Are careers still stunted by discrimination when it comes to sexuality?

March 12, 2009

tg_black-on_pink_100x107Big long piece in The Independent newspaper about discrimination in the workplace. Although focused on gay and lesbian people coming out in large organisations, nevertheless there is some mention of the experiences of trans people transitioning at work too:


It’s not just employers that have moved the LGBT agenda at work forward. The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 bans discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in employment and vocational training. Meanwhile, trans people are protected by the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Gender Equality Duty. What is clear, says Kath Browne, a senior lecturer at the University of Brighton who has researched the working lives of LGBT people in the Brighton area, is that when properly implemented this equalities legislation really does benefit everyone. “One of the women I spoke to as part of the research was going for her gender reassignment and was very nervous she would get her P45, but in fact her employer had already put in place all the statutory requirements, as well as thinking through their policy. She kept her job and felt very loyal to the employer.”

Nevertheless, she adds, “We also found that, particularly with trans people, they are very often unemployed or in unstable or unsuitable jobs because they choose to live in their gender roles. Others lose their jobs because of being trans. There is still a lot of discrimination out there and it’s not just overt. People can be subtly bullied.”

Stephen Whittle OBE, professor of equalities law at Manchester Metropolitan University, transitioned from female to male in the Seventies. “People have really extensive employment rights now, but we still find people who suffer terribly in their jobs. Research shows that 45 per cent of trans people do not transition because they fear losing their job.”


‘My employer was very supportive during my transition’

Daniel Hooper is a technical specialist at the Environment Agency who underwent a gender transition from female to male.

“When I went through my transition, I was very open about what was happening and why, along with the timescales. I encouraged my employer, who was very supportive, to surround it with a lot of humour, and that really worked. It meant that when mistakes were made inadvertently, it didn’t have to be a huge deal. For example, if someone got my name or my pronoun wrong, we’d just laugh it off.

I work in an area of the business that is considered to be very judgemental and is mainly male dominated. But I’ve never suffered from any harassment.

I hear about many trans people who try to keep the fact that they’re trans a secret at work. For me, that was never an issue because the psychology of such a closed life has never appealed to me. In any case, I think it helps to show others that trans people are normal people doing normal jobs.

The few people who are trans in the Environment Agency have helped write up the organisation’s trans policy. The benefit is that it addresses our needs as we perceive them, rather than being made up by someone who doesn’t really understand the issues. One example of the policy is the section on what is the appropriate language to use.”

Hmm. I come away from this thinking that, while it’s good that there’s been progress in recent years, trans people in particular are still a long way behind gay and lesbian people in our everyday experiences of transitioning at work. But it was ever thus, I suppose.

…*le sigh*…

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