Workplace Guidelines for Transgendered Employees

Guidelines for Transsexuals

Our EO policy is focussed on the needs of the transsexual. It is the fundamental right of a transsexual to be open about who they are, and to transition in the workplace, without any adverse consequences. Our company is a place of business, and all employees are expected to behave and dress in a businesslike manner.

Coming Out

All transgendered employees have the right to openly be who they are. This means that it is OK to come out of the closet without fear of consequences. We recommend you start with the key people who can help you: EQUAL! (or your ERG,) your local Human Resources (HR) representatives, and your boss.

Your ERG.

Many companies have Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs, for various Diversity concerns. (For example, in Lucent and Avaya, EQUAL! is the ERG for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered employees. Lucent and Avaya use the term EBP, or Employee Benefit Partner group, rather than ERG.) Find out if your company has a GLBT ERG, and whether the group is trans-inclusive. If your ERG for gay issues isn't trans-inclusive, chances are good they can still be very helpful, and while you may have to educate them about transgender issues, it's usually worthwhile to join. If you have no ERG for gay issues, and your employer is a company large enough to have a Diversity specialist in HR, you might consider working with other GLBT employees to form an ERG.

If you have a local ERG chapter, by all means contact them. EBPs usally supportive of transgendered issues. It is important to have a local support structure, and your EBP can be in that role. You should feel free to come out to your EBP, and if you are unable to come out, you can attend EBP meetings in the guise of a supportive straight ally. Don't be surprised if you are the first transgendered person in your EBP chapter. You may need to educate them about who you are and what your needs are. You can receive support for this from other transgendered employees (probably in other locations) and the central or global leadership of your EBP.

Coming out to HR

Unless you are comfortable with your boss and coworkers, the safest course of action is to begin by coming out to your local HR representative. If you don't know who that is, you can either visit the local HR office to inquire (asking for a copy of the current EO policy is one approach) or call corporate HR to find a local representative. (Your EBP can also refer you locally.) It is best to visit the HR rep in person, but if you are afraid, you can make a telephone call from a pay phone first, to verify that the HR rep will be supportive.

Explain to the HR rep that you are transsexual. If you are planning to transition on the job, discuss this with your rep. If you do not plan to transition, you may still benefit from openness or referral to other transgendered employees. Discuss your needs and your plans.

HR may not be educated about transgender issues. Most employees in HR are aware of the policy. Many may not understand what it means. Be prepared to explain what it means to you. Remember that you are covered under the corporate "diversity" umbrella, as a part of "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered" employees. You are worthy of the same dignity and respect as all other employees.

The book "Transsexual Workers: An Employer's Guide" is highly recommended to explain all this to your HR professional and others. This book is a must for HR professionals, managers, transitioning transsexuals, and those wanting to understand the workplace issues of a transitioning transsexual.

If you are in the care of a mental health professional, guiding you through your transgendered journey, you may find it helpful to have that therapist with you in some of these meetings. The therapist will lend credibility and calmness to the discussion, and may help your self-confidence.

In your discussion with HR, plan your next step, which should be coming out to your boss. You may explore further milestones in your journey, but do not make definite plans without your boss's participation.

Coming out to your boss

Your most important ally will be your boss. It may be frightening to make yourself vulnerable to a person upon whom your job depends. We have all felt this. Fortunately, many companies have a corporate culture that supports diversity. In these companies, it is very difficult to be promoted into management unless you have a track record supportive of all diversity groups. You will probably find that your boss will be ready to help you in every way.

In general, present a positive attitude about yourself, your workplace, and your boss. The general theme should be that your upcoming transition is no big deal - you're still the same person, you'll still be able to do your job, indeed you'll be more productive in the new role. Express your support for your employer and your boss and your willingness to work with him or her to ensure a smooth transition. Listen to any concerns, and be flexible about solutions, but make it clear, with "I statements", that you have no choice and that the transition must be made.

Your boss may not be educated about transgender issues. (Indeed, with such a new policy, most employees may be unaware of the policy, and unaware of what it means. You should expect to spend some time educating people.)

Do not lead with the restroom issue - it's bound to come up soon. It's usually a good idea to agree how you will handle the restroom before you proceed to the next step. Suggest that the usual approach is for an M2F to use the women's room or an F2M to use the men's room immediately after the transition. If there are any special local issues, such as a locker room or an army of bigots in your building, or a local law, some local accomodation may be necessary. Make sure that you, your boss, your HR rep, and your Corporate Diversity specialist are in agreement about how you will handle this. As a rule of thumb, the restroom policy in progressive companies is often "if you have transitioned, use the restroom matching your new presentation, with local adaptations if necessary." It is reasonable to insist that your restroom accomodations be safe, dignified, and convenient.

Coming out to your coworkers
With the help of your boss, arrange a meeting with your work group. This meeting should be face-to-face if at all possible. Include people you will be working with face-to-face, but don't make the meeting so large that it's unmanagable. If you can't fit into a conference room, it's too many people.

In this meeting you, your boss, or ideally a TG educator such as your therapist, should explain what it means to be a transsexual, that it's perfectly acceptable, and that once the novelty wears off things will be pretty ordinary again. You should tell about yourself and why this is important to you. Your boss needs to lend support and make it clear to everyone there that they should accept you and behave respectfully toward you. Set the schedule so everyone knows what to expect and when.

Be open and friendly with your coworkers. Offer to answer any questions they have. Your goal should be that their reaction is "so what's the big deal?"

If possible, it would be great to have a "TG 101" sensitivity training workshop for your coworkers. This can be combined with the "coming out" meeting, or can be done separately. This is often about a two hour workshop where the basics are explained, and a few transsexuals tell their stories as a panel. Different presenters have different formats, however, so inquire locally. If you need help finding a presenter, consult Transgender at Work at


On the determined date, you transition into the new role. This means you come to work presenting as your desired gender. It helps if your boss and HR rep are around to provide support if needed.

Checklist for Transitioning

Use this helpful checklist when you or your employee transitions to a new gender role on the job.

Dos and Don'ts.



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Copyright (c) 1999, 2001 by Mary Ann Horton. All rights reserved.