Work is one of the most fundamental aspects in a person’s life. It provides the individual with both a means of financial support and, as importantly, a contributing role in society. A person’s employment is an essential component of his or her sense of identity, self-worth, and emotional well-being.1
For people who are transgendered, accessing and maintaining employment is an ongoing challenge. Discrimination in the workplace, alongside general intolerance from society at large, has contributed to dramatic rates of unemployment and injustice for trans* people.
Discrimination exists due to the myth that all peoples’ identities fit into society’s construction of gender. In a recent paper Elizabeth A. Reid (Boughton Law) and barbara findlay, QC note that,
“Everything we have learned about gender is a myth. We have been taught that:
- there are two genders;
- there are only two genders;
- the genders are ‘male’ and ‘female’;
- a person’s gender is determined by what their genitalia look like;
- a person’s gender can be unambiguously ascertained at birth;
- gender is immutable;
- gender is ascertainable immediately from a person’s appearance;
- the two genders are “opposite” each other;
- the two genders are complementary;
- one gender legitimately has more social power in the world.
These ideas are so deeply rooted in our culture that you may never have heard them articulated before: but you recognize them. We divide the world, from a very young age, into blue “M” boxes and pink “F” boxes. Whether one is “M” or “F” is both a predictor and a determinant of everything: from one’s entertainment preferences, to one’s likely employment, to one’s perceived credibility.
Every one of those ideas is wrong.”
These myths have created a harsh reality for people who do not fit in the boxes, particularly in the workplace. It is important for employers to recognize the need to implement systems which support gender diversity. In fact, hundreds of successful corporations have already enacted policies to protect gender variant people in their workplaces, and they have found that such policies have been good for business. Want to put your business in the company of Wells Fargo, Xerox, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Apple, Ford Motor, Dow Chemical, and American Express? Update your policies to include provisions on gender identity today!
Read the full paper Transforming Employment Law: Trans* People in the Workplace, prepared by barbara findlay, QC and Elizabeth A. Reid of Boughton Law.
Tags: Elizabeth Reid, Employment Law, Article
1 Dickson C.J., Reference Re Public Service Employee Relations Act (Alta),  1 S.C.R. 313 at 368.