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Transsexual Workers: An Employer's Guide

By Janis Walworth
ISBN 0966548825
Softcover $20.00
135 pages

Transsexual Workers: An Employer's Guide is designed for employers, managers, human resources professionals, implementers of employee assistance programs, and others in a position to make workplace decisions about how to handle a transsexual employee's transition from one sex to the other. The book includes basic information about transsexualism, an explanation of the transition process, illustrative personal histories, information on relevant civil rights and disability laws, tips for managing difficult situations, and a glossary.

There are suggestions for dealing with coworkers' concerns, uncomfortable clients, the general public, and the media. Common workplace issues, such as pronoun usage, dress codes, restroom use, employee transfers, and health insurance, are addressed. A wider concept of transgender is also introduced as it pertains to crossdressers, transgenderists, intersex people, post-transition transsexuals, and others. A resource section lists helpful national and regional organizations, books, magazines, and videos.

In Brief 1
About Transsexualism: The Basics 5
A Closer Look at Transsexualism 15
Personal Histories 27
The Process of Transition 35
More About Transition 45
Work During Transition 53
Legal Matters 61
Support During Transition 69
Helping Others Adjust 75
Management Issues 91
Workplace Dilemmas 99
Other Transgendered Workers 107
Resources 117
Glossary 129
Index 133


This is the introductory chapter of Transsexual Workers: An Employer's Guide, which is meant to be a brief overview of the main part of the book.

Transsexualism is a condition in which a person's sense of identity as a woman or a man does not correspond with their genitalia and other physical sexual characteristics. Its cause is currently unknown, although there are indications that both biology and early childhood environment are factors. For male-to-female transsexuals, treatment consists of the assumption of a woman's social role, along with physical changes brought about by hormones, hair removal, and/or surgery that make the body more typically female. This process, best accomplished with the help of a psychotherapist, is called transition. For female-to-male transsexuals, who exist in approximately equal numbers as male-to-female transsexuals, transition is similar but in the opposite direction. Many transsexuals ultimately decide not to have genital surgery but live permanently in the role of the other sex.

Holding a job in his or her new role is an important part of the real-life experience or real-life test, a period of a year or more during which the transsexual has an opportunity to experience living in the other gender role before making a final decision about whether to have sex reassignment surgery. Although this time can be challenging for managers and coworkers, as well as the transsexual individual, many transsexuals have completed transitions smoothly in a wide variety of occupations. Their experience, which provides the basis for this book, offers valuable guidance on how best to handle the many sensitive situations that can arise.

Decisions often must be made about whether to transfer the transsexual employee to a different location within the company, whether to change her or his job responsibilities, and how to handle her or his contacts with the public. Many practical workplace matters must be resolved. The question of which restroom the transsexual employee should use often becomes a major stumbling block in a company's ability to cope with a transitioning employee; yet there are several simple solutions to this issue that are effective in most workplaces. These issues, which require multifaceted examination, are addressed in this book.

Although transsexuals have few protections against discrimination under the current laws, there are federal, state, and local statutes that have supported equal treatment of transsexuals in certain circumstances. Making employment-related decisions about a transsexual employee based on his or her performance record and ability to do the job, rather than on his or her transgendered status, is a prudent and fair course of action. Ensuring that a transsexual employee is treated with the same respect accorded other employees helps organizations to safeguard against legal problems.

Helping coworkers adjust to the transsexual worker's changing role is the most critical task for management. Offering or requiring diversity training or an informational meeting is helpful in most work situations. Management can help coworkers understand how they are expected to behave by making a clear statement supporting the right of transsexual employees to make decisions about their sex and gender, affirming the value of diversity in the workplace, and emphasizing a commitment to having a workplace where all employees are valued and respected. These statements should be reinforced by demonstrating appropriate ways of interacting with the transsexual employee in her or his new gender role and enacting sanctions against those who harass or intimidate the employee.

When an employer and a transsexual employee can discuss the employee's transition in advance and agree on the steps to be taken and their timing, transition usually proceeds without incident. The employee is able to take the necessary steps toward self-fulfillment, while remaining at a job where he or she is competent and valued. The employer retains the expertise of the employee, saves the expense of hiring and training a replacement, and may find the employee to be more productive and easier for others to collaborate with as he or she becomes a more whole, congruent, and authentic person. This guide, human resources specialists, unions, professional associations, gay/lesbian/bisexual employee support groups, and outside consultants can all be helpful in this process.