Transgender in the Workplace

Recently I attended a training held by the State of Colorado on how to understand and support employees who are transitioning. Dr. Renee McLaughlin provided helpful definitions and frameworks to consider including these definitions, I have outlined in brief:

  • Gender Identity – How we think of ourselves, knowledge of self
  • Sexual Orientation – Who we are attracted to
  • Gender Expression – How we choose to express our gender (this is the only one of the four that is by choice)
  • Physical Sex – including the chromosome make up of our bodies at birth (e.g., XX, XY, XXY, XYY, XXYY, etc.)

Sexual identity, she stated, is a continuum of understanding of how these 4 independent variables inform our sense of self. Note that of the four, she clarified that only gender expression is a choice, and the others exist without choice.

With those who are transgender, their gender identity does not equal the gender they were assigned at birth. In fact, gender “non-conformity” (or gender diversity) is part of a continuum of gender fluidity along a continuum from female on one end to male on the other.

Dr. McLaughlin pointed to The World Professional Association for Transgender Health that publishes research and Standards of Care for doctors. She also stated that 1 in 150 of the adult US population are transgender, citing a 2016 report by the Williams Institute. (Please see the USLA School of Law Williams Institute for 2022 figures).

With over 1.3 million transgender U.S. adults it is likely that some transgender individuals work at and/or use libraries. In fact, in my first three weeks as Public Library Leadership Consultant, I was involved with three separate conversations with library leaders about transgender employees. These libraries are in both populous and rural communities.

In addition, my past work experience has included supervising both non-binary and transgender employees. I admit to not doing it well. Fortunately, more resources now are available to raise awareness and improve our work  in libraries. Resources from the private and public sectors are available to supervisors and employees in order to navigate the spectrum of gender identity. The goal is to establish norms that value all and reduce, and ultimately eliminate, microaggressions and overt disrespect that often result in mental and emotional burdens for employees. Supervisors and others can proactively gain knowledge and identify ways to support those who seek to live (and transition to) the gender identity they align with.

To this end, resources include:

While this topic has many perspectives, as with all issues, the goal of libraries is to stay informed with accurate and current information, research, and reliable resources and to create a respectful place for everyone to flourish.

Sharon Morris