronoun sharing and usage isnt normalized, it is really uncomfortable to share mine because it is othering. So I have to decide, every time, do I want to be uncomfortable by singling myself out, or by spending an entire event misgendered? But, forced pronoun sharing is really uncomfortable too. I outed myself at a work event that way and it caused some anxiety. So, personally I would come down, for people with cis privilege, on team Always Share Your Own, Don’t Make Anyone Else. I am in a really gender homogeneous industry too, so I get how much it sucks to stick out. But gender DOES matter for some people. I know cis women in fields like tech who really insist on it too. Saying “gender shouldn’t matter, why do I need to know their gender” is another form of the argument behind “I don’t see color.” It erases the reality of people who struggle to be seen.

      3. foxinabox*

        There’s not a right answer to that–honestly, for me, seeing pronouns in a signature or on a badge means “wellmeaning but not necessarily not cissexist [eg centering cis experiences and erasing trans ones] or transphobic.” When you’re cis (or a member of other majority identity, regarding any marginalized one), you have to make the concentrated decision to shift your world view to consistently make room for trans and/or nonbinary people. Most cis people I’ve seen use pronouns in their signature are “nice” and wellmeaning and it really is a show of good faith, but ime many such people still unquestioningly misgender me quite a lot, frequently even after being repeatedly corrected. On its own, the pronoun signature (to me) indicates a level of basic safety, but not necessarily trustworthiness or unconditional respect. Signed, they/them.

        1. foxinabox*

          Oh, and one other note, which is that when pronoun disclosure is required it not only poses problems for people who are questioning or not out, but also somewhat limits the disclosure’s usefulness as a gauge for trans/nonbinary people as to whether it’s safe to be openly queer in front of a given person.

      4. some dude*

        I’m a cisdude, and I scoffed at the pronouns in signature thing as being performatively woke until a trans colleague said it wasn’t for me, it was for trans people to know that I know that they exist. So I put my pronouns in my signature.

      5. NerfHerder*

        Personally, I am not cis, and I hate the pronoun thing, especially in situations where people want to go around a group and force everyone to give pronouns or insist that people should put their pronouns in signatures or whatever. I’m pretty much equally ill at ease with all pronouns for various reasons, and forcing me to put them in my signature would be… just the absolute worst. Like, I would give serious consideration to quitting a job in which I was put in the position of having to comply with those guidelines. Something like that forces me to decide between outing myself, giving whatever pronouns feel least meh (which often gets me side eye from straight and LGBT people alike, because my preferred pronouns are at odds with my gender presentation and apparently not what some people expect or not what they think I “should” be using) or having to explain all of this to my colleagues, the thought of which makes me want to crawl out of my own skin.

        If people feel comfortable putting pronouns in their signatures, hey, go for it, I guess, but I personally find it a token gesture that gender conforming people do that represents zero risk for them, yet opens up all kinds of personal and professional risks for me. My gender identity is exactly none of my coworkers’ business unless or until I choose to make it so. Forcing people with complex gender identities, for lack of a better description, to either retreat further into the closet or out themselves because it feels “woke” to require pronouns in signature blocks and the like is… not ideal, though I do think it usually comes from a place of good intentions. But seriously, don’t do that to people. It can be genuinely traumatic to find yourself in that situation.

    3. Liz*

      I came here to say this about normalizing gender pronouns in email signatures! I’ve now worked with three people who transitioned while working for the company (all from binary to non-binary identities) and having their pronouns in their signatures change from he/him or she/her to they/them, as well as updated with a new name were relevant, was an easy but very low key way for them to publicize their transition. In at least one case the person also sent a brief announcement to the people they worked with closely to let them know of the change.

      It helps, of course, that my workplace has been very deliberate about building a culture that accepts diversity. It is a written and repeated expectation that all coworkers (AND all clients) will use the correct name for all employees, AND pronounce it correctly. There was once a snafu where a form for an all-staff trip a) asked for gender and only offered 2 options, and b) assumed that everyone would prefer to room with their own gender, and the people responsible issued a company wide apology (and re-did room assignments before the trip for anyone who wanted it).

    4. LGBT OP*

      Brilliant suggestions, thank you! We’ve started having our BRG committee use pronouns in their signatures and are talking to marketing about adding it to our “standard” signature guidelines. We are also looking into getting pins as part of our Pride Month programming which is focused on the changing landscape of identity.

      And I love how you dealt with the situation with Sarah – ask how she wants it handled, then be calm and professional with customers. I’m sure she appreciated that.

    5. anone*

      The potential complication to this (and I am a trans, nonbinary person who uses they/them) is that for people who are not ready or willing to be “out” about their pronouns or gender identity, if there is a culture of mandatory pronoun sharing or a widely held belief that there’s no good reason *not* to share your pronouns, it means having to misgender themselves or out themselves prematurely or appear less progressive/woke than their colleagues if they refuse to share their pronouns. There is no perfect solution here, it’s not wrong to try to normalize pronoun sharing, but it’s worth being aware that it’s a complicated issue. There was a medium blog a while ago arguing for pronoun sharing to be normalized but optional:

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        This — our signature standards are set up so that you can leave out fields you don’t want to fill in (that aren’t otherwise mandatory), and the pronouns are one of them. They’re there, so there’s a visual prompt to fill in that space if desired, but people who don’t want to for whatever reason don’t have to fill them in.

        1. so many resumes, so little time*

          My employer does not require people to put pronouns in their signature, but suggests it; pronouns are also an option for our business cards. And you can be inconsistent about this if you want; my pronouns are on my business cards and my professional social media, but not in my email signature.

      2. Liza*

        I’ve been thinking about this issue ever since I asked two people their pronouns, and one felt welcomed by the question and the other person very much did not. Recognizing that there’s no perfect answer, I’ve been wondering if it would be a good idea to ask something like “what pronouns would you like to use here” (similar to what @graceelavery wrote in the tweet that Llama Wrangler linked, instead of the broader “what pronouns do you prefer”) or if that would still make people feel forced to decide whether to lie or to come out.

        Any opinions? (I know nobody speaks for all trans, NB, or genderqueer people, but since I’m cis my thoughts on the subject are less relevant than those of someone who isn’t cis!)

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          I actually really like that phrasing! It would have made me way more confident to either try on a potential new pronoun or just go with the old ones and not feel like I was lying.

        2. Atalanta0jess*

          A non-binary person at an event I went to recently shared that they work with youth, and use this approach: Hi, I’m CJ and I use they/them pronouns! What do you like to be called? or How about you?

          Then you’re not explicitly asking for pronouns, but you’re giving the opening for it. The person could respond with just their name, or with their name or pronouns.

          1. Llama Wrangler*

            This is a good approach IF you use it consistently. I have noticed that for me (a cis, queer person) it is most often my reflex in queer-coded spaces, but in non-queer spaces I only think about doing it if someone appears gender non-confirming, which is …not great. (I’m working on it for myself.)

          2. Smol Queer Teacher*

            This is my favorite framing. When someone offers me their pronouns, it is a little window. When someone asks my pronouns, it can either feel affirming or like “since there’s something off about you I felt I should check.”

        3. whisper*

          I’m personally a fan of the framing “what pronouns should we use for you today”, since it distinguishes between presentation and identity. If you ask me what my pronouns /are/, then before I answer I end up having a minor identity crisis as I try to wrestle with the fact that I’m really not sure, and end up giving what always feels like a wrong answer no matter what I say. If you ask what pronouns you should /use/, then I can decide that it’s fine if you assume I’m male, and that has no bearing on my intrinsic identity, so “he” is a correct answer even if that doesn’t fully represent my gender.

          “What pronouns should we use for you here/in this space” is also an option if you’ll only be doing introductions once rather than as a regular thing, but I like the “today” framing since it emphasizes that pronouns can change (either as a one time thing when someone comes out, or on a regular basis for someone genderfluid or trying out different options to see what feels best), and that there’s support for that.

        4. Indywind*

          I favor the method described by Atalantaojess in this thread.

          It’s hard to go wrong in (1) normalizing by disclosing on your own behalf first and (2) signaling openness without presuming/demanding any particular kind of response.

    6. Stormy Weather*

      My office also uses pronouns in our signature. I think it’s a great practice. It’s also becoming common in other places, like a friend’s school where they also encourage the pronoun pins.

    7. Echo*

      Just to add to what others have said in this comment thread, please make sure that the option to include pronouns in your signature is highly visible but also optional. I am nonbinary but not out with everyone, including my own family, and I definitely don’t want to out myself to all my coworkers and clients by default.

    8. iglwif*

      Yeah, this is something us LGBTQ+ folks are working on at my company. (I work for a fairly small company that was recently acquired by a much, much bigger company, and it’s … an ongoing series of adjustments.)

      I personally (cis woman) have just kept putting my pronouns in my email sig for normalizing purposes, as I had been doing for a while already, and so far nobody has told me to stop! (If they do tell me to stop, I will push back. But I’m obviously not the person with the most at stake in that argument…)

      I and a few (GenX & millennial) colleagues also argued for making pronoun stickers available at an event we hosted a few months back, and while the (boomer & GenX) powers that be were initially skeptical, they came around when lots of people wore them at least half a dozen attendees specifically noticed and appreciated / thanked us for doing that.

  12. Caleb (they/them)*

    This is awesome that you’re working to improve this process! I’m trans and non-binary and I’m working to improve the situation at my work too. I second everything that’s been said above, but the best resource I’ve found is this:
    This is the most comprehensive guide I’ve found, it’s written by trans people, and it has three (!) guides, one for the institution, the professional, and the coworker. I am trying to get my org to build something based off of this. If every org had something like this, that would be ideal.
    Thank you again!

    1. Cats4Gold*

      Yep, +1 to this, these guides are fantastic. When I transitioned, my workplace had almost no guidance. We’re a big, national company, so…that was kind of ridiculous. I sent them those guides as soon as I found them.

  13. IT Guy*

    I don’t think we have any special documentation. Just treat people the way you want to be treated. A lot of times people come directly to IT for a marriage, divorce, just because, or transgender name change. It’s not a big deal, but we let people know that we need HR to process the name change so HR/payroll and IT systems match up. However, always happy to point people in the right direction and show them how to change their preferred name in some applications we don’t manage.

    1. Junior Dev*

      Special documentation could still help in the case you describe because people might not know how simple the process is or that you’ll be as helpful as you are. Even something as short as “I’m (name), I’m your IT person, feel free to come to me with any questions about changing your name or gender in company systems!” could go a long way towards reassuring people who might be nervous and not know how you’ll respond.

      1. AMT*

        Exactly. Easy-to-find internal documentation re: name changes and general gender identity policy tells me that you’re a trans-friendly company. These things let me know that HR and management (hopefully) won’t be out of their depth if I come to them about trans stuff.

    2. anem0ne*

      So I appreciate that there isn’t any super difficult process for this, but I’d like to echo what others have said–having special documentation generally suggests that some thought has gone into this, and that knowing that some effort has been made generally helps reassure people who might be ready to come out.

      For instance, I know several times when interviewing around, when I asked about something trans-related (sometimes obliquely, sometimes directly), more often than not there weren’t any extant policies or thought to things like health insurance; of course, those places that I’d interviewed with were supportive, but without those written policies in place, without that forethought, it would also raise concerns that maybe I’d have to do a *lot* more unpaid work to educate and inform.

  14. Anonish*

    In the four years I’ve been at my company I’ve definitely seen an increase in normalizing pronouns in places like Slack and email signatures. A lot of people have pronoun stickers on their laptops as well.

    We had a coworker transition and I thought it was handled really well. Our team had a meeting on a Friday that HR attended, and the attitude was very much, “This is really exciting and cool news! Also, everyone is entitled to use whatever bathroom they prefer and of course we know you won’t be asking any intrusive or weird questions because we’re all adults.” The announcement was made on a Friday and by Monday our coworker’s email address, company profiles, etc., were all updated with her preferred name, she showed up to work wearing a dress, and life went on from there.

    1. LGBT OP*

      That sounds like it was handled really well! One of the guidelines suggests to have the team meeting with the transitioning employee present, and then have them leave so that the team can ask questions of HR or the manager that they may not feel comfortable asking in front of the trans employee. Did they provide an opportunity for you to ask questions?

      1. Sally*

        I think having a completely separate meeting (in case people have questions) is better. The trans person would know it was happening, but it wouldn’t be like, “OK, now you go away so we can talk about you.” That could be really awkward and humiliating for the trans person.

      2. Anonish*

        The person in question did not attend the meeting, in fact I think she took the day off, but she had worked with HR and our manager beforehand so she knew it was happening. There was an opportunity to ask questions but I don’t remember if anyone had any. The thing I liked best about how the whole thing was handled was HR’s attitude that this was a really good and positive thing and we should be joyful for our coworker’s good news, just like an engagement or a pregnancy or any other life event.

  15. laughingrachel*

    No direct experience on my part, but one thing I think my office does well is that we have the standard men’s and women’s restrooms, but we also have two individual bathrooms that are designated as gender neutral bathrooms. We don’t make a big deal about them we just have them, and point them out on tours while we’re pointing out other bathrooms. Pretty much everyone uses them sporadically along with the main men’s and women’s (all the bathrooms get cleaned every night, which I didn’t think to be thankful about until I started reading this blog). So I don’t think anyone would notice if someone ever ONLY used those bathrooms. I don’t know from experience but I assume that would help someone control their own disclosure timeline, or just not have to waste headspace on bathroom stresses.

    1. Atgo*

      The only challenge with this is that sometimes cis folks use these individual stalls for more “private” matters in the bathroom, which can take a long time. At my former employer, one of my non-binary colleagues sometimes had to wait a long time because someone else was stinking up the 1 gender neutral stall. Having 2 of those stalls probably helps… I’m not sure what the solution is.

      1. SW*

        Yeah, I had the same problem when there was only one gender-neutral + handicapped bathroom in all 6 floors of our building. I’d have to wait for 20 minutes sometimes while people took their time.
        I was contemplating putting up reminder signs when construction finished on our building so that we have 5 gender-neutral + handicapped bathrooms.

      2. laughingrachel*

        Yeah I think the fact that we have two and we’re a fairly small office helps. I also don’t know the solution, because you don’t want to make them gender-neutral only since that would require disclosure, and in general policing anyone’s bathroom habits isn’t ideal.

        My hope is that as these issues are more prominent we’ll just eventually have many many more single stall bathrooms overall. In my hometown they built a new grocery store and instead of a men’s and women’s restrooms they just have a long hall with like 7 single stalls. Of course, the first 3 were designated “women’s”, the second 3 were “men’s” and the last one was a “family restroom” even though they were literally ALL THE SAME ROOM WITH A TOILET AND SINK AND LOCKING DOOR. So everyone just used them freely. Minus the unnecessary signage I’m hoping that more and more new construction/remodels do this. More comfortable for everyone imo.

        1. Elenna*

          Gender labelling on single stall bathrooms is just baffling to me. Like, I realize in the past this is how things have been done, but also there is literally no point?? they’re all exactly the same???????

  16. Tardigrade Party*

    I transitioned (FtM) about… almost 15 years ago now? Working at a large retail bookstore, and they did a really, really good job. I sat down with the store manager and one of the assistant managers and (very fearfully, as I was about 21 at the time and just beginning hormones) explained that I would be showing physical changes and looking at changing my name. They didn’t even blink; the store manager acted like it was normal and not strange or weird, and offered to print me a brand new badge with a corrected name on the spot while they worked on updating my name internally in the system to reflect a preferred name. He asked me how I preferred people find out — if I would like to tell people on my own in small groups, or if I would like him to handle small conversations — and I asked him to do it for other departments while I handled mine as the whole process was still anxiety-inducing for me. By the time I began showing marked physical changes, everyone was using my correct pronouns and no new employees even knew I had transitioned.

    I would say the most important thing is making sure managers/HR/whomever is prepared to treat this as No Big Deal. Being warm and accepting, but not making it like a huge fiasco can help set people at ease. Giving options of how the news can be given is good too, though it should always be in small groups rather than say a big huge meeting or something, I’d say. If possible, there should be a way to change things to preferred name if they’re still working on legal name change, as depending on state that can be an arduous and expensive process. And as other people have mentioned, make sure that bathroom access is granted without them being moved to a unisex thing or what-have-you. I used an alternate bathroom because *I* was still nervous and uncomfortable (I had been screamed at in a bathroom once so at the time was very skittish, now the full beard makes for excellent passing) but those who are transitioning should be allowed to use the bathroom of their gender without management treating it weird or making an issue, and instead making sure employees know that they are not to cause a problem with it.

    1. LGBT OP*

      That is amazing how cool your managers were with your transition 15 years ago and sounds like a really positive experience. Totally on board with your suggestions around how to frame this for the support team that will need to be involved – this is just like any other life change, one we need to handle with sensitivity, and ensure that we’re providing the employee with whatever they need at work.

    2. CountryLass*

      I think that was the best way for them to deal with it. “Ok, cool. Good for you. So, what do YOU need from ME? I can do this, or we can do this, or we can arrange for this to happen? You let me know how you want us to deal with it. If it’s something I can’t do, I will explain why and we will work together to try and find a way round it.”

  17. Kathryn*

    Normalizing pronoun sharing and usage can be helpful. So putting your pronouns for everyone in email signatures, when introducing yourself at meetings, pronoun pins on badge lanyards, etc. Get your allies to start sharing and things will be fine for all.

    1. AnotherSarah*

      Yes! I was going to suggest this. Where I work, it’s pretty normal for cis people to share pronouns on email signatures and sometimes at meetings. The burden of sharing preferences shouldn’t be on trans and non-binary people. I think stuff like this goes a long way to helping remember that we all have preferences and needs, and that some preferences/needs don’t get to be “normal” while others are not.

  18. TotesMaGoats*

    I haven’t had this issue with employees but with students. We’ve got some good policies but the easiest thing to do is to change emails and preferred names on class rosters. Don’t be a pain about those things. I always ask my students what they want me to call them and/or how to pronounce their names. (And then I write it down phonetically to get it right.)

    Sounds like you are on top of this kind of stuff but this for others this is the easy thing to do and have immediate impact.

    1. Teach*

      In schools, make sure the central IT person digs deeply enough down to change the student’s name in all levels of The Google or whatever systems you use. I helped a student manage their requests for a name change and while email, rostering, and other tasks seemed fairly simple, going deeply enough that their name showed up correctly in Google Classroom discussion posts was weirdly complicated and took some help forum digging. Bathrooms are at student discretion – they use the group restroom according to identify or request a key to a single-user restroom. Students with mobility challenges, intestinal conditions, and whatever other needs can also request access to single user restrooms, which are not gender-labeled.

  19. former favorite*

    Some thoughts as I have heard about a friend’s challenges transitioning at work…

    Have clear policies in place for handling transphobic microaggressions in the workplace. Routinely misgendering a colleague should be considered a performance issue. Make sure HR is up to speed on this issue — I have a friend whose biggest source of transphobia is HR and it’s genuinely a nightmare. Ideally everyone would get some kind of “here’s how not to be an asshole” training and emphasizing a culture of inclusiveness would be part of onboarding.

    If it’s a public facing role, consider how you’re going to support folks facing transphobia from outside the organization — what are trans employees (and their cis colleagues) empowered (or expected) to do when a client/customer/partnering organization is rude or outright hostile?

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yes, this. And make these policies freely available even when there’s no (known) trans person on staff.

    2. LGBT OP*

      Ugh, I’m so sorry for your friend, that truly sucks. We have this included in the guidelines that repeatedly misgendering someone or using the wrong name is considered harassment and will not be tolerated, and are currently working on a section about how to handle situations where clients or vendors are disrespectful or hostile.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        One thing I heard from an employee way back who was transitioning was that she really wanted clear guidelines/advice on what she should do if faced with any hostility from other members of staff. Things like:

        When is it a serious case to take to HR? Do I email someone or call if I’m being pushed out of the bathroom? (That actually happened once). What am I supposed to do/who do I contact and how if my boss is treating me badly?

        Our HR lot wrote a bit to her, including all the procedures for reporting harassment, then updated the general policies to include things like ‘deliberate misgendering is a harassment’.

    3. Kelsi*

      This is a great point, both for trans employees and for cis coworkers who want to be supportive.

      Not the same thing, but when I worked retail we had an asshole who would regularly call the store and ask if any [slur for a specific racial minority] were working today because he didn’t want to shop at a store with [slur]. Management would never give us any guidance on how to deal with him (or whether we were allowed to hang up), and if anyone working there had been part of that minority, I’m sure they would have felt extremely unsupported. We wanted to tell the dude to get fucked (or at least hang up without engaging) but weren’t sure if that would lose us our jobs.

      1. CollegeSupervisor*

        My gosh, what an idiot… Props to you and your coworkers who didn’t want to stand for that behavior.

    4. SW*

      Exactly. And more heavy penalties for people the higher they are up. The head of my department kept misgendering me (for 3+ years!) which encouraged the people at the level between him and me to also misgender me. It only got better when he got sacked and someone else hired for the position.
      But yeah, definitely have something in place as to what the employee should do if repeatedly misgendered.

    5. Jack*

      Yes. I transitioned long ago, but in every office I move to, I can tell when a coworker has heard about me through the grapevine (or Googled me and found my name change records) because SUDDENLY they start making “mistakes” that were never an issue before. Currently my problem is someone who is over me in a quasi-supervisory capacity. I notified our mutual boss, who spoke to her, but she claims it’s just impossible for her to remember and she “doesn’t mean anything by it.” Given that she has a lot of actual power over my work life, I don’t know that I can push back a second time. (It’s a pretty conservative area and workplace, so I’m not even sure that Mutual Boss will recognize it as a bullshit excuse.) Ensuring this is dealt with quickly and effectively is very important.

    6. lobsterp0t*

      There was an employment tribunal about purposeful misgendering just recently in the UK – the person lost their case. So it is definitely considered a breach of equalities legislation here to do that (thank god)

  20. J3*

    I think the idea is great, but your framing of “Gender Transition Guidelines to be used by transgender employees” made me wince a little. I think it’s really important for the initiative to be that there needs to be policy and procedure around how the *organization* supports someone’s gender transition, not that you’re prescribing how trans employees are expected to transition.

    1. LGBT OP*

      Thank you, this is truly very helpful! I am going to read over the guidelines to check on how we frame this there, because the guidelines really are aimed at telling managers, HR, coworkers, etc. what their responsibilities are, and then for the trans employee, what information is needed and what protections/benefits are in place.

    2. iantrovert (they/them)*

      I am trans, and not out at work yet because my work has decided that this type of guideline, along with legal documents that I’d need to sign about my behavior etc, is the way to go. They got the corporate lawyer involved in writing this. I was pissed off. “Use the appropriate bathroom” and “don’t harass your colleagues” aren’t trans-specific things and I shouldn’t have to sign a lawyer-created document saying that I’ll do that if you’re not making everyone else do the same.

  21. remizidae*

    You can require that people treat their coworkers courteously, but don’t try to police people’s underlying beliefs about gender. You’re never going to get consensus on the theory of gender, or any other hotly contested philosophical issue, so don’t try to enforce rules against thought crime.

    1. OakElmAsh*

      Agreed – people should be adressed by whatever names/pronouns they wish, and be treated with courtesy & dignity, and as long as this is respected, no-one can be forced to beleive a particular ideology

      1. Amcb13*

        I mean…correct, I guess, but I don’t see how this would be an issue unless people were making comments about the validity of someone else’s gender identity or expression, and I can’t think of a comment like that that wouldn’t be inherently discourteous (not to mention disrespectful or downright hostile.) I have never encountered a workplace policy that attempted to regulate thought, but employees should ABSOLUTELY be held accountable for speech and/or actions of any kind that dehumanize or marginalize people based on their identities, regardless of the underlying thoughts.

        1. Pizzaboi*

          Amcb13, that is exactly what I was going to say.

          Like a policy against racism on staff can not determine whether or not current employees are secret racists, but it can tell those secret racists that being public racists at work will get them fired. You know?

          1. AMT*

            Absolutely. I cringe whenever I hear people casually saying transphobic stuff while discussing bathroom bills/military policy/Caitlyn Jenner/whatever as if it’s a baseball game they saw last night. I don’t care what’s going on in someone’s head, but if I *know* you’re transphobic, you’re doing something wrong.

      2. anone*

        I agree with not trying to change people’s beliefs (basically impossible, not worth the effort, not necessary), but let’s be REALLY clear that being trans is not an ideology (or a philosophy or a theory–it’s just a lived experience that differs from trans person to trans person). There is no ideology of transness. The specific linking of being trans to holding an ideology is *itself* connected to a particular ideology, which is known to be quite hateful of and violent towards trans people, particularly trans women, so I would say be cautious about using that word if that’s not what you mean to reference. (Which is feedback on a behaviour, not a belief, fwiw.)

        1. OakElmAsh*

          I suppose the ideology I’m referring to is that I beleive that a woman is an adult human female and a man is an adult human male.
          I also accept there are others that beleive that a woman/man can be defined as something different. I’m happy to respect that belief, but I don’t share it, as I’m happy to respect any other beliefs that differ from mine.
          In a workplace context, as long as I’m not directly asked to state that I beleive someone is an adult human male/female (which I can’t see any circumstances where that would happen), then I don’t see an issue arising. I wouldn’t choose to share sex-segrated bathroom facilitites with someone not of the same sex, but I would simply remove myself from that situation if it were to occur, and not impose my choice on anyone else.

          1. a heather*

            I see some potential for conflict with “as long as I’m not directly asked to state that I beleive someone is an adult human male/female” there; is using preferred pronouns included in that?

            As long as you refer to them with their preferred pronouns, use their preferred name, don’t use gendered language that is opposite (calling them ladies, guys, whatever), and don’t feel the need to explain to anyone in the workplace how you don’t believe in being transgender, then fine. You can believe what you want as long as you treat your coworkers with respect as humans.

            1. anone*

              It is indeed. OakElmAsh is welcome to hold that belief, but expressing it in this forum (and very particularly this post, which is about supporting trans people) is not treating people with courtesy and dignity.

          2. Pizzaboi*

            But how would that ever come up at work, unless you specifically did not respect your coworker’s pronouns or transitions?

            How would anyone know about your opinion on their gender if you never shared it?

            When someone transitions, it isn’t an invitation for everyone to discuss their feelings about transgender identities. This is a very prevalent problem. When I transitioned at work I had a number of people tell me, in effect, they didn’t believe in trans people but they would call me my new name if I wanted. Guess what? I didn’t need to hear the first half of that sentence! It made me tense and stressed.

