A couple of weeks ago I was invited to the launch of a new regional branch of a pride network belonging to a large bank. I went in my capacity as a member of the committee of our local LGBT group. Since the event was an internal affair and I was the only external guest, I think I was there to give the launch an “official seal of approval” by an outside agency.
Thinking that a pride launch might be the right moment, I asked for sponsorship for a small initiative that would help local trans people access the healthcare they need more easily. The level of sponsorship I was looking for was £300 and this was a multinational bank who were promoting their equality and diversity credentials. I thought my request was minimal and a good fit. However, I was politely declined and told that they weren’t concentrating on the T at the moment, just the LGB.
I am not criticising the bank for their decision. It is their prerogative who they decide to sponsor and how inclusive they would like their pride initiative to be. Despite not including trans*, it remains a good initiative and more than many other organisations are doing to make their LGB employees feel included.
I would argue, however, that LGB inclusion is an “easy win” these days for a corporate’s CSR rating. An article published by Credit Suisse a couple of months ago showed that, not only, do pro-LGBT policies increase turnover from the power of the pink pound, the company’s LGBT workers are happier and more productive, and Credit Suisse’s research shows is that no penalty exists for the stock performance of companies who promote LGBT friendly policies.
If there is so much corporate love around for the LGBT community, how come trans* workers are still struggling with employers who are fearful of what clients might think if they hire a trans* employee (86%), harassment and discrimination from colleagues (50%), no trans* policy in place to support them (57%) and fear of being “outted” as trans (72%). I suspect it is because, like I was told by the bank, organisations are focused on the LGB and, although they stick the T on the end, either don’t really want to support it or don’t really know how to support it.
Pride initiatives within organisations tend to be headed up by someone who is LGB. They are the more populous group within our community so that is natural but, just because someone is LGB, it does not immunise them against ignorance of what being trans means or stop them from being plain transphobic. At this point, the pride falls apart somewhat.
As I said to one of the senior executives of the bank, you never know when someone is going to walk into your office and tell you that they are transitioning. It could happen tomorrow or never in your whole career. However, when it happens, that will be when your equality and diversity policy will be properly tested and it won’t matter how many LGB pride networks you have in place, they won’t help you to get a handle on the basic practicalities of employing a trans* person. The LGB and the T are very different and have very different priorities.
I would rather that businesses were honest and called their pride initiatives LGB or even LG, as I’m not sure that the B are particularly well served either. It is a dissemblance to claim inclusivity when, in reality, the pride only goes so far. If your organisation isn’t ready to embrace the T, say so. That way, the educational needs are visible and can be addressed.
A summary of recent employment surveys of transgender workers can be found here.