HR Magazine – What not to ask a transgender person

This week is National Inclusion Week, which of course begs the question: how can we improve belonging at work? While it’s never appropriate to ask intrusive questions, it’s something that marginalized groups, including the transgender community, encounter regularly under the guise of being inclusive and trying to understand.

A few examples: “I don’t want to ask too personal a question, but have you had a sex change operation? Are you gay? When did you know? What is your real name? How did your family experience it? So which toilet do you use? »


Making the workplace a safe space for trans employees:

How can HR be a trans ally?

Stonewall CEO: Creating a Safe Space for Ideas Critical to Trans Inclusion

HR has the opportunity to lead trans and non-binary inclusivity


Being open-minded, wanting to learn, and genuinely caring about someone is one thing, but at best it can feel like it comes from a place of prying curiosity.

Would you ask equally intimate questions of a cisgender person? Consider that trans people may very well have suffered from dysphoria, anxiety, depression, impostor syndrome, and microaggressions.

So what are the best ways to be inclusive and what questions should we ask members of the trans community, and what should we absolutely not ask?

Asking questions about our pre-gender transition can trigger dysphoria. Likewise, we don’t want to talk about the medical journey we may have had or our genitals, which really have nothing to do with anyone outside of that person and possibly their partner.

I don’t want to be mistreated or have to correct someone over and over.

It is also very important to never date someone or share confidential information or gossip about someone who might feel really vulnerable.

Trans people generally don’t want to answer questions or debate contentious issues. Most of us don’t want to be spokespersons on issues such as fairness for trans people participating in sports, or to be baited on the corruption of today’s children, or asked to explain how people non-binaries can seriously say they have no gender.

Many of us are not political and some of us struggle because we are isolated. We don’t want to justify ourselves or our community. We just want to be ourselves, to belong and to live our life like everyone else.

To show that you care about belonging, a trans person feels respected when asked what pronouns we use. We feel safe when asked if shared information should be kept confidential.

Remember we are all on different journeys and some of us may be out, and some of us may be partially, or just not yet or maybe may never feel safe .

Some of us just want to be part of the team transparently and don’t need to be vetted, but others would appreciate being asked if there is anything that can be done for us. support, especially during the transition.

We all want the ability to not have to live with secrecy, impostor syndrome, and shame. Who wouldn’t?

As part of best practice, we need to notice if we ourselves are making assumptions about someone’s gender. When you’re curious, do so with sensitivity and ask yourself if you’re making the other person feel comfortable in the conversation.

We all need to take the time to assess whether we are making marginalized minorities feel included, part of the team; as if they belong.

Joanne Lockwood is a D&I Consultant at SEE Change Happen