            If you disagree with the way someone lives their life, unless they are asking for your advice, don’t give it. We aren’t all advice columnists after all. I disagree with fad dieting but I never went on an anti South Beach crusade, you know?

            1. AMT*

              Your comment summed it up better than I could (and I’ve written reams on the subject!). Some people see the act of transitioning as a request for public comment. These same people have the gall to complain about free speech at work, as if their trans coworker held them down and forced them to give an impromptu TED talk about the nature of gender identity rather than politely giving them a heads up about their new pronouns.

            2. Noblepower*

              “I don’t believe” in trans people? If I could smack every one of them that said that, I would. Every descriptor I can think of for folks that pull that is unfit to print.

          3. Blueberry*

            As long as removing yourself doesn’t mean glaring at someone who just walked into the bathroom and stomping out the door while muttering imprecations or similar behavior, ok, then. That said, it is an action to tell someone you don’t believe they exist, and not a neutral one.

          4. SarahTheEntwife*

            Are you going to demand to know the chromosomes/genitals of all your new colleagues? You have almost certainly shared a bathroom with a trans person without knowing it.

          5. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’m going to leave this up because I think the responses to it are important for people to read, but I want to state clearly that it’s not okay here to refer to the existence of trans people as an “ideology,” and that’s typically used as part of an anti-trans agenda. If that wasn’t your intent, I’m sure you don’t want to inadvertently use that framing. If it was, please know that’s not welcome here. Thank you.

            1. Pizzaboi*

              Honestly I appreciate you leaving it up. A few of us did some work educating and it would be a little sad if that was erased. ♥️

            2. anone*

              Is there a way to edit OakElmAsh’s comment where they definitively share a transphobic perspective as such so that people scrolling through know that it’s been seen and left up for a reason? I’m down with the reason but I also held my breath and felt sick until I hit this comment. Thank you.

          6. Emma*

            I mean, you can subscribe to that ideology if you want (although I would point out that “male” and “female” are no less relative and socially constructed concepts than “man” and “woman”, so your definition doesn’t actually clarify anything). But it falls firmly into the category of stuff you don’t bring up at work.

            A lot of people treat the presence of a trans person as an instigation of a political conversation, and react with Opinions in the same way I would if a coworker showed up to work wearing an Enoch Powell badge. A trans person going to work is not someone making a political statement or expressing an “ideology” (not that anyone can know what kinds of “ideologies” someone subscribes to just based on the fact that they’re LGBT+).

            It’s vital that individuals and companies are clear that trans people do not invite debate, discussion or Opinions by simply existing – anyone who wants to argue about the law, theory of gender, history or whatever else can do it on their own time, and leave out of it any colleague who hasn’t explicitly expressed an interest in participating.

      3. Talia*

        I’m not assuming you meant it this way OakElmAsh, but the comment you made seems to be equating trans identity to an ideology. That’s not an idea, or a philosophy: trans people exist. Framing it like that is a rhetorical tactic often used to attack trans people, and is best avoided.

    2. LGBT OP*

      I’m not really sure how this would become an issue unless someone’s expressing their transphobic thoughts out loud or allowing them to impact how they treat their trans coworker… in which case that would be disrespectful and handled as a performance issue.
      Also, to give an example, if Joe does not believe that a trans person should be allowed to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, our guidelines dictate that Joe should be the one having to use the single-occupancy restroom.

    3. Temperance*

      The thing is that there’s absolutely no reason to ever bring those thoughts to the workplace. No one needs to know that Jim in Accounting thinks that there’s only two valid genders (or any other political thought he has). Jim can keep that in his brain while he uses Sally in Accounting’s correct name and pronouns.

      1. Arielle*

        Yes. And frequently when someone says “don’t try to enforce rules about thought crime” what they mean is “I should be allowed to express my bigoted opinions in the workplace.”

        1. AMT*

          Exactly. How would I know about your “thought crimes” unless you’re giving me your unsolicited opinion about someone’s gender?

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          Yep. And it’s often from melodramatic glassbowls with a persecution complex who want to show off how ~brave~ and ~daringly heterodox~ they are.

      2. Vicky Austin*

        Exactly. Some people identify as a gender that doesn’t match their genitals. That’s a fact, regardless of your personal beliefs. It may not make sense to you, but you still need to respect trans people by calling them by their preferred name and pronoun.

    4. Tinker*

      If telepathy ever becomes a thing, this is one of the issues that we surely will have to cope with. Aside from that, the point at which thoughts become an issue is when they are reflected in behavior.

      1. Blueberry*

        Any examples of workplaces requiring proof of belief when they draw up their codes of conduct? When I worked in a church I had to profess a belief in Christ, but I’ve never seen rules on how to treat LGBTQ coworkers accompanied by requests for statements of belief in gay rights.

        1. Blueberry*

          Actually, I take this question back. I think the opening concept of this thread is unhelpful to the wider conversation, and my question would just perpetuate that.

    5. Cats4Gold*

      From personal experience, people who hold views like this are *really* bad at controlling their expression of them. See the people in my office who stopped talking to me after my transition, the colleagues who continually “forget” my name and pronouns after I’ve been out for more than a year, etc. Nobody is suggesting we be the “thought police”, we’re just saying don’t be a jerk.

      FWIW, as others have said, being trans is not a “philosophical issue”. There’s actually a lot of interesting research into this topic- brain scans, genome-wide association studies, and twin studies indicate that there’s a solid biological basis. Additionally, very good studies involving literally thousands of participants show that trans people are overall healthier and happier when we’re allowed to transition. I’d encourage anyone who thinks that being trans (or otherwise LGBQ) is a “belief” to really examine their own biases, and think about why you might hold them. Is it based on your own conclusions, or was it based on biases that were handed down to you when you’re young? I think it’s worth thinking about- maybe use it as an exercise to flex your critical thinking skills ;)

      1. Smol Queer Teacher*

        Not to mention the idea that there are only two sexes. In literally no facet of the human physical makeup do we have exactly two sexes. I have seen it best described as a bimodal distribution, rather than a binary one.

  22. Uhdrea*

    If at all possible, allow your systems to have a preferred name field that’s used in every single place it’s not absolutely required to have a legal name. Those changes take time, money, and court appearances and there can absolutely be a significant lag between coming out and that being settled.

    Take a look at your insurance and make sure that it explicitly covers trans healthcare needs and make sure that information is as easy to find as possible.

    I would also make sure you have links or some kind of basic trans 101 guide that covers some of the basic courtesy things that cis people seem to struggle with, and emphasize to anyone who does ask an invasive question that those lines of inquiry are not relevant and a violation of privacy.

    1. Ihmmy*

      The name thing times a hundred. I’m slowly rolling out my non-binary status and pronouns, but I’ve always gone by my middle name instead of my legal first and in some systems (looking at you banks) it can be really unsettling to get correspondence to a name you don’t respond to

    2. Emma*

      Having some basic info available – even just about terminology – can be useful in reducing the frequency of well-intentioned questions being asked by people who just don’t realise how exhausting and invasive that can be for the person fielding them.

  23. SweetestCin*

    Based on the single MtF transition I saw, roughly 12 years ago, I can offer some cringeworthy “don’ts”

    1. Don’t request their resignation
    2. Don’t make it the office joke
    3. Don’t refuse to write recommendations for them simply because you “disagree with their chosen lifestyle”
    4. Don’t hold a company wide meeting to announce and laugh about their transition
    5. Don’t insist on using the incorrect pronouns and dead-naming them
    6. In general, don’t be a glassbowl

    1. SweetestCin*

      By the way – SHE is doing just fine and has remained in contact with me. She is absolutely kicking glass and taking names in her industry, and gives no bleeps about former employer with the attitude problems.

      I’m also a few jobs post the FEwAP.

      And yes, I saw 1-5 myself, in person while employed at the FEwAP. Item 6 is my own observation about being a reasonable human being.

      1. Stormy Weather*

        FEwAP? That’s a new one to me and when I Googled, I got German telephones.

        Regardless, I’m glad you’re former colleague is doing well after what those gits put her through.

          1. CollegeSupervisor*

            That’s what I’m assuming since it’s in the previous sentence. Note to SweetestCin though: it would be clearer if you’d written “former employer with attitude problems (FEwAP).”

            1. SweetestCin*

              Duly noted :-).

              Yes, you were correct! Former Employer with Attitude Problems (FEwAP) is the thing!

      1. SweetestCin*

        That was truly my reaction upon seeing 1-5 in that list. I was shocked that adult humans could have such a hate filled response. I wasn’t raised like that, I guess I had assumed that everyone else was raised with “don’t be an ass” as a guiding statement!

  24. jack*

    No matter what your procedure is for transitioning, if your company’s insurance doesn’t cover HRT/GRS/FFS/etc then it’s going to be a tough time.

    1. The_Waiting_Place*

      This is so true! I work at a large university, and the insurance has this lovely clause:
      “MENTAL HEALTH EXCLUSIONS: In addition to the items listed in the General Exclusions section, benefits will NOT be provided for (…) Sexual/gender identity disorders”

      Which is about as big a middle finger as it’s possible to give.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        They even gave this deliberate insult its own section, just to call extra attention to it. So, so gross.

        1. D'Arcy*

          So does the ADA. Transgender people are specifically excluded from disability rights under the ADA thanks to a specific amendment written into the law by Republicans back in the day.

          1. 'Tis Me*

            As in for medical aspects of their transition or entirely? So a person could be completely paralysed from the waist down and not entitled to any disability accommodations because they also happen to be trans? (Not in the US so not sure how to interpret that, genuine question.)

    2. Jessen*

      Don’t forget medical leave policies as well! Bottom surgeries can have some pretty long recovery times. (I’ve had a friend mention have this as a major reason for postponing vaginoplasty; she would be covered for the surgery itself but couldn’t afford to be off recovering for a couple of weeks.)

      That doesn’t just affect trans folk, of course, but it’s still important. Especially since a lot of people still see these surgeries as elective and don’t want to provide the same flexibility for them.

    3. Alexandra Lynch*

      And the ripple effects spread. Can’t get hormones, well, you can only transition so far with clothing. My girlfriend is fortunate in that she didn’t have a lot of features that instantly read male; these days, at most, she’s read as having PCOS, but not as being genetically male. She has to out herself every time she shows a driver’s license. Our state won’t change the gender marker until bottom surgery. Because that’s so very very easy to get. (sigh)
      When we’re out, I always accompany her to the restroom, just in case.

  25. Caleb (They/Them)*

    This is awesome that you’re working to improve this process! I’m trans and non-binary and I’m working to improve the situation at my work too. I second everything that’s been said above, but the best resource I’ve found is this:
    This is the most comprehensive guide I’ve found, it’s written by trans people, and it has three (!) guides, one for the institution, the professional, and the coworker. I am trying to get my org to build something based off of this. If every org had something like this, that would be ideal.

    One other thing I’d add – don’t require legal name where it’s not *absolutely required*, e.g. payroll. I see my deadname a lot in places where it really doesn’t need to be, and they won’t change it to my preferred name.

    Thank you again!

      1. pugsnbourbon*

        Thank you so much for your work on the AAM guide! I went to the conference in Phoenix in 2018 and loved the ribbons we could stick on our name badges. AAM is rocking it.

      2. Cats4Gold*

        Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m a contractor who ran into lots of problems when transitioning (not overt hostility from people who controlled my job, but lots of “huh, we’ve never encountered this ‘problem’ before”). I forwarded your guide to my institute’s diversity office, so hopefully it will help the next trans person who comes out where I work!

      3. Stacey Fraser*

        Yay for museum nerds! And the New England Museum Association also had pronoun stickers at their 2019 conference and I’m sure that will continue.

    1. LGBT OP*

      Thank you for this!! Love any resources we can use that are developed by trans people.

      One of the parts about this process that I don’t feel great about is that since our one (out) trans employee left last year, we haven’t yet been able to find a trans person to review the document (I’ve reached out to industry groups and am just not having much luck). No pressure, but by chance would you be open to this, especially since you’re also working on something similar at your company?

      1. Temperance*

        The National Center for Transgender Equality or the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund might be able to help!

  26. A Trans Man*

    Things that affected me:
    1. Inconsistant updating of name stuff. I could use a nickname in some systems but not others, leading to some of my coworkers knowing my deadname (aka former name).

    2. Mention somewhere whether insurance covers trans-related healthcare. I had to get transferred 3 times on the phone and it took more than an hour to find out, because it wasnt written anywhere.

    3. I keep getting invited to the Women’s Network events. I am a trans man. I’ve asked to be removed 3 times now from their list, but it’s automated, and I can’t change my gender in the workplace’s system until I change my gender legally. And I need surgery to legally change my gender.

    4. Bathrooms. There needs to be a gender neutral bathroom for non-binary folks, or other people who don’t feel safe using either gendered restroom.

    5. Having an explicit set of policies for gender transition, so that every individual trans person doesn’t have to figure it all out themself. This policy should mention that people have the right to use whatever restroom they feel safe in.

    6. I was in an awkward situation at my new job, where half of my coworkers called me “he” and the others called me “she”. I had no idea how to handle this, especially if I overheard people talking about me but wasn’t a part of the conversation.

    7. Do away with gendered dress codes. Dress codes should be written neutrally if at all possible. People of all genders can have all kinds of bodies, and can wear all kinds of clothes.

    1. Junior Dev*

      RE: bathrooms, try to avoid a situation where the only gender neutral bathroom is also the only bathroom that serves some other purpose, like the only disability accessible one or the only one with a shower, so people aren’t competing for scarce bathroom time.

      1. A Silver Spork*

        But also, there needs to be at least one bathroom that is BOTH gender neutral AND accessible (and with a shower, lockers, whatever else). It shouldn’t be the only one, but it needs to exist!

        “Do I misgender myself and put myself at risk for harassment, or do I pretend I’m abled and put myself at risk of an accident” is not a fun calculation to make.

    2. LovebyLetters*

      DRESS CODES. Came here and was search for someone else who mentioned this.

      I work for an American-based but international company, and up until recently felt pretty comfortable with how they handled LGBT-related stuff. However, last year I moved into a much, MUCH more conservative branch of the company and was kind of appalled to find that the dress code was extremely gendered. Requirements for women to wear heels, specifying the stile/shape/colors of nails and makeup, type of hairstyles .. the kind of appalling stuff that just makes your jaw drop. And they are serious about it; I nearly got written up for my nails (they were short, round, and a pale baby blue .. the company’s signature color. Apparently this is not a “natural” color, even though the HR director’s magenta was just fine).

  27. LibraryNinja*

    Another LGBTQ+ but not trans reader–but I have worked on assorted LGBTQ+ policies and procedures in my workplace. You don’t need to start from scratch. There are a lot of good resources out there, like the “Trans Toolkit for Employers” from the Human Campaign.

  28. Rafferty*

    I changed the name and gender marker on my ID the day before starting a new job and only then remembered that, duh, I’d have to show that ID when I filled out my new hire paperwork. I hadn’t planned to come out at the new job but I’d backed myself into a corner.
    When I went in the next day, I nervously explained my situation to my new boss, who handled it perfectly. She didn’t even blink, just asked if I wanted her to reintroduce me to the staff using the correct name. She treated it so matter-of-factly that no one else had any real choice but to follow suit, and in the year I spent in that office, I was never once misgendered. I think that was a perfect way to handle it – treating it as no more of a big deal than if, say, my name was misspelled on my badge or something.

  29. MCB*


    As someone who is currently de-transitioning in the workplace (identified as FTM for 8 years and now identify as nonbinary and use “they/them” pronouns) I applaud and appreciate your efforts to help your workplace be more friendly to your trans* employees! In my experience transitioning in the workplace 8 years ago and now de-transitioning (in a new workplace, so essentially transitioning all over again), and just being trans during that time, I have some ideas/experiences I’d be happy to share for your group both in practices and maybe some information that might be useful to share with leadership? (Usefulness may vary, you’re probably already incorporating many of these if you’ve been basing your guidelines on HRC)

    1. Ask ALL employees to utilize their preferred pronouns in their signatures/name badges/introductions, etc. Being the only one to use preferred pronouns can make people feel singled out, and (in my experience) tends to mean that no one actually pays attention to the pronouns. Creating a culture where sharing pronouns becomes the norm makes it so much easier for transitioning and trans* (including nonbinary and agender) people to be comfortable and feel accepted. It also helps because it doesn’t assume that outward appearance equals perceived pronouns.

    2. Email literature around company-wide to answer some basics on trans* issues: what allies can do in the workplace, different identity meanings, etc. People generally want to be informed/knowledgeable and it takes the burden off your transitioning coworkers.

    3. Make trans* info part of company presentations on office etiquette and sensitivity training. In my experience, most people mean well but don’t necessarily understand what to do or say to trans* coworkers. Having pressure-free routine info sessions also takes the pressure off of transitioning coworkers, who don’t have to feel like they’re being put on display.

    4. Remind/encourage everyone to step back and restate a sentence or apologize and move on when they accidentally misgender/misname someone and realize it. Sometimes people feel so uncomfortable by the mistake they can’t acknowledge it, but I think that often feels worse to the trans* person because it’s not necessarily clear the person make a mistake. And, let’s be honest, recognizing and apologizing for putting our foot in our mouth is something that would be appreciated more often in most office places and social situations :)

    5. Take seriously complaints made by transitioning employees and trans* employees about harassment. This is obviously a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how many times trans* complaints get swept under the rug with a “Well, what do you expect?” or “Of course people are going to be unable to remember your name/pronouns, etc.”

    6. If you can, provide a single bathroom with a sign that’s gender inclusive and speak with leadership about making it explicit that people should use the bathroom that correlates with their identity (this can be done/reinforced with plaques on bathroom doors). If leadership is unreceptive, unfortunately there’s only so much you can do, but it goes a long way to making people feel comfortable and being able to use the restroom facilities is a basic right in the workplace.

    7. Bonus, for leadership, I think it’s worth reminding any reluctant leadership that being trans* supportive and inclusive is also good for your bottom-line. You never know what talent and what potential clientele you’re alienating by not being supportive of transitioning staff and, conversely, how many more people you may attract on both ends by being known as a supportive work environment for LGBT+ individuals. From my personal experience, I can say that I worked at one place that was absolutely known for its support of LGBT+ staff and I would work for them again in a heartbeat (I had to leave when I relocated for my spouse’s new job); I also currently work in an office where my coworkers and supervisors mostly mean well but don’t really try thus far to get my pronouns/identity right. It’s uncomfortable to say the least and it definitely affects my long term plans with them.

    I hope some of that is useful! Best of luck to your group and your organization! I think the fact that you’re on here, asking questions, and the fact exists as all and is using the resources out there is a great step for your organization!

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      I commented to Ruth (UK) about your point #1 above, I appreciate this perspective! This was what I had always suspected of the intent.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Regarding #1, it’s also important to leave space for employees not to put their pronouns front and center. For those of us in the early stages of transition, you’re essentially asking us to either out ourselves immediately and broadly or misgender ourselves to everyone. Not comfortable either way!

      1. MCB*

        Good point! Yes, you’re right, it’s definitely important to give employees the space to *not* include their pronouns if they feel uncomfortable doing so (for any reason). Thank you for pointing that out!

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        It’s a very wise point. I pushed in the end for our main employee database (it fed the outlook address book, phone directories etc.) to make the ‘gender’ flag completely optional as people just didn’t want to fill it in for many reasons.

    3. LGBT OP*

      Thank you, I seriously just copied most of your comment above for my review notes! Super helpful.

      Question on #3… I’m working with our training team to ensure that we incorporate trans* guidelines as part of training. When you refer to routine info sessions, are you envisioning that as info sessions about the guidelines? Or something broader?

    4. wordswords*

      Ask and encourage all employees to put their pronouns in their email signatures, etc. — but don’t REQUIRE it, and don’t shame anyone for not! Yes, you may end up having a few people who “never get around to it” because they’re resistant to the concept, but still, let people make their own decisions about when and whether to publicize their pronouns and gender.

      I’m cis, but I’m saying this because I’ve heard from trans and nonbinary friends who have felt pressured to either actively lie by claiming incorrect pronouns/gender (rather than passively letting people make incorrect assumptions) or come out before they’re ready to do so in a given context. Others don’t care much what pronouns are used for them, but DO find it stressful to be told to pick pronouns and announce them. I’ve seen earnestly well-intentioned cis people put trans/NB people on the spot, out of a commitment to being good allies by making sure everybody announces their pronouns, yes you, remember to say what should we use for you. (Accidental subtext: if you didn’t say them, it’s probably because you forgot — which all we cis people need to work on, fellow cis person! Or maybe it’s because you forgot what a welcoming space this is?)

      I’m all in favor of normalizing pronouns in email signatures, introductions, badges/nametags, etc.! It’s valuable and important. (Not to mention pragmatically useful for many people — not just trans and NB folk, but also people who have names whose desired gender associations aren’t obvious in the culture they’re working in, etc.) But I also think it’s important to let people opt out without that being a big conspicuous deal, just as making changes shouldn’t be a big conspicuous deal (unless someone personally wants to make a bigger celebration of a change, of course).

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Yeah, I had that experience with required pronoun disclosure — at the time, the honest answer was “I don’t know”, and that’s both an unhelpful answer in terms of giving people useful information on how to refer to me and not really something you can say and not have people ask you about it. So I just used by birth pronouns and felt super weird.

      2. sadbutnotbad*

        Thanks for this; I’m one of those folks who will happily answer to any pronouns. At work, I keep it my assigned-at-birth pronouns because it’s easier but I do delight when my friends switch it up a bit; but it’s not something I’d insist on and being required to announce my pronouns would feel really awkward because it would feel disingenuous to say I prefer my birth pronoun but also wouldn’t feel right to *insist* on any specific one.

  30. Cori Smelker*

    I work for a smallish (120 employees) company. In the summer of 2018 one of our employees announced her transition from Tony to Erica. Our CEO sent out an email explaining that Tony wanted to share something with the company, and then attached the letter that Erica had written explaining her decision. I think the CEO (who is an amazing human) told Erica that she could choose how she wanted to say, or not say, anything. The letter was well-written, personal but not overly so. In it, she explained that she knew it might take time for people who have worked with her for a long time to get used to her new look and new name, and she understood if she was called Tony sometimes. But in the 18 months since I really don’t think that has happened.

    Also, Erica immediately began using the female restrooms and I know all the documentation was changed immediately too. The company really have done their best to make the transition as easy as possible for her. They have also given her ample leave as she undergoes surgery etc.

  31. Employment Lawyer*

    Some general pieces of advice which have led to client success:

    1) Talk to a lawyer first. You probably have one. Make sure that you are acting in compliance w/ state law, if this is in any way covered in your state.

    2) Understand that your decision is arbitrary–there is no one “perfect position” and there are always tradeoffs to any particular choice. OWN THE ARBTRARY ASPECTS. Because it is arbitrary, I find that it is often easier (relatively speaking) for employees to accept new RULES than it is to accept new REASONS. It is very tempting for people to get into the justifications about how this is “right” or “fair” or whatever. You may believe those things; you may think its “avoids confrontation” to explain yourself. IMO this can sometimes be a mistake. You don’t need them to like the rules; you don’t need them to think the rule changes reflect superior morality; you don’t need them to take the same positions as you. You just need them to follow the rules you set out. It’s your business. They need to deal.

    This can be really hard, especially for politically motivated people! It’s incredibly difficult to say “our new office policy is to hire people with green hair” and not to continue “because we think that society is really unfair to green-haired people and that adding extra hair colors will help expand our workgroup and…”

    This is a mistake. The first part is simple, clear, and 100% easy to defend because you have the right to say what the rules are. The second part is murkier, less clear, and 100% harder to defend, like all such stances. 95% of the bitching will be about Part 2, so if you can avoid it you’re better off.

    3) REALLY buy into the reality that you are NOT going to please everyone. No matter what you do, there will be some people who think you haven’t done enough; some people who think you have done too much; and a varying number of people who think you’ve hit the target just right or who don’t care at all. If you’re careful, the “just right / don’t care” folks will be the largest group by far. If you’re not lucky, then you will have to adjust en route, which risks pissing off even more people.

    4) REALLY have a plan for the confrontations. I say this because many managers are inherently non-confrontational. But you are likely to have distinct confrontations with a rule change. Everyone in management should have the SAME POSITION and SAME LINES for what is going on. For example, this issue always involves at least some people bitching about bathrooms. Don’t be surprised. Decide IN ADVANCE what the company line is; write it down; stick to it at every level. If Sally’s “safety” concerns get her a private bathroom and Bob’s “safety” concerns are ignored and Lee’s “safety” concerns get Lee disciplined, you will have a problem.

    5) Engage, in advance, with some folks who think differently. NOT employees (too risky) but other people. Find a conservative friend and ask them to tell you all the problems with your plan, etc. If you come at this from only one side then you will probably fail to properly anticipate or plan for the upcoming pushbacks / issues.

    6) Decide what you plan to do with unhappy folks. Obviously this issue is of high importance to at least some people (or you wouldn’t be changing it) and obviously you can set whatever arbitrary rules you want (it’s your business.) This is OK! But the problems come when management fails to steel themselves for the realistic and normal outcomes of a policy change like this. Will you fire them? Will you give them severance? Will you let them resign? Reassign them? What if they’re valuable employees? Etc. Spend a bit of time to think about it.

    Good luck!

    1. Employment Lawyer*

      Oh yeah:
      7) Whenever you change a policy to accommodate a group you should NOT under any circumstances make that group think that they now have the right to assume control, approve changes, get special consideration, or anything else. In fact I advise taking steps to make sure they know that this is not the case. I know this sounds a bit odd but most times it’s best IMO to never give 100% of what a group wants and to make it crystal clear that this is a “because because” kind of choice.

      Because for any group: even if you have the world’s most reasonable and conciliatory group members right now, who would never get political; who respect other folks’ disagreement; and who would never try to push the envelope… that may not always be true.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        What? That sounds really adversarial. You’re not going to give people what they ask for on a general principle that they might get grabby? “Oh, well, we’ll let you change your preferred name, but we’re keeping your deadname as your email address so you don’t get ahead of yourself.” That’s fucked up, dude.

        1. Employment Lawyer*

          No: if you’re trying to accommodate people you should accommodate them. I didn’t state this clearly enough; my bad.

          It might be easier to say that most businesses–remember, I’m talking only about what is good *for the business* and obviously only my opinion–you need to make sure that you don’t accidentally cede power to a person or group without realizing it, because it can be hard to get back.

          1. Alton*

            I have a hard time seeing how that would be a problem assuming you have a decent understanding of how reasonable accommodations work.

