At UBC, we know that diversity is welcomed, respected and considered foundational to excellence in research, education and engagement. UBC recognizes that respect and support for transgender and gender diverse faculty and staff are central to their success and wellbeing. It is our interactions at work that can help us to feel a valued member of society. The recognition of gender diversity, specifically for people who identify as transgender, two-spirit, or non-binary, affirms and acknowledges that gender is highly personal and fluid, and is worthy of respect at UBC.
As a manager/supervisor, you are a leader in your unit and as such have the responsibility to provide a welcoming, inclusive, and respectful work environment. By working proactively with an employee who wishes to transition and/or utilize gender affirming procedures, you can help create a positive experience for the individual and all employees in your unit. The following information is intended to help you through this process and to assist you in modelling behaviour that shows respect for diversity and inclusion that you expect your staff to demonstrate in their relationships with each other and the people they work with across the campus.
For employees looking for information and support, please visit https://www.hr.ubc.ca/wellbeing-benefits/life-events/transgender-gender-diverse-faculty-staff/.
In this guide:
- Human rights and employer responsibilities
- Definitions to assist you in understanding gender diversity
- Transitioning in the workplace: planning a collaborative, supportive approach
- Guidelines for the manager/supervisor and support team
- Systems notes for managers
- UBC and other external resources
- Transition checklist (for working with the employee)
Human rights and employer responsibilities
Transgender people have protections under the BC Human Rights Code and it is important for HR professionals and managers to understand these protections and facilitate the prevention of discrimination against trans, two-spirit, and/or non-binary employees in their place of work. Federal protections are also in place under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. For more information please see: www.transrightsbc.ca.
An employer’s responsibilities to transgender individuals include:
- Providing hiring, training, compensation, promotion and termination processes free from discrimination;
- providing access to appropriate washrooms, change facilities, dress code, and uniforms;
- upholding privacy and confidentiality wherever possible, including keeping trans status confidential if this is the employee’s request;
- understanding and following provincial law regarding gender identity and expression (e.g. changing personnel records to reflect a trans employee’s gender identity);
- approving time off for gender affirming medical procedures;
- recognizing that transgender medical care is not cosmetic in nature;
- making accommodations for an employee, up to the point of undue hardship;
- addressing bullying and harassment concerns based on someone’s gender identity or gender expression; and,
- encouraging a respectful work environment by leading by example and/or offering education support to their team.
Note: Throughout the document, transgender also includes two-spirit and non-binary gender identities. Two-spirit and non-binary will be used when specifically referred to in relation to UBC policy, practice or in reference to resources.
Definitions to assist you in understanding gender diversity
Refers to people whose sex assignment at birth corresponds to the societal normative gender identity and expression—a “match” of one’s sex and gender. Here ‘Cis’- from Latin meaning “on the same side [as]” or “on this side [of]”. This term is necessary to include because it presents an awareness of gender privilege. If a female who identifies as a woman just considers herself “normal”, she does not have to elaborate or explain her identification to anyone because it is an already expected and automatically ascribed identification until “proven otherwise”. Thus, females who identify differently are considered “abnormal”—’cisgender’ helps us to conceptualize social normativity and privilege. It should be noted that cisgender only refers to the sex and gender relationship and does not refer to sexual orientation identifications.
How a person represents or expresses one’s gender identity to others, often through behaviour, clothing, hairstyles, voice, or body characteristics. This is fluid and can differ based on the context, for example, how employees express their gender at work might be different than in their personal lives.
An individual’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others.
This label refers to gender identities that do not fall exclusively in man/male or woman/female categories. Some examples include genderqueer, gender fluid, agender, and bigender. It is important to acknowledge that non-binary gender identities are not new identities or new concepts and have been recognized throughout the world for as long as gender has been a conscious identity of humans. Over the past several decades, the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning), feminist, and other social movements have also challenged binary gender categories. More recently, there has been increasing recognition and visibility of people who do not identify exclusively as either male or female.
Patterns of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to groups of people (e.g. men, women, trans people) and includes a person’s sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviours, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions; for example pansexual, bisexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and heterosexual.
A term for people whose gender identity, expression, or behaviour differs from those typically associated with their assigned sex and/or societal and cultural expectations of their assigned sex at birth. Transgender is indicative of a gender identification that could be between, outside of, and within many identifications, where identification with one term is not static (a fluid spectrum). Transgender is a broad term (umbrella term) and “trans” is shorthand for “transgender.” Note: Transgender is correctly used as an adjective, not a noun, thus “transgender people” is appropriate but “transgenders” is viewed as disrespectful.
