HR Operations

Resources for managers and colleagues of transgender employees

What do I need to know?

Transgender is a broad umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression is different from the gender they were assigned at birth. Being transgender is not the same as sexual preference.

The process of a transgender individual publicly changing their gender presentation in society is known as “transitioning.” Gender transition is a personal process and it is important to note that there is no one way to transition; some transgender people may pursue one or more gender affirming medical procedures, and some will not.

Using appropriate terminology is an important part of respectfully supporting transgender people.

Cultural expectations

Names/Pronouns: Consistent with the University’s values of diversity and respect, you should use a colleague’s preferred name and pronouns. A court-ordered name or gender marker change is not required for an employee to use the name and pronoun most comfortable to them. If you are unsure what pronoun an employee uses, respectfully ask your colleague how they would like to be addressed. Not sure how? Try: “My preferred pronouns are she/her, what are your preferred pronouns?”

As part of creating a welcoming environment, all employees are encouraged to share their pronouns. For example, during introductions or on name badges.

It is disrespectful to refer to someone by the wrong pronoun once you have established what they prefer. Intentionally and/or repeatedly referring to an employee by a name or pronoun they do not use can constitute prohibited harassment.

Privacy and confidentiality: All employees, whether cisgender, transgender, or nonbinary, have the right to discuss their gender identity or expression openly, or to keep that information private. The transgender status of an individual (e.g. the sex they were assigned at birth, prior legal names) is confidential.

Demonstrate respect
  • Once you know a colleague’s preferred name and pronouns – if you get it wrong, apologize, move forward and make a conscious effort to get it right next time
  • Follow the lead of your co-worker; what one colleague may want to share can vary greatly from what another would
  • Ask questions, but don’t expect your transgender colleague to be the educator on all related subject matters
  • While some questions are appropriate and even supportive, if unclear, ask yourself if it is necessary information to know. Specifically, “do I need to know this information in order to appropriately be supportive?” or “would I feel comfortable if I was asked this question?” If the answer is no, don’t ask.
  • Consider educating yourself on your own: there is a wealth of information available to you so you can be supportive and become an ally
  • While your co-worker may have shared their identity with you, it is their information to share with others – respect their privacy and their right to share or not with those around you
  • Likewise, it is not your place to share a transgender individual’s birth name or pre-transition photos: this is a personal, private choice of that individual

Being an Ally: An ally is a supporter or advocate for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.

Here are some ally actions that you can take to help create an inclusive workplace:

  • Don’t make assumptions about a person’s sexuality or gender; not everyone’s appearance or behavior plays to stereotypes
  • Know and understand UW’s policies on sexual orientation and gender identity: non-discrimination and harassment, etc.
  • Let it be known that you won’t tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment in the workplace
  • Incorporate inclusive terminology into your daily life