            There’s often a tendency to see accommodations for trans employees as being “demands” or requests for special treatment, but we’re just talking about about treating trans people with the same respect and consideration as cis people. If it doesn’t give cis employees too much power to be able to pee at work and have people refer to them them by their name, why would there be a risk of trans people having too much power?

            1. Employment Lawyer*

              I do indeed have a decent understanding of how RAs work, it’s my job.

              Term-of-art language like “reasonable accommodations” generally implies a legal obligation. And like I keep saying, if you have a legal obligation, then you should meet it. But there can be a lot of times when you want to do something (like accommodating trans employees) for which you DON’T have a legal obligation, and there are ways to accomplish that as well.

              There’s often a tendency to see accommodations for trans employees as being “demands” or requests for special treatment, but we’re just talking about about treating trans people with the same respect and consideration as cis people.
              Look, with all due respect, I think you may not be entirely seeing the point of my advice.

              As far as I’m concerned, businesses can do anything in the broad range of legality, which is a pretty broad range.
              And obviously there are some lines you can draw, such that trans-friendly policies are merely “our usual policies” as applied to trans people.

              Equally obvious, at least to me, is that you can also draw different lines, in which those same policies lead to different outcomes.

              My point is that those lines are–and probably will always be–arbitrary. Your business, your lines. But your arguments (and similar ones which pretend the lines are obvious) are merely proxies. It isn’t an answer, you’re just pushing the arbitrary line onto “how do we specifically decide whether a certain procedure is classified as normal respect and consideration?”

              1. Gazebo Slayer*

                There’s a difference between what’s legal (which is sadly far too much, as far as US employers go) and what’s moral. “We do the bare legal minimum” is generally not the standard businesses should be going for. I’m not sure whu you’re so hung up on the idea that all advice to employers should be about what’s legal and not what’s right or what best serves their employers, customers, or bottom line (or society in general).

              2. Alton*

                I’m not saying that you personally don’t understand RAs. I’m saying that issues usually arise when people don’t understand what it means, and that it’s not really *that* complicated most of the time. The majority of the time, the types of accommodations trans employees may ask for aren’t things that are any different than what cis people already have, which isn’t very complicated. There’s a big difference between using the correct name and pronouns for someone and a situation that requires compromise, such as someone wanting to wear a hijab in a work environment where loose clothing actually poses a danger.

              3. JSPA*

                In the absence of reasonable specifics, this is very confusing. Are you talking about (e.g.) a separate, new bathroom for self-identified enbys only, and another one for agender people as well, under the heading of, “we made a rule that people should use the bathroom of the gender they identify with, but that means we have to create multiple additional options?” If you’re rules lawyering yourself to that degree, wouldn’t you go for the sign that says, “toilet” (or the hokey, folkly “setters” and “pointers,” if one’s got urinals, and the other doesn’t)?

                Or that if you preempt people who are worried about not feeling that they know the genital situation of the person in the next stall (and also trans people who are worried about being in some way exposed by their particular mode of toilet usage) by ensuring that, where alternative ventilation is possible, you reconfigure dividers and doors so they run floor-to-ceiling, with white noise, then people will complain if not all of the stalls are reconfigured?

                Or that if you make it easy for Jane’s name to become Jim, because transition, that you also have to accommodate Roger’s stated use-name of “Putzmeister the Splendiferous”? (Frankly, that one…will be self-correcting.)

                Specifics, please. Because frankly, the ideal is for the process to be sensible and natural: the toilet door that says, “toilet.” The “use name” that’s “the name someone will be using.”

          2. Gazebo Slayer*

            Why is calling people the right name and pronoun and letting them use the bathroom they feel most comfortable in “ceding power” to them? Do you seriously think it means they’re now able to, idk, decide what next year’s product line is going to be or what their coworkers are going to be paid?

            1. JSPA*

              This may very well instead be pointed at, say, a religious accommodation that’s not actually an accommodation-under-law, but an accommodation in practical terms. e.g. more rooms with a single toilet, rather than stalls. (Good for anyone who’s pee-shy, regardless of context.) Or not making a big deal of someone bowing rather than shaking hands, even if you suspect that the reason is they can’t square their religious requirements with their perception of someone else’s gender, so long as they do so uniformly, with people of all genders.

              I’m thinking here of two Swiss cases; one where the family were denied citizenship because the sons would not shake hands with their teacher, and another would-be-Swiss couple who failed their citizenship exam because they would neither shake hands with nor answer questions posed by an opposite gender interviewer. Public sentiment went quickly from, “proving they had not integrated adequately” (a point that can, I suppose, be argued) to “they obviously did not believe women and men are equal” (quite a reach, in that failure to shake is not intrinsically a sign of disrespect–we’ve had that scenario here, repeatedly).

      2. Pizzaboi*

        I sincerely disagree with your points here, especially the last one.

        I think good leaders can speak to why a policy is the way it is, and still enforce it, without worrying about whining. Would you say the same thing about racism? Sexism?

        “Can’t give women all the power now because I told men that they can’t smack their butts anymore. Better not let them get any ideas.”

        I’m really uncomfortable with your phrasing and I am hoping you could explain your tone.

        1. Employment Lawyer*

          Last part first:
          I’m really uncomfortable with your phrasing and I am hoping you could explain your tone.
          No. I have zero interest in engaging in any tone arguments. I am happy to discuss specific facts, though:

          February 13, 2020 at 12:19 pm

          I sincerely disagree with your points here, especially the last one.
          I hear you. This is a subject with broad disagreement, which underlies my advice. There is likely to be some people with sincere disagreement at almost every point of the spectrum.
          I think good leaders can speak to why a policy is the way it is, and still enforce it, without worrying about whining.
          I don’t think this is common. Sometimes a “no whining” claim is because there are no whiners. More often it seems to be because people are ignoring, or not noticing, or assuming away, the whiners.

          People like me are forced to pay attention to problems, because that’s literally our job: I can say, as a result, that “zero problems” or “zero whining” is very very rare, at least in my experience.

          Would you say the same thing about racism? Sexism?
          Yes! My views are generally consistent across fields. Also, my answers tend to be very specific.

          This is important, because (to illustrate with transitions) the questions of “how can my company implement certain rules w/r/t transition;” “how can my company improve relations between cis and trans employees”; and “how can my company move our employees’ stances w/r/t transgender rights towards a more progressive one” are VERY DIFFERENT things. Related, to be sure… but different. An answer for one is not the same as an answer to all, and it’s even possible that in some situations or for some people, some of those goals may internally conflict.

          Sticking to specific goals–rules–is usually a basic approach which can be RELATIVELY easier to implement. Of course, a company can always make that choice voluntarily! Companies can generally set their politics as they wish, whether left or right of center–provided that they stay within the bounds of the law.

          1. Pizzaboi*

            But the OP stated their specific goal was to have a policy to support gender transitioning employees.

            I get that you are an employment lawyer; you have made this abundantly clear. But you are not likely also a manager, and I can say from my experience you are not exactly the best communicator. I mean, look how many people you have had to clarify your points to.

            The OP wasn’t looking for a half assed legal guide to how to be the most technically accommodating but least inviting business. If I worked for a company that treated me like you advocate, I would take my skills elsewhere. Trans folks don’t need to accept table scraps any more. Being proactively progressive on trans rights, like all diversity and inclusion topics, is good for your bottom line.

            So your advice isn’t specific legal advice, which is what you are employed to do. But it also isn’t good management advice. So I guess I am wondering what you hope to accomplish with this attitude.

          2. Alice*

            I wonder why there seems to be more whining from the employees that Employment Lawyer works with than in my own experience.

            1. Pizzaboi*

              Right? And why all managers are bad managers? Maybe Employment Lawyer has a skewed sample size because they are only being consulted when there are problems.

              Or maybe EL just assumed that no one actually wanted to make transitions easier and gentler and kinder, and just wanted to make them “legal.”

              Thankfully we don’t all live in this fantasy of a cruel world that EL has conjured, and managing employees is not the same as arguing in a court, and we can do better than that advice.

      3. Jessie the First (or second)*

        “I know this sounds a bit odd but most times it’s best IMO to never give 100% of what a group wants and to make it crystal clear that this is a “because because” kind of choice.”

        That is advice for negotiating a business deal or a settlement. It isn’t good advice for supporting employees.

        1. Employment Lawyer*

          “Supporting employees” is not usually possible, in a universal sense. Here, let me illustrate:

          If Lee doesn’t want to share a bathroom and Jo does, you can support one or the other. But you can’t base your decision on a claim of “supporting employees”, because the interests of your employees conflict.

          This is fine! Like I keep saying, you can run your business how you want (within legal bounds). So you can selectively support “ABC employees”, whoever that ABC group may be.

          My job–if I’m asked–is to remind you a) that there’s probably at least some anti-ABC employees; b) that you are actively making a choice which goes against their interests; and c) that you should take steps to prepare for the fallout. Or not! Again that’s your call.

          As for the negotiations: Power, once transferred, is difficult to recapture. If you take steps to make things better for ABC employees, that’s less risk (other than the opposing employees, as discussed above). If you set it up so that you require ABC employees’ “approval” or “buy-in” before you can make any changes, that’s a riskier proposition. If you give ABC employees veto power over changes and also give ABC employees reason to believe that any future demands will be met with ease (since they just got 100% of what they wanted) it’s riskier as well. Moreover, the more power you transfer to the ABC folks, the higher the rate of opposing folks getting disgruntled, which is also bad for business.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Why the bizarre ideas that consulting your trans employees about how to handle trans-related matters is transferring power to them, and that it means you’ve committed to saying yes to any and every request any trans employee asks of you in the future no matter what? Why would *they* even think that?

            Also, the anti-trans employees can be told to respect their coworkers or leave. I’m really tired of the “telling people not to be bigoted is just as bad as being bigoted because what about the bigots’ rights?” trope.

          2. JSPA*

            Nobody gets to “want to share a bathroom.” (I mean….ew. That’s like sniffing seats. If that’s your kink, do it on your own time.)

            Everybody gets to want to use the bathroom.

            Everybody gets to use the bathroom.

            Everybody gets to want to use a bathroom that’s signed in some way that doesn’t exclude them.

            Everybody gets to put up with sometimes having other people in the same bathroom, however in different stalls.

            Everybody gets to ask the company to prioritize greater privacy in the bathroom, if it’s something they care about.

            Nobody gets to do a check on other people’s private parts (or chromosomal status), before letting them into the bathroom.

            If someone can’t be unclothed enough to relieve themselves with other people (of whatever gender(s), however defined) in the room, they can ask a friend to ask people to let them pee alone. People are pee shy in all sorts of ways. Sexually liberated pansexual atheists can be just as pee shy as anyone else. Asking people to give you a moment is generally a reasonable favor, even where it’s not a right.

            In practice, this is (very rarely) rocket science.

      4. Talia*

        This comes off as pointlessly adversarial, and destructively so.

        I asked for my name and pronouns to be respected, and to use an appropriate bathroom, period. No part of that is “special treatment” or me trying to “take control”. If my company treated my expectation to be seen and treated as who I am as the opening bid in a negotiation they would have lost me as a Director immediately.

      5. Ryn*

        Just gunna say that I really really hate the implication that respecting trans identities is “political.” This comment is so aggresive and antagonistic.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Or that if you do, it’s giving them ‘power you can’t take back’.

          A far less antagonistic statement could have been ‘prepare for what you’ll do to people who refuse to follow the rules or break them, and get a neutral party to read out the proposed rules to spot errors’

          1. Ryn*

            imagine giving people who’ve had power systematically stripped from them a little of that power back! the horror! we must not let this stand! /s

        2. Anon for this*

          This. What exactly makes the status quo apolitical? Especially given that cis people tend to get a bunch of things trans people are often denied?

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I disagree strongly with #5. While it’s generally a good idea to get a second opinion on something, I don’t see any benefit to making sure that opinion comes from someone opposed to the entire notion as they’re likely to just object to the whole concept.

      1. Employment Lawyer*

        In my experience, you’re factually wrong. Here’s why:

        Your pre-change goal is to anticipate (and proactively address) the most common arguments and problems. To make that work, you need to have an opportunity to change your views (if needed) without any associated public cost.

        And on order to do this effectively, you need to hear from a broad spectrum of people who are representative of the types of views you will encounter when you make changes. That includes your strong opponents.

        You may have more opponents than you think, if it hasn’t come up yet (so you haven’t sorted on that axis.) You may think you know people’s political position, but you may be wrong. And because most people aren’t that good at the Ideological Turing Test, then most people aren’t very good at understanding their opposing arguments without straw-manning them.

        Push-back and argument are two of the best ways to make a solution better. Surrounding yourself with yes-men isn’t as good.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Personally I think giving rights to LGBT people isn’t a political issue. Workplace decency and protecting staff from harassment isn’t political at all. It’s just common decency.

        2. Blueberry*

          I think an underlying assumption to this comment is that someone who wants to make an explicitly progressive change in a social group (such as a workplace) is likely to be surrounded by people who agree *by chance* and/or to be unaware of arguments against the progressive change.

          In my experience this isn’t true. Many/most people invested in a progressive change have extensive experience with opposing opinions and arguments. Especially with questions of identity. With respect to this discussion, transgender people are unlikely to have happened upon a trans-friendly bubble and much more likely to have effortfully found people and spaces they can at least somewhat trust, after dealing extensively with people and spaces that are hostile to them.

          So this advice of “run your plan for inclusiveness past someone who will oppose the very idea of this form of inclusiveness” both covers something people had to do long ago with far fewer resources and something that will be unlikely to result in any other advice than “just don’t do it”. It’s like saying to someone looking for advice on how to write a novel that they should first learn to read and then ask people who hate reading if they should write it.

          1. aebhel*

            This. There’s a kind of assumption here that marginalized groups are unfamiliar with how bigots think, which is, uh… not the case, in my experience. I’m not trans, but I am queer, and believe me, Conservatives’ Opinions On Queer People is a topic I am very familiar with. Unfortunately.

            I think it’s useful to be able to anticipate the objections that transphobes will have to trans-inclusive policies so that you don’t fumble it in the moment, but that doesn’t mean that those objections should be treated as having any objective merit.

    3. SW*

      I definitely agree with having a plan for when you get pushback.
      Yeah, this comment is adversarial, but I think it’s important to cover your bases because there will be adversarial people. Some of them might just be passive aggressive about it. But I think it’s polyannaish to assume that taking the nice approach alone will get you where you want to go. And it will often be the “progressive” people who refuse to acknowledge that they might be the problem. The person who most misgenders me at work is a feminist cis woman. But no amount of correcting by me or by her direct reports has changed her behavior and as management didn’t do anything when she misgendered me when talking to them, so nothing changes.

    4. Not Me*

      Honestly, do you actually manage and interact with employees or is this advice you give to your clients? Because I work with very successful labor and employment lawyers across the country (including California, NY, and Illinois, where we can all agree there are more employee protections than other states) and they are generally the absolute worst at actually managing people. It’s a ‘doctor heal thyself’ type situation, and this response has a lot of those hallmarks to me.

      Mostly, if you want to have a successful business you can’t just set “arbitrary rules” at work around how people interact with each other and whether they are discriminatory against a segment of the population.

    5. Gazebo Slayer*

      Wow, this is a lot of bothsider nonsense (except for the consult a lawyer bit). Who cares if Joe in accounting whines at management because he doesn’t want to call Sarah by the right name and refer to her as “she”? He can pound sand, and if he refuses to treat her with respect he can he disciplined just as he would be if he told a female coworker she had great tits. (Hell, there are scummy dudes who are opposed to rules about sexual harassment. Are you going to stick up for the value of pleasing them too?)

      Not all viewpoints are equally valuable or morally equivalent. If you had a bunch of employees who thought they had the right to use their company credit cards for a Vegas gambling spree, would their opinion be worth listening to? If someone goes around proclaiming that windmills cause cancer, is that just as worthwhile as an a meta-analysis of actual scientific studies on carcinogens?

      1. Tinker*

        Employment Lawyer is technically correct, which as we all know is the best kind of correct.

        Regardless of whether it’s ethical or not, it is still a viable prospect in this day and age for a company to decide to be intentionally hostile to employees who are trans. Employment Lawyer’s advice is good for a company who has not decided whether they want to do this or not, particularly if the company is located in a jurisdiction where it is still legal. I would go so far as to add: in the case where it is not legal, it is still possible and there are ways of minimizing risk of adverse consequences when doing it.

        I’d suggest both that this should not be done and also that it is not necessary to give a person who has asked for advice on being an ally advice on being a successful bigot, but opinions clearly vary on that point.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          This is a good point: the letter writer asked for advice on implementing accommodations, not for reasons they shouldn’t. There’s been some amazing advice and personal experience in the majority on this post though and I’m glad to have read it.

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          “Give a person who has asked for advice on being an ally advice on being a successful bigot” is a brilliant summary of what Employment Lawyer is doing. (With a side of bafflegab and obfuscation.)

      2. Jessen*

        I could actually also see the advice to just say “these are the rules, so deal with them.” To attempt to channel Captain Awkward here:

        Joe in accounting will probably never see why he needs to call Sarah by the right name and pronouns, or why he can’t tell Latoya she has great tits. Or at least he’ll never accept it. There’s a point where explaining and justifying your decisions only serves to make someone think they have a right to push back. Sometimes just saying, these are the rules, you can follow them or you can lose your job, is the right move. Not for legal reasons but just to make it clear company antidiscrimination policy isn’t up for negotiation.

  32. Mid*

    First, ask the person transitioning how they want things to be handled—do they want everyone to know? Do they want HR to tell everyone or want to disclose themselves?

    Second, how do you deal with name changes for other reasons? Do the same thing for transitioning employees. Keep a list everywhere names are used, and make a system to change things easily. Same with pictures/headshots. Have a system in place so someone can easily get their photo replaced, or at least removed, from all systems.

    Third, but most importantly, don’t make them use some weird, distant bathroom. Seriously. Let them pee where they are comfortable peeing (as long as it’s not in the kitchen sink.)

    1. Pizzaboi*

      Agree with all of this.

      And as for your second point, more to the point, make sure the process for changing your name is easy. For anyone. Getting fifteen copies of court ordered name change documents can be time consuming and financially draining, and sometimes folks can’t legally change their names right away. Consider that in most states, first name change requires a disclosure in a newspaper and in lots of places you have to make an appearance in a court to ask a judge if you can change your name. That is an expensive and stressful process. If there is any way you can get their name changes where coworkers will see it, even if you can’t change their paystubs, it is important to do so.

    2. AMT*

      +1 re: disclosure! I have been outed without my permission so many times by perfectly well-meaning people. Ask, ask, ask.

  33. Museum Nerd*

    I helped write a three-part guide to gender transitions in the workplace. There is a guide for the trans person themselves, a guide for their managers and organization, and their coworkers. It was written by trans people, for trans people. The advice is specific to the museum field, but there is tons that is applicable to all kinds of workplaces. It has everything to sample transition plans, how to deal with negative reactions, to FAQs about trans people.

    This is a free resource, and I hope that you are able to use and adapt it to your own needs. It covers lots of the scenarios the OP is asking about- what works well, what seems well-intentioned but is actually not great, and what you absolutely should not do.

    In my experience, you should start making a trans-friendly workplace long before you ever have an out trans person on staff. Normalize pronoun sharing in person/email signatures/nametags, make it easy to update names in databases, have gender-neutral bathrooms, etc. Make it so trans people know that they have a welcoming work environment to come out to.

    1. Alli*

      Thank you for this. I mentioned downthread, but this guide was what I referenced as a resource to help my HR department develop their procedures when I transitioned at work last year.

  34. Lisa*

    Several years back I worked at a company of a few hundred people, that worked hard at being extremely tolerant of diversity of any kind. They had normalized into the culture that it was ok to make all-staff announcements of important personal news. For example, one person used that method to come out as an amputee, because he was going to change up his mobility devices and people were going to be in total shock if he just showed up on Monday without legs. So when a few people used that to announce a change in preferred pronouns, it was NBD. Sam doesn’t have legs, Zach is going out on paternity leave, Susan is now using zhe/zher pronouns, Rachel is now Roger… it’s just Stuff You Should Know with no special stigma.

  35. Buggy Crispino*

    I may not be right about this, and I’m just putting it out there without trying to cause any arguments. I think normalizing pronouns “can” be a good thing. But as a cis-gendered gay man, I feel like me being urged to put “he/his” in my email signature, a lapel pin, or laptop sticker would make me really uncomfortable.

    I’m always coming out to people, it’s just a lifelong thing (it shouldn’t be, but it is) and there are some days that I just want to BE and not have to label myself in any way at all. I feel like a company wide pronoun initiative would force that issue to always be on for me.

    I think the important thing would be to ask any trans people what makes THEM comfortable regarding their own pronouns. Tough luck to anyone who is uncomfortable about the trans person’s pronouns, but it’s not necessary to make someone uncomfortable about their own pronouns.

    I hope that makes sense.

    1. Pizzaboi*

      As a trans guy I agree with you completely. I think pronoun pin initiatives are really coming from a good place, but sometimes it makes folks uncomfortable to jump out there with it all the time. I have known quite a few trans folks who felt sort of uneasy about the whole thing in work contexts, especially where the entire discussion was coming from and led by cis folks. Does that make sense?

      I like how Whole Foods by my apartment does it: they have a big bag of pronoun pins. If you want to wear one, you can, and a lot of cis folks do in order to make their trans coworkers comfortable. But not one is enforcing that is happens and I have seen some folks without one. I think that is a fair way to do it.

      Especially cis gay men, especially of a certain age, I imagine you might have some stuff around being intentionally misgendered and probably it doesn’t feel great to have to remember that. I could be totally off base here but I do know a Gem X aged gay man who feels that way.

      1. Buggy Crispino*

        I think this is a big part of it. Gen X Gay here, so I did get a lot of name calling growing up, being mistaken for a girl when I was a pre-teen, called girl’s names, asked if I was going to be a hairdresser, all the typical offensive stuff of the 80’s. I almost feel like me proclaiming “I’m a HE” now is like “the lady doth protest too much” because that’s what I did when I was closeted.

        So yes, please any and every person who WANTS to participate in normalizing pronouns, please do, especially straight cis folks. But please don’t insist I make that my project about myself because I probably won’t do it.

      2. Timothy (TRiG)*

        Natalie Wynn also made the point on her YouTube channel ContraPoints that for her, as a trans woman, she likes to think that her female gender is obvious in how she presents herself. She acknowledges that introducing pronouns is very useful for some people, especially non-binary trans people, but for herself, she feels that it serves as a reminder that she is trans, instead of simply letting her be a woman. (I’m summarizing from memory a video I watched some time ago, and cannot rewatch right now, because I’m in the office; I’d encourage anyone interested to track down the original video.)

        Anyway, yes. Pronoun pins: not for everyone.


        1. Dahlia*

          The idea that you know someone’s pronouns from looking at them can really hurt other people, though. Just because my friend wears makeup and dresses doesn’t mean they’re a woman.

          1. Dingbat*

            Yes, Contrapoints got lots of pushback on this for basically encouraging everyone to assume based on appearance, and putting the ability to “pass as cis” (a kind of privilege) as the standard.

            From an everyday cis perspective, even, I wouldn’t want to be called “he” because I’m wearing pants and no makeup. Presentation isn’t everything and it relies on the judgment and understanding of gender and assumptions of the viewer, instead of the actual identification of the individual in question.

          2. Gomez*

            My perspective on this is that people (even LGBTQ people, even progressive people, even people who want to do good by trans people) quite often only ask for pronouns as a more subtle alternative to asking “hey, are you trans?”. I’m familiar with the pushback Contrapoints got, but I tend to agree with her that conspicuous displays of Look How Accepting We Are, We’re Asking What Your Gender Is! can in fact be super alienating.

        2. Tea Fish*

          Eurgh, I can’t agree with that. I, along with three other friends, participate in a alternative fashion that is extremely feminine– long pastel wigs, fake lashes, heavy full face of makeup, glitter, fluffy dresses covered in cream puffs and kittens. One of these friends is non-binary, one of them is a trans dude, and the last is a cis dude. I am a cis woman. Men (cis, trans, etc.), women, and nb people can appreciate and wear stereotypically feminine things– our clothing and aesthetic choices neither dictate our genitals nor our gender identification. Clothing is a choice in presentation– so yes, it makes perfect sense for Natalie to use it to signal who she is, but not everyone does.

    2. Museum Nerd*

      I absolutely hear your discomfort with the continual coming out process. It can feel weird to be asked your pronouns, because it might be be something you’ve never really thought about or considered. I agree that it should never be mandated, as not everyone wants to share their pronouns, or their gender with everyone.
      But, i do have a few good reasons for sharing:
      1) it normalizes asking. Often trans people are the only people pressured to share pronouns. When everyone does it, it becomes a part of conversation, not an obligation placed on trans people. Its less othering when everyone shares.
      2) it can help with introductions for people with non-gendered names. If you’re a Jamie, and you include your pronouns in your email signature, I now know how to refer to you when speaking about you to a colleague.
      Hope this helps!

    3. Junior Dev*

      Yes, agreed. I’m a person who is assumed to be a cis woman by most people and I’m not quite sure what my gender identity is, and while I’ll happily put she/her stickers on my nametag for now, I’m strongly considering changing that in the future and I really would prefer not to get any guff along the lines of “if you say you don’t have a pronoun preference or choose not to share pronouns, that is 100% cis privilege all the time.” It can be! It can also be people who are still figuring things out for themselves or just feel very uncomfortable talking about their gender in detail. My perspective is that we should try to normalize the sharing of pronouns as a default, but never shame anyone for not participating.

      1. Anon for this*

        I’m also struggling with this. I haven’t found pronouns yet that work for me, so I haven’t used my company’s optional signature line. (I’m considering, but haven’t settled on, “pronouns: use my name.”) But as a leader, I feel as though my lack of opting-in to the practice is sending a message of nonsupport for my fellow trans* and non-binary folx.

      2. ceiling cat*


        Don’t put people on the spot & especially don’t do the “conspicuously ask gender non-conforming people their pronouns so you know they’re trans”.

    4. LGBT OP*

      Totally understand where you’re coming from. Since our efforts are fairly new at this company, we’re doing some basic educating around different identities. The pronoun initiatives are totally voluntary, just attempting to normalize this as a practice in our office culture.

    5. theletter*

      HR should make it clear in the company policy that names and pronouns are to be respected.

      People who intentionally disregard that should be treated as a performance/harassment issue.

