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Introduction to Transgender Inclusion

Blog Post #1 in the series “Transgender Inclusion at Work”

As transgender rights continue to be threatened by our national government and debated at the state level, employers have an obligation to learn how to build workplaces that are inclusive of people of all genders. While dominant conceptions of gender identity in the United States are getting a long overdue reframe, prompted in part by increased attention on the lives of transgender (or trans) individuals, this attention has not necessarily translated to trans people feeling an increased sense of belonging or safety in the work environment (or the world, more broadly). Building organizational cultures where trans people feel safe, respected, and fully included is essential for employee health and well-being, and informs important organizational outcomes like performance, engagement, and retention. Designing such cultures requires education about gender, as well specific strategies to foster inclusion.


This is the first in a series of blog posts in which we will describe the shifting landscape of gender identities and provide tools that both individuals and organizations can use to foster workplaces that are inclusive to trans individuals. This first post will introduce some key terms related to gender, and will provide resources that can guide further education on foundational topics. In subsequent posts we will cover research, share strategies, and provide additional resources related to the following topics:

  • Why it’s important to focus on trans inclusion at work: Here we’ll share research related to being trans at work, consider how other aspects of identity intersect with gender, and offer more context on why it is important to actively foster inclusion for trans employees.
  • Using gender inclusive language: Let’s talk about pronouns! Here we’ll share why it is important to use correct pronouns (including gender non-binary pronouns they and them) and inclusive language for everyone.
  • What organizations and individuals can do to cultivate environments that are inclusive of trans people: We’ll share actions that organizations and individuals can take to support trans job candidates and employees, with a focus on how race, disability, age, and other identity factors should be considered.
  • Being transgender at work: A discussion of strategies and resources for trans people.


Many of the companies we work with at Paradigm are recognizing that their employees hold a range of gender identities that don’t necessarily conform with “M” or “F”. Etsy, for example, shared its shift towards measuring multiple gender identities and striving for inclusion of individuals with non-binary identities in its 2016 update on diversity metrics. In a recent report, Square included percentages of employees who identify as transgender or non-binary, and described how it is tracking feelings of belonging among employees of all genders using Paradigm’s Inclusion Survey. Providing options for employees to self-identify their gender is an essential first step that organizations can take to be more inclusive.

You should never assume that you can tell someone’s gender just by looking at them. The best way to know what it means when someone tells you they are genderqueer (or gender non-conforming, or a transgender woman, or anything else) is to allow them to define their identity for you. It is never appropriate to challenge the validity of someone’s gender identity when they share it with you. At work, employees should always have the opportunity to self-identify their gender in official work records (including HR systems), instead of companies determining an employee’s gender based on their appearance.

Here is a list of several terms that will help build your foundational understanding about gender. This list is by no means exhaustive nor definitive, but is meant as a starting point:


Used to describe the gender marker (male, female, or intersex) that was given to someone when they were born. It is never appropriate to ask someone what sex they were assigned at birth.

E.g., Assigned Female at Birth (AFAB) or Assigned Male at Birth (AMAB)


When someone’s gender identity conforms with their assigned sex at birth.

E.g., She is a cisgender woman; the doctor said she was a girl when she was born and she identifies as a woman.


How someone chooses to present their gender in their attire, makeup, gestures, etc.

E.g., Lane is a transgender man (gender identity) who uses he and him (pronouns), and often wears lipstick and eye shadow (gender expression).


Gender is: An individual’s sense of who they are. Gender identity is self-defined.

Gender is not:

  • Biologically pre-determined
  • Physical appearance, expression, or presentation, including how masculine or feminine someone appears to you
  • Sexual orientation, or the attraction or desire that someone feels (or doesn’t feel) towards others

E.g., Transgender man, man, woman, genderqueer, trans non-binary


These are examples of gender identities that are not encompassed within binary categorizations of gender.

E.g., They don’t identify as a man or a woman.


Used to describe an identity that differs from what the identity that was assigned at birth.

E.g., I was assigned male at at birth. I use she/her pronouns; I’m a transgender woman.


Transitioning can encompass many different things, depending on the person. It can include using hormones or medical interventions (like surgeries) to alter one’s body. Not all trans people choose to use hormones or other medical interventions, and not all trans people have access to these options.


For many trans people, when we leave our front door in the morning we are confronted with a world that sees us as an “other.” This difficult reality is compounded for trans people of color, trans women, and those who are disabled or poor. The current hostile political climate makes it essential that organizations engage in targeted efforts to build inclusive workplaces, where a trans job candidate gets an equal shot at a role as a cisgender job candidate, and where trans employees feel a sense of belonging and have equal access to opportunities and resources.

In subsequent blog posts in this series, we will focus on research related to trans inclusion at work and strategies that individuals and organizations can take to foster inclusive environments. For more information in the meantime, check out these links:

Is your organization engaging in efforts to build a transgender inclusive workplace? We’d love to know about it. Please tell us more in the comments!

September 28, 2017

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