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Inclusivity: How to support a trans employee at a digital agency

Written by Ren James on July 8th, 2022
A year ago, almost to the day of publishing this blog, I took the biggest professional risk of my career and officially came out as a trans woman. What!

I am absolutely blessed to be surrounded by amazing colleagues at Splitpixel who instantly made me feel silly that I’d ever worried about it at all, so I thought I’d share some advice on how to make your workplace more trans-inclusive, and how to support a trans employee, should you in turn be blessed enough to have one.

How to build a supportive environment for trans people before they even come out

You literally never know who could be trans, so creating an environment that is supportive of trans people even if you don’t think there are any in the company is so important. It’s not that hard – all you really need to do is:

  • Encourage people to use pronouns in their email signatures and Zoom screen names
  • Try and offer gender-neutral toilets if you can
  • Take the lead on shutting down transphobic comments and attitudes
  • Take down any Harry Potter paraphernalia on display in the office
  • Be aware of what’s going on in the world for trans people and understand that most of the time it’s pretty bad news
  • Remember that trans men and non-binary people exist, despite the disproportionate amount of media scrutiny given to trans women

How to react to a trans employee

Coming out is one of the scariest things you can ever do – way more scary than quitting a job and starting over somewhere else. Someone entrusting you with this information is just a huge vote of confidence –take this as the compliment that it is.

Don’t make too much of a fuss – thank them for sharing with you, and ask them what you can do to help. It’s as simple as letting them take the lead. But if they don’t have a clue what to do next, here’s some suggestions!

How to support a trans employee when they come out

Just be kind. Once all this is over, they’ll most likely be a much happier and more confident person, and you’ll absolutely reap the rewards of this. Make sure they have everything they need to continue doing their job as normal.

But also just give them a bit of time – be aware that they may be nervous about meeting clients, or about the sound of their voice on the phone. If you can shuffle their responsibilities around a bit while they get comfortable, it will really go a long way.

Here’s a quick checklist of admin things you’ll need to do if they’ve changed their name:

  • Get them a new email address and ask them if they’re comfortable with forwarding on their old one
  • Update their details with payroll, pension, healthcare, etc.
  • Sort some new business cards and website photos ASAP – a good excuse to refresh everyone’s, really!

How to tell your staff that an employee they deal with is trans

Depending on the size of the company, and how close your employee is with their colleagues, they may well want to tell people themselves. I dumped my coming-out message in our general Discord channel about 15 minutes before our weekly team meeting so I knew everyone would see it.

If you have a bigger team, sending an email around on their behalf can really take the pressure off. There’s a template lower down based on the one I wrote for my director to send to my clients, and it’d definitely be easy to adapt that for a company all.

How to tell your clients that an employee they deal with is trans

If your lovely trans employee is client-facing, the absolute mountain of people they need to inform is probably weighing heavily on their mind. Take on some of that burden for them.

Ask them for a list of the people they deal with regularly, and put together an email informing them. Make sure you agree the contents with them before sending!

A template email for telling clients about a trans employee:

Hi [client name],

Hope I find you well!

I’m emailing about something that’s essentially personal to [employee’s old full name] here at Splitpixel but, as you communicate with them directly, I wanted to make sure we avoid any confusion!

[Employee’s old first name – the last time you’ll ever use it] has recently shared with us that [pronoun] is trans. While this won’t impact you or the work [pronoun] does for you, it does mean that [pronoun] has a new name, [employee’s new name], and a new email address. [Pronoun’s] new email address as of Monday is [new email address] so if you see emails from [employee’s new name], just know that it’s the same person you’ve been communicating with and working with and not a new team member.

If you are able to share this information by forwarding this email to other members of your team who communicate with [employee’s new name], it would be really helpful.

Thank you for understanding and for helping me be supportive of [employee’s new name] and the [company] team. Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to answer!

Kind regards

[Your name]

Finally – put your money where your mouth is

Okay, here’s the scary part for you. The big demand of the trans agenda. The best thing you can do as a business owner is to stand up for trans people.

Donate money to trans charities. Call out your own employees that make transphobic comments or behave in a transphobic way – even if they “didn’t mean anything by it”. Stay away from clients that donate to anti-trans organisations or politicians, or express trans views publicly. Make complaints about people at your client companies that make anti-trans comments. Show your trans employees that their wellbeing is more important to you than profit at any cost.

Being a trans person in the world at the moment isn’t a whole lot of fun. If you can make your trans employees feel safe and supported at work, you’re one of the good ones.

Written by Ren James on July 8th, 2022

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