      People who routinely slip up should be forced to attend continued sensitivity training. Unfortunately for some people it will take a little practice.

      Annual sensitivity training should include the fine art of offering one’s own preferred pronouns when they are confused, and accepting that they might not know the person’s pronouns, and that is OK.

    6. Not Alison*

      I love this comment. My not-for-profit is going through steps to promote more diversity and acceptance of diversity in the workplace and are pushing us to include pronouns in our signature line. I don’t want to and couldn’t really articulate why. And for me the answer is that I just want to “be” – and not need to specifically be identified as anything (even though you would likely identify me as female from my first name and appearance). I do not like the pronoun “them” to refer to a singular person who is known and would really prefer that a nonbinary singular pronoun be used, but I guess that I have lost that fight. Anyway, even though I self-identify as female (which matches my genetalia) I would prefer to use a nonbinary singular pronoun just the same as I prefer Ms over either Mrs or Miss (it’s noone’s business whether or not I am married). Anyway, that’s my two cents – – and no, I’m not transphobic.

      1. Elle*

        “Anyway, even though I self-identify as female (which matches my genetalia) I would prefer to use a nonbinary singular pronoun”

        The more I think about this, the more I come to the conclusion that a single gender neutral pronoun and title would reduce an enormous number of problems. As would far more single stall gender neutral toilets. And not just problems for trans folk either – I think by reducing the number of references to gender we could help to reduce the emphasis on to the gender binary, with benefits all round.

        1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

          I think a thing a lot of people miss is that gender is incredibly important to many trans people. It’s so important to us that we endanger ourselves, our livelihoods, and our relationships because of it. Saying “not talking about gender would help trans people!” overlooks the part where trans people would then be even more singled out because just the fact of talking about our gendered selves would make us weird.

          Look at how many people just in this thread are using they/them pronouns to talk about people who are binary trans (“they’re MtF”). That’s not acceptance. It’s erasure.

          1. Pizzaboi*

            I absolutely agree with you on this.

            It’s like when people say, “oh, I don’t see color!” When talking about racism. Like, you do though. We are talking about deep seated social conditioning. When you say “we should stop talking about gender!” you are changing the subject but you are not solving the problems.

            And you are totally right about people misgendering transwomen in this thread. It’s getting gross.

    7. Shan*

      Somewhat related to this, I’m a cis-gender woman, and I very much do not want to constantly call attention to my gender at work (and, to a lesser extent, general life). I’m completely supportive of people conveying their own pronouns however they like, but I think it’s better if it’s an option and not a requirement.

    8. Anon Here*

      AFAB and long undecided about how to describe my gender. Am I cis or non-binary? I don’t know.

      When asked what my pronouns are, I tend to say that any and all are fine. That’s how I really feel. I’m equally ok with being called by any pronoun.

      I do feel uncomfortable about wearing some kind of label, or putting one in an email signature. It’s because I’m on the fence about what fits best. It’s also because I’m kind of private and I don’t always want to publicly identify as anything. Cis privilege? Maybe. Or maybe I’m not cis and it has more to do with other stuff. I don’t know! It’s just the way I am.

      But, yeah, pronoun pins and sigs should be optional with no judgment.

      1. She/They/Who Cares*

        Same. I have had a lifetime’s worth of over-culture and actual people telling me how I “should” appropriately fill my gender role, that I by now have zero interest in being defined by gender in any arena. If we are discussing the llama grooming report, or deciding what to order for lunch, my gender should not matter to the discussion or to any person having it.

        Does this make me non-binary? I have no idea. I am very fuzzy on what gender is outside of gendered expectations. And I feel that those expectatons are outdated and should, ideally, be left to the dustbin of history. I don’t care what pronouns you use for me as long as you are not doing so to stir up drama or hostility — and those folks tend to make their intentions pretty obvious.

        If you make me describe my gender, the best I’ve come up with is gender agnostic. I haven’t a clue how else to describe a thing I am not even sure applies to me. I only really “get” gender in terms of what it is not: not sex, not gender expression, not gender roles or expectatons, not masc or femme traits (without even going into how problematic it is to genderize traits). But I don’t get what it is. You can ask if I feel like a man/woman/etc, but what in heck does being a man/woman feel like? I dunno, I just feel like me. And if you are super interested in my gender, you’re just going to stress me out, and feed into years’ worth of resentment for being inappropriately judged for it.

  36. CG*

    I’m not trans but my wife is (came out 11 years after we got married, it’s turned out to be brilliant for both of us) and her work actually by and large did a really good job with this.

    At the time she began transitioning, as far as she was aware, there were no other LGBT employees at work. They had to keep her deadname on her paystubs for legal reasons (she just this week got it changed with SSA so this will get fixed soon), but they changed it to her new name everywhere else in all of their systems, including changing her email address. Her manager spread the news to the team and basically told everyone to be cool about it, all the cis women in the office are totally fine with her using the women’s bathrooms, AND it’s reaped dividends for my wife: since my wife came out, her team (which was originally all cis hetero men + my closeted wife) has hired one gay cis man, one cis woman, and another (already out) trans woman, and an employee in a different office felt safe enough to come out as trans because of how the company had treated my wife. And this isn’t like a huge Fortune 50 business or anything, I think they have maybe 400 employees total, with only 30 or so in her office?

    She did have one coworker who started asking invasive questions, but my wife wanted to answer them because she wanted to normalize being trans and educate others, and then the coworker started being creepy to a cis woman, who reported him and he was fired. He should have been fired way earlier tbh, this was nothing new, but the performance plan he was on leading to actual firing as opposed to prolonging the “broken stair” issue was a very good thing.

  37. Pizzaboi*

    This is such a great question!

    I am a trans guy (he and they pronouns please), and I have had a lot of different experiences with being trans at work, and specifically different aspects of transitioning.

    First up: when an employee comes out to you as a supervisor or HR, remind yourself that this person is making a decision to share something deeply personal, and that every aspect of their work life is about to get more complicated. Smile at them! Be generally encouraging, like they told you good news! I cannot stress enough how shitty it is, especially if you live in a state without employment protections for trans folks, when you tell your boss about your transition and they grimace because you “caught them off guard” or what have you.

    Another important tip: don’t tell them when or how to come out to colleagues. Ask them what they are comfortable with, if they want help strategizing conversations, if they need support with any especially conservative groups of coworkers, etc. I was told when I could come out and under no circumstances was I to come out sooner, as we were in the middle of hiring and I “needed to be able to retain my employees.” Yuck.

    When an employee joins your staff and tells you about their ongoing transition, some dos and donts.

    Thank them for telling you
    Ask them if they need any workplace resources, information about benefits, details on how to get in touch with HR regarding insurance information
    Congratulate them if they ask for time off for surgery and handle it as you would medical good news, like a pregnancy: “That’s wonderful! Let’s go over your time off needs! Does your surgeon have a list of things you’ll be able to do at different recovery points? Do we need to do an FMLA?”

    Do not:
    Ask them what surgeries they have had
    Say “Oh I didn’t even notice! You don’t look trans at all!”
    Ask them if their family disowned them (has happened to me at…every job!)
    Tell them the name of every queer person you have ever met
    Ask them invasive personal questions you wouldn’t want anyone to ask you
    Tell them which bathroom to use! Trans folks have far higher than average rates of UTIs from holding it when we are uncomfortable using facilities!

    Treat trans folks like people. If you are asking them something you wouldn’t appreciate, stop! If you are making a lot of comments about their transition, even if they feel like compliments to you, stop! Would you like someone to comment on your breast size? Because it has happened to every trans woman I know in professional settings!

    Finally, if you see that your trans employee is being harassed by someone, take initiative. Ask your employee if they would like you to correct everyone’s pronoun use, what to do if someone misgenders them, etc. If you know someone is intentionally making things uncomfortable for your employee, it is time to remind that employee that is considered sexual harassment and it isn’t tolerated.

    Do not make excuses for assholes. It is not hard to be decent. Your trans employees are not asking for anything political here, they just want to have the same work experience as anyone else.

    And for the love of God if you have a trans man telling you that he is getting a double mastectomy, do not tell him you wish you could have his breasts. Dozens of times from coworkers, supervisors, and managers. Dozens of times.

    1. A Trans Man*

      What’s up with people asking if your family’s disowned you? I’ve gotten that many times too. Mostly in the form of “how did your family react to you being trans?” and then being disappointed when I say my family was fine with it (which is a lie, but I refuse to turn my life into entertainment for somebody with no manners).

      1. Jack Be Nimble*

        SAME. There’s a certain type who’s deeply disappointed when I say that they were great about it — I’m halfway tempted to make up an outrageous lie or feed them the plot of She’s The Man.

        “Oh, they were great about it — my brother actually let me assume his identity while I was establishing myself so he could tour with his band. Things got a little awkward with the soccer team, but it all worked out in the end!”

        1. Pizzaboi*

          Oh my god that is incredible.

          And it is like that, isn’t it? It’s like people really feel entitled to your entire story and all the tragedy so they can feel morally superior when they “accept” you, etc etc. It is super gross and it happens at least a couple times a week to me.

          Sometimes I skip the family stuff and I do tell them about the state I moved from or the job I had where my employees slashed my tires and vandalized my stuff with transphobic and homophobic slurs, because I live in a very progressive and queer Midwestern city and a lot of the people asking never expect that level of violence. But not at work.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        My stepsister is trans. She and I are not close and it has nothing to do with her being trans, my stepfather’s take on it is really complicated and makes little sense to anyone outside the immediate family, and it’s no one’s business. But even people in our extended family have this expectation that it’s all or nothing. Families are complicated no matter what.

      3. LabTechNoMore*

        What’s up with people asking if your family’s disowned you?

        And here I thought that was just a gay Muslim thing! And same goes for people not accepting any answer that bucks the stereotypical narrative. Sorry that y’all have to deal with so much dehumanizing BS.

      4. Alexandra Lynch*

        Yeah, my girlfriend is mutually disengaged from her family of origin not so much because she’s trans (though that certainly didn’t go over well) as the fact that they are nasty people who have mental health conditions that they prefer to treat with alcohol and meth, and aggressively refuse to have their worldview challenged.

        1. Alice*

          +1, I’m also no contact with my family of origin apart from one brother, but it’s nothing to do with my gender identity!

      5. Cats4Gold*

        My family actually did disown me, so this question is extremely painful for me. It’s…not polite to ask. I’ve started to tell new people that I’m an orphan, and spin overly elaborate obvious lies about how my parents died (ranging from tiger attack to a bizarre incident involving artichokes). Side note, I’m also legit a sideshow performer, so my coworkers at this point don’t even know what to believe.

        1. Merci Me*

          Oooh, that is both amazing of you and deeply uncool of them.

          I always have to stop myself from going full Batman (“My family is deaaaaaad!”), because even if it’s somewhat true, it isn’t strictly professional. (I mean, I have siblings and extended family and my spouse and kid, but really I always feel like that’s a question about parents and grands, and my progenitors are all kaput.)

    2. Cats4Gold*

      Also, if you have a trans man employee- don’t forking ask him if he’s “still going to have kids”. Don’t ask your trans employees if they’re breaking up with their partners or spouses. Someone being trans doesn’t mean you have an all-access pass to their life.

      1. Pizzaboi*

        No shit!

        I always go back and forth about whether it is a net good or a net bad, societally, for me to educate the cis in my various places of employment. On the one hand, hey, maybe they won’t ask the next trans person they meet the same awful stuff.

        On the other hand, maybe they will feel like they can, because one trans guy answered their questions before.

        I was once asked in an interview if I was getting surgery to “get boobies or chop them off?” I told them I wouldn’t work for them because their question was so appalling, and they actually asked a trans person who worked there to reach out to me and tell me that my interviewer “meant well.” Yuck.

        What I do with my uterus, or my chest, is not your business.

  38. knitter*

    I’m cis but work with a significant number of trans, gender non conforming, agender, and gender expansive students.

    As much as you can do now to make your workplace inclusive do it so that when an employee comes out the subsequent changes made are as minimal as possible.
    1. make bathrooms a non-issue by either advocating for more non-gendered bathrooms or make sure there is language in a policy somewhere about using the bathroom that fits someone’s gender identity. (then make sure any staff who police others are followed up with)
    2. encourage staff to identify pronouns in email signatures
    3. how gendered is the staff dress code and can that be changed?
    4. Language in handbooks, other staff documents–is there gendered language? Or language use at meetings (like language that assumes that being male is the default eg-“guys”)
    5. any other routines that are somehow gendered that you can change? (there shouldn’t be at work, but at schools doing things like boys vs girls competitions are common)
    6. whenever there is a workshop about harassment or other HR training, make sure now that misgendering (which includes using they instead of he or she and using someone’s dead name) or questions about someone’s social or medical transition are considered harassment (and make sure the employee handbook backs you up). When workshops are done, for cis-gendered people there is a lot of discomfort that is dealt with poorly (snickering, saying “that’s too hard”), so there should be norms provided at the start of the workshop that address these behaviors (just because something is new to you and makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s wrong….).

    Thats all I can think of now. But these are all things I’ve observed as helpful or students have identified as helpful when they come out or decide to transition. The goal is that the person who is transitioning is not the one who has to lead the charge for the changes or is the poster child of the changes.

    1. 'Tis Me*

      With using “they” – I largely have email contact with colleagues and customers all around the world. I don’t always know their preferred pronouns, or which ones their names should lead me to assume (sometimes I may be unsure which is their personal and which is their family name) but do want to address them non-offensively, and tend to use their name or use “they/them” if I can’t structure the sentence in a natural-sounding way that avoids pronoun usage…

      If they/them can be seen as offensive, are there any globally recognised, universally acceptable alternatives for situations when, for whatever reason, you don’t want to be offensive?? (Especially when it’s e.g. A misdirected query: “Jamie Jones sent an email to customer services about [the teapot spout options for their recent purchase], which was passed on to me in error. Are you able to look into this and get back to them with the details requested below?” – I’m not expecting to have anything else to do with this contact or their issue; I am literally trying to get the query to somebody better placed to answer it ASAP…)

  39. C*

    In having this document you will already be ahead of most other workplaces. I have yet to meet anyone who transitioned in an organization where they had one (though this may be different in other geographical areas).

    A major difficulty I faced was during an internship (I transitioned while in college) where I had an identity card with my legal name and gender, which I had not been able to change yet, and which I was required to wear visibly at all times (though I did not do this, but I could have been in trouble for not doing so). So if something like this is required, allow people to change name and gender before they change them legally.

    I have never had issues with which bathroom I was required to use, but something that caused issues was that male restrooms don’t have a trashbin, so it would help if those are added. Reading all the comments here, I am so glad I live in an area where there has never really been a discussion about where transgender people are allowed to use the bathroom.

    What really helped me was that no one really made an issue of my transition. It is not something that needs to be commented on professionally, except that someone is now using a different name and pronoun. So leave it up to someone how much they want to discuss in addition to this. I am quite private about the details of my transition, and have been lucky enough to be in places where most people are familiar with transgender people and it was easy to deflect questions I didn’t want to answer.

    This may not be as easy everywhere, as people are sometimes unfamiliar and also used to media where disclosing all details of a transition is par for the course. So this is a major difficulty for many transgender people I know who have transitioned while working somewhere. Sometimes people have managed this by giving some information, but often people take this to mean that you can ask all questions, which many people are uncomfortable with answering. If someone transition in the past has caused difficulties, it may be good to find someone who can give a presentation about transgender people in the workplace before someone else transitions inside the organization.

  40. Jack Be Nimble*

    Hello! I am a trans man, and I transitioned at work within the last year! A few stray thoughts:

    – There are a lot of commonplace work policies, procedures, and updates that people overthink when a colleague transitions. There are probably plenty of employees in your workplace that have changed a name or taken time off for medical leave. A lot of times, the very best thing you can do to help a trans coworker is treat any changes as completely routine and ordinary – not as a Big Momentous Occasion to Be Cherished Because They Are Just So, So Brave.
    – If you don’t know anyone who’s transitioned before, it’s very normal to feel unsure about how to support them. That’s normal. Do your best and give yourself permission to be slightly imperfect. It’s pretty easy to tell when someone is being supportive and making a genuine effort, and your colleague will be able to pick up on that.
    – Know exactly what your procedures for changing names etc. look like so you can paint a very clear, step-by-step picture, including expected timelines for processing changes. Ideally, your policy would say something like “after notifying HR, your personnel file will be updated within 24 hours. IT will update their systems, but it can take up to 48 hours for the refresh to go through and all file paths to be updated.”
    – Give all employees, not just trans employees, the option to use a preferred name instead of their legal one. Plenty of people use a nickname or middle name, and allowing new hires to chose how they’ll be referred to empowers everyone, not just trans employees.
    – Model the use of gender pronouns in email signatures. Again, this is practical for all employees, particularly if you work across cultures. A name that’s commonly, obviously gendered female in the US might be considered male (or just bafflingly opaque) to someone working in Iceland. We all make gendered assumptions based on names, so it can be helpful to specify — I used to work with a man named Sapphire and a woman named Ben, and you can bet I was confused when I met each of them in person for the first time!
    – Change instances of “he/she” in official writings to a neutral they. It’s already commonly in use and accepted by several style guides. If you must, heave a weary sigh in your own heart about the desecration of the English language, and make the change. This is also great practice for using a singular they, in case you ever have a coworker come out as non-binary.
    – See what can be done about setting up single-occupancy rest rooms. It might not be possible in your current office space or culture, but if you have any input in a move, think about single-occupancy restrooms in the same way you’d think about accessible toilet stalls or private nursing rooms. You may not ever need them as an accommodation, but you’ll find they get plenty of use thanks to the curb cut effect.
    — Just let people use whatever restroom they feel comfortable in. If anyone feels uncomfortable sharing bathroom space with a trans person, they are welcome to make the hike to the nearest single-occupancy bathroom, rather than expecting the trans colleague to do so every time.
    – Check your insurance policies and determine whether they cover gender-affirming procedures. If you’re locked into a contract, there might not be anything to be done, but if you have input into choosing a new insurance provider, see if you can find one that covers gender-affirming procedures — or be vocal to your provider about your disappointment that those procedures aren’t covered. Yours might be the voice that helps tip the scales and makes gender confirmation more accessible for everyone.
    — Even if you’re curious, don’t ask your coworker questions about what their medical transition will look like. You (hopefully) wouldn’t ask a cis coworker if they were planning to have a vasectomy or tubal litigation, so don’t ask a trans coworker those types of questions. I had someone corner me to ask if I was having The Surgery, and it was really unpleasant.
    – If you make a mistake, correct yourself and move on. It happens to everyone, all the time — I still sometimes mentally refer to myself as ‘she.’ It can be hard to break a habit, and people get that. Correcting yourself and moving the conversation forward is always a better idea than a really drawn out apology.
    — Gently correct others on behalf of your coworker, even if they’re not present. There’s no need to make a production out of it, but correcting someone saves your trans coworker from having to do the mental calculus of “do I have the social capital to correct this person, will they be gracious or make it weird, do they even realize they slipped up.”

    I came out to my coworkers via an all-staff email on the Friday before I was set to be out of the office for a week-long training. In that email, I included links to articles that went into more depth about what it means to be transgender and how to support a transitioning colleague. My goal was to allow people the opportunity to answer some of their own questions so I didn’t have to spend a lot of mental energy doing so when I was back in the office. It mostly went pretty well!

    I’ll try to check back in and add anything if I think of anything else and to answer a few questions, but I’m in meetings all afternoon. Thanks to OP and Alison for giving us this forum to discuss the topic!

    1. merula*

      Singular they in English dates back to at least Shakespeare, and likely before, and has been in continuous use for as long as Modern English has existed.

      Anyone who views this as the desecration of the language can kindly go duck themselves.

  41. Company Communication Faux Pas*

    A small detail can make a big error…

    As HR, I wrote an announcement of a new staff member who used ‘them’ as their pronoun and sent it to Marketing to include in the weekly company newsletter. When the announcement came out (no pun intended) in a company-wide email, the Marketing person changed ‘them’ to ‘her’ without consulting me. I was upset that she changed the text without asking first to verify so I talked with her about it and she suggested I explain the pronoun usage beforehand so it doesn’t happen again. I apologized profusely on behalf of the ‘company’ to the new staff member and they were sweetly forgiving and explained that they understood educating people would be a constant that they’ve resolved to do because people simply have no clue sometimes.

    Two lessons learned:
    1) Don’t ever assume people are savvy about trans issues in 2020 – spelling it out is required sometimes
    2) Take the time to talk with the trans person about how things are going for them, especially when mistakes are made. It matters a lot to show the extra care.

    1. Valprehension*

      Aw, that’s so sad. I was fortunate that when I came out sort of locally at my own work branch, my managers were savvy enough to make sure the info filtered up to those who needed to know. The next time there was a staffing announcement about me (new position! yay!) they got my pronouns right. Little things like that are *so* affirming, and it’s great that you at least tried to get the announcement through correctly (and especially nice that you didn’t try to sidestep by rewording things to avoid pronouns entirely – we notice when y’all do that :P)

  42. GS*

    For nonbinary folks (as opposed to folks transitioning into a different binary): if you have a set of women’s bathrooms with stalls, and a set of men’s bathrooms with stalls, and a couple single-use bathrooms that are non-gender-specific, it’s great if the non-gender-specific ones don’t end up being everyone else’s “poop bathrooms”. I honestly don’t know how to fix this but it seems to happen.

    With regards to pronouns, normalizing pronoun declarations is great but also make space for folks who don’t want to self-declare on any given day. When my pronouns are required I need to decide to closet myself or not, which takes a lot of emotional energy, and maybe I just wanted to go through my day allowing people to assume whatever they wanted so I could use that energy on working, or sorting myself through whether and how I want to openly transition.

    Further, I have yet to see a workspace make good room for genders and pronouns other than the standard set (he/she/they, male/female/nonbinary). Ideally the goal is not just to add a third category but to let people be comfortable self-expressing.

    1. Alton*

      While I see a lot of positives about pronoun sharing, I agree with you that there are drawbacks. It can pressure people to decide if they’re comfortable outing themselves. Also, while encouraging cis people to share their own pronouns is part of the point, what I’ve observed happening a lot is that it becomes an extension of the status quo. When you’re the only person in the room whose pronouns don’t “match” the gender people think you are by looking at you, that can still feel othering. And when cis people are used to taking for granted that people’s pronouns will be what they expect, they don’t always learn to really make an effort.

      One time, I was repeatedly misgendered by a cis colleague while we were teaching a workshop about being an LGBT ally. The fact that we’d started off by stating our pronouns just made the misgendering more awkward and conspicuous.

      1. GS*

        Yes, wrt status quo and othering. I’ve been surprisingly hurt at conferences that have pre-made fancy “he” “she” and “they” pronoun tags and I need to write mine in sharpie on a repurposed sticker or something. It’s like– even the people who want to be inclusive think I’m too different to plan for.

        A space that has the option of including pronouns definitely feels more welcoming than one that has no method for communicating that info. It just can be done badly, and sometimes terribly.

        1. Frankie (ze/hir)*

          This is the WORST, I cannot begin to express how much I loathe the fact that it’s becoming more common to see she, he, and they as the only pronoun options for stickers/badges/dropdown menus etc.

          Non-binary isn’t just a “third gender!” It is so, so much bigger than that. Just have everyone write it out or use an open-text field. That’s all you need to do.

      2. ceiling cat*


        I want it to be normal and fine for people to share their pronouns and have that respected. However, I don’t want it to be a big thing where you have to tell everyone your gender and whether you are trans, or else you’re suspect and not a team player. And as you say, just sharing your pronouns isn’t enough if it’s going to be a-ok for trans people to be casually misgendered! Also +a million to GS and Frankie and the need for sharing pronouns to be more than just he/she/they. It sort of reminds me of organizations who make a big thing out of not saying things like “stand-up meeting” because some people are disabled and can’t stand, but won’t make their bathrooms or desks accessible.

    2. ...*

      I don’t think there’s a way to regulate who goes #2 where and what they identify as. I am a proponent of more single stall restrooms!!

      1. Dingbat*

        I feel bad for the NB people but I definitely get why everyone wants to poop there. More single stall restrooms for everyone!

        1. 'Tis Me*

          I’m one of those lucky people who has morning sickness all the way through pregnancy. It’s usually worse first thing and overnight, but I also hold the distinction of being the only person who’s ever had to interrupt my line manager to tell him I was about to vom then run out of the room during a one to one – it can hit at any time. And when it’s playing up I may need to go to the loo and vom at the same time (my entire digestive tract convulses violently – I have torn my stomach lining being sick on more than one occasion). Having privacy, a sink, space to clean up, a mirror etc in with the toilet is really useful! Otherwise you end up reassuring people – in between puking more and cleaning up – that you really are definitely fine, there’s no need to worry, it’s OK for you to be in the office like this…

    3. ceiling cat*

      Ideally the goal is not just to add a third category but to let people be comfortable self-expressing.

      Yes! I’d love to see more places that allowed for nonbinary pronouns beyond singular they. And also expanded dress codes so trans people don’t just get locked in to a new set of restrictive norms (and let cis people be gender non-conforming at work as well!).

      1. Pomona Sprout (she/her)*

        Enthusiastically seconding the importance of non-restractive dress codes! I’m a cis female myself, but I can’t remember the last time I wore a dress or a skirt; I don’t own any of either; and anyone who tries to force me to wear dresses can go pound sand. Same thing with high heels (actually I do remember the last time I wore heels, only because they were part of a Halloween costume, lol).

        I know there are people of various genders who like to wear those things, and that’s great. As long as there aren’t safety issues involved, I am all for people wearing what feels right for them. Workplaces not having gender-based dress codes is better for everyone concerned, imo.

  43. YA Author*

    My husband managed a new-grad coworker while she transitioned. It was the first time their company had encountered the situation, and they didn’t have plans in place. So, my husband and the HR VP talked to the coworker about how she’d like things handled (change of name and pronouns, timing, how public, etc) as well as talking to therapists, advocates, other HR departments, etc. to get plans in place.

    My husband also had conversations with the rest of the team explaining what was and was not acceptable (use the appropriate name and pronouns, be professional, don’t use these terms/slurs, etc.). Everything went really well until it didn’t, unfortunately.

    Travel was a big part of this job, and airport security can be awful for trans travelers. Even though the company was very supportive of the coworker and she was traveling with colleagues (not alone), a situation with airport security (in the US within the past couple of years) led to the woman having a breakdown, being emotionally unable to return home, needing a parent to fly out to assist her, and, eventually, the company being sued for putting her in that situation.

