Transgender inclusion continues to be a hot topic in the DEI space. In 2023 alone, U.S. politicians introduced more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills into their legislature, according to data from the American Civil Liberties Union. The trend of trans and gender-nonconforming (GNC) people — who make up an estimated 5% of young adults — being killed disproportionately, in violent, often prejudice-fueled ways, continued in 2023. So far, the Human Rights Campaign has reported 25 violent deaths of trans and GNC people in 2023.
One speaker at the Society for Human Resources Management’s Inclusion conference this year held space for the dark hand that homophobia and transphobia plays in the life of LGBTQ+ workers. Beyond educating cis people, Ben Greene, a consultant and CEO of BG Trans Talks, spent his session discussing a complementary element to trans psychological safety: space for trans joy. Here are three pro-tip takeaways from Greene’s talk for HR pros.
“I’m joyful in my body, in my life, in my family. I have come home to my body rather than escaping the body that I have."
CEO, BG Trans Talks
1. Know that no two experiences of transness are the same
Greene spent a good chunk of his introductory segment telling humorous anecdotes of situations in which he shrugged off transphobic remarks. He was also a bit of an anomaly in his ethos: He said he was willing to answer anything that someone had the courage to ask him. Still, Greene said, “What I am not an expert on is any other person's experience of gender dysphoria.”
Per the American Psychiatric Association, gender dysphoria refers to the “psychological distress that results from an incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender identity.”
“It is a unique emotion like any other emotion; no two people experience anger or hunger in exactly the same way. So gender dysphoria is no exception,” Greene said.
2. Stop associating transness with sadness
From his perspective, the SHRM speaker observed and enjoyed a shift in language, he said.
“We’ve talked about trans identities exclusively through the lens of misery. It was all about how we could escape our bodies and move away from a source of pain. But I don’t actually like that, because a lot of people assume that to be trans is inherently to be miserable,” Greene said. “I’m joyful in my body, in my life, in my family. I have come home to my body rather than escaping the body that I have.”
Greene offered up the antithesis of dysphoria: gender euphoria, when someone’s gender “aligns with their sense of self, and causes them to be happy and feel at ease,” to quote Healthline.
“This isn’t just a term that trans people can use. Everyone feels euphoria in their gender identity at times, [like] if you’re wearing a piece of clothing that makes you feel really confident,” Greene said. “Or when you’re listening to a great song — that can give you … gender euphoria. We’ve all experienced that,” he continued.
3. Recognize myriad obstacles to LGBTQ+ representation
One of the stated objectives for the session was that attendees “understand the reasons for urgency in these conversations, and the statistical reality that just because you can’t see any transgender people at your organization does not mean they are not there — just that they are not comfortable enough to come out.”
To be fair, yes, trans talent are underemployed due to stigma. But representation of LGBTQ+ talent, especially at more senior levels, remains small due to historical factors.
Greene nodded to data indicating that Gen Zers are increasingly identifying as LGBTQ+ and called people’s increased comfort with their identities “wonderful.” He also noted, “The AIDS epidemic killed millions of members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially in the boomer and Gen X generations. It’s not that those people didn’t exist — it’s that they didn’t make it to today.”
“In addition to AIDS, many people were lost to bullying, hate crimes, violence and suicide,” Greene said. “Many more people are stigmatized.” Increased evidence of LGBTQ+ adults is just “a graph of who’s alive today to share it and who feels safe enough to share it,” he said.