Questions to ask when writing a trans inclusion policy

A fortnight ago, I tweeted a question:

Trans friends: we’re trying to improve Wellcome’s policies around trans inclusion and support for employees who are transitioning at work.

Tell me about companies that have good policies for this? (The more detail, the better.)

RT for reach?

Doing more to help our trans colleagues is a big focus for the LGBTQ+ Staff network and the Diversity & Inclusion team this year. Part of that is a proper policy that affirms our support for them, and setting some expectations for how trans people should be treated as Wellcome.

I was vaguely aware that other organisations were doing good work around trans inclusion, but I didn’t have many details. I can guess at what might be useful, but that’s not the same as seeing some real examples. I have a lot of trans followers on Twitter, so I was hoping I’d get a few replies to guide my thinking – and I was pleasantly surprised!

Dozens of people reached out with suggestions, pointing me to policies and good practices, and giving me lots of material to read. I’m incredibly grateful to everybody who sent me a message. It was useful to read policies from a variety of places, and think about the challenges people face in different roles.

This post has some of my initial notes, with some common themes and ideas I spotted. As we actually write the policy and have more conversations, I expect I’ll have more to say.

Why have a policy?

If you’re trans, but you’re not out at work, the prospect of coming out can be pretty scary – especially if you don’t how how your colleagues will react. Trans people come in for a lot of harassment and abuse, and given how much time we spend at work, it can get pretty unpleasant.

I hope that having a policy that sets the tone for how trans people should be treated will make it easier for people to be themselves at work. You’re not just rolling the dice and hoping your individual team will be nice – you know the organisation supports you, and will help you push back if you face hostility.

It’s not the only thing we can do to look after our trans colleagues, but it’s a good first step.

How do you write a policy?

Writing good policy is about asking questions. What scenarios might somebody face? How do we handle those as an organisation? How do we respond? You want to anticipate common questions in advance, not answer them as you go along. Every organisation will have different questions, and different answers – you can’t just copy somebody else’s policy unmodified.

It means thinking about your entire organisation – everybody in it, everybody they interact with. It means making hard decisions – there isn’t always an easy, correct answer. Often the most valuable part of writing policy isn’t the policy itself, but the conversations you have while writing it.

What goes into a policy?

If policy is about asking questions, which questions do we need to ask?

Every organisation will have slightly different questions – but there are lots of similarities. These are some of the common ones I spotted.

A possible outline

With all that in mind, here’s a brief outline I’ve written as a starting point for discussions at Wellcome:

And as we write the policy, we’ll expand each of those sections in more detail, guided by some of the questions above.

Acknowledgements

I’m grateful to everybody who reached out to offer suggestions, links or help. I read it all, and it gave me a lot to think about (and I think I’ve replied to everything – ping me if you think I’ve missed something). You can see many of those people in the replies to that tweet. I also had several people reach out privately, some of whom are trans but not out in public/their workplace.

Thank you everybody for your help!

These are some of the policies I read while preparing this article:

I also heard about a number of other organisations that are doing good work here, but they don’t have public policies:

If you have time, do read the policies I’ve linked above – they’ll give you more idea of the sort of detail they go into. And if you know of other good ones, please let me know!

Closing thoughts

This is just part of a bigger conversation at Wellcome about how we do a better job of trans inclusion. A policy is part of that, but there’s more we can do – I’ll be thinking about it more over the next few months, and hopefully I’ll write about some of it here.

If you’re interested in what we’re doing, please get in touch – by Twitter or email.