    I don’t think that suit was successful, but the woman stopped working entirely (not just for that company). I look forward to the day when transitions are more accepted in society.

  44. ElizabethJane*

    I would keep a document for the transitioning employee of everyone who *has* to know. Something to the effect of “Once you start the process we will need to inform Jane in HR for your records change and Adam in accounting to make sure your payroll is updated”.

    I am not personally involved but I did have one coworker transition and he wanted to control how his coworkers were informed. Which is a reasonable request but he was frustrated when Jane in HR knew, because Jane had to be involved in the process of changing his documentation. Some of that was my coworkers unreasonable expectations (he wanted his manager to do it, even though the manager didn’t have access to that system) and some of it was our manager doing a terrible job of explaining who needed to be involved at what point. A clear conversation from the outset would have helped pretty much everything there.

  45. Lee*

    Instead of using the term ‘Gender Transition Guidelines’ consider using ‘Guidelines for updating Gender Identity information’ or similar. For many trans people, they have previously transitioned outside of the workplace and/or don’t want the emphasis to be on the process.

    Coordination of the updating of systems matters. Make the HR system, the internal directory, the external directory, the phone systems, etc all happen at the same time. Nothing is worse than discovering months later that the name wasn’t updated somewhere.

  46. Quickbeam*

    I was working as an RN at a facility for those with behavioral issues. I was occasional staff (PRN). There was a nursing assistant transitioning male to female. No one thought to include the PRN staff in the training. So the next time I showed up, it was jarring. Make sure your occasional employees are in on whatever training you are giving.

    Also, just as an aside, I’m a really butch woman and the trans employee was constantly trying to get makeup and clothing tips from me at work. I had to finally say: “that’s not me, That’s not how I live, I don’t even know stuff like eyeliner and skirts. You’ll need to ask someone else”.

    1. Alexandra Lynch*

      Yeah, me too. I’m profoundly uncomfortable with a lot of femme performance myself, and so I’m not the person to ask about all this. There’s a reason I wear very minimal makeup and my hair in a simple bun.

  47. Gemma*

    Let them have one named contact in HR who they can deal with for all things like name change paperwork, updating departmental records etc.

    Review all of your departmental policies to ensure gender neutrality, especially around things like parental leave etc.

    Model pronoun sharing in both email signatures, but in team meetings and telekits – this not only supports trans people, but also people who are blind/partially sighted and might not be able to math voices/names with a person’s pronouns in the same way that sighted people can.

    Check the legal position where you live and ensure that you’re complying with legal requirements – in the UK, we have the 2010 Equality Act and whilst some of the stuff in there is outdated, there’s lots that’s useful.

    Ask the person, and don’t assume that every trans person wants, needs or would appreciate the same treatment.

    Am coming at this from a cis female POV, but spent the last 18 months working in Diversity and Inclusion for a medium sized government organisation, where a part of my job was around supporting trans staff in the workplace, so really keen to see anything else on this thread

  48. HR Guru and Employee Advocate*

    I’m an HR person who has been part of the process to help transitioning employees at work for a few companies.
    As an HR person, it should be my responsibility that employees needs are met just as the employers needs are met. Employees should feel safe and welcome in the workplace and employers should feel confident that work is getting done effectively – but I’m preaching to the choir here.

    Things I recommend ALL companies should do for transitioning employees:
    If they are onboarding, ask them how they want to be addressed and their preferred pronouns.
    Make sure they have email, phone listings, any communication with their name on it at all, set up with their preferred name.
    When introducing them to other employees, use their preferred name and pronouns.
    Correct anyone who does not and meet with them privately if it continues to be an issue. (You’d do the same if an employee kept calling someone Sammy when she preferred to be called Samantha and you knew it bothered her). Slurs are also NOT OK. If someone corrects your language, own up to the mistake gracefully and don’t make excuses.
    Ask the employee how they would like for you to ensure they are being treated well in the workplace. If they would like to handle things themselves, that’s great, be supportive and remind them of company pertinent guidelines. If they want your help, give them a game plan for how you can help and keep an open door policy so they know they can come to you if anything changes.
    Bathroom access is huge.
    Training for managers is also incredibly important. Meet with them privately to discuss how your company is making sure that all employees are welcome at work. Tell the employee that you are going to do this first if possible, sometimes it’s not if the manager wants to be proactive and reached out to you first. Try to ensure open communication channels are in place.
    Payroll is tricky. Employees legal names may be required to be on their payslip, there is some grey area around payslips that are not paychecks, but are just a record of payment. In my experience, it can sometimes depend on the banking institution’s requirements.
    Most importantly, treat them like a person, because they are. All people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of how you may feel.

    If you have an employee who is already working for you, all of the above is important plus a few extra things.
    Other employees may continue to use the transitioning employee’s dead name. This is not ok. Conduct training as needed to ensure that this does not continue to happen and to make sure employees know how to correct themselves. It’s ok to mess up sometimes, it’s not ok to cause intentional pain. This is very probably against your company’s workplace etiquette policy regarding respectful treatment of others at work. This applies to other HR staff as well.
    Ensure that all leadership is on board with how your company will work with transitioning employees to make sure the message you are communicating is consistent throughout the company.

    Above all else, ASK the transitioning employee what they want. They may want different things than I have mentioned. They may want all of the above. You won’t know unless you ask and unless you have been through the transition process yourself, there are things you’ll probably miss.

    Be kind. Do your best.

  49. Alli*

    Last year, I became the first person to transition at my 1000+ employee company – so I was in the unique position to help my company develop a process to manage my transition. I ended up taking a week off on an unrelated vacation, and HR worked with the systems folks to make sure my name was completely changed over by the time I came back. In the meantime, my direct manager sent an email to the teams with whom I worked most closely, and then as soon as I returned to work HR had already scheduled an appointment with Security first thing to update my security badge name and picture.

    The messaging to people was always presented as unambiguous, and just as “a thing that is happening”. I think this went a long way towards normalizing it – for example, my manager’s email was “One of my employees is updating her contact information, please find her new information below” with my new name, pronouns, and workplace contact information attached. Both HR and my manager went out of their way to make sure that I knew that if someone was being crappy about gender stuff that both of their doors were open to raise those concerns; fortunately, this is something that has not come up at all, and certainly everyone with whom I’ve interacted has been very considerate.

    I think one of the most important things for me was that I was involved in the process. I felt that I was able to make decisions about how things would be communicated, and make sure that it was handled in a way with which I was comfortable.

    1. Alli*

      Oh, right – the resource I used most when I was working with HR was actually the guidelines from the American Association of Museums, which were published last year and which I found to be very well-written and inclusive. I believe I’ve mentioned them in comments here before, but I wanted to make sure I mentioned those again in this context and forgot in my original comment! Whoops.

  50. metageeky*

    First of all, I completely recommend passing on to your IT people this Trans-Inclusive Design Guide for the various ways technology can inhibit or harm the trans experience:

    Now, as for some personal experiences:

    1. If you have rosters, directories, etc. that list a person’s name, contact info, and photo, those should be updated as soon as possible around the time of transition. When I transitioned in grad school, most things were updated fast, save for the list of grad students on the website, complete with photos. I had to appeal strongly to get that fixed months later.

    2. Make sure HR is thorough in their edits. FOURTEEN years after transitioning, I got hired for a full-time job at the same university. Turns out that embedded in my HR record was a listing that I was male. It wasn’t something that was normally exposed, but it makes me wonder if at any point it led to bias against hiring me. It also meant I had to come out to our HR person right then.

    3. If you have a gender-neutral or single stall bathroom, do not constantly mention it to the trans person. Their bathroom choice is personal. Some trans people like gender-neutral. Some want to use the restrooms of their gender identity. Calling such bathrooms the trans option basically says that trans people are the other.

    4. Also, in terms of general diversity/inclusion work, don’t lump the accessible restrooms, gender-neutral restroom, and baby-changing tables all in the same place. You end up getting feuds over who has the right to use them. It’s not pretty.

      1. metageeky*

        Awesome. As one of the advisers to that report, we love to see it reach the people who can effect change.

  51. Anon for today*

    Please- do not write “Name (deadname)” on forms, notes or schedules! Someone at work transitioned a year ago, and today a schedule came out like that.
    It’s been corrected but seriously? Not okay.

  52. Liz Hare*

    Its a really interesting topic. It isn’t an easy solution and one made worse in tech given difficulty in changing existing data and paperwork once an employee has officially started at a company.

    It isn’t just a one and done step from HR on down – logistically it took several folk most of a day to get my name changed over across all of our systems. In some systems (version control comes to mind) history is tied to email address and can cause extra stress by keeping someones deadname (the name they used to use) around in the conciousness for folks who may not have known they were trans.

    Outside of names – having a lot of control over who I told, when I told them, and how I told them along with the buy in from my manager and HR to implement my plan on my timeline made my coming out relatively smooth. Having allies willing to step up and help with minor social issues (correcting someone when they use the wrong name or pronoun) helps to reduce the need for someone to feel like they have to fight an uphill battle to be seen. Being an ally to trans folks at our company means being active.

    There is more there on issues with the need for space for extra medical, behavioral appointments. Transition is still heavily medicalized and gate kept even in spaces where hospitals have more modern informed consent policies. Doctors, behavioral health folks still are only open mostly during the day. Ultimately we need to be aware that the first several months of medical/social transition are full of hoops for a person to jump through while they are going through what is likely one of the most stressful situations in their lives.

    Specific needs around requests for coverage for trans healthcare in our insurance policies when it comes time to negociate our group policies. I’ve heard plenty of issues from trans friends of mine about insurance coverage not existing on their plans and needing to buy personal health insurance plans. Its a small cost to our company but a huge edge in terms of retaining and keeping some of the brightest and most effective and loyal employees at a company after all so much of our lives are tied to our ability to access medical care.

  53. Eillah*

    I think the single most important part is to LISTEN to your trans employees and value their voices. Sometimes being heard makes the most impact.

  54. Mr. Tyzik*

    Two things I haven’t seen noted as of yet – this is coming from a perspective of a non-binary person watching others transition in Fortune 50 workplaces:

    – Provide employee support. A counseling line is an essential benefit, and a plan that provides for limited visits to therapists and other providers are even better. Since I’ve worked at large companies, I’ve seen this benefit extended to family members of the transitioning employee to help them adjust. If you can’t provide this as a separate company benefit, at least ensure your medical insurance provider covers surgeries, provider visits, and everything else needed.

    – Provide equal pay. I’ve known a number of MtF employees who received smaller raises, smaller promotion bonuses, smaller salaries, after transition. One woman who was a contractor routinely made 20% less on contracts after she transitioned. She was found out by a team I worked on and bullied out by toxic male leaders. An exception, fortunately, but ensuring that those who are transitioning or who have transitioned have equal pay and ability to submit a complaint if they find out otherwise.

    – Do not change performance expectations due to gender. Related to equal pay, I’ve known some, mainly MtF, who received gendered feedback and lower performance evaluations than previously given, when performance targets and completion rates remained constant. Make sure you have protection for this kind of passive “retaliation” or bias upon which performance is judged.

  55. Nekussa*

    My company had a fairly high-level person transition, and sent out a very matter-of-fact email that the person previously called X would now be called Y and would be using she/her pronouns. I don’t know the person myself so I can’t say how the experience was for them, but as the recipient of the email I can say the company certainly appeared to have handled the announcement in a professional manner. Something has changed, here’s the pertinent information, please update your notes, that’s it.

  56. Sally*

    In 1999 I worked temp at a service desk for an employee who was out for gender reassignment surgery. I should not have known that! I was very surprised that the temp agency knew and told me. I assumed the employee wasn’t trying to keep the news private, but geez, not everyone needs to know someone’s personal medical information. So my advice is – don’t gossip about people and don’t tell news that isn’t yours to tell!

  57. Alton*

    One thing I’ve found limiting as a non-binary person is that a lot of resources for transitioning on the job seem to assume that someone is starting out presenting as their gender assigned at birth and then medically and legally transitioning to the opposite binary gender. Things like having a discussion with HR about my transition plans felt unnecessary when I wasn’t on hormones and wasn’t making any legal changes. This can also apply to a lot of binary trans people. Some people start to socially transition gradually.

    This is something to keep in mind with regards to policies and culture. For example, if there’s a “male” dress code and a “female” dress code and staff have to justify switching, that can be difficult for people who are non-binary, gender-nonconforming, or who are just starting to transition. Similarly, if people have to jump through hoops to change their name on their email, that can impact people who haven’t legally changed their names. If it’s possible to make a process simple or gender-inclusive from the start, it’s helpful to do so.

    I also think it’s important to set a good example and support an inclusive culture. Things like people putting their pronouns in their email signatures is of limited usefulness if people don’t pay attention or make an effort to use the pronouns someone has requested, for example. There are different levels of inclusivity, and it’s not always enough to just create some policies or have some diversity training and then call it a day. People have to actually care.

  58. Lauren*

    Ask them how to communicate their transition. Don’t do it for them via a group meeting or company wide email. Don’t tell clients on their behalf – but do give them the option to announce or not announce as they see fit. For clients, you may want to have a process in place – because ignoring it likely isn’t an option. So ask how they want to tell clients, and tell them that it can be done in person or via email, but needs to be mentioned by X date.

    NEVER EVER – Out someone before they start their 1st day if they are transitioning or have already and it may be obvious. Bottom line include them in the conversation on day 1.

    1. Duck Rover*

      Hmm…not always. I’ve worked with trans employees who specifically requested an email be sent out to their department and others they worked with because they didn’t want to communicate it or explain it to every person they saw.

      The email went something like this:

      Dear Team,

      I’m writing to share an important update about of our team members with their permission.

      Bob in Teapot Design has made the courageous decision to come out at work as transgender. When we return to work on Monday, our colleague will no longer go by the name Bob and should instead be referred to by her new name, Susan. Also, Susan will be going by the pronouns she and her.

      I understand that some of you may have questions about how best to support Susan and create an inclusive and welcoming work environment for her as she takes this next step on her journey. With that in mind, we are offering the following resources:

      – I have attached a simple glossary explaining what language is most inclusive and appropriate for you to use
      – I have arranged for a consultant from ______ to come in and provide a workshop on transgender identities and inclusive language. Lunch will be provided. While the workshop is not mandatory, we strongly encourage all employees to attend.
      – Our HR business partner will be on hand to answer any immediate questions about workplace policies pertaining to transgender employees.

      I am grateful for your commitment and effort to making this workplace transition as smooth as possible for Susan. Our welcoming and supportive team culture is my favorite thing about working with you all, and I know you’ll all do your very best to continue valuing the contributions that Susan brings to the team.


      1. Lauren*

        But the employee asked for the email to happen on their behalf. It wasn’t done without their permission. That is what I meant. Get permission first.

  59. MicroManagered*

    My employer has made it part of the recommended email signature to include your preferred pronouns and honorifics.

    Jane Doe
    Teapot Painter, Design Department
    Teapots Unlimited
    123 Address Street, City, State, ZIP
    pronouns: she/her/hers | honorific: Ms.

    1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      I wish every company would do this. I put my pronouns and honorific on my business card and email signature, and when my boss asked how he could support me, I asked him to do the same. Of course he hasn’t. I would rather be obvious about it than have people get it wrong, but it’s hard basically having to single myself out that way.

      1. Atalanta0jess*

        I’m sorry your boss’s offer was so empty. That’s really the least you could ask, and he didn’t do it!? Ugh.

  60. Kelly*

    Although this topic is primarily focused on an existing employee transitioning, I’d thought I’d share some suggestions on how to be more transgender-friendly during the hiring process:
    1. Provide (optional) fields on applications for preferred names and/or pronouns. (Don’t make them mandatory though.)
    2. Make it clear that unless otherwise indicated (for a valid reason) any questions about gender can be answered in accordance with how one identifies.
    3. Recognize that a trans applicant may have relevant information that is under their former name and you can ask about that, but don’t require disclosure of a previous name that no relevant records would be under. (The age at/length of time since transitioning, as well as the cooperation of one’s references/previous employers/schools is a factor here.)

    1. Kelly*

      Re: #3 – With jobs that require a formal criminal history check I think the best solution would be to allow a trans applicant to provide their deadname/birth gender directly to the investigator/records bureau and they use the information strictly for record searching and not disclose it back (unless a relevant crime was actually found under the name). A system like that exists in the UK.

      1. James*

        In general, when I deal with providing sensitive personal data to an agency for a background check (routine in my job) I offer to provide the contact name directly, and make it clear that I fully understand any hesitation in providing me with such sensitive data, as well as the policy for dealing with such data. That policy can be easily adapted to information related to transitioning–it’s a reason to not want me to see your data, and I fully respect that.

  61. James*

    One thing I saw done wrong: I know of a company that sent out a region-wide memo that someone was transitioning. Most of the people who got the memo did not work with the person, so it was…weird. It was obvious that the company was trying to do the right thing and proactively inform people of what was and wasn’t acceptable behavior with regards to transitioning employees; it was also obvious that they were calling additional, and unwanted, attention to this person. To their credit, they did not name names, but if there’s only one person transitioning it’s easy enough to find out who that person is.

    I’m not saying that people need to keep quiet about transitioning; be as open as you feel comfortable with! But the company shouldn’t be calling attention to it like this. Maybe take this as an opportunity to update a few things, and send out an email saying “We’re updating a number of policies, including (list other stuff), and policies regarding transgender employees and the transition process.” The point isn’t to hide anything; the point is to make it normal. And I’ve never seen an organization that didn’t need an excuse to look for policies that need updated.

    1. nom de plume*

      This is such a violation of privacy, even without naming names, since it’s easy to assume everyone would be on the “lookout” for who it was! Plus, it made it a public issue without the individual being looped in. Totally cringeworthy.

  62. Duck Rover*

    I was the director of an LGBTQ campus center for 5 years and directly managed the transition plans for 3 trans employees. I wrote our institution’s guidelines on the topic too. There’s too much for me to relay in a comment but the one thing I’d drive home is this: give the trans employee control of the pace and order of how you do things – from notifying HR and managers to updating directories/email/name badges/door plates, etc. Don’t try to rush their process or slow it down because it’s “convenient” for other employees or the company. Ask the employee for their proposed timeline of when they want things to occur and then follow that.

    Also: tell them colleagues will likely have questions about how to be respectful, what various policies say about trans people at work, etc. Offer to bring in a consultant who specializes in trans inclusion training to lead that for staff. The trans employee may say no because they worry it’ll make too much of a fuss but I really recommend it if they’re open to it. Provide a space for employees to get all their questions out with someone who is paid and trained to answer them – don’t put that burden on the trans employee.

  63. Close Bracket*

    Be aware of where there might be group photos of a transitioning employee from pre-transition. People have vastly different opinions about this. Some want all pre-transition pictures taken down, some do not. Check with the person in question.

  64. JT*

    I think the most important thing is to let the individual lead the process – it’s their life, their stress, their blossoming, and their personhood. Not all trans people will want to transition the same way!
    Some will like to send out an email at the end of the day, take a week vacation, and come back as their true self.
    Others will want to sit down in small groups and have an in-person discussion about the change and to inform about their new name/pronouns.
    Some might want to do it as quietly and discreetly as possible, bringing as little attention to themselves as possible.
    Other might want a big party!

    Make sure that you have all the logistical supports in place – updating databases, getting paperwork in order, alerting HR, and then be there to offer whatever personal supports the individual might be looking for.

    Offer gender diversity/queer/inclusivity training! Don’t allow it to fall on the backs of the queer people in your organization to constantly teach and correct people.

    And for crying out loud, let the trans person pee where they feel most comfortable. If anyone else has an issue with it *they* can go use a different washroom.

  65. AnonAlly*

    A colleague (let’s call her N) is in the midst of an MtF transition at my company in a non-US country and presents decidedly female.
    Our company’s handling of the transition is super weird.
    I’m sure there was a lot going on with managers and HR in the background, but in everyday work and among us worker bees, a cloak of deadly silence has descended. We all pretend *absolutely nothing* is going on! And not in a good way. It’s all strangely bigoted:
    We still call a *very female* N by her male name and use male pronouns. We completely ignore obvious physical and clothing changes (meaning I don’t dare compliment her for a *good* choice and risk getting into trouble). No criticism, no encouragement.
    I’m in the LGBT group myself, and I don’t dare even speak to N about her or myself (I was harassed years ago by colleagues trying to figure out where on the LGBT spectrum I am, and they are fishing again).
    Weirdness galore. I suppose once all the legal name/gender changes have happened, we will get a sudden announcement. It feels uncomfortable.

    1. AnonAlly*

      Oh, and N. obviously waits until nobody is around before she uses the bathroom (both bathrooms are door to door). I haven’t seen her in the hallway a single time!

  66. Rae*

    A tenant in our building (I handle tenant relations) had an employee transition from MtF. From a security key card standpoint we just changed the name. We did the same thing when a tenant got married and changed their name. But like I said, it wasn’t our employee. It was an employee of one of our tenants.

    That was the easy part. Then it got messy.

    As soon as Monday rolled around other employees of the same tenant spoke to us and requested that the women’s restroom on their floor have locks put on the door. This is a multi-stall restroom. All stalls lock. They wanted the door into the multi-stall restroom to be locked. This is an older building so we only have multi-stall restrooms. While the city we live in is quite blue, a good portion of the state is red so we did not want to risk an overzealous religious freedom complain. We ended up stalling for a bit saying (correctly) that we did not want to add additional hardware to the doors. After a week or two they dropped it and I believe the two people who complained decided to use the restroom on a different floor.

  67. SaraC*

    My current employer allows the employee to choose the name they actually use, and that name shows on anything I need to see about my employees (I’m a store manager). I find this really helpful, compared to the company that I worked for previously. There, I had an employee who was assigned female at birth with a feminine birth name, and so I had a harder time using the correct pronouns when he came out to me as transgender and began hormone therapy (he used his real name in the store, but the company only used his legal name). Luckily, he was very patient with me if I used the wrong pronoun. Now, I only see the chosen name from my end, even if proper HR docs have their legal name on it. It’s a meaningful detail.

  68. DAH*

    A fabulous resource is Gender Spectrum- While still in higher ed, we had them present a number of times and I have been through their trainings as well. They are amazing.

    We also had gender-neutral bathrooms. It seems outdated to see male and female bathrooms now.

  69. zebra*

    I can only give perspective from someone who worked in an office with a person who transitioned, but we didn’t work closely together — I barely knew their name, just to say hello when we passed in the lunchroom. I have no idea what went on behind the scenes, but I got an all-staff announcement email that just very matter of factly said “From now on, [Old name] will be [New name]” and that their email would stay the same, since we did first initial + last name and their new name still started with the same first letter. That was it, no extra details or anything, and their name was changed in the phone system and a new nameplate for their desk showed up that day too. Everyone was very chill about it (that I ever saw). But this was an office in San Francisco full of do-gooder types and there were many other LGBTQ and GNC folks so most people were familiar with the concept.

  70. RK*

    The new book “Supporting Trans People In Libraries” has some really great practical advice for all employers, not just libraries. A lot of it similar to what’s posted above, but it includes some useful scripts to use as well. It has a really extensive section on how to do pro-noun sharing in a non-harmful way, lots of discussion of bathrooms, health insurance, the hiring process, creating forms, and organizing conferences. Full disclosure, the author is my brother (and a fellow AAM reader!), but I read it with my manager hat on (not in the library field) and it has really opened my eyes to all the should-have-been-obvious ways that my own organization is failing its trans employees and potential employees.

    1. SGK*

      Thank you, sister of mine! I also recommend the book Transgender Employees in the Workplace: A Guide for Employers, by Jennie Kermode (some details may be UK-specific, but most of the content isn’t). Someone else in the comments already suggested Erin White’s article “Trans-inclusive Design” (, which has great information for the systems side of things. For general behavior, the Trans Allyship Workbook ( has very good practical guidance.

  71. Minimal Pear*

    People are talking about changing electronic records, but don’t forget paper ones! We’ve got an employee who I’m pretty sure is trans, and I know this because his personnel file is clearly and obviously labeled with what looks to be a deadname. It’s been crossed out and replaced, but the original writing is still visible. I understand that the documents inside the file probably shouldn’t be altered, but the label for the file itself would be an easy fix. I’ve honestly contemplated going rogue and fixing it myself.

    1. Blueberry*

      +1 I remember when we realized we needed to update a student’s paper file with their transition, later than we should have (during college application season) but once we did realize was very easy (a new folder and a note, that’s all). So making a note of this in the guidelines is a really good idea.

  72. anonny*

    At my previous company, the manager of the individual sent out an announcement of her transition. It was very fact-based and the manager indicated that she had consulted with the employee about sharing the details (minimal). In addition, the manager restated the corporate policy about nondiscrimination and essentially said, I will not tolerate any discrimination of any kind and this employee has my full support. I wish I saved the email because it was so good. Provided the information people would need to know to interact with the person transitioning, reiterating policy and making it clear that no bullshit was allowed. It was amazing.

