Transitioning at Work
Guidelines & Resources for the Drexel Community
Guidelines Statement of Purpose
"Transitioning at Work: Guidelines & Resources for the Drexel Community" was drafted by a committee led by Drexel University's LGBTQA+ Faculty & Professional Staff Colleague Resource Group. These Guidelines were first published and most recently updated in January 2017. These Guidelines are intended to serve as a living document, and comments, suggestions, questions and concerns about these Guidelines may be directed to Drexel's Office for Institutional Equity and Inclusive Culture.
These Guidelines provide information for employees who are transitioning, as well as for their co-workers, managers and others in their professional network. The Guidelines are flexible enough to support customizing to the specific circumstances of the individual employee, yet specific enough to provide a consistent framework. Additional resources are located in the Appendices.
Any employee considering transitioning at work is encouraged to review these Guidelines and contact the University's Transition Coordinator, who is available to assist the employee as needed with such issues as navigating the workplace environment, making any changes to University documents, answering questions about health benefits, and any other administrative or social matter. This can include, when appropriate, facilitating support from senior management – which sends a strong message of respect to the individual as well as for diversity and inclusion generally, and sets the tone regarding expectations from staff – and arranging for educational touchpoints for others within the individual's network. The Transition Coordinator is a professional staff member in the Office for Institutional Equity and Inclusive Culture. Please call 215.895.1405 or email email@example.com in order to connect with the Transition Coordinator. These communications will be private.
Preliminarily, transitioning is the process some transgender people go through to begin living as the gender with which they identify, rather than the sex assigned to them at birth. Transitioning can be social, such as telling people about your gender identity; using a different name and pronouns; and/or changing your gender expression (including clothing, mannerisms, etc.). Not every individual takes the same steps, or all at once (for example, transitioning socially with friends, but not family, or at work, etc.).
Transitioning can also have legal implications (birth certificate, passport, driver's license, social security card, financial documents, etc.), and sometimes a medical component (e.g. hormone therapy, gender confirmation surgery, other surgeries). Not all transitions include medical intervention or changes in legal status.
Like cisgender people, transgender people are unique individuals who present in diverse ways. Some transgender individuals conform tightly to gendered expectations, while other transgender people challenge those expectations.
Transitioning can be complex. People who experience or express their gender in a way that does not conform with sociotypical expectations may encounter multifaceted and unique challenges, even at a time that is very freeing, affirming and joyful. A supportive and respectful work environment is important for all employees, but may be particularly critical for transitioning employees. These Guidelines are intended to help individuals navigate in the knowledge that they are supported and welcomed as part of Drexel's diverse community.
Employees are always expected to conduct themselves consistently with University policies. Drexel University's nondiscrimination policies prohibit discrimination and harassment directed against individuals because of their gender identity or gender expression. This is consistent with our workplace philosophy that all employees should be treated fairly and with respect, as well as federal, state and local law. An employee's failure to comply with policies prohibiting discrimination or harassment in the workplace could result in corrective action, including termination of their employment.
As noted, Drexel University's nondiscrimination policies prohibit discrimination and harassment directed against individuals because of their gender identity or gender expression. The policies also inform individuals of what to do in the event that someone has been subjected to prohibited conduct.
Employees and applicants will not be subjected to coercion, intimidation, harassment, threats or retaliation for filing, in good faith, a complaint of unlawful discrimination or harassment, assisting or participating in an investigation, compliance review, hearing or any other proceeding related to the administration of any federal, state or local law requiring equal employment opportunity; opposing any act or practice made unlawful by any federal, state or local law requiring equal opportunity; or exercising any other right protected by federal, state or local law requiring equal opportunity.
Drexel University will not tolerate threats or acts of retaliation against individuals because they, in good faith, report conduct believed to violate equal opportunity policies or to provide information in connection with such a report by another individual. In the event an employee believes that they have been retaliated against in violation of University policy for having made such a report or having provided such information, the employee should report the concern immediately, using the reporting procedures described in the applicable nondiscrimination policy.
