Q&A from Supporting Trans Library Employees, Part 4
Q&A, Part 1 (terminology and pronouns, resources, legal issues)
Q&A, Part 2 (names and such, trainings)
Q&A, Part 3 (employee support, management/HR/system buy-in)
Q&A, Part 4 (employee and patron interactions)
Q: How to best respond to transphobic attitudes and remarks at work.
A: You can’t tell people what to think or believe, but you can set behavior expectations in the workplace if you are in a management position. Ask A Manager has some suggested language here and here that you can adapt for personal interactions.
Q: How do you navigate differences in opinion about the best way to be inclusive among trans staff themselves?
A: This is a very good question, as it’s true that people have all sorts of different approaches and personal feelings on trans inclusion. For example, some trans people may want pronoun sharing to be normalized with every introduction, while others may prefer not to share theirs and feel uncomfortable if there is an explicit or implied expectation that they do so. It’s a demonstration of the fact that trans identities are not a monolith and one approach does not suit everyone. My advice is to present all options and make it very clear that it is up to individuals what to do with the information. For example, have an email template that has a line for pronouns and also a note that it is optional. In general, listen to your trans staff if they tell you that something makes them uncomfortable and take their concerns seriously. If there are conflicting opinions, consider having a broader discussion about best practices. (This is if the opinions differ among people who share the goal of trans inclusion, not if the argument is not to do it.)
Q: Do you have any resources on best practices for leading conversations about trans-inclusion? For example how to create ground rules for discussion.
A: I don’t, but reach out to your local LGBTQ+ Center (if there is one) or look for resources online.
Q: Hi. I was interested in I think one of the scenarios, the last one. I recently was in a workplace where my coworkers misgendered a new team member a lot. I left the workplace shortly after that person joined the team (unrelated) but I wonder if there was something more that I could do beside constantly correcting "they they they." Also when they were misgendered when I was standing right there, I didn't know if I should jump in and correct as a mid-manager or if I should have deferred to the employee.
A: I made some misgendering flowcharts a while ago that might be helpful. In this case, check with your employee in private to see what they’d like you to do. It helps if you can offer some options so it’s not on them to tell you how to behave. (“What would you like me to do if someone misgenders you when I’m around? I’m happy to correct them while you’re there, do it after you leave, or say nothing if you’d prefer.”) If you’re noticing a pattern of many people misgendering others, take that as a signal that the workplace needs better policies and/or training. Look into what systems you can implement, such as normalizing optional pronoun sharing on nametags and email signatures, or what the process is for telling others that an employee has changed their name of use and pronouns. Safe Zone or trans inclusion training is a good idea, especially if your sense is that a lot of employees don’t have knowledge about the subject. This can create a space for addressing the issue without making it about one employee.
Q: As a queer woman without tenure, can I ask one of my straight, cis, tenured colleagues to intervene when I see a colleague making jokes about pronouns in a public forum?
A: I’m all for pushing the people with the most power and security to do the work, so go for it. You can also suggest some resources if they’re open to it and you want to take on that labor.
Q: Do you have any recommendations on how to handle the situation if someone misgenders a coworker in a group staff meeting/setting?
A: Depends on the situation. See my misgendering flowcharts. If it’s a pattern, consider normalizing optional pronoun sharing in your workplace, so people have a space to preemptively remind others if they want to.
Q: Any advice with how to make public patron spaces more trans-inclusive?
Q: Are those good resources for being more inclusive with regards to both patrons and library workers?
A: Some of them, yes. Others just might not apply, so use your judgment and adapt accordingly.
Q: What is the best way to make sure ::other:: employees correct patrons when patrons misgender or deadname a trans employee?
A: First, make sure you know what the employee wants; they may not be comfortable with patrons being corrected (or they may use different pronouns with different people, or you may be outing them to a family member, or...). I don’t know that you can force other employees to do the correcting, but the employee in question can certainly ask coworkers to do so. You can set an example yourself, which might remind others and demonstrate how to do it (some people may just not be sure what they can say). With patrons, I’d either just use the correct pronouns myself or politely say something like “Actually, they’re going by [name] now” and move on.