  73. Love and respect*

    From an operations view, here are some things that have worked well at my employer:
    -When new employees are onboarded I give them a form with all the other paperwork they have to complete and it asks for both “legal name” and “preferred name”. It also asks for sex and pronouns separately. No matter who I think is or isn’t in the room or how many people I’m onboarding, I say “give us your legal name for payroll and also the name we call you, if that’s different. Also this form asks for you to write in your sex, which is really only needed because I have to enter it into our medical insurance system, and a pronoun field so we know how to refer to you”. I say it to every employee; there’s no need to wait until someone asks or you *think* someone wants to know this. It also helps create a culture of knowing some people have legal names that they don’t use. More people do than you think!
    -As a person who does payroll that other people approve, I write the names that people use in our payroll file that I look at all the time, even though in our payroll system it’s the legal names. I had a colleague once who did payroll who could just not remember anyone’s preferred name because she was always looking at a file with only legal names on it, and she often used the incorrect name for people (including people who went by their middle name, had an Americanized version of their name, etc.). It was rude. All of our personnel files and the payroll file that my two bosses look at and approve each week have only preferred names on them, so nobody gets confused from looking at the wrong one all the time.
    -I tell all employees who has access to their employment and benefits paperwork (myself, X people in payroll or accounting, and X people in HR). This way if anyone comes across an issue they know who to go to and don’t have to go first to their manager, who might not know if they’re sex is F with our medical insurance carrier but they are referred to as he/him, or who may not know what their legal name is if they’re not using it. Don’t create situations where people might have to out themselves as trans to find out who to talk to about changing their name on something. Just tell everyone up front who has access to these things.
    -Some of these suggestions don’t have to do specifically with someone transitioning while at work, but if you’re doing everything right from onboarding and on, then folks know who to go to if they do transition and you don’t have to scramble around figuring it out and risk someone feeling that burden because it’s all based on their particular transition.
    -Let the transitioning employee have a say or decision in how they tell people. Don’t make strict procedures like that HR will always email the entire company about a name change, etc. If the employee wants to make an announcement themselves, let them. If they would rather tell everyone individually, let them. Have flexible policies. Not all parts of a plan are going to work for everyone.
    -Our HR, Finance, and Tech teams all coordinate onboarding and off-boarding together and this is where we can hash out the details of making sure someone gets the correct name as their email address, etc.
    -All employees should be trained in basic decency, but especially people who handle sensitive information, hire and/or manage others, should not be surprised or confused by any of the needs that trans people have when transitioning or coming on as a new hire.
    -Also, when adopting an HRIS or employee benefits portal or other online systems to house information, ask first whether the system allows you to record an additional first name for someone, or if they require a field for sex or gender, and if so, does that info go straight to the health insurance or are employees able to complete that field separately if they enroll. Right now I’m using an HRIS system that requires gender as M/F and there’s no way to re-label the field or change the options. I wish I had asked this up front.
    -Have medical insurance that covers transition-related healthcare. Just choose it even if you don’t know if someone will need it. HSA plans are also useful if there’s a high deductible – there are a lot of costs that aren’t covered by many insurance plans but an HSA plan means anyone with high medical costs are able to get some more of a benefit by at least paying for them pre-tax. Think ahead and have these things in place. It’s going to help you recruit and retain the right people. Too many people who transition feel they have to wait to switch jobs to do it and squeeze everything in to a short amount of time because of external reasons. An employer getting their stuff sorted out should have no effect on when and how someone transitions or outs themselves.

  74. sb51*

    As someone who has been a sounding board for a family member doing this:
    1. Good on you for creating a document. Companies that take the stand that “we will do the right thing as we are good people” make more work for each individual person doing it; it’s a process, write it down, make it straightforward.
    2. Find out exactly what your vendors (medical insurance, etc) will handle and push back as much as you can on bad policies, and have the explanations ready. “The IRS will flag any mismatches here and audit you so we have to use full legal name” is understandable, if frustrating. “The credit union associated with us is using a completely inflexible company to contract out most of their services and won’t even do first-initial credit cards when everyone else will” should be a conversation *you* as HR are having, not something you put on the employee. If you help employees with immigration law etc, perhaps having company-provided resources to help with name changes would be something you can add.
    3. Educate your managers so that they’re ready to answer questions and not require the employee to field even the reasonable-but-repetitive ones.
    4. Manager materials should include making sure everyone is trained on general binary sexism in the workplace, so that a newly-recognized-as-female employee doesn’t suddenly have all the weight of misogyny flattening her along with any transphobia. Etc. If you’re already trying to help new female employees connect with more senior women as mentors, etc, realize that your transitioning employee may be a little lost on how to do that. (Probably the same is relevant in the opposite direction for female-dominated fields, but I’m used to seeing the effects in heavily-male-old-boys-network-tech.)
    5. Actually, in general, train your managers to be ready for all sorts of personal revelations, because people are going to have to have those conversations at work, often sooner than they’d prefer to talk to their boss about anything that personal. I say this both from my family member’s experience coming out to her boss, and the fact that several years ago, due to some timing issues, my boss was actually the first person I told about my cancer diagnosis, because I’d just gotten the results by phone, couldn’t reach my spouse, and needed to tell SOMEONE before I went into a fairly high-stakes meeting at work where I needed to be polished.
    6. Reach out to the employee to gauge what level of recognition they’d want. My family member was actually kind of deflated at how much of a nothing the formal coming-out-at-work was; she wouldn’t have wanted transphobic comments, but would have appreciated a little vocal support. Other people might be like “no fuss, including positive fuss, at all is IDEAL”. If it’s a company culture where every tiny milestone is celebrated by a team lunch or a cake or something, see if they want that for this. (Don’t assume, but check.)
    7. If they’re customer-facing in the sense of having long-term, ongoing relationships with customers, have very clear, standardized language available for both the employee and managers to explain the change to customers. And policies on what to do if a customer/client is rude about it.

  75. SusanIvanova*

    Don’t start the meeting looking very somber and saying “I know a lot of you have worked with Jerry, so this may be unexpected and we have counselors if you need to talk to them… (very long pause) … but Jerry is now Jolene” because everyone will fill in that long pause with “Oh no, Jerry died.”

    This was the late 90s, but it was also Silicon Valley so the only question (once we all got over the “whew, not dead!”) was “will the (notoriously finicky) IT system handle a name change?”

    1. Dasein9*

      Oof. Yes.

      I also got “We’re so happy we hired a woman in this role!” after the interview, at which I disclosed that I’m a trans man and at which I discussed my research in gender. In detail.

      I also got the very tall guy looking over the stall divider and catching an eyeful. (Not sorry.)

      I also got, right after starting HRT, the mysterious and sudden decline of all my work over the past 5 years from “Really very good, give this person tenure!” to “Terrible. Here’s a 25-page document about how horrible this person is; do not give tenure!” (I got tenure. And laid off a year later anyway.)

  76. Bubbles*

    I would suggest centralizing the process as much as possible. An employee shouldn’t have to spend considerable amounts of time going to HR, to Payroll, to IT, to Security, to the Mailroom, etc., to have to make changes. Going to HR should be enough; HR can notify the necessary departments as part of the checklist process for personal information changes. This is true for no matter the reason behind information change – gender transition, marriage/divorce, legal name changes for Reasons, etc.

    While I am not LGBT+ and consider myself an Ally, I am also aware that I don’t have experience dealing with impact of transitions and coming out. I think asking questions politely and privately is always a good place to start – I ask for preferences, for comfort levels, for guidance from the individual because it is their life being most affected.

  77. Random Thought*

    My employer has an LGBTQ employee network that meets periodically (let’s say monthly), both formally (scheduled meetings with an agenda, led by group-elected people) and informally (coffee conversations, volunteer events, happy hours). The network is open to any employee (including those who identify as an Ally) and is intended to give employees a safe place outside of their immediate work group/peer group to discuss issues, get support, etc. Obviously if a transitioning employee is not on a supportive team, that needs to be addressed with the team, but “absence of hostility” and “mandated professional behavior” is obviously not the same as “support.”

  78. Agent Diane*

    I’m a cis woman and have been involved when a caseworker colleague came to me to ask for help in their MtF transition. We discussed things around how to explain it to clients and other third party people who would see them less often than their colleagues. We also discussed the challenge around legal casework that had been put into the tribunal system in their dead name and would be unlikely to be heard until after their transition. To support my colleague, I reached out to a trans woman I know socially and she pointed me at the UK government guidance about it (link to follow). I was alarmed that my colleague’s manager, also helping, had not seen the gov guidance. So make sure your policy points to guidance and expects managers of someone transitioning to read it.

  79. Em from CT*

    I’ve only read through about half of the comments, so apologies if this is duplicative, but—

    I’d add that those of us who work in IT who are concerned about this issue should proactively be changing gender markers in our systems where we can. I manage a system that has a mandatory dropdown gender selector that includes only M and F as options. That was a decision made before I got here—or, more likely, not even a decision, just something that wasn’t thought about. Since I’m in a position to make that change, it’s on my list for ongoing development to remove the mandatory nature of the field, add more options, or both.

  80. George*

    I have no experience in this, but I would suggest it could be both helpful and important legally to consider if the transition may cause a problem for employees who may be of religious minorities.

    I am of a religion where men and women (based on biology appeance at birth) should not be seeing each other in certain situations. So, if I was a guy at a urinal and a woman-at-birth came in, that would cause me problems. Similarly, as a woman, I cover my hair so men do not see it. If I am in the women’s room and a guy-at-birth person comes in, it is the equivalent of the seeing me in my underwear if I am fixing my hair covering.

    This is not to say these individuals cannot be supported during their transition, but that policies should take into account potential conflicts and seek to ensure supporting the rights of one person does not violate the rights of another (in either direction).

    Sorry if the parlance is bulky, I don’t have it all down yet

    1. AnonAlly*

      I’m afraid religion, both Christian and otherwise, is an important factor in the discrimination and even danger trans human beings are unnecessarily exposed to.
      My parlance is not bulky at all. The world has moved on – get used to it.

      1. George*

        Anywhere that’s sanitary.

        It appears that, using my phone, some of my language got deleted by my fat fingers. It reads much more harshly than it was originally.

        I just want people to check potential conflicts ahead of time because it’s ultimately a good thing to do for everyone (see my comments below).

        I don’t think anyone should have to be uncomfortable when they are using the restroom. I do mean ANYONE.

    2. a heather*

      It sounds like a you problem, not a them problem. So you should probably seek out the single-stall restroom if it causes a problem for you if these things might happen.

      1. George*

        I can’t do that for the same reasons that many trans people cannot – there aren’t any.

        I was thinking “hey issues can come up, if they CAN be dealth with, that will make things smoother for everyone.” I was really coming from a place of support (see my comments below).

        Also, my religion is part of who I am and how I identify. It is not a problem any more than somebody’s gender, race, or enthnicity is a problem.

        1. a heather*

          I’m not saying your religion is a problem, but observing the restrictions of your religion is your problem.

          My point is, it’s a pretty untenable observance in the US to NEVER use the same restroom as a trans person, if you ever leave your own house and have to use non-single-stall public restrooms. Like others have said, you have definitely used a public restroom with a trans person without knowing that was the case.

          There are things you can do to adjust for this, from what you have said. You can decide to only remove/adjust your hair covering in a place where no one can walk in that you don’t know. A man could only use a stall instead of a urinal in a public restroom. These are not things that require a workplace to change anything to accommodate you.

          1. a heather*

            And of course, if you do require accommodations, then you need to ask for them. Just as HR can’t expect to know everything a trans person might need during their transition, or a new mother returning to work, or whatever, they are unlikely to know or understand the challenges you face. In my experience, any good HR person/department would be willing to help work something out if at all possible.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Given that the only way to be sure only assigned female at birth people use the women’s toilets would be an invasive search the only way to guarantee that situation for someone like yourself would be for you to use a single occupancy bathroom. That’s how I’d suggest a solution anyway.

      1. George*

        Yes, which don’t exist in many office buildings. However, some places now have stalls like individual powder rooms with full doors and walls. That would be a major improvement for so many reasons for so many people!

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I think saying there’s may be issues and you’ll need a process to resolve them may have been a more productive thread.

    4. James*

      Reasonable accommodations are one thing. Expecting others to act as if they were a member of your religion (such as expecting them to abide by your taboos) is another entirely.

      If I were a Muslim I could reasonably expect that my employer provided some alternative to pork products at company meals. I could also reasonably expect (in an office environment) to be allowed breaks for prayer if I were the type to engage in it (not all Muslims do). I could not, however demand that women wear burkas, despite my religion demanding they do so (again, not all sects of Islam do).

      If you feel the need to abide by this taboo it’s on you, not on others.

      Honestly, I understand where you come from. I’m a religious minority myself, in the Bible Belt to boot. I get the frustration at enduring minor, even unconscious, jabs at one’s religion on a daily basis. But we won’t win over people by acting fragile. It’s easy to develop a siege mentality; it means we need to be stronger and rise above it.

      1. George*

        So, I am observant. All my company events are on my Sabbath. All the food is not stuff I can eat (there’s nothing local they can get anyway). I really don’t care.

        I’m not expecting anyone to act like they are my religion (and calling them my “taboos” is very dismissive). I was coming from a place of heading off problems (if possible) by considering them before hand (please see my longer comment below).

        I do abide by my religion (again, it’s not a “taboo”), and I do not expect it from anyone else. I was only suggesting the consideration be made. The answer might range from “no” to “time to re-vamp the restrooms and make them all have nice individual fully-walled stalls with lots of room for people with medical issues too.” If they consider it (all I’m suggesting), they might walk away with a more comprehensive plan that’s better for everyone… or the plan they’d have anyway. Either way, they can honestly say they considered it.

        1. James*

          “…and calling them my “taboos” is very dismissive….”

          No offense intended. I’ve spent time around archaeologists and anthropologists, and in those circles “taboo” is a neutral word. ALL religions, cultures, and ethical codes have taboos. It merely means something forbidden–eating pork if you’re Jewish or Muslim, eating meat on Ash Wednesday if you’re Christian, eating certain animals or organs if you’re a Westerner, that sort of thing. What you mentioned was something forbidden by your religion, and therefore falls under the heading of taboos.

          I was NOT referring to your religion as a taboo. That would be nonsensical and insulting. A taboo is a specific prohibition within a cultural or ethical framework, NOT the framework itself.

          Hopefully that clears up my intent. :)

          “I was coming from a place of heading off problems … by considering them before hand…”

          Honestly, I don’t think they need to consider this; it’s a personal issue for you to deal with. It’s no different than, say, when a former boss required me to wear a red shirt and khaki pants, which I did not own (I go with jeans and earth tones, or black slacks for dress pants). Not their problem; the dress code was the dress code, I got to buy new cloths. Or, some people have insomnia (it’s symptomatic of migraines, so I’ve some experience here). Work starts when it starts, how you deal with this is your problem. It sucks, yeah. But a company can’t be expected to adjust to every minute nuance of every employee.

          To put this another way: Eventually, you run into fiscal issues. There’s only so much space for bathrooms in an office building. There’s only so much plumbing. (Unless you own the building, you may not have the ability to adjust this–many offices are rented, and the building manager provides the restroom facilities.) So there’s only so much they can do. Once they’ve done that, any further consideration on the topic is going to result in “We can only do what we’re doing”.

    5. Pizzaboi*

      Another thing to consider: statistically speaking you have definitely shared a bathroom with a trans person before. Most is us slip under the radar. I’ve been questioned almost never while using the facilities.

      1. Tinker*

        I am a martial artist, and I had to start wearing a cup because people who I worked with were unnerved if I did not wear one and it was not possible to tastefully explain why my protective equipment needs were not what they expected.

        This does not bode well for OP’s problem, needless to say.

    6. Pizzaboi*

      I’m not trying to attack you here, I just think it is important for you to know that you never know someone’s gender just by looking at them. Just like I don’t know someone’s religion by looking at them.

      In some religions, women are supposed to stay home and tend to children and men are the only decision makers, but we can’t enforce those religious doctrines on our coworkers, right? No one is asking to change your heart and mind and belief, but rather that you do what you do to navigate all of the other parts of the secular world which clash with your religion.

      1. George*

        Pizzaboi, you are not attacking (one of the few not coming across that way). You are absolutely right. I don’t expect anyone to adhere to my religion (or anyone else’s). I was really just trying to say “Great! Thinking ahead is wonderful. Look for unintended tensions now, so you can head them off if possible.”

        I’ve now written several versions of that in reply to several people. Somewhere along the way, I realized that I fat-fingered away some of my original comment, so it came out pretty… differently toned from what I wrote, which I assume is why people are reading things as non-supportive.

        You get a special reply for coming across very evenly despite my fat-fingers. I don’t know you, but I think I’d rather work with you than many others.

        Frankly, I don’t ask for the reasonable accommodations (like having some corporate events not on my Sabbath or having food I can actually eat). It’s kinda weird that people are seeing me as trying to make others bend to my religion, but I get that’s how it came out. Lesson learned, never type on the phone if it’s more that a tweets-worth.

        As a complete aside, I had a guy try to stop me from using the bathroom at work last week. For no reason (he just blocked the door to the restroom area where both bathrooms are located). I am, especially after that but also due to medical reasons involving the restroom, all about EVERYONE being able to use the bathroom without stress or fear!

    7. Vicky Austin*

      In that case, you should use a bathroom that can only be used by one person at a time. You probably have been in the same bathroom with people who were assigned female at birth and didn’t even realize it.

      1. George*

        Oh, if that were an option, so many people would probably prefer it (medical issues, indigestion, etc)!!

    8. The Ginger Ginger*

      Look, I get what you’re saying and why you’re saying it. But you’re going to make a ton of people very angry with that comment. You really need to understand that an assigned gender at birth can be INCORRECT. A woman fixing her hair under her covering in the restroom is not being seen by a man if a transgender woman walks into the restroom and sees her. She’s being seen by a woman, no matter what genitalia are attached. That’s part of what trans means. You’re comment is totally missing that and by doing so is flat out mis-gendering the people in your examples.

      There’s a TON more that can be said, including a discussion about non-binary/genderfulid and how gender isn’t even male or female, and has never been going back into history, or that people can be born with genitalia that is physically both male and female and that doesn’t fit your examples at all, but just to start – a trans woman isn’t a man playing dress up. She’s a woman. And a trans man is a man, not a woman. Meaning, if that woman fixed her hair in front of a pre-transition trans man while he was still trying to conform by presenting as a woman and using a woman’s restroom, she’s already fixed her hair in front of a man, she just didn’t know it.

      If you’re really that concerned about the bathroom’s interaction with your religion, it’s on you to find a restroom situation that works for you, and you can’t police the restroom use of trans people to do it. Your convo with your company could be, “I need a single occupancy bathroom”, but it can’t be that someone else isn’t allowed to use the restroom available for their actual gender.

      There are a ton of people who have more experience in this than me, and if they feel inclined to speak up here they should, but I don’t want them having to read and respond to a potentially upsetting comment unless they feel up to it. So for you all who live this – if you get this far – hopefully, you forgive a cisgender ally for wading in (potentially clumsily).

      1. Dinwar*

        On Facebook a biologist friend of mine gave a breakdown of the biology of sex. There are multiple ways to determine sex–from genetics (XXY and XYY not fitting into our binary concept), to hormonal (you CAN be hormonally–and therefore anotomically–female with XY genes, and vice versa), to cellular (still not clear on this one in my mind, but that’s because I haven’t studied it). One can be genetically male, hormonally female, and have male cells, all at the same time. I’m actually a bit curious how to tell; it’d be interesting to see where I fit in this, from a scientific perspective.

        Sex–the biological concept–really is us trying to impose hard bins on what is in reality a very fluid thing. Happens a lot in biology, but it’s hard to accept culturally.

        And sex is the EASY part. Gender, being cultural, is vastly more complicated.

        1. Anon for this*

          This. Some individuals are XY but with wombs and uteruses. One X chromosome alone is also a possibility. Not always visible. It seems awfully strange that most people who are insistent about a rigid gender binary in the European model simply *assume* that their own chromosomes fit one of their favorite two boxes or the other.

          1. James*

            I’ve heard that this is one reason certain tests are no longer conducted in schools/colleges (at least, not on a class-wide basis): People who thought they were one thing got chromosomal or hormonal results that were something else. Unless you’re REALLY comfortable with yourself, this can be hard to deal with.

        2. George*

          Yes, I am quite familiar with this. I tried to be clear with the language, but I did indicate I struggled with it.

          The rules aren’t of my making, so as much as it might “miss” the point, they are what they are. If you say you are a woman or a man, that’s perfectly fine by me – I’ll go with it. That doesn’t change my own obligations, which are related to sex-at-birth. The very simple solution is that I generally don’t touch anyone, and only fix my hair behind closed doors or with people I know VERY VERY well.

          I was really just trying to advocate thinking ahead because it’s a good policy that can ultimately reduce issues and tensions for everyone involved.

    9. Dasein9*

      This is not okay. A person’s use of facilities is not contingent upon someone else’s religious beliefs about their body. You have a right to reasonable religious accommodations which might result in a change in your behavior, yes, but not the right to place the onus of seeking accommodation and changing behavior on someone else who is using facilities in a manner consistent with their purpose and function.

      1. George*

        Please see my second comment. I was NOT suggesting anyone’s use of facilities be contingent upon anyone else. Rather, just trying to suggest that it might not be 100% straight forward and advocating that people consider that early to make things easier for everyone in the long run.

    10. Student*

      As a religious person with strict gender-based rules, you might find it interesting to read up a little on intersex people, and the ways in which genotype and phenotype may not match w/r/t people’s apparent gender. Biology isn’t nearly as clear-cut as people tend to believe, and fifth-grade science did us all a disservice to suggest that man = XY and woman = XX. People who are perceived as women-at-birth may have XY chromosomes, for example, and not know it until they’re old enough to menstruate. This is a natural occurrence, and it has religious implications.

      If apparent gender can be “wrong”, or genotype gender can be “wrong”, as a matter of biology, how do you respond to that theologically? That’s obviously between you and God and your religious leaders, but thinking about it in response to intersex people can help you think about it in response to transgender people as well, in a way that allows you to follow your conscience without causing distress to anyone else.

      1. George*

        I have a MS in genetics.

        Theologically, I don’t go around genotyping people. :)

        (Obviously, the theology is more complicated than that, but that’d take weeks/months/years to go through)

        You would not know, to meet me, that I have these rules. I don’t touch anyone outside buisness handshakes. I use remote restrooms and only fix my hair behind closed doors.

        I see that I fat-fingered away some of my original post, so it came out poorly, but I was really just advocating that thinking ahead could be a good thing. I would NEVER tell anyone what bathroom to use nor do I have personal feelings on how anyone identifies. My religion is really all about how *I* am, so how other people are doesn’t really impact me personally.

      2. George*

        The condition described at the link was the first look I really had into the interplay between genetics and gender. I still find it a fascinating example (Note: I haven’t read the article, just for reference). That was decades and decades ago (suddenly, I feel very old). I share because you seem to have a background that would either know about this, or appreciate it. I have been interested in these issues for a very long time – perhaps why I felt commenting on the interplay between them and my own religion occurred to me :)

    11. anem0ne*

      I was born a baby at birth, but I’m pretty sure I’m not one anymore.
      One of my friends was blond at birth, but he’s got naturally dark brown hair now.

      It’s one thing to hold true to your faith, and it’s something that is respectable; however, I’m not aware of any religion that holds that biology is destiny. Humans are complex; our genes contain the blueprints for all our varied endpoints, and it’s both nature, nurture, and now, free will, that enables them to be expressed in different fashions. The difference in how bodies develop and grow are regulated by hormones and chemicals; apply the right one in the right place, and the body shifts. Because the body is enormously conservative, every “male” and “female” body part pretty much corresponds to each other and are made from the same base material. Our bodies are inherently mutable. Remove testosterone from a man and replace it with estrogen, and their bodies will behave similarly to a woman’s, and vice versa–there’s a reason why HRT’s results can be so dramatic. Breasts grow, body hair thins, voices deepen, facial hair appears, comfortable temperatures change.

      It’s rare that I’m mistaken for man, which is fitting, since I’m a woman. It’s rarer still that someone sees what’s under at least two layers of clothing–which means if you were a man at a urinal and I walked in, it’s likely it would cause a lot of problems, and even more so should I decide to use the urinal somehow. Conversely, if you were a woman adjusting your hair covering and I walked in, it’s unlikely I’d seem out of place, and you’d be none the wiser because, like all civilized people, I’d do my business in an enclosed stall. What does it matter what parts I use in a stall when you won’t see it and would never have a reason to know?

    12. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Those religious restrictions apply to you, and expecting other people to abide by them is not reasonable.

      It’s the same as the hand-shaking discussion we’ve had before. If a person’s religious beliefs say they shouldn’t shake hands with one gender, then the appropriate workplace solution is they shake hands with nobody. If your religious beliefs say that only people with certain past & present genital configurations should see your hair, then that means that nobody at work should be seeing your hair, as it is not appropriate to interrogate your coworkers about their genitals.

      1. George*

        I agree. I do not condone asking anyone about their genitals.

        I do think considering potential ramifications of changes and potential conflicts ahead of time is a worthy ideal. It might come to nothing, but it never hurts to see if a simple solution will help multiple groups.

    13. Dahlia*

      You’ve almost 100% used a bathroom before with a trans person. If the idea of that bothers you, use a single occupancy bathroom.

      Your religion is not anyone’s problem but yours past legal accomadations, and discrimating against others is not a right.

      1. George*

        Please see my comment below. I am not advocating discriminating against anyone. I do not personally care who uses what bathroom.

        Also, please don’t refer to my religion as a “problem.” I am not forcing it on anyone, merely pointing out a potential conflict and advocating that it be considered so as to prevent it from being an issue – which would be in everyone’s interest. And if the result is “there’s nothing we can do to accommodate the religious belief that is reasonable,” they will at least be able to say that clearly.

    14. George*

      Hey folks, I think people may be hearing what they think I’m saying rather than what I am actually saying. Since it might not have been clear, I was suggesting there be some sort of thought process like:

      “We are considering X, will that cause any other issues? If so, are there reasonable accommodations to deal with that?”

      Frankly, having seen cosmically bad implementations of ADA accommodations (therapy dog next to deathly allergic coworker, etc), I was thinking about the law of unintended consequences. I was suggestion that a little thought at the front end of a process could prevent issues/tension and thus move toward the goal of supporting a person transitioning.

      By “addressing” I just mean things like considering if there are single-stalls in case anyone wants them or the private-bath-within-a-bath model some places have (regular walls/doors for each stall).

      For those who think I have an issue or a feeling about where they urinate or anything like that, please let me be clear: So long as it’s sanitary, I have zero feeling on what bathroom anyone uses.

      For those who think I should “just use a single-stall” I would offer that is just as problematic as insisting a transperson only use single stalls – at least insofar as many work places don’t have any! Part of why I thought this might be a good thing to bring up.

      I know lots of people use religion for hate, but my comments were really not coming from that place. They were offered in the spirit of heading off tensions and liabilities. I would appreciate it if it was taken as intended.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Here’s the thing; we can’t take your words as intended, because we can’t tell your intent. All we can tell is what you said, and what you said was that trans people cause religious problems for you by existing in your vicinity and going about our daily lives, and then you threw in some added transphobia by referring to a trans man as a “woman-at-birth.”

    15. Cats4Gold*

      OP, respectfully, I wasn’t a “woman at birth”. I was mistakenly assigned female, which is fine- the doctors made the best call they could, given the available evidence. I couldn’t have expected them to know I’d turn out to be a man at birth any more than I could expect them to know I’d need glasses later.

      I understand that this is a religious tenant for you. That said, I will offer the perspective that many religious trans people do exist (including trans people in religions that adhere to separations of the sexes). Many of us consider us to be spiritually the gender we say we are, and believe that God made us this way (and that God doesn’t make mistakes, but rather, provides us with the blessing of medical science).