A term used within some indigenous communities, encompassing sexual, gender, cultural, and spiritual identity. This term reflects complex indigenous understandings of gender roles and the long history of sexual and gender diversity in indigenous cultures. Individual terms and roles for two-spirit people are specific to each nation. Before colonization, two-spirit people were often highly revered in their communities, taking on the role of healers, match-makers, counsellors, among many others. The word “two-spirit” was created in the early 1990s, and the role of two-spirit people in indigenous communities is being reclaimed. Although it contradicts most traditional values, some of the lasting impacts of colonization have been an experience of increased homophobia and transphobia in indigenous communities, often forcing two-spirit people to leave their home communities. The term two-spirit is only to be used by indigenous people, due to the cultural and spiritual context; however, not all indigenous people who hold diverse sexual and gender identities consider themselves two-spirit.
This term refers to the process of changing one’s existing gender expression to reflect one’s gender identity. It is important to note that there is no single or correct way to be transgender, two-spirit, or non-binary. Transitioning steps may involve social transitioning measures including changing: clothing, hairstyle, name, pronoun, and gender markers on identification and documents. While others might want to utilize gender affirming medical procedures as part of their transition journey.
Surgery or medical procedures which often refers to the medical interventions, including taking hormones or undergoing surgeries so that one’s physical characteristics better reflect their gender identity. The steps that an individual takes to affirm their gender are personal and may change over time – it is the individual’s choice.
Transitioning in the workplace: planning a collaborative, supportive approach
Trans, two-spirit, and non-binary employees have the right to change their gender identity and/or gender expression while in their workplace. These changes support gender diverse employees to be themselves at work, but as with all changes, it is an adjustment both for the individual who is transitioning and for others in the workplace who need to make changes to how they interact with the transitioning employee. It is important to understand that changes may occur gradually or rapidly and that there is no right or wrong way to transition.
In some cases, employees may wish to keep their gender affirming changes and plans private, or to let only some people in the workplace know. In other cases, individuals may wish to announce their transition widely. In either case, the first step in supporting a trans, two-spirit, or non-binary employee is consulting with them to determine their wishes regarding confidentiality and desired supports. If the employee belongs to an employee group, they may want a representative from their union or association to be present.
Guidelines for the manager/supervisor and support team
The following guidelines help to identify the types of supports or changes that a manager or supervisor should consider when a transitioning employee shares their intent to transition in the workplace.
1. Disclosure of intent to transition
- When an employee requests a meeting with you they may or may not advise you in advance of what the meeting is about. For example they may indicate that it is a personal matter.
- At the disclosure meeting, ensure you listen carefully and avoid passing judgement. You want the employee to feel comfortable expressing their intent and their concerns.
- Let the person know that you will support them through their transition in the workplace, but you will need their help in understanding what that will look like, and how best to support them.
- Assure the person that your conversation will be held in confidence, but you may need to consult with Human Resources or other offices if you are unsure of supports, benefits, employee rights, etc. This is done to ensure that the employee is receiving the best support possible.
- Remind the person they are covered by existing university policies, including Policy SC7 – Discrimination (formerly Policy #3), the Respectful Environment Statement, as well as provincial and federal laws.
- Suggest that you work on a transition plan together.
- Let them know that they can bring a support person to future meetings.
- Do not ask intimate personal questions about surgeries, hormones, sexual orientation, etc. These matters are private and should only be disclosed by the transitioning employee if they deem it important and/or necessary.
2. Transition Plan
A transition plan should be based on the expressed desire of the disclosing employee. You can help shape the plan by asking them to consider a wide variety of issues, such as:
- Their timeline for transitioning
- The pronouns they would like to use
- Anticipated medical leaves
- Communications to colleagues/clients – who, what, when, and how
- Training for colleagues so that they have a better understanding of how they can be supportive
- Changes to Human Resources Management System and other systems with regard to pronouns, legal name, email address and signatures, etc.
- How they can access further benefits information
- How they might handle questions from insensitive or less knowledgeable colleagues and seek assistance from you or others
3. Inform yourself
- Familiarize yourself with LGBTQ terminology.
- Complete a Positive Space workshop. Visit www.positivespace.ubc.ca for more information.
