According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, more than one in four transgender people have lost a job due to bias, and more than three-fourths have experienced some form of workplace discrimination.
A Kentucky organization is offering trans-inclusivity training to corporations, small businesses, and individuals.
On a Thursday morning in Louisville, 30 people from various businesses are mingling while drinking coffee and eating doughnuts, waiting for a class called Trans-Inclusive Training 101.
The participants are getting quiet as Adrian Silbernagel, facilitator for the class, sponsored by Queer Kentucky, a non-profit online LGBTQ publication, introduces himself by name and pronouns.
The 32-year-old is a writer and coffee shop manager who identifies as a transgender man. Originally from a small town in North Dakota, Silbernagel moved to Lexington on a full-ride into a Ph.D. philosophy program. In the process of transitioning, he dealt with workplace harassment and discrimination at the restaurant where he was manager.
“The man that I worked for was very uninformed about transgender issues and we had a lot of issues as far as just me not feeling respected, validated. There was a lot of transphobia and things like that happening there,” said Silbernagel.
Silbernagel said he received numerous invasive questions and offensive comments.
Silbernagel eventually left that job because he says it was taking a toll on his mental and physical health. He now lives in Louisville, works for a very inclusive company, and is a columnist and workshop presenter for Queer Kentucky.
In the hour and a half long training, Silbernagel is making a case for being trans-inclusive in the workplace. He talks about it from a human perspective and a business perspective. “A lot of people don’t know what transgender is , so we talk about gender identity and how that differs from sex and how that differs from sexual orientation and the different types of gender identities. And we talk about gender transition and the different aspects of that,” said Silbernagel.
Members in the audience ask questions about everything ranging from gender-neutral bathrooms to preferred pronouns.
Coffee company co-founder and president Mike Mays said his company had done LGBTQ training, but he admits he’s learned new information today at the workshop. “It’s got me thinking about our job application and some of the ways that we try to attract people. I like to think that everybody knows that we’re an inclusive workplace. But does our application specifically allow for people to select a gender that makes the most sense to them, with which they most identify?” questioned Mays.
More than 1.4 million Americans identify as Transgender according to a 2016 study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.
Chris Hartman is Executive Director of the Fairness Campaign, a Louisville –based organization focusing on preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Hartman says he’s personally trained more than 100,000 Kentuckians on LGBTQ rights. He said trans-inclusive training is a deeper dive. ”It’s imperative that companies start having the conversations about how they can be the most inclusive of everyone on their workforce because we know that is what increases productivity. It increases unity among workers, it increases morale when people are able to bring their authentic selves to work and feel they are supported,” said Hartman.
Adrian Silbernagel is hoping to incorporate in the training other transgender identities such as a person of color and a female as well as someone identifying as non-binary.
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