Katrina Kibben is founder and CEO of Three Ears Media. Views are the author's own.
In the last year, there have been more anti-trans bills introduced to state legislatures than over the last ten years. Yes, you read that right — more in 12 months than 12 years. These bills target everything from how we talk about LGBT+ rights — the "Don’t Say Gay" bill in Florida — to the extremes of targeting and arresting parents of children who advocate for gender-affirming healthcare for their children across more than 10 states, including Alabama and Texas.
Behind those stories and anger-inducing headlines are people — scared children and parents. Children who have already looked many fears in the eye simply to say "I am trans" now have laws and regulations that may take that away from them.
These are children who will become adults that will someday have your job, report to you and work at your company, and parents who are working for you now.
A Great Realization
While these bills don’t directly influence healthcare for the trans population over 18 (yet), they set a precedent for gender-affirming healthcare that needs to be addressed now. They also set a new bar for companies that truly want to be affirming. How will you support your workers, and how will you support their family’s needs?
The Great Resignation has people quitting jobs for all new reasons. It’s not just more money and a promotion that will have workers heading for the door. People have reported those typical reasons for quitting, but they’re citing all-new emotional reasons too. Those include feeling disrespected, lack of benefits and more.
It points to a new wave of candidate and employee behavior — a Great Realization, if you will: a realization that we can’t continue to work for companies that don’t do the work to make their values not just a poster on the wall but a series of actions workers can see.
Prioritize education, benefits
Now, these behaviors (or lack thereof) are hitting the headlines, too. Whether it’s Uber not changing a trans person’s name or someone getting fired for being trans, demands for accountability are louder than ever. However, the HR and recruiting industries both lack a lot of the resources necessary to create a truly equitable and supportive policy for trans workers.
What we do next has to add up to more than pronouns in an email signature.
I recommend employers start with education, not targeting. That means you do not pull aside your only trans employee and ask them to give a presentation. Instead, hire external resources to do frequent company-wide education on belonging, pronouns and other topics that help create more equity for trans employees. Create an onboarding module about the content, too, that will produce ongoing, on-demand options for new employees.
Research gender-affirming healthcare and policies from other companies. Ask your benefits provider what they offer and how they have worked with others. If their answer is that they haven’t worked with anyone else on a policy, suggest that you will go shopping for a new benefits provider if they can’t develop resources. Communicate the priority and insist on change.
Look at your systems and facilities: Do you have a system for changing someone’s last name after they get married? Create another one for trans employees changing their names. Do you have gender-neutral bathrooms? Make one.
When so many anti-trans bills and stories are making headlines today, taking these actions to encourage equity for trans employees is more important than ever before. Subtle cues go a long way and it starts with employers taking action to not only support trans workers but also advance benefits and support for trans employees.