Transgender Issues At Work

Transgender Issues At Work

Quan Jinfan

Recent Clients:

  • U.S. Department of Defense/U.S. Navy (Naval Facilities Northwest) Bangor, WA October-November, 2015/March, 2016
  • U.S. Department of Defense/U.S. Navy (Naval Facilities Northwest) Bremerton, WA October-November, 2015/March, 2016
  • Lighthouse Discovery eLearning, 2012

Gender Identity and Gender Expression have become major issues in the diversity arena.  This training is designed to help an organization navigate the nuances it is likely to face when an employee is going through a transition from one gender to another.  In addition to clarifying the terms, the training ways the organization, and the employee’s immediate team, can do to support the individual during a stressful personal journey, respectful of legal parameters, internal policies, and workplace dynamics.

Key questions that are likely to arise in such a circumstance may include one or more of the following:

    • What rest room does the employee use?
    • Do we have to install a new gender-neutral bathroom for one employee?
    • What pronoun do we use for this employee?  If we need to make a pronoun change, when is the best time to start?
    • What can we do so that the employee knows we are supportive without causing an impact on the overall work environment.

This training may take place before, during, or after the individual has begun to express their gender differently.  Similarly, the training may take place before, during, or after the individual starts hormonal therapy, surgical procedures, or external counseling.

The training reinforces that several changes may occur during the transition, although every situation is different.  The person in transition may –or may not – wear clothing that’s expresses a different gender, may or may not wear a different hair style, may or may not ask that a different pronoun be used when that person is not present, and may or may not start to show different physical changes as the transition progresses.  However, as those changes do or do not occur, it is essential to understand that this employee still has the same skills, knowledge, and abilities; still knows the organizational culture like any other insider; and still is the very same person you’ve always known.

The definitions below may help capture and clarify differences in common terms.


 Chaz Bono

Definitions & Clarifications


“Sex” versus “Gender”

“Sex” refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women.  “Gender” refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.  Said differently, “Male” and “female” are sex categories, while “masculine” and “feminine” are gender categories.


Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation describes a pattern of attraction to others— e.g. emotional, romantic, or sexual —to the opposite sex, the same sex, or both sexes, and the genders that accompany them.  These attractions are generally categorized as heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or Asexuality (the lack of romantic or sexual attraction to others)


Gender identity

Gender identity is a person’s sense of being male or female, a self-conception resulting from and related to a combination of genetic and environmental influences.  Gender identity is not fixed at birth; both physiologic and social factors contribute to the early establishment of a core identity, which is modified and expanded by social factors as the child matures.


Gender Expression

Gender expression is the manner in which individuals “perform” their gender roles (e.g. in clothing, mannerisms, use of jewelry, etc.).

What we perceive as gender often has little direct attachment to the gender identity of the individual.


Genderqueer/Gender Non-Conforming

Self-identified genderqueer people may think of themselves as being both male and female, or as being neither male nor female, or as falling completely outside the gender binary. Some wish to have certain features of the opposite sex and not all characteristics; others want it all.  Some genderqueer people see their identity as one of many possible genders, while others use the term as an umbrella that encompasses all of those possible genders. Still others see genderqueer as a third gender to complement the traditional two, while others identify as genderless or agender.



Transgender is a complex topic. Consensual and precise definitions have not yet been reached.  Usually, the only way to find out how exactly people identify themselves is to ask, and sometimes, transgender people either cannot or will not define themselves any more specifically than transgender, queer, or genderqueer.




© 2012 Lonnie Lusardo/The Diversity Collaborative.  These definitions were adapted from a variety of sources, online and in print.