Calvin Asks: What support can I give to a transgender engineer?

Dear Calvin

I'm a manager in an large engineering company and manage a team of around 20 engineers. One of my team has come to me to let me know that they are transgender and are about to take the first steps in the process of gender reassignment. They are due to take a few days holiday and then will return to work living as the opposite sex and changing their name.

I know the IET has a diversity champion and also an LGBT community, so as their manager I would really welcome some advice from the community on how I can best support them at work whilst they're undergoing this transition and beyond.

Needing Advice - Cardiff

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  • I've transitioned in the workplace and would gladly chat, as often discussions on a more personal level work better, but as the founding chair of our work's LGBT+ network, I was asked this very question by a colleague. Without knowing details - mtf/ftm/nb, stage, age, background, working environment and specific concerns (potentiallly 'sticky' colleagues), it's difficult to put together a useful list, but here are a couple of pointer that may help.

    1. Have great resources.

    2. For non-binary and lesser known sexualities, My Umbrella provide some good resources (this is great for printing and starting conversations).

    3. For networking: are also of note and often put on events.

    4. Learn about your unconcious biases

    From a personal perspective the following may also help:

    1. Don't assume you are part of your employee's support network. Keep things business like. they've probably been going through this for years already.

    2. Engage HR (without outing your employee, unless with permission). (Or work employee resource group/ LGBT+ network) This helps to:

    - ensure your company policies are up to date. They may not have been used for a time.

    - ensure you receive necessary training (It's very well researching things yourself, but having others to learn from is invaluable)

    - can provide stability if line management changes. (I had 4 line managers over a year as I was transitioning.)

    - makes sure you have confidence in meeting legislation etc (policy is good but not always perfect)

    4. This is about your employee, not about others. Make sure they have the time, space and feel able to control the way, the speed and means that things happen.

    5.. Have regular meetings to check up on your employee and where they're at, especially their mental health, sadly 40% of transgender people have attempted suicide at least once in their life, (but beware point 1), this has and will affect them in the workplace wherever they are at.

    6. Spend time with the LGBT+ community. We don't bite (unless you want us to) ;-)  ! I found myself in the most welcoming and friendly group of people I've ever had the pleasure to spend time with, but expect to hear some sad tales of mental health, family issues, discrimination, hate crimes and harassment, when you start to scratch the surface.

    I pretty much turned up to work in a dress one day, and was just left to get on with it, which has it's advantages, but I certainly learnt no way to transition is perfect, and would do things very differently with hindsight.

    It's not safe for work but Axis of Awesome did a great song 'Elephant in the Room', as a coming out song for their lead singer. As a comedy rock band they nailed it - it's certainly an individual approach.
  • On the InterEngineering site you’ll find a report on Transitioning in the Workplace. It’s from a workshop hosted by National Grid, InterEngineering and Stonewall on the 29th November 2017 to identify what was good practice for supporting transition in the workplace, and if improvements could be made to transitioning guidance. The workshop kicked off with a series of speakers from InterEngineering, National Grid, EDF Energy, Aston University, IBM and Stonewall. The event was attended by representatives across the engineering sector including EDF Energy, Jaguar Land Rover, Arup, Rolls-Royce and Wood. Five questions formed the basis of the workshop:

    1. Where to start?

    • How to support individuals who are transitioning?

    • How to support line managers and colleagues?

    • What is considered to be best practice for companies to implement?

    • How to make the best use external organisations?

    heres the link