      As others have pointed out, it’s extremely likely that you’ve shared a bathroom with a trans person and haven’t noticed it. If your attitude suddenly changes because you find out that a woman you’ve shared a bathroom with at work for years is trans, then, well, that’s pretty transphobic.

  81. Humble Schoolmarm*

    This is more from the perspective of kids transitioning at school, but if it applies, change any visible instances of their name (name plates, signage, email, letterhead) as quickly as you can. My last fully out trans kid came out over the summer and he was really pleased that all of my start of the year seating plans etc. had his preferred name. Also, be prepared to swoop in with the patented “What an odd thing to say!” when you hear comments being made behind someone’s back. My students, thank goodness, have grown up in a world where the gender identity is a thing that they are all aware of and that limits a lot of direct comment but there’s still a bit of talking behind our trans students backs that we need to keep an eye out for and address before it grows.

      1. Anon for this*

        This is so cruel. The ‘it’s just a phase’ myth does considerable harm to trans folks.

        Most children have a good sense of their own gender by the age of 3 or 4. Pre-pubescent kids are allowed to socially transition (which does not have physical ramifications aside from letting them choose how they dress, style their hair, etc.). If they’re trans, that can’t come soon enough. Then can be put on puberty blockers if they’re unsure at 10-11.

        Being bombarded with insistence from others that you’re *not* trans is where the physical changes that cause severe dysphoria come from. Also self-hatred and dismissal on the parts of adults. Bad news all around.

        1. Anon for this*

          Also, a person’s gender is part of their consciousness. No one can say anything about it with authority except the person themselves. So if your opinion about what their gender should be doesn’t match, then odds are you made a guess about their gender based on some external stuff and the guess wound up being wrong.

  82. Ryn*

    Educational resources for others are HUGE. The only reason I felt safe coming out as non binary at work was because my org had done some real inclusivity pushes and provided resources about nonbinary identities to folks across the org — not prompted by any one person’s coming out, just as a DEI practice.

    I’ll also echo other’s thoughts about making pronouns optional. Personally I love that starting personal pronouns us becoming normalized, but having them be mandatory *did* end up putting me in a position of feeling a bit of pressure to come out because I essentially had to choose between misgendering myself and coming out. It’s a bit of an impossible situation, because people are going to use pronouns whether you list them or not, but there’s a bit of a unique sting when you have to misgender yourself so it’s something to keep in mind.

    1. Alton*

      Ugh, hit the wrong key on my phone. Sorry.

      I would like to see more employers normalize the possibility that someone’s name that they use might not match what’s on their ID. It sucks for trans people to have to disclose their deadnames in order to file their taxes or get a plane ticket for a business trip, but I think it’s better than being in a game of chicken where you don’t know what info is actually needed or if you’ll have an opportunity to provide it.

      When I make travel arrangements for job candidates, for example, I try to be clear about what information I actually need in order to be sure that there aren’t hiccups, for example. I don’t assume that they name I’ve been calling them is definitely what is on their ID, or that their gender marker will match their presentation.

  83. Anon Today*

    From experience: the person transitioning will have the same personality and faults before, during, and after.

    In our case, the MtF trans person was an over-sharer, and told people WAY too much about their lives generally. I personally had to explain that “I’m not interested in details about surgery, the name of the surgeon, or anything about the recovery. If I ever need to know these things, I will ask. Please be mindful that I have boundaries. I never want to know the details of ANYBODY’s surgery, surgeon, or recovery.”

    I did ask about pronoun change (name had already changed) and whether they wanted people to know why they were away from work for several weeks. Since they posted about their gofundme for expenses while off work in the employee lunch room, that turned out to be moot anyway.

    1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      This is a totally unnecessary anecdote… why would you use this particular space just to complain about someone you know who’s trans and also an oversharer?

      And if that colleague is binary trans and female, her pronouns probably aren’t they/them.

  84. Beachlover*

    A company I worked for in the early 90’s bought out another company and brought their employees to our location. One of the Engineers was transitioning male to female and had just started hormones and living as a female all the time. Since they were are already in the process, all the paperwork was set up in her name. I would have to say from my perspective they handled it pretty well. HR call all the managers in and notified them that she would be coming to work, they did this due to the fact that she was early in her transition. We were asked to keep our eyes out for any issues in our dept’s and a short lesson in what it means to be transsexual as opposed to gay or a transvestite. believe me most in the meeting had misconceptions. Our company was pretty enlighten for the times, we already had a diverse workforce, with several out Lesbian and Gay employees. There were no issues with her using the women’s restrooms. She and I talked often, and she was very comfortable bring up any issues. In fact the only problem she brought to my attention, was the fact that one of my team, was teasing her about her wigs and how she dressed. I was very disappointed to say the least, especially since the person in question was a gay woman, but I addressed the issue with the employee directly and informed them that this would not be tolerated, and it stopped! Our company relocated and I wish I had kept in touch with her, She was getting ready for gender reassignment surgery, and I hope she is doing well.

  85. anem0ne*

    One thing that I haven’t seen touched on here yet that I’d like to raise–keep an eye on how performance reviews might shift.

    For instance, certain behaviors of mine, which, when I passed as a man, seemed to be “consensus-building” and “allowing for open discussions”, became read after I began passing as a woman as “unconfident” and “unassertive”. Mind you, my personality here hadn’t really changed!

    I’ve heard from trans men that they’ve been told the quality of their work improved dramatically, compared to their past work when they were viewed as women.

    Instead, it underscores just how differently behaviors are read depending on how your gender is viewed.

    1. metageeky*

      This. Ben Barres was research biologist and a trans man. He wrote several times on the difference in how people viewed him and his work pre and post transition. In particular, he had people comment on how his work was so much better than his sister’s. Ben didn’t have a sister.
      He wrote a biography that is very much on my to read list.

    2. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      Not just performance appraisals, but compensation, raises, opportunities, mentorships—all the places where women consistently suffer in the workplace, trans women suffer doubly because they are all too aware of what they’ve lost by being true to themselves, and also many are extra anxious about speaking out because no one wants to be “that troublesome trans”.

      I’m so sorry people were sexist at you in that particular terrible way.

      1. metageeky*

        To be fair, not all trans women are aware of what they lost. There’s an implicit assumption in there that prior to transition, the trans woman functioned equivalently to a cis man. That’s not always the case, and in many ways, the trans woman likely feigned the behaviors she saw “real” men doing, trying to be “manly” while struggling with it. Trans women (and trans men) certainly do notice differences in how our culture treats men and women differently. Just don’t imply that prior to transition, the trans person was functioning at the same level of their assigned at birth gender.

        1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

          That’s true, and thank you for pointing it out.

          I’m AFAB nonbinary and have gotten the reverse while presenting as female—a lot of professional respect even when I’m brash or outspoken, hardly ever being harassed, overlooked, or underpaid. After I figured out I was trans, I wondered whether people could somehow tell I partook of maleness (for lack of a better phrase). So I should know it works the other way around too.

    3. George*

      Good point! My (female) super-boss and I discussed how some people can view my assertiveness negatively because I’m a woman. We both thought it was silly, but was something that exists.

  86. Jacob*

    Alison, if you’re going to keep on doing trans-related posts, you really are morally obligated to reign in your commenters’ transphobia far better than you have been.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m not available to moderate when I’m doing other work, and my sense is that the readership as a whole would rather have the threads than not have them. But I’ll certainly look at any comments people flag (so far no one has flagged any).

      1. Ryn*

        How can we flag comments for you? I’m seeing explicit transphobia and sharing of inaccurate, dangerous information about trans youth.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If you include a link, your comment will go to moderation, which I always see. So reply to the comment you’re concerned about with a note like “can you take a look at this,” include a link, and I’ll see it. (A bit convoluted, but it’s works!)

      2. Director of Alpaca Exams*

        Can you temporarily disable comments when you’re not around to moderate them and re-enable them when you are, or only put up these posts when you’re available to moderate them, or ask longtime contributors to be volunteer moderators? “Have comment threads full of transphobia or have no comment threads” is a false dichotomy.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Disabling comments when I can’t moderate consistently would mean whole days or weeks without comments. Volunteer moderators aren’t an option (ethically I’d need to pay them, and training/managing them would be a huge project unto itself; the comment section accounts for such a small portion of overall site usage that I can’t justify pouring that kind of resources into it relative to other projects). Basically, it’s a comment section with a bunch of strangers; sometimes it will be messy. I step in where I see problems and rely on other people to flag things for me when I don’t.

          From what I’ve seen, there were two problematic threads here, which I’ve dealt with. If there are more I’ve missed, please flag them and I’ll take a look.

  87. Sharon*

    This isn’t really a comment about making a transition go smoothly at work, but more of a supportive comment for anyone concerned about transitioning. At my first “real” job, we received daily FedEx mail pickup / dropoff. We had the same FedEx person for years. This person was transitioning from MtF and we saw the changes over time since we saw her daily. This was the mid-’90’s WAY before people were open about stuff like that. Not a single person in the office made a mean, nasty or negative comment, at least not publicly. At most, there was some interest / curiosity about her changes, but no one was ever disrespectful. If people could be polite and respectful 25 years ago, they should certainly be able to handle it now.

    1. Argh!*

      You would think so, but even some enlightened people where I work have said “What the heck is going on with xyz” and some derogatory comment about hair or clothes.

  88. Vicky Austin*

    If the person has already changed their name when you first meet them, do not ask them what their birth name was. Many trans people do not feel comfortable revealing it.

    1. Dahlia*

      Similarly, don’t assume every trans person is going to change their name and hound them about it. Some people are fine with their birth names!

  89. CF*

    I came out uneventfully in an academic IT department, without ever interacting with HR or sending an announcement – I just hauled off and said, “please call me NewName, and use he and him with that” as it came up, to both customers and coworkers. (But, the bluntness of that is more harmonious with a masculine end point than a feminine one – I think the script for trans women is trickier.)

    I appreciated it when the manager of an adjacent team filled her team in on the change behind closed doors – her entire team was flawless from that day forward.

    I updated the paper name label on my cube myself – I would’ve liked it if someone had offered to fix it for me. I felt pretty anxious and conspicuous in the first days after coming out – my manager had given a vague “let me know if you need anything” but I would’ve liked it if he’d checked in in more detail, and suggested things he could do.

    I really appreciated a presumed-cis customer (a professor) who made a fuss to get a system fixed to respect preferred/display names on her own behalf, where I didn’t think that I had the internal clout to make a fuss about it.

    In a lot of cases, my customers have been warmly supportive & quick to tell my management that I’m appreciated, in the wake of my coming out. In the general case, one’s customers have a lot of influence on one’s management – customer appreciation reassures the management that the transition isn’t causing a problem.

  90. Betty*

    As an employee working with someone who was transitioning, I would most want to receive a factual, written email telling me the new way things were going to work with them, and attaching a document containing the standard procedure for gender transitions at that company. (And to be told in person if I worked more closely with them.)

    Examples of things I would like contained in the email (don’t quote my phrasing!):
    X will now be known as Y, and would now like to be referred to as she/her/he/him.

    His/her new email address will be Y[at] His/her old email address will continue to forward to his/her new one for a period of one year to allow for existing customer/vendor enquiries but we expect everyone at [company] to start using the new one immediately OR His/her old email address will send an OOO reply with the new email address and that inbox will no longer be checked.

    We regard continuing to use Y’s old name and pronouns as a potential disciplinary offence. You can find more information about this in section [whatever] of the employee handbook.

    1. CF*

      This comes across as something of a steep/precise demand. Sure, you don’t know unless you’re told, and it would be unpleasant if someone got angry at you for not figuring it out, but you’re still not owed an announcement and a process. Demanding one is prioritizing your feelings about being right, over other people’s comfort.

      I soft-launched my transition, because I had to hear the new pronouns come out of other people’s mouths to confirm that I was on the right track, and I simply didn’t have the confidence to withstand the immediate visibility that a department-wide announcement would’ve entailed. I was really quite gentle with people who were in the last wave to be told – I apologized for not telling them sooner, and reassured them – but an announcement is not required.

    2. Argh!*

      I had a supervisee do a soft roll-out, with only the people they interacted with daily in on the changes. They expected word to get around by osmosis, including the name change. What that really meant was that people would ask me what was going on (especially when some unfortunate experiments with clothes drew attention) and it was up to me to decide how much to tell that person. In hindsight I think I handled it the way I’d handle a name change due to marriage or a change of appearance due to pregnancy – with minimal discussion, and if there were more questions just saying “You’ll have to ask them about that.” I used to work for a larger organization that had an internal newsletter that included things like name changes, title changes, separations, etc. I really wish the current one would do that so I wouldn’t have had to deal with the name change. It was a real distraction for about a year. I never knew when I’d be asked about the name change or change of appearance.

    3. CF*

      No announcement doesn’t mean not communicated – but picking up a name change from a directory update and an email signature doesn’t seem at all unreasonable to me, and as far as I know, my colleagues didn’t spend significant time gossiping with my manager about it.

      I’m puzzled as to why this is more difficult (to a manager) than someone who’s taken a married name – just confirm the facts and send them away.

      People I came out to sometimes asked “is this public” and I told them “yes” and that seemed fine.

  91. Marmaduke*

    I used to work in healthcare and one of my case managers transitioned while I was there. The announcement itself was done via an email that laid out his name change, pronoun change, and new company email, and said to contact him directly with any questions. At one point during a casual conversation later on he told me that management had offered him the choice of sending the email himself or having them send it, and asked whether he wanted them to field questions for him or have people talk to him directly. He said he appreciated having the chance to make that decision.

    Also, PLEASE find a way to get systems updated quickly! That case manager had to stay closeted with a few clients while getting transitioned off their cases (religious reasons), and it was brutal on him and led to some accidental misgendering on my/my teammates’ parts because it was confusing to refer to Jared as Matilda at those worksites and then switch back to Jared again. I think things would have gone much more smoothly if we were only hearing and seeing the correct name and pronouns.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      I hope “religious reasons” doesn’t mean they’d made it clear they’d never work with a trans person because of their religion…

      1. Marmaduke*

        The clients were Muslim and my understanding is that there were some issues involving gender and healthcare. Jared was aware of the issues and was asked whether he’d prefer to be moved off those cases immediately or stay on for a brief transition, and he chose to do the transition. I don’t know more than that; nobody brought it up with me and it wasn’t my business to ask about.

    2. Donkey Hotey*

      Ooooh. That’s an excellent point re: if the customer is restricted from interacting with women for religious reasons (Christian, Jewish, or Muslim) then one should adjust their (transitioning) customer service rep.

      But to add: that goes both ways. If the customer cannot interact with women, remove a trans woman as their CSR, but that does open an opportunity for a trans man.

      1. Marmaduke*

        Because our work often involved things like shower assistance and diaper changing, that sort of thing came up more often than it might in other fields.

  92. SK*

    This has possibly already been covered by the many comments, but as someone who semi-recently came out as nonbinary in the workplace, wanted to contribute. I’d make sure that whatever policies you put in place also mention and include nonbinary or other gender variant people, to make it clear you recognize them as just as valid as people transitioning from one binary gender to another. My work has been very good about everything on the whole. I’d also say it’s a great idea to get everyone to put their preferred pronouns in their email signatures; when I went to update mine to reflect my new pronouns and name, several cisgender female coworkers already had theirs in their signatures so it made me feel much less like the odd one out. Especially encourage men to do this because they seem less likely to, just anecdotally. As an added bonus it also helps people who are cisgender but have a name that’s more neutral or that’s often associated with a different gender (ie. a woman named Blair, etc.).

    1. SK*

      Oh also: I haven’t told too many people directly about my new name, but it’s still seemingly trickled down to everyone in the department which I really appreciate. For people I work with frequently, I obviously wanted to tell them myself, but it’s nice not having to tell every. single. person. and I can guess which coworkers spread it around (in a thoughtful way – like a ‘hey, don’t call them (dead name) anymore, they’re going by ___’, not in a salacious way). If you work in a small enough office that you can do it that way instead of as an email blast, that’s also an option.

  93. My Partner is trans and job searching*

    Don’t ask on initial application forms if someone has ever gone by another name legally. Yes, it’s essential for a background check eventually, but don’t ask trans* applicants to out themselves before they’ve even applied for the job. Makes it a lot more likely that one transphobic person in the whole hiring chain could kill that person’s application before they get in front of somebody. (My partner was asked this YESTERDAY for an entry-level STEM job.)

    1. Kelly*

      Also, like I said upthread, 1) If the background check is done by an outside party allow the trans person to give their deadname directly to them and 2) If the transperson truly has all of their relevant records under their current name (which can be the case if one transitioned as a child or teenager) do not use the omission of an immaterial name against them. (Like Alison said at the link below from several years ago most employers would not hold it against someone adopted as a child for example.)

    2. Argh!*

      It kind of depends on the type of job. In my field, it’s not unusual for us to google applicants while sorting through applications. And after the interview, we might talk to people who know the applicant in addition to the references they’ve named.

      1. Kelly*

        In that case an applicant should be required to disclose only those names that are pragmatically needed to perform those functions (like I said earlier in this discussion a recently-transitioned adult is practically speaking w.r.t. their deadname different for these purposes than someone who transitioned a long time ago or before adulthood).

      2. Kelly*

        Or, to put it another way, when transpeople are involved, questions about former names (with the exception of formal background checks where the name is sent confidentially to the party running the check) should not be treated as a strict “honesty test” but rather asked to help facilitate these contacts and verifications. As with any employee/applicant if they use a name change for a nefarious purpose (such as hiding a criminal history or a firing unrelated to their gender issues) you can take adverse action based on the underlying factors.

      3. My Partner is trans and job searching*

        She’s 100% google-able with her current name. Her resume is current. She has a LinkedIn. He resume also contains her military experience, wherein she held very well-known roles that only male presenting people could hold. But, again, this is for an ENTRY LEVEL job. She went back to school. I think it’s just ease of access to info for a background check, but it’s still transphobic.

  94. Gazebo Slayer*

    At my old retail job, one of the supervisors quietly pulled each of us aside one at a time and explained, “Fergus is transitioning and will now be going by Lucinda and using female pronouns,” then asked us to be supportive and respectful or words to that effect. All the documents (individual performance rankings, etc.) started having Lucinda on them, and Lucinda started using L as her handle on the company Slack channel. As far as I know, it went well.

  95. AS*

    Our Master Teapot Maker sent a succinct system-wide email announcing the employee’s new name and pronouns and included their correct email address. Some time later, several of our single stall restrooms were changed to Gender Neutral/Family (these also include changing tables). Why some of them are still gendered and others aren’t baffles me because they are all identical.
    As someone who is both supportive of others and personally gender questioning, I would appreciate pronouns being part of our email signature template. I added mine several months ago in a spot I decided looked professional and haven’t received any objections.

  96. FormerProducer*

    Sorry to everyone reading the terrible transphobic comments on here. Lots of love to the trans and nb readers.

    We recently put together a Gender Transition at [workplace] guidelines, and I will send it on to Alison to forward to the OP if it would be helpful. It was reviewed by a trans lawyer and some trans people at our workplace.

    Three biggest takeaways:
    1. Let the trans person guide the process! Some people might want to handle the whole thing themselves. Some people might want their manager, or HR, to communicate on their behalf. Check in with them about how they’re feeling, what their timeline is looking like, and what they need from the company.
    2. Transition is not a single day on the calendar. There are a number of things that might happen all at once, but there are also quite a few things that will happen behind the scenes before and after the official “name change” date.
    3. The “guidelines” are as much for the cis people at work as for the trans person. Make sure you clarify how you want cis employees to behave, i.e., do not police bathrooms! Do not ask about genitals! Apologize quickly and move on if you misgender someone! Talk to HR (or a designated person) if you have concerns/questions, NOT to the transitioning person! Set out clear expectations for cis employees so that there’s no plausible deniability if someone’s being shitty.

  97. 404_Fox Not Found*

    Ooh goodness, a thing I have all the personal feelings about!

    Broadly speaking: my philosophy has been put the work of dealing with someone’s transition on literally anyone except the employee/student.
    Guaranteed they will have to spend hours of time, and tons of energy and resources correcting people’s pronouns, assumptions, dealing with overt and covert hatred, systems that are not built for them, systems of oppression that intentionally and unintentionally harm and cause delays, indignities, lack of safety, etc. etc. etc. and as far as I’m concerned, being a good ally means easing or erasing that burden entirely.

    (Also don’t let companies pat themselves on the back for being awesome just for having had thoughts out loud about pronouns. That’s just not good enough)

    I heartily recommend HR/tech/finance humans having conversations about:
    Setting up both Legal/tax name (kept private/confidential) and someone’s every day name (public), and making space for both of those in employee systems starting from day one. It is a lot easier than having to try and retroactively hammer computer systems and databases into shapes they simply cannot be in.

    As someone who has been transitioning (legally, socially, etc) as both a college student and professional adult over the course of about a decade and a half (money and straddling two nationalities definitely influenced my ability to get legal bits ironed out with any timeliness), I am seconding it being not great having to still use usernames that included parts of names I no longer used because of bad feelings. It also confused people to no end when the college campus refused to update student photo ID and name on the student directory and rosters unless paid changes were made to my student ID, and legal name changes made through the state/country.
    I ended up having to hunt down friendly techs on campus to craft me an alias because the bureaucracy portions were being so resistant/uncooperative!

    As a now professional systems admin, there are also some fields I cannot change because of the system/software we are using. The next best scenario in this case is that I typically have conversations directly with the people I am working with (staff or HR) to describe pros and cons of each approach, from nuke it and start fresh to create an alias.
    Consider also what systems feed into each other – yes it’s convenient if system A tells system B, C, and D what someone’s legal name is, but that can also cause problems if things need to be come decoupled because someone isn’t “Jane” everywhere.

    A company (at least in the USA) *needs* to consider the health insurance it offers to it’s employees. If the insurance actively refuses to cover trans medical anything because it is “elective/optional/cosmetic” (surgery, hormones, lab work, etc.) that means trans employee wishing to have these things will have to pay out of pocket. There is already enough nonsense and paperwork and cost associated with healthcare in the USA that a good employer should make sure to choose insurance that covers things like these.

    Have a process already in place for things that are publicly apparent like name or pronoun changes/dressing differently so that the process can be made a) as clear clear to the employee for how things usually go and what the process involves, b) how rigid things are (does everything on the list have to happen, can an employee pick only a few, do only legal name changes go through, etc.), and c) as little fraught as possible because ideally managers, HR, tech, etc. aren’t left to their own learning/assumptions/stereotypes, which tend to be sub-par, even if well intentioned.
    That will let an employee drive the process where the need a transition to go, but not necessarily force them to go hunting because HR and Finance aren’t talking and no one knows what form needs to happen in order for XYZ change to go through.
    From experience I will tell you that having a more “big/all inclusive change” process ready will make smaller piecemeal, more common things like name changes go so much smoother.

    2nding this previous comment: Employers/managers/folks with purchasing power should not assume tickets/ID’s, clothing size, medical needs, etc. for their employees, and make requests discreet, ie “I need ID name, DOB, for purchasing a plane ticket, could you please email me these things?”, or “Our company ID will need to match your legal name for $reason. What would you like me to put down?”.

  98. GreenDoor*

    OP didn’t state their field. I work in the public education of minors. We have an important disclaimer in our guidebook that OP may want to include, for legal purposes if nothing else. We often have to communicate with the federal & state government, law enforcement, and healthcare providers about the minors we serve. It’s important to ensure that we’re all talking about the same person because we’re all generating protected legal/medical documents about them. Because we cannot compel these other entities to follow our standards relative to honoring gender identity, we have a disclaimer that basically says we will use the person’s preferred name and pronouns BUT we reserve the right to use the legal name/gender when deemed appropriate. There may be times for the OP’s organization when legality must trump preferances so make sure you have appropriate disclaimers in place.

  99. Kelly*

    Also, like I said upthread, 1) If the background check is done by an outside party allow the trans person to give their deadname directly to them and 2) If the transperson truly has all of their relevant records under their current name (which can be the case if one transitioned as a child or teenager) do not use the omission of an immaterial name against them. (Like Alison said at the link below from several years ago most employers would not hold it against someone adopted as a child for example.)

    It looks like a spam filter or something flagged my comment because of the link – here’s the version with a “broken-up” URL:
    www (dot) askamanager (dot) org/2013/03/short-answer-sunday-7-short-answers-to-7-short-questions-32 (dot) html

    1. Kelly*

      I meant for this to be posted under “My partner is trans and job searching” – sorry about the problems!

  100. anem0ne*

    One additional thought. Be explicit with your support.

    For example, one of the more touching moments after coming out was when the women’s ERG reached out to me directly and invited me to their events; I had worried about attending primarily because I didn’t want to take up any space.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yes, this is a really good point. It’s all well and good to say, “Of course we support trans employees, that goes without saying!” But really, right now, it shouldn’t go without saying — please, say it!

  101. Director of Alpaca Exams*

    I have a real sore spot around this right now, so I will just say: when you talk to or about your trans colleagues, talk about them as colleagues. My grandboss literally can’t interact with me without saying something related to my gender, usually using the wrong language for me and then going “OH WAIT I’m not ALLOWED to say that” or “Is that the right way to say it?” (it never is) or talking to me about some other trans person he’s encountered (“You’d like her, she uses they/them pronouns too” was a favorite). The latest was him telling everyone at a meeting how proud he is to have a trans employee—one! entire! trans employee—and not understanding why this made me uncomfortable. I’ve been out at work for five years. I am extremely high-performing and well-regarded by everyone at the company. But he never, ever talks about my work, only about my transness. I feel consistently othered and objectified. I know you want positive stories, but all I can say is, do better than this.

    Sensitivity training needs to be taken by everyone all the way up the hierarchy. Make it a yearly thing, like sexual harassment prevention training and fire drills.

    Don’t expect every trans person to transition in a way that you understand that term. I’m nonbinary and am not medically transitioning in anyway; I haven’t changed my name or legal gender marker and don’t plan to. Sometimes I wear “men’s” clothing and sometimes I wear “women’s” clothing. When I came out, I made it very clear that my pronouns are they/them no matter what my presentation is that day, and people made a good-faith effort, but because I didn’t always “look trans” or have a binary point-A-to-point-B transition narrative, it took a long time for it to really sink in. If I hadn’t volunteered to be the company resource on trans-related things, people would probably still forget that I’m trans. So when you’re booking that annual sensitivity training, make sure it includes information about nonbinary people.

