To mark International Non-Binary People's Day, DCA Member Relations Admin Coordinator Tara Somerville shares what it means to get it right – and wrong – with non-binary, trans and gender diverse employees.
Hey Tara. Tell us about you.
I’m someone who identifies as non-binary and transgender. If I were more specific, I'd say I'm agender, which is not inherently feminine or masculine. And that's sort of at odds with how people see me because I can appear quite feminine to people. Anyway, that is just me, looking how I want to. It's not necessarily a gendered thing.
My exploration of my gender began when I was working with other trans and non-binary people. They were the majority in that past workplace, which doesn't happen a lot!
I was around conversations about gender all the time. And I started questioning my own gender, and when I did, my colleagues were supportive – obviously!
What have your broader work experiences been like?
There’s only been a couple of workplaces that I've been out as nonbinary.
One bad experience was when I decided not to tell them I was using They/Them pronouns. I was still figuring myself out. And I was fired 10 days in, partly because I raised some concerns about transphobic conversations.
They were like, ‘why are you concerned about this? Does this personally impact you?’ They kept repeating that one sentence. I felt they were trying to forcibly out me.
Ultimately, their reasoning for firing me after that was, quote, ‘me being uncomfortable was making everyone else uncomfortable.’
I woke up in the morning after the conversation, everyone was gone, and there was a flight ticket in my email.
How on earth did that make you feel?
Funnily, it sort of solidified how I felt about myself. I decided I couldn't not be out with future workplaces because I was like, ‘I don't want this sort of thing to ever happen again.’ So that was a decisive moment.
What would you say generally to workplaces who want to get this right, but are scared to take any step for fear of falling short?
Look, occasionally I'll be unintentionally misgendered at work, which happens in most contexts. But when you're working with people who are genuinely trying, and they acknowledge it, and they really try to do better, it's so much easier to bounce back from. A workplace that is trying to be inclusive and inevitably makes mistakes, is a lot safer and more inclusive than one that doesn’t try at all.
What does trying really look like in the workplace?
All the regular stuff that people are always saying, like:
- Adding your pronouns and your emails. It is a small thing but makes a big difference
- Including questions about gender and pronouns on official paperwork
- Opting to have gender-neutral bathrooms
- If someone comes to you with an issue, even if someone hasn't intended to hurt someone else, take it seriously
- Ultimately, just always assume and act as if there is a trans or nonbinary person working for you; that way you are always going to act in ways that are inclusive to them
Check out TransHub for a wealth of information for both Trans folks and allies.
For information on LGBTIQ+ employees see our section on key issues.