- Find out what resources are available to you at UBC by contacting your HR Advisor or Equity & Inclusion Office.
Educating UBC staff, students, faculty members and external partners to UBC
Knowledge and awareness are key to reducing the likelihood of misunderstanding and tension in the workplace, especially when individuals are transitioning or affirming their gender identity.
All UBC members can complete Positive Space workshops, offered by the Equity & Inclusion Office. This workshop provides participants an opportunity to learn more about LGBT2SQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans (transgender, genderqueer, non-binary), two-spirit, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) matters including the issues and needs of LGBT2SQIA+ people, concepts such as homophobia, transphobia and heterosexism, and the role and expectations of being an ally, especially within the university setting.
4. Implementing the transition plan
When the employee is satisfied that the transition plan is ready for implementation, ensure you are clear on your responsibility and the timing.
- Review all communications, whether written or face-to-face with the transitioning employee before implementing
- Check in with the transitioning employee regularly to see how things are going.
- Be prepared to answer questions from other staff, customers and clients, but consult with the transitioning employee, if you have not already done so, how you will respond to these types of questions.
- Ensure that all employees in your unit are familiar with the Respectful Environment Statement.
Systems notes for managers
Some UBC systems that are currently in place will require you to work with your employee to change their information. In some cases, the system requires us to have an individual’s legal name on file (for situations that involve legal matters, reporting to the Canada Revenue Association (CRA) for income tax and/or banking information). In other cases, when a person’s preferred/chosen name can be used (such as in our IT systems) you, as a manager/supervisor, can request that name changes be made to support the employee’s transition. In all situations, please inform the transitioning employee about what information is required and why, this will help to ensure this is a transparent and consistent a process as possible. If you have questions or need assistance in working with any UBC system, please contact your HR Advisor.
UBC and other external resources
As a manager/supervisor, it is helpful for you to become familiar with the health benefits available for your faculty or staff member who are wishing to transition. The resources include public health and wellness supports, including UBC benefits provisions and resources.
For more information, please see Transgender and gender diverse faculty and staff at UBC.
Time off for medical appointments
Some UBC employment groups are eligible for paid time off for medical appointments during working hours. For more information, visit the Human Resources Workplace Wellbeing and Benefits Leaves page.
Faculty and staff are eligible for paid time off with benefits for gender affirming surgery and post-surgery, however the length of time eligible depends on the employee’s membership within UBC employment groups. For more information, visit the Human Resources Workplace Wellbeing and Benefits Leaves page.
In the event that the employee is medically-required to be off work for more than six months (four months for CUPE 2950), the employee should make an application to the UBC Disability Benefits Plan (for Staff) or the Income Replacement Plan (for Faculty). These plans provide a monthly income if the employees is unable to work for an extended period of time due to illness or injury.
Transition checklist (for working with the employee)
The following checklist is not exhaustive, but may be used as a guide to help shape the discussion that an employee and manager/supervisor will need to have to ensure a smooth transition in the workplace.
Note: These changes need to happen over an agreed timeline, and as part of a gender affirmation plan.
[ ] Update your preferred name in your HR Self-Service record
[ ] Change your primary name (legal name) (requires updated Social Insurance Card – submit with an updated personal data form to Payroll)
[ ] Change your gender marker in your HR Self-Service record (requires updated Social Insurance Card – submit with an updated personal data form to Payroll)
[ ] Change your name to align with payroll and banking documents/accounts (requires updated Payroll Direct Deposit Form – name on form must match name on bank account)
Information Technology (IT) (Manager/Office Administrator can assist)
[ ] Change your email address (contact IT)
[ ] Update email distribution lists (contact your Office Administrator to connect with IT)
[ ] Change your name on desk/office door
[ ] Request new business cards
[ ] Update the UBC faculty and staff directory
[ ] Update name on organization charts
[ ] Update any names/contacts/photos on departmental/unit websites
[ ] Update your UBCCard ID (requires primary/legal name change in HRMS)
[ ] Submit paper forms with updated name for basic group life insurance, optional life insurance, optional accidental death & dismemberment insurance (as the insurance provider requires original paper forms for their records).
[ ] Email colleagues requesting that they delete your former contact profiles or update existing one
[ ] Update conference and professional mailing lists
[ ] Update professional licenses, qualifications or accreditations
[ ] Update criminal records check to new legal name if required for UBC position