  102. A Silver Spork*

    My biggest problem at the workplace I transitioned had nothing to do with my transition. Instead, it was about my coworkers being giant buttheads about trans people (and many other groups, but that’s not germane to this point) publicly, before I came out. They were mostly savvy enough to use dogwhistles so I couldn’t report anything to HR (mostly – one coworker went on a loud rant about it once), but it did not make for a good environment for closeted me. I only felt comfortable coming out when I knew that I was quitting in about three months to move to another state. Brushing up your policies on what’s unacceptable behavior, and, more importantly, enforcing it, will save trans employees a lot of tears.

    Also, I really shouldn’t have to say this, but sadly, experience says I do: employees should not be interrogating their newly-out coworkers about their genitals, their reproductive plans, their relationship with their parents now that they’re out, how they chose that name and isn’t it sooooo weird that you’ve been living in the US for 20+ years but you picked a distinctly foreign name… really, they shouldn’t be interrogating ANYONE about this, it’s just that the newly out trans person is probably in a very vulnerable place about this and might not be able to easily deflect/walk away/report to HR.

    1. Blueberry*

      It always astonishes me that people ask such rude invasive questions, and I am so sorry they do so (and will do my best to shut them down if that happens in front of me).

  103. Donkey Hotey*

    Anecdote Alert:
    The one and only time I’ve heard of a company-wide announcement going well was at a Remarkably Large Engineering Firm in a Remarkably Conservative and heteronormative state when one of their senior engineers transitioned. Meeting held. CEO stood up and said, “This is the situation. We support it. You will too. If you need help, we have counselors here in this room to help you right now. If you continue to have a problem, there’s the door.”
    What’s amazing to me is that this happened in the early 90’s but I doubt that it would happen in that same state today.

  104. Professional Lesbian*

    Hi–I am cisgender but I work in queer spaces (see username above) and have lots of trans*, NB, GNC friends/colleagues (from here on I will use trans* to refer to these groups collectively). I’m not familiar with HRC’s guidelines but their reputation is that they are very, very, very cisgender white gay male-centered. I would look to a trans* led organization like Trans Can Work ( for guidance.

    My general observations/experiences below.

    -Yes, putting pronouns in your signature can be a good first baby step towards showing support for trans* colleagues. It should be optional; some colleagues may be questioning their gender and having to state pronouns can be stressful (same reason why you should introduce yourself with your pronouns rather than asking someone for their’s). I feel like many people point to this as evidence they are soooo inclusive when this is the only thing they have done. We still have a lot more work to do, people!
    -Provide trans* inclusivity training for all employees, preferably a training created & led by trans* people. The burden should not be on the employee to educate their colleagues.
    -Familiarize yourself with pronoun etiquette and inclusive language (a quick google will lead to lots of resources)
    -Trans* employees can use whatever bathroom they wish and other employees should be instructed that questioning/challenging someone’s bathroom choice is Not Cool. Provide ample access to single stall/gender neutral restrooms but don’t force trans* people to only use those options.
    -Practice pronouns, especially they/them. Shakespeare used the singular “they” and so can you!
    -One of my friends was prematurely outed at work when HR changed her email from to
    -I worked with someone who was incredibly triggered whenever their “dead name” was used at work, which came up bc it was still their legal name. This may be unavoidable (such as on tax documents) but wherever possible create systems and procedures to circumvent this. In this example, their email was but emails from HR (!) were addressed to Dear Tim.

  105. gender: business casual*

    I just transitioned at work (nonbinary)! Overall, it went really well– everyone’s been good about switching to my new name and pronouns, and I’d been out as queer at work for a while, so I think that made it easier. I also wasn’t the first to transition, so people had a model for how to behave.

    My emails and logins were all pretty quick and easy to change (although Google is, and continues to be, a nightmare, so everyone has me as a contact under the wrong name.) I will say that I would have appreciated if my email hadn’t been just It was my login to every work system and meant that I had to change a LOT of things when I transitioned– I’m still coming across a few of them! I know doesn’t work perfectly either, since people may change last names when they get married or divorced, but it did really suck to have to type a name I wasn’t comfortable with constantly before I came out.

    I really appreciated how good my boss was about asking me who I wanted told, how I wanted to handle communication with contractors I oversee, etc. However, she found out because our HR rep outed me to her at the company holiday party. (Still not sure how HR found out.) To my boss’s credit, she waited for me to come to her, rather than just asking me about it. But that part sucked.

  106. WindmillArms*

    I transitioned on the job about five years ago, and I think it was handled pretty well! I worked for Head Office, but I was about halfway through a two-year placement at Client Site, so there were two workplaces to handle.

    The best thing that HR at both Head Office and Client Site did was ASK. I set up meetings with both HR people, and we had a conversation about how to handle the name and gender change. They asked what I wanted to do, listened, and followed the plan. We decided to time the “official” changeover with me going out for surgery for a month. I told a few coworker-friends what was going on, and everyone else I just said I was going out on medical leave. The next day, HR at each site sent an email out that we’d written together. Other trans people choose to attach the news to a sort of “Trans 101” primer, but mine was like two lines:

    “(Old Name) will be out on medical leave until (Date). When he returns, he will go by (New Name) and use he/him pronouns. If you have any questions, (Coworker-Friend) is happy to answer.”

    I had designated a very outgoing ally as the point person for questions (with her blessing). She had one or two people ask her some “Trans 101” type questions, but she said that mostly people were surprised but happy for me.
    When I came back, the news had had a few weeks to settle in, and everyone was pretty much over it! Client Site had changed my email and ID badge, and everyone moved on with their lives. I was extremely nervous about the first day back, but it was uneventful!

    There’s not one way to transition at work, so the best thing a workplace can do it ask the trans person what they want to do (maybe offering some suggestions), collaborate on a plan of action, and follow through!

  107. HRAwry*


    So, if I recall we have a few things at our company.

    1. We have training. So if an employee approaches you and says “Hey! I’m going to be transitioning so xyz is going to be happening in the coming months.” We have resources for People Managers to follow. They put like the following:

    1. Customer comfort is not a priority. Gender expression and Identity is a human right.

    2. Your employee tells you how they want to come out, if they want to come out or if it’s only to select people. We’ve had employee transition and they just tell their boss and if questions are asked the manager and employee have an agreed script. The only thing we ask is that employees in a security sensitive position let their manager engage the appropriate party there since biometrics etc… can be involved.

    3. It’s ongoing and it’s not going to be perfect. Really the training is to help managers understand that the process isn’t about them and the tools that are available to them and now they can support the employee: EFAP, work from home, PODs, Benefits etc…

  108. Logan*

    I transitioned at work, and it went fine, though everyone was pretty flustered from beginning to end. It was very well meaning but “Oh! We’ve never dealt with this before! uhhhh ok!!”

    From my perspective, the least deal the workplace can make of it the better, really. This is an administrative change. It might affect name, gender marker, pronouns, bathroom, dress code. It might affect only some of those things! Workplaces that use this as an opportunity for Sensitivity Training often just make things more embarrassing for the transitioning employee by singling them out.

    Here are the guidelines I’d suggest:

    1. The transitioning person has the final say on which, if any, changes are to be made and on what timeline.

    2. Make sure all names and gender markers are able to be changed smoothly in all systems without hassle and without a long wait time. Do not require documentation.

    3. Do not create unnecessary work for the transitioning person. Other than alerting their manager or HR person about which changes they want to make, and when, they really shouldn’t have to do anything else. (In particular, one of the things I most dreaded was the possibility that I’d be asked to make an announcement, since I have a fear of public speaking, and the topic being personal just compounded that! This kind of message can be much less nerve-wracking and more ‘official-seeming’ from a manager.)

    4. Provide a clear method for raising civil rights complaints, and take them seriously. This is not just for trans people, but for everyone.

    5. Look for opportunities to simply remove systems that require binary gender choices.

    For example, remove gender markers from any personnel records where it’s not required. (And it’s usually not required.)

    Don’t have single gender bathrooms. This eliminates one of the possible issues right there, and accommodates nonbinary people.

    Don’t have a separate dress code for men and women.

    Don’t require that things “match” (e.g. that people with an M on their records must use the men’s room and wear menswear suits).

    6. Allow all these options “a la carte” and not necessarily as a bundle. Things that help trans people often help people in other scenarios too! For example, a robust name change process can help people who marry/divorce.

  109. Tinker*

    So, reciting my experience in this — it’s often quite undramatic, and that I would say is the ultimate point. I want to go to work, and be called by my name, and not be referred to with language that embarrasses my coworkers and company (in the sense of that if you’re visibly calling someone who is known to be a man “she”, it’s not a great look), and have conversations about work and about where we are going for happy hour, and not so much about my junk.

    My employer was mostly successful at this — at various points people started asking me what I wanted to be called and then started calling me what they were told (there were a couple outliers who rolled their eyes, then they rolled their eyes in front of managers, then they stopped rolling their eyes), I had top surgery which has a six-week recovery period, then later I had an athletic injury that required surgery and had a six-week recovery period, and as far as work accommodation goes these unfolded more or less identically, after top surgery I started using men’s restrooms and received the occasional bro nod in reaction. There were no grand announcements (though I would suggest telling people somehow; some folks did not get the memo and later felt bad about inadvertently erring), there was no drama, and I continued on having “software guy” type sources of stress at work rather than “trans guy” ones.

    That part I recommend emulating.

    Points for improvement:
    — I changed my name legally quite early, so I didn’t have to deal with the problem of most systems displaying one’s legal name and having limited options for reducing this. I did have the problem of my name change not propagating fully through the wide array of company systems that are populated from somewhere or another, including ones that I don’t regularly use. I’m still having to sweep up occasional deadname incidents, including at one point my company badge. Awkward.
    — Work on gender equity issues floats all boats — most trans experiences are also impacted in some way by misogyny, implicit gender biases, etc.
    — Insurance that handles unusual situations well also floats all boats — my insurance is trans-inclusive, but as it turns out it’s not all that “out of network surgeon that works on an informed-consent basis and doesn’t do insurance”-inclusive, and the result was that I ended up somewhat by surprise footing the bill for my top surgery (I was not delighted). It’s only so much consolation that I wasn’t screwed directly because I was trans.

  110. Adjuncts Anonymous*

    Apologies if someone already suggested this: ask an expert! Could you get Danny Lavery at Slate to weigh in on this? He’s had to change his name twice, so he should be familiar with the process.

  111. Evelyn Kiera*

    It’s very simple, they are who they tell you they are. Use their name, use their pronouns, treat them with the same respect and courtesy you would any other coworker.
    Policies are all fine and good but please recognize that they are not one-size-fits-all. Many of these policies I have seen (and I am transgender, so I have a particular stake in it) put a lot of burden upon the person transitioning to educate coworkers. This is a terrible policy, it is stressful enough going through a transition. Bring in gender specialists to do this. There are people who can help, don’t make the trans person do the work.
    Recognize that it is possible somebody is nonbinary and does not identify as a man or woman. It’s complicated sometimes.
    Keep a vigilant watch for transphobia and harassment. This is as serious as other forms of sexual harassment, treat it in the same manner.
    Be a friend to the person transitioning, it is often a severe strain on them in many ways. Be compassionate and be a decent human, it’s not hard.

  112. D'Arcy*

    Speaking as a trans person, the biggest thing a company can do is to make it very clear that transphobic behavior by coworkers *will* be taken with due seriousness by the company, as opposed to swept under the rug with a lot of gaslighting about how it’s “just a misunderstanding” or “it’s difficult for everyone to remember”, and that transphobic bigotry is *not* an opinion that gets a seat at the table or negotiated compromises.

  113. ClockworkDragon*

    Bathrooms are the biggest reason I haven’t come out yet. I’m nonbinary. I use the women’s restroom at work because there’s far fewer women. But I’m more masc than femme, so I worry if I start throwing around terms like “demiboy” they’ll say “use the men’s” and I’ll contribute to overcrowding. There’s only one stall in the men’s, and I have to sit to pee, so I can’t be in and out quickly like the AMABs can. I would like to continue using the women’s, but I worry that will undermine the legitimacy of my being out as trans…. it’d be great if I came out and they’d already thought through this, since we’ve had a nonbinary person at work before, but I doubt they did. The previous nonbinary employee was a very “don’t make waves” type, and was also AFAB and used the women’s, so I suspect they just thought of them as a “her” behind their back. This is especially the case given that the explanation of their gender was mangled: it was left to managers to trickle downward, so by the time my boss sat down with me it was “she goes by, I mean, she is nonbinary, so, she prefers, generally,” until I got secondhand dysphoria and asked “are you trying to say they use they/them pronouns?” and got a “yes, that’s the one”. Followed by the boss telling me about their anatomy which I did not ask for, thank you very much! And after they left, I still heard people talking about them with she/her pronouns in the past tense. So. Don’t do any of that.

  114. Sahra*

    One thing you can do to normalize things and also to benefit other groups is to have a general name change policy and list examples (transitioning, getting married, getting divorced, changing to your most used name, etc.). And make sure there’s sort of a blanket reason option. This can also help you think through possible complications. People change their names. It’s weird that this is so hard (like, in terms of software in particular. One of those things where you can tell there weren’t a ton of women or trans people in the room) but your job is to develop a process. And it should allow flexibility. For example, when your employees create accounts, they shouldn’t need to put their gender. It should be optional. The more you can start from the assumption that names and genders and pronouns are fluid and may be different levels of acceptable or private, the better. And ideally there should be a way to change as much as possible without having to talk to HR, etc. And make sure you have manager training! One way to make this less likely to inspire transphobic people to cause trouble is to just present this as a matter of fact thing. Sometimes people’s names change. Sometimes their genders change. Sometimes you want different things for different situation–just like you might talk differently at home vs. at work. And if you have difficulty with software or anything, find a way to send feedback to whoever created it! Your payroll system doesn’t have a field for preferred name? Submit a ticket to make them fix it! The more you clearly are doing the best you can, the more likely it is that people will feel better about things and things will go smoothly, and the more likely it is that you will hear about it if you missed anything, which is what you want. You’re also allowed to tell people that you are still figuring things out and that as you continue to work things out, you are open to any feedback for other ways you can be supportive. For example, most of the time there is an option for Ms., so if there ever isn’t, I experience this as an odd quirk and a failure of a particular system and not as my job being sexist. Expect that you will need to tweak this policy over time.

  115. Random IT Guy*

    Side question: does the character of the transitioning person change?
    Then if he was a great colleague – then she will be as well. Or they will be.

    That would be what one should focus on – not which bathroom to use.

    Just treat a person like a human being – and make sure that the systems in place do the same.
    (but then, it`s easy to say this from my chair)

    1. AnonAlly*

      My transitioning colleague N. as a man was a difficult person, and tended to be a bit of a know it all and even bitchy. (Yes, transfolk are human, too.)
      The basic character still is there after transitioning seems to be almost done – but I think she’s relaxed a bit in her ways because happier. :-)

  116. Now officially Jake!*

    This bit wasn’t in a work setting but a couple of years ago when starting at a new dance class, they sent out a “welcome back” newsletter that had a section about a transitioning class member that impressed me. It read along the lines of –
    “As we start up again for the year we’d like to welcome back one of our regulars who’s returning after surgery and starting her new life as a woman! We’d like to remind everyone that this class is a welcoming space and it is expected that our members are treated politely by everyone here.”
    I don’t know what involvement she had in putting this out there, but in class she was bright and bubbly and very open about what she was going through and always says they’d made her feel welcome.

    As for my own experience, I’ve come out at work just in the last few weeks (FtM), and it’s gone really well so far! Ive worked for almost 2 years at my current job and I’ve been moving through my transition outside of work for nearly all of that time (questioning, coming out to family and friends and all the pre-hormone medical steps).
    Although other medical factors mean that I won’t be starting hormones for a month or two, I had just applied for my legal name change which prompted this to be the right time for me to tell everyone at work.

    I arranged for a private meeting with my boss and she was positive and supportive as soon as I told her. She asked me when I would like for her to start calling me Jake, and how I would like to have everyone learn this. My name was changed on the roster by the next morning and on my login within a week of me telling everyone.
    I chose to tell everyone myself as I had shifts with them over the following week. There were only 2 people who heard it before I told them, just because I wasn’t crossing paths with them until last, and I’ve encountered no negativity or inappropriateness from anyone. We’re all a very jovial bunch so any slip-ups with pronouns and my new name have been corrected by other coworkers to the point it’s now like a game to get it right – which is fine by me and is how I knew everyone was ok with it.

    We’re only a small workplace (12 staff) so there’s been no offical written policies as such, but my boss has always been very transparent about how we can ask for time off for appointments or how to report issues with coworkers and she reiterated that if anyone was rude or too nosey I could tell them to cut it out and she’d back me up or tell them off herself. We’re not customer facing – all our client interactions are by phone and email, and from how she’s handled client complaints in the past I know that if I were to have any incidents with a client regarding my voice/name not matching in apparent gender or anything related to my transition, that she would go to bat for me.

    Being a small workplace there are only 2 single stall bathrooms, and we don’t have medical insurance or personal emails (each team has its own email that all team members access) so none of those have been a concern.

    Much like what other commenters have said above, asking the transitioning person how they would like each aspect of change and information sharing to roll out and having supportive management who are clear and explicit about what is and isn’t ok are the two best first steps.
    I’ll cosign the recommendation that any listing of pronouns be optional, when I was still questioning it felt like such a weighted decision every time I had to state my pronouns on something in an informal/social setting and I really wouldn’t want to have had that feeling at work.

  117. Lonely Monster*

    My friend Kiki (not real name) transitioned while at her current job. Her manager was a rockstar in helping her navigate the different company policies and setting up support.

    One of the things Kiki’s manager spoke to her about was that this was also a transition for her co-workers, clients, etc. As well. That it will take some time for others to adjust to her true self. But, to also let her know if anyone was bullying her.

    Kiki only had a few problems with two individuals who refused to recognize her transition and continued to misname her or confronted her about how her transitioning was against God’s plan.

    Kiki’s manager had to let these employees go, but other than these hurdles Kiki’s transition went smoothly.

  118. not neurotypical*

    We’re an LGBTQ-led workplace with transfolk in leadership and where workers have twice come to work here in part because they knew it would be a safe place to transition. The most important advice we can give is to remember that the trans* spectrum is broad and that it is therefore never safe to presume anything. Let what the specific people on your team want and need, rather than any prescribed “best practices,” guide what you do. For example, for people who are questioning or don’t feel well-served by the available options or at the very beginning of a transition that still feels scary, the demand to state your pronouns at the start of every meeting (and on name tags, and in email signatures) can introduce a daily dose of anguish that is the opposite of what people intend by this practice. So, if someone is squirming or otherwise looking uncomfortable every time you demand that they say their preferred pronouns, stop asking them to do that! Figure out ways to draw less, rather than more, attention to gender in your workplace.

    1. some dude*

      Thanks for your comment. That was the point I was clumsily trying to make above – maybe we’d be better off, in general, decentering gender than having everyone lead with “I’m cismale! I’m transfemale! I’m femme/non-binary!” Provided the workplace is an environment where trans and non-binary folk feel seen and respected. Maybe I am just projecting my own dislike of being the center of attention on others.

  119. Student Worker Supervisor*

    Late to this party, but I currently have a student worker (university setting) in the process of transitioning. The student (uses she/her pronouns) has become uncomfortable with the public-facing side of her job, wherein students make appointments with X student staff member specializing in Y subject. She found that students’ expectations of who X would be/look like were making her anxious, so she asked is she could move to only offering online appointments. So far it’s working very well– we got to keep an excellent employee, and she gets to help people from her comfort zone.

    I also love using name tags or name signs including pronouns for the whole staff. A student worker last year moved from she/hers to they/them pronouns, and to help them communicate this without singling them out, I made signs for each worker with their names, space to fill in pronouns, and subjects they offer help with. It also helps student clients find the resource they’re looking for in an open office setting.

  120. Cats4Gold*

    Late to the party, but I cannot emphasize this enough- if you’re a supervisor (or someone otherwise in a position of power) and you hear someone deadname or misgender your employee, PLEASE CORRECT THEM. It can be a huge morale boost for your trans employees, and shows them that you’re in their corner. It also makes it clear that everybody needs to use the right pronouns and name. You don’t have to be super harsh about it, a gentle “Her name is Ellen now” or “actually, Ben uses he/him pronouns” goes a long way, in my experience.

    Also, visible signals of support make a big difference! I felt safe enough to come out in my job because a few coworkers had rainbow stickers/wore rainbow bracelets/had Human Rights Campaign posters up. As many other commentators have pointed out, please be mindful of your employees’ language, and quash bigoted speech (of any kind, against any minority group) when it comes up.

    And finally, with respect to pronouns… I know some people feel uncomfortable using them in their signatures, and I can understand that. That said, I added my pronouns to my email signature after coming out as trans, and that helped a remote colleague feel safe enough to come out as nonbinary. My (cis) husband also feels more at ease when he sees someone using pronouns in their signature- as mentioned above, little signs of allyship can go a long way.

  121. Ex-Prod Coor*

    I worked at a company that had a few people transition while working there! Whenever we hired new people, the company sends out an email with the new employee’s name, email, phone, job, and a photo (we have offices in different states). When our employees transitioned, a new email went out to the company with their correct name, new email address ect. Even in a heavily male-dominated company/industry, I thought it was excellent that everyone was briefed on the correct names and pronouns. We also never had any issue with those folks using the bathroom of their choosing.

    At my current job, we have had a few trans employees, and again work hard to make sure they are not misgendered! They did not transition while at the job, but still important to get right! All of our employees, regardless of gender identity, have their pronouns in their email signatures, and we have them listed on our “meet the team” page of our website. Any contact form or submission form (like for new clients or for scheduling calls, even on hiring sites) we ask for people’s pronouns. It’s such a small thing, but it makes a difference! Plus there’s tons of gender neutral names out there (Sam, Alex, etc) that it’s better to ask anyway!

  122. F*

    Oh, another good thing my workplace did: when we agreed they would email my colleagues re: my pronouns, they drafted the email then send it to me and I suggested improvements. This was great as 1) I was better placed to word things 2) our HR can be a little blunt 3) I felt in control of the process.

  123. TheTomatoInUrFruitSalad*

    Don’t lock yourself into one process.

    I had asked the company I worked for to send a letter to the office (super small, 25 person office) and they refused, saying their policy was to address it at staff meeting. Cue staff meeting and they read my letter in front of the entire team. I was mortified. Everyone kept turning to look at me, as though they expected I had something to say, too. Then they didn’t change my name in our front-facing systems, which eventually involved a lawyer informing them they were violating the Human Rights Act Law of our state. (Pro-tip: Don’t have a ‘legal name policy’ at work as it’s humiliating to ask people not to be called what they prefer, and in some cases (like mine), enforcing it can violate the law)

    My second company, on the other hand, handled everything brilliantly, even though my legal name change had been snow-cancelled (TWICE) and wasn’t ready when I started. They did figure out that there was one front-facing system that they couldn’t change the name in – the system in which we recorded our hours – but they did hide my name from the list, so you could only search for it to find it until the paperwork finally came through. It made a world of difference being in a supportive company that was willing to change things in their reporting system vs a company that so rigidly followed their policies I had to threaten to sue them.

  124. Phlox*

    A small thing to consider – if your work uses images of staff work to promote what you do (service-based nonprofits is an example), be mindful of photos that you will use in the future or currently have on the website, and the potential for old photos to out the person and/or be traumatic to see for that person. Probably worth a conversation and then potentially deleting photos or files that shouldn’t be used. Also worth editing files/old blog posts, places that might get forgotten with their deadname so that future coworkers don’t deadname.

    1. AS*

      Important points! I create posts for my teapot company’s blog, and since IT created a new account rather than changing my username, all of my old posts were showing up under my old name.

  125. Always Learning*

    Some people at my company have added their gender pronouns to their email signature. I initially didn’t feel that it was appropriate for a Fortune 100 company, but I came to see the usefulness of it on many fronts. I supervise a team of people and recently this practice was questioned openly in a team meeting. The tone of the asking party was borderline mocking. I explained the “why” behind someone’s choice to include this, based on my understanding. I tried to keep the response neutral and ensure the conversation stayed informative but neutral. I think that’s the best I could have done. That, and ensuring we use everyone’s proper/preferred names and preferred pronouns. At the end of the day it’s not a big deal; we’re here to do work. I’ll do what it takes to keep the atmosphere pleasant and professional.

  126. Diatom*

    I transitioned professionally last summer and my workplace was absolutely great about it. They didn’t have guidelines in place as I was apparently the first person to transition at the company, so we worked a lot of the process out as we went along, but honestly I felt good about having a level of control and cooperation over how the change would be handled. After my experience, I do feel like there should be some structure in place to the process (because not everyone enjoys researching best practices or resources to hand out to employees like I do!), but with enough wiggle room to let the person in question decide how they’d like to handle some parts of it. In particular it was great being able to decide how, when, and to whom my transition was going to be announced, and having the specifics forwarded to me to make sure I felt comfortable with the language they’d be using. For me personally, that looked like having it announced on a weekly call with most of the people I worked with regularly, followed by an email to everyone who had a reason to know me more than a one-off contact under my previous name & assumed gender, while I was out recovering from gender-affirming surgery. Everyone was told to practice my new name and pronouns while I was out and I’ve had very few problems with misgendering or deadnaming since then.

    I know a lot of people have had difficulties with HR, but for me they made life so much easier and were super proactive on making sure the process went smoothly. They made it clear all the way that they and the company had my back and wouldn’t tolerate transphobia, they provided a sort of initial buffer for people’s responses and questions, and they gave my coworkers resources on what transition meant in general and what not to do when talking to/about trans people. In particular I’m thankful that they hammered home that no, no one gets to ask me invasive questions about my medical care, no matter how curious they are–I was told later that a lot of people were confused that they were being told not to ask those questions and needed to get a firm no on it, but I haven’t been asked anything uncomfortable about my body or anything else in my transition since I got back, just general questions about how I’m recovering and how I’m feeling generally.

    One thing I will point out is that even if you put yourself out there as a company devoted to diversity and very LGBTQ+ friendly, trans people will often still be pretty wary about your reaction to their transitions. A lot of people who are very comfortable with gay people are also completely awful to trans people, so you have to be clear and explicit that you welcome the T as well as the LGB if you want trans people to feel welcome. I had an agonizing and very stressful time working up the courage to telling my supervisor & HR about my transition because I just didn’t know which way they’d jump. I only told them once my surgery was fully planned out and not too far off, and then only because it’d be worse if I hadn’t told them and then came back looking different. It’s a really scary time to be trans, and if you want your trans employees to feel safe at work, you need to show up for them even when you don’t know they’re there.

Comments are closed.