A complete listing of Drexel University employee benefits is available online. As of 2017, many employee medical costs associated with transitioning are covered under Drexel's policy. This is a rapidly evolving area of health coverage. Transitioning employees are strongly encouraged to fully familiarize themselves with the details of their policy coverage and to contact the Human Resources benefits team with any questions.
Right to Privacy
Drexel University policies and various federal, state and local laws protect employee privacy regarding medical history and other records. In addition, current and prospective employees who encounter problems concerning identification documentation, such as payroll and insurance forms, should feel comfortable raising those concerns directly with their unit's Human Resources (HR) business partner.
Leave and Time Off
Medical components of an employee's transition, if any, may require multiple visits to medical professionals and include medical procedures that could require the employee to take time off from work. University policies on leave and time off apply to such employees to the same extent as they would to employees who have other medical procedures. The employee's manager and their unit's Human Resources business partner should assist the employee in understanding their benefits through referral to the appropriate resources for leave and time off benefits. These conversations should always be confidential.
Notification of Transition
A transitioning employee will likely be considering who to inform about their transition, and may be seeking a support network at work. Persons to consider include: the University's Transition Coordinator, the employee's manager (or another member of management), the employee's unit's Human Resources business partner, and/or colleagues who the employee trusts. The University's LGBTQA+ Colleague Resource Group is a safe place to find allies; employees who have chosen to participate in the University's LGBTQ+ Ally Program may also be identifiable by the "ALLY" tags in their workspaces. The individual may wish to discuss their intentions, needs and concerns, as well as any thoughts about "timeline" or future plans.
The individual may wish to maintain a list or plan of what needs to be done in order to ensure that they are comfortable and supported. For example:
- Consideration of who within the individual's work network they wish to notify and/or seek support from.
- A rough timeline or map of future plans, if desired.
- If the individual plans to disclose to others at work, any plans for doing so (for example, when and how these communications would take place; if senior management is notified; etc.).
- Any changes to records / documentation (e.g. name change, health insurance).
- Any desired educational touchpoints for others within the individual's network to ensure that the individual is treated with respect, welcomed and included.
- Concerns about use of gender-specific facilities, such as restrooms and dressing/locker rooms.
Drexel University has the right to regulate employee appearance and behavior in the workplace for reasonable business purposes. Transgender employees are supported in dressing consistently with their gender identity, and are simply required to comply with the same standards of dress and appearance as apply to all other employees in their workplace and similar position. Drexel's Appearance policy can be found here.
Employees With Client and Supplier Contact
If the employee is in a role in which they have contact with external clients, the employee may wish to consider communications with these external individuals. It may be helpful to include a statement of Drexel University's nondiscrimination policies within any such messaging. The employee should be confident in the knowledge that client preference is not a reason to deny an employee the right to dress consistently with their gender identity.
Access issues related to restrooms and other sex-segregated facilities (e.g. dressing/locker rooms) will be handled with sensitivity. All employees should use the facilities that correspond with their gender identity. A transitioning employee will not, for example, be required to use the restroom of their designated sex at birth. However, usage of reasonable single-occupancy or unisex facilities may be preferred by the employee. We aim to, whenever possible, provide single use or otherwise inclusive facilities for all employees. Whenever this is not possible, the relevant city ordinance and/or Drexel policy should be clearly posted in all gendered facilities so that users can be made aware of who is permitted to use those facilities. Such signage should also provide information on how to locate the nearest single-use facility. A list of single person restrooms at Drexel can be found here. If an employee wishes to discuss facilities-related needs, the Transition Coordinator is available to do so.
The support of managers may be critical to an employee who intends to transition, or an employee who is transitioning. It may be stressful for an employee to make themselves vulnerable to a person upon whom their job depends. If the manager is not familiar with the concept of transitioning, they should seek information from the resources listed at the end of this document to ensure that they are treating the employee sensitively and appropriately, and with dignity and respect. The manager should be open-minded and careful not to make assumptions about the employee, to expect the employee to speak for all transgender people, or to put the burden of education on the already-burdened employee, which would be an expression of cisgender privilege. Human Resources and the Transition Coordinator are available to provide advice and assistance for supervisors working with a transitioning employee.
