Transgenderism can be a difficult, sensitive subject for employers. They don’t know how to deal with it. I like to simplify things, so I boiled down how to deal with this issue in less than 300 words.

First, an interaction I once had went like this…

[Smitty] – Rue, what am I supposed to do about a person getting a ‘sex change’? Is that a boy or a girl? And do I call him her or her him?

[Me] –Smith, you really don’t have to actually DO anything “about” a person going through a transgender transformation, just respectfully permit it.  You refer to the person with pronouns that correspond with their gender, and are consistent with their request to be referred to a certain way. Does that make sense?

[Smitty] - Well. She’s a girl now. She'll return as a boy in a few weeks. Legally, is she a boy or girl, when we change her name do we change her gender ?

[Me] – Smith, you should do what the employee requests. As soon as the employee requests that you refer to her as a woman, do so. When her name is legally changed on ID and other documents change the name as you would in other name-change situations.

[Smitty] – Well, Rue, are you a male or female, because “RUE”…that’s a girl’s name?

[Me] – Have a nice day.

In short, employers, remind employees to have respect.


1.       …coworkers by using the names and pronouns they want you to use when referring to them. Don’t be rude. Don’t try to be funny.

2.       …the privacy of coworkers. One’s fascination with another’s transformation does not entitle one to inquire about another’s personal business. Further, transgendered people aren’t necessarily experts on the science of their transformation. (Google has plenty of info though.)

3.       …your own and others’ social, political, cultural, and religious beliefs. You are entitled to them, but in the workplace, you may not create an uncomfortable environment.



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