On April 27, Beck Bailey, Deputy Director of Employee Engagement at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, came to Yale SOM to discuss transgender issues in the workplace. The event was hosted by Yale SOM’s Out of Office Club, a forum for the exploration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues within the Yale School of Management community.
Bailey has been out as a transgender man for 20 years. Through his campus and corporate presentations, Bailey gives visibility to the lives of a minority population that is otherwise invisible. Only through this visibility, he mentioned, have transgender individuals asserted their humanity. Bailey emphasized the importance of allies taking steps to self-educate and advocate on behalf of transgender individuals, and he provided attendees with the following foundational information on how to create more transgender inclusive communities.
Gender expression versus identity:
Transgender is a term for people whose gender identity or expression is different from those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth. Not all people who consider themselves transgender undergo surgical or medical treatment to change their bodies. Beck discussed the difference between sex (your chromosomes), gender (your attitudes and beliefs), gender identity (your deeply felt psychological identity), gender expression (your external characteristics), and sexual orientation (who you are attracted to). People often get confused between gender identity and sexual orientation. He explained the difference by saying "sexual orientation is who someone goes to bed with while gender identity is who they go to bed as."
Increased visibility for transgender issues:
We are at the highest level of transgender visibility in U.S. history. The combination of social media, news media, and popular culture has created new awareness of the transgender community. High-profile transgender individuals like Laverne Cox, from ‘Orange is the New Black’, and Bruce Jenner are helping making transgender issues more mainstream. Over 17 million tuned into Bruce Jenner’s recent interview with ABC news to talk about his transition from a man to a woman. Last year, Facebook added over 50 different gender options, further underlining how mainstream gender identity topics have become.
Transgender issues in the workplace:
There is a strong business case for transgender inclusion in the workplace, Bailey noted. Inclusionary policies should be integrated throughout legal documents, health coverage, and employee training, and managers at all levels should demonstrate inclusive behavior. It should not have to take an employee coming out as transgender for fair standards to be adopted.
Being a transgender ally:
People can start by assessing their own biases, which are often unconscious. Effective allies listen, remain open-minded, include trans individuals in activities and social events, and they adopt a zero-tolerance policy for transphobic behavior. In addition, making assumptions about another’s gender can be harmful, and it is important for allies to leave space for others to claim their own gender identity.
Well-attended events like this one underscore the thoughtfulness and good intentions of Yale SOM students and staff. Our Out Of Office Club looks forward to advancing the dialogue on transgender inclusion and making our school a truly inclusive place for every gender identity. Please stay tuned for more Out Of Office events next year!