Statement of Confidentiality
Employee information is confidential and should only be disclosed on a need-to-know basis, and only with the consent of the employee. However, transitioning employees are encouraged to participate in the education of their professional networks at whatever level they are comfortable, if any.
Initial Conversation with Manager or Department Head
Below are key points for a manager to consider during an initial conversation about transitioning with a concerned employee. If an employee broaches the subject of transitioning with their manager, it is appropriate for the manager to assure the employee that their manager will be supportive of them and treat them with dignity and respect, then ask to continue the conversation at a later time. The manager may wish to take some time to become familiar with these Guidelines and/or other resources, best practices, etc., to feel confident that their response will be appropriate and informed.
- Inform the employee about the University's nondiscrimination policies and other local policies addressing discrimination in employment.
- Offer the manager's assurance to the employee that the University will be as supportive as possible.
- Affirm the manager's and the University's commitment to privacy.
- State the manager's availability to join in conversations with the employee's support network (e.g. the Transition Coordinator, HR), if the employee wishes, to discuss navigating any issues in the workplace.
- Discuss communication preferences and timing. For example, does the employee wish to inform co-workers, clients, students or others? When? Personally or via communication from the manager, HR or someone else? Are there preferences with respect to such communications?
- Ask the employee if they prefer to be addressed with a different name and pronouns (noting that the employee may not be able to use the preferred name and/or pronouns in some documents without a legal name change).
- Inform the employee about available resources, on and off campus.
- Direct the employee to the University's leave/time off policies.
- Give the employee the opportunity to discuss any other job specific questions the employee may have.
Addressing Concerns of Co-Workers, Clients, Students and Others
A lack of knowledge about transgender issues has the potential for creating misunderstanding and tension in the workplace. Key points to consider:
- Remind all Drexel affiliates that they are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with University policies and values.
- If the employee provides services to clients, communication and education to those clients may be appropriate. The manager should be aware of whether clients are in locations with legal landscapes that differ from that of Pennsylvania or the United States. If unsure, ask for help from the HR business partner.
- The manager should consider offering training or briefing sessions on transgender allyship. This will increase awareness, understanding and comfort, and potentially prevent conflict from occurring.
- If there is a bias incident, or individuals raise negative concerns about the transitioning employee, the manager should consider immediately meeting one-on-one with the individuals involved. The manager may consult with the Human Resources business partner, the Transition Coordinator and/or the Office for Institutional Equity and Inclusive Culture.
Pronoun and Name Changes
Employee records and work-related documents should be retained under the individual's legal name (as reflected on identification documents verified at the start of employment) unless/until the individual makes a legal name change. When a person's legal name does not match their preferred name, the preferred name should be used on all documentation where possible, such as e-mail, phone directory, University identification card or access badge, name plate, etc., except where records must match the legal name, such as on payroll and insurance documents. In everyday written and oral speech, the preferred name and pronouns should be used, in accordance with the employee's wishes.
If an employee is transitioning, and you are not certain which name or pronouns to use, it is appropriate to respectfully ask. Although "slips" may occur and be remedied with a discreet and sincere apology, it is insensitive and offensive to refer to someone by the wrong pronouns after they have made known their preferences.
Assigned Sex/Biological Sex
The sex assigned to a child at birth, typically based on an examination of the external genitalia.
A term that describes people who are not transgender. "Cis-" is a Latin prefix meaning "on the same side as," and is therefore an antonym of "trans-."
This term refers to the privilege inherent in being cisgender and not having to confront the difficulties, indignities and microaggressions daily confronted by those whose gender identity and/or gender expression does not align with their designated sex. For example, a cisgender person does not generally have to worry about being misgendered or referred to by incorrect pronouns, asked intrusive questions about their medical history or body parts, or excluded from single-gender events and/or facilities.
A term that refers to when an individual voluntarily makes their gender identity known. If this information is revealed involuntarily, it is called "being outed" or "outing."
When a person dresses or presents as a member of a gender other than that typically aligned with their designated sex. A person may or may not dress or present in this manner all the time. The term "transvestite" is an outmoded and pejorative equivalent.
