Transgender and Gender-Diverse Faculty and Staff at UBC

Introduction

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 is central to their success and well-being. 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 transitioning employee you can expect a welcoming, inclusive, and respectful work environment. By working proactively with your manager/supervisor, your transition and/or gender affirming process, you can help create a positive experience through the process. The following information is intended to help you understand what resources and benefits are available at UBC and how best to support and coordinate a transition process with the support of your manager/supervisor at this institution.

Human rights and employer responsibilities

To best understand what protections and rights you have as a transgender, two-spirit, and non-binary person at UBC, please review the following protections under the BC Human Rights Code, as well as federal protections 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);
  • not refusing 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 used at UBC to understand gender diversity

Cisgender

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.

Gender expression

How a person represents or expresses one’s gender identity to others, often through behavior, 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.

Gender identity

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.

Non-binary

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.

Sexual orientation

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 behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions; for example pansexual, bisexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and heterosexual.

Transgender

A term for people whose gender identity, expression, or behavior 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.

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.

Two-Spirit

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.

Transitioning

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.

Gender affirming

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 managers/supervisors know that there is no right or wrong way to transition.

In some cases, as an employee, you may wish to keep your gender affirming changes and plans private, or to let only some people in the workplace know. In other cases, you may wish to announce your transition widely. In either case, the first step is consulting with your manager/supervisor to determine your wishes regarding confidentiality and desired supports. If you belong to an employee group, you may want a representative from your union or association present at this or any other meeting related to your transition plan.

Guidelines for the transitioning employee

Discussing your transition plans with a manager/supervisor

Having the right support network in place can assist in your gender affirming/transition journey in the workplace. Involving your supervisor and supportive colleagues can help ensure the gender affirmation process is a positive experience for you and all involved and should be the first step in the process.

Getting started – What’s your plan?

  • Talk with your supervisor/manager
  • Make a list of UBC staff you will need to work with during your transition/gender affirmation process
  • Make a timeline – what are some specific dates that you and your colleagues need to plan around (time away for surgery or other medical procedures? Use of a new name and/or pronouns?)
  • Specific issues that need to be addressed at the outset – shifts in voice and appearance that might raise questions in teams or colleagues
  • How would you like your team and colleagues to learn about your transition – e.g. an email, face-to-face group meeting, individual discussions and/or have your manager/supervisor explain
  • How would you like your team and colleagues to support your transition?

Other considerations:

  • Will you need to make changes to professional licenses, qualifications or accreditations?
  • Do any external parties need to be informed? If yes, what is the approach and how will this be communicated?

Transition checklist

Review the following checklist before meeting with your manager/supervisor to prepare for a fulsome conversation. While there are many changes that you can initiate, it will be helpful to plan out when and who will be responsible for specific changes.

Review the list.

Health and benefits

The following provides information and helpful links to gender-affirming public health and wellness, supports including UBC benefits provisions and resources.

Trans Care BC

The Provincial Health Services Authority has a service called Trans Care BC. The Trans Care BC’s care coordination team helps connect people in BC to gender-affirming health and wellness supports. The website links to resources available to you and those closest to you.

This website provide a general outline of coverage for specific health services and supplies. A Trans Care BC Health Navigator and Primary Care Physician can provide further detail for the transitioning employee on non-UBC benefits related coverage.

Hormone therapy and coverage

Hormone therapy may be prescribed by a primary care physician or nurse practitioner (feminizing hormone therapy only).  Not all primary care physicians feel comfortable initiating hormone therapy, and may require a letter from a mental health professional before writing a prescription.

In BC, the cost of hormone therapy may be covered by an employer benefits plan (such as the UBC Extended Health plan) and/or PharmaCare (BC public drug program – the main program, Fair PharmaCare, is income-based and will cover drugs once the annual deductible has been reached).

Generally speaking, the UBC Extended Health plan will cover estrogen/progesterone and testosterone at 80% (100% for BCGEU Childcare employees); however, the Drug Identification Number (DIN) of the prescribed drug(s) is required for final confirmation.  To confirm coverage, employees can contact the Sun Life Call Centre at 1-800-661-7334 or 1-800-361-6212 or use the drug look-up feature on the Sun Life Plan Member website or mobile app.

If the medication prescribed is not covered by PharmaCare or the UBC Extended Health plan, the employee’s primary care physician can apply for PharmaCare Special Authority for coverage.

For more information, visit the Provincial Health Services Authority’s Hormone Therapy page.

Gender affirming surgery and coverage

In BC, the cost of gender affirming surgeries are automatically covered under the public provincial health program, Medical Services Plan (MSP) if a Qualified Assessor(s) recommends surgery.

MSP will cover physician and hospital in-patient medical care services related to the surgery.  The following costs are not covered:

  • Travel costs to and from Montreal for lower surgeries and surgical revisