Supporting Trans & Queer Workers: A Personal Letter From Our CEO

Five Ways to Support Employees Impacted by Anti-Trans, Anti-Queer Legislation

two hands holding an lgbtqia flag and a trans flag

It feels like we’re going backwards.

A record-breaking amount of anti-trans and anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation is being introduced in the U.S. (Bloomberg reports that in the first two months of 2023 alone, at least 385 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills were introduced in a majority of states. In comparison, the entirety of 2022 saw somewhere between 162 to 315 such bills introduced, depending on your source’s definition of anti-LGBTQIA+, with 9% of these becoming law.)

Trans people face real issues. Gender minority stress is one; it puts trans people at higher risk of mental health problems and relationship abuse, among other things. Trans people are also four times more likely than cis people to be victims of violent crime.

And the queer community more broadly still faces a number of challenges and biases, even as a historic number of Americans are identifying as queer. A full 46% of LGBTQIA+ employees have experienced unfair treatment in the workplace, including being fired, not hired, or harassed because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. And the likelihood of discrimination only climbs higher for queer and trans employees of color.

Against a backdrop like this, it’s hardly a coincidence that a similar 46% of LGBTQIA+ employees in the U.S. choose to remain closeted at work, per 2018 data.

Instead of focusing on helping to protect trans and queer folks, with these new laws, legislators are seeking to strip away the rights of LGBTQIA+ people, including through:

  • Tennessee laws that prohibit gender-affirming care for trans minors and criminalize public drag performances, as well as a law that allows Tennessee government employees to refuse to solemnize queer couples’ marriages for “religious reasons”
  • Laws in Mississippi, Utah, and South Dakota that similarly ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth
  • Florida’s proposed new bill that would allow the state to remove trans kids from the custody of parents who support and facilitate gender-affirming care, as well as legislation that bans trans women and girls from competing in certain school sports
  • Oklahoma’s proposed bill that bans gender-affirming care for people under 26
  • Kentucky’s debates over a bill that would allow teachers to refuse to use students’ preferred pronouns
  • A heap of other laws impacting healthcare access, education, athletics, and more, which can be viewed on the ACLU’s anti-LGBTQIA+ bills tracker

Referring to the number of healthcare-restricting bills targeting trans people, Geoff Wetrosky, campaign director for the Human Rights Campaign, put it simply to The Guardian: “There’s really no legislative purpose other than discrimination in these bills.” Every major medical association in the U.S. agrees — they all support gender-affirming care.

State-sponsored discrimination begets individual harassment and violence. It puts trans and queer people’s wellbeing at risk.

And it’s something that we at PowerToFly will not tolerate. We unilaterally condemn all efforts to erase the human rights of trans and queer people. We would feel that way even if the issue wasn’t personal — but it is.

At PowerToFly, nearly 20% of our workforce identifies as LGBTQIA+. I myself am queer, and my wife, Andrea, is trans and queer. Andrea is an incredible person, parent, and partner. She, like the other 1.3 million trans people in the U.S., deserves healthcare and the freedom to safely, joyously exist in the world as herself. She deserves human rights. We all do.

(See full post on LinkedIn)

As individuals, as companies, and as leaders, we must stand up against these hate-filled efforts to erase trans and queer people from public life. Below, we’ve assembled a few ways you can support trans and queer employees in states facing these policies.

5 Ways to Support Employees Impacted by Anti-Trans, Anti-Queer Legislation

1. Use your voice.

When Florida introduced its so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill last year, current and former Disney CEOs, including Bob Chapek and Bob Iger, spoke out against it. Them doing so cost Disney some (though not all) previously enjoyed political favors — but helped show the companies’ LGBTQIA+ employees, who had organized against the bill, that Disney was listening to them.

2. Enable employees to use their voices, too.

Many companies already have paid leave or volunteer hour policies in place. You can let employees know they can use those policies to attend protests, write to their elected officials, or participate in other acts of advocacy.

3. Offer relocation help.

For some people living in places where their or their family’s human rights are threatened, moving might feel like the only option. (A parent in New Hampshire, which is considering a ban on medical care for transgender children and a law that would redefine gender-affirming health care as child abuse, says that, “If any of [the bills] pass, New Hampshire would become an unsafe state for my daughter and all children like her. We would have to leave.”) If you already have a relocation policy in place, consider training managers on how to use it to support trans and queer employees. If you don’t, look into creating one, with a stipend to cover moving costs.

4. Codify and reinforce your workplace’s inclusive policies.

How LGBTQIA+-inclusive are your company policies and employee benefits today? Do you already offer coverage for gender-affirming medical care? Have gender-neutral bathrooms and dress codes? Include transgender-inclusive language in your nondiscrimination policy? Make sure employees know about it.

And check out our free report, too, on LGBTQIA+ employee benefits and more:

Download the report:
Beyond Performative Allyship: A Comprehensive Guide to LGBTQIA+ Benefits at Work

5. Double down on education.

That includes trans-specific diversity training as well as training that explores other LGBTQIA+ identities, ideally led by people with these identities themselves. This sets up workers to benefit from “contact hypothesis,” or what HBR explains as the empathy created when people build relationships with specific groups. Your training may also include lecture series and book clubs featuring trans and queer creators.

Explore our solutions for building better cultures of belonging for underrepresented talent at your company this year.

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