Drag Queen / King
Individuals who crossdress for the purpose of performance. The appearance is generally very exaggerated and intended to subvert, rather than reinforce, strict conformity to gendered appearance and behavioral standards. Performing as a drag queen or king does not necessarily have broader implications on a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. Transgender individuals are not cross-dressers or drag queens / kings.
Distinct from biological sex, the sex-based social constructs, including behavior and appearance norms and societal roles, associated with the identities of man and woman.
Gender binarism/Gender binary
Belief that there are two, and only two, genders, and everyone must be classified as a member of one gender or the other. Also describes a society that divides people into male and female gender roles, gender identities and attributes.
External manifestations of gender, expressed through one's name, pronouns, clothing, haircut, behavior, voice or body characteristics or gender-related behaviors. Social or cultural norms can vary widely and some characteristics that may be accepted as masculine, feminine or neutral in one culture may not be assessed similarly in another. Typically, transgender people seek to make their gender expression align with their gender identity, rather than the sex they were assigned at birth.
An individual's internal, deeply held sense of being male, female or something else. (Gender is considered a continuum and not strictly a binary concept.) For transgender people, their own internal gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. Unlike gender expression, gender identity is not necessarily visible to others.
In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association released the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) which replaced the outdated entry Gender Identity Disorder with Gender Dysphoria, and changed the criteria for diagnosis. The existence of a psychiatric diagnosis for transgender individuals is controversial, but the inclusion of Gender Dysphoria in the DSM may at this time be necessary in order to advocate for health insurance that covers the medically necessary interventions recommended for transgender people.
A term used to describe some people whose gender expression is different from conventional expectations of masculinity and femininity. Not all gender non-conforming people identify as transgender, nor are all transgender people gender non-conforming. Many people have gender expressions that are not entirely conventional – that fact alone does not make them transgender. Many transgender men and women have gender expressions that are conventionally masculine or feminine. Simply being transgender does not make someone gender non-conforming. The term is not a synonym for transgender or transsexual and should only be used if someone self-identifies as gender non-conforming.
A term used by some people who experience their gender identity and/or gender expression as falling outside the categories of man and woman. They may define their gender as falling somewhere in between man and woman, or they may define it as wholly different from these terms. The term is not a synonym for transgender or transsexual and should only be used if someone self-identifies as genderqueer, particularly as some consider it a pejorative.
Individuals who, because of their chromosomal make-up or other biological reasons, are born with physical characteristics that make their biological sex ambiguous.
The classification of people as male or female. At birth infants are assigned a sex, usually based on the appearance of their external anatomy. (This is what is written on the birth certificate.) However, a person's sex is actually a combination of bodily characteristics including: chromosomes, hormones, internal and external reproductive organs and secondary sex characteristics.
Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS)
Refers to doctor-supervised surgical interventions, and is only one small part of transition (see transition below). The actual preferred term here is "gender confirmation surgery." Avoid the phrase "sex change operation." Do not refer to someone as being "pre-op" or "post-op." Not all transgender people choose to, or can afford to, undergo medical surgeries.
Describes an individual's enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to another person. "Heterosexual," "bisexual," and "homosexual" are all sexual orientations. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. For example, a person who transitions from male to female and is attracted solely to men would identify as a straight woman.
Also "trans," this is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity or expression differs from that which is typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth. Individuals assigned male at birth who identify as female are known as "transwomen" (sometimes "MTF") and individuals assigned female at birth who identify as male are known as "transmen" (sometimes "FTM"). Other transgender individuals prefer to simply identify as "women" or "men" without any modifier. Some people do not identify as male or female and may prefer to be considered gender non-conforming, non-binary, genderqueer or agender.
This term is sometimes used to identify individuals who have pursued medical interventions such as hormone replacement therapy and/or affirming surgery ("top" or "bottom" surgery or facial surgery). For some, this term is a pejorative, and the term "transgender" is preferred; for others, there is a dissociation from the transgender community.
Transitioning is the process some transgender / trans people go through to begin living as the gender with which they identify, rather than the sex designated at birth. Not all transitions include medical intervention, and focusing on the bodies of trans people is dehumanizing: if someone wants to tell you about their body, they will. Avoid the phrase "sex change."
Transition Coordinator (TC)
An employee of Drexel University who is available to aid transitioning individuals in their journey through coming out at work. The TC is knowledgeable about transitioning and able to act as an intermediary between management, Human Resources and other relevant actors.
The fear or hatred of transgender people or others who do not meet societal expectations of gendered appearance and behavioral standards. Transphobia occurs on personal, institutional and societal levels.
Below are some suggested steps for an employee planning to transition. As noted repeatedly in the Guidelines, transitioning is a highly individual experience; this planning document is merely intended as a tool for those who are not sure where to begin. There is no "right" way to proceed.
- The employee meets with Human Resources (HR) and the Transition Coordinator (TC). The employee shares their intent to transition, as well as any questions or concerns, and receives information, resources and support.
- The employee meets with their immediate manager to share their intent to transition. The HR representative and/or TC will participate if the employee so wishes. The manager should be provided a copy of these Guidelines. Also if the employee wishes, the employee meets with more senior unit leadership, if any, to inform and garner support, accompanied by the HR representative, TC and/or immediate manager, as the employee prefers.
- If the employee so wishes, other key individuals should be identified and informed.
- Timeline. When does the employee expect to change gender presentation, and/or use different pronouns or name (if applicable)? Is the employee taking time off for medical interventions? Note that the employee's situation and concerns may change over time, and that transitioning may be more gradual than "all at once".
- Communication. How will an employee's workgroup, clients, students, etc., be informed (if at all)? The employee may choose to talk to individuals on a one-on-one basis, make a general announcement or both.
- Education. Are there any desired educational touchpoints for others within the individual's network to ensure that the individual is treated with respect, welcomed and included? The Office for Institutional Equity and Inclusive Culture is able to provide educational programming, including information about Drexel's nondiscrimination policies.
- Documentation. Are there any changes to be made to records and systems? Which? When? Note that although individuals may use preferred names and pronouns, documentation that requires a legal name cannot be changed unless/until the individual changes their name legally, and that health insurance information must conform with biological sex, rather than gender identity, to ensure that the individual is eligible to receive treatment for sex specific conditions (e.g. prostate cancer, pregnancy). Coordination with HR Information Systems, Drexel Benefits and Drexel IT may be necessary.
- Support. What does the employee require to be comfortable? What can leadership do to show their support?
- Appearance. Are there any questions about applicable dress code?
- Facilities. Does the employee have concerns about the use of gender-specific facilities, such as restrooms and dressing/locker rooms? Are appropriate facilities available to the employee?
- Environment. Is the environment affirming (e.g. nameplates, badges, email signatures / addresses, organization charts)?
Informing the Employee's Network
- For an employee who wishes for their network (office, department, etc.) to be formally informed of the employee's transition, time should be scheduled when the team can meet together, either specially or during an already-scheduled meeting (it may be appropriate to teleconference in any non-local stakeholders). The employee's manager can assist in scheduling the meeting and, if the employee wishes, communicating the key information. The employee may choose to lead this meeting, to attend only, or not to attend at all, depending on their comfort level. It is generally not recommended to communicate by e-mail, but again, there are no hard rules. More senior leadership is encouraged to attend to show support at all levels. The following points should be made:
- Make it clear that the transitioning employee is a valued employee and has management's full support.
- Explain University policies on discrimination and harassment.
- Stress that the employee's gender identity should be respected; for example, they should be called by their preferred name and pronouns. Lead by example.
- Make it clear that, within the workplace, the transition is "no big deal" and work will continue as before.
- Answer appropriate questions; make sure to emphasize that intrusive questions about, for example, medical interventions are inappropriate (as they would be for anyone).
- If an educational workshop is planned, announce it. It should be offered expeditiously.
- The manager should plan to be on site initially to make introductions, support the employee, ensure respectful and inclusive treatment and make sure that work is "business as usual".