A Brief Overview

Terminology and Scope



       "Transgender" is a broad term used to encompass all manifestations of crossing gender barriers. It includes cross-dressers, intersexed people, transsexuals and people who live substantial portions of their lives as other than their birth gender. Generally speaking, a transgender person manifests a sense of self, the physical characteristics and/or personal expression commonly associated with a sex other than the one he or she was assigned at birth. A transitioning transgender person is one who is modifying his or her physical characteristics and manner of expression to -- in effect -- satisfy the standards for membership in another gender.


       Although transgenderism can be understood as a form of gender nonconformity, transitioning employees present workplace challenges that may significantly exceed those presented by certain more common manifestations of gender nonconformity. For instance, in some workplaces, a woman's decision to forgo skirts, blouses, jewelry and cosmetics and to begin dressing in a masculine style might result in little more than raised eyebrows or a few arch comments. Yet in almost any workplace today, deeply held beliefs about gender roles likely would be challenged by a woman's decision to modify her sex characteristics by taking male sex hormones and undergoing a double mastectomy, and to begin identifying, dressing and behaving as a man.

       Transitioning employees, as they move outside the legal standards for membership in one gender and begin to satisfy the legal standards for membership in another, often cannot avoid challenging community standards about what is gender-appropriate self-identification, appearance or expression. Consequently, transitioning employees may face a broad range of challenges in the workplace. Employers trying to deal with such employees and the reactions of their coworkers may have no idea how to respond to these challenges.

       If you are an employer seeking to understand these issues, the Gender Education Center offers practical suggestions for handling workplace transitions. If you are contemplating transitioning in the workplace, the Gender Education Center can help you assess what might happen, and help you understand how to best promote a positive response from management and coworkers. Successful workplace transitions depend on working from within the structure of organizations with knowledgeable and experienced guidance and help.

Portions from: HRC WorkNet

For more information contact:

Debra Davis & the Gender Education Center

P.O. Box 1861, Maple Grove, MN 55311
email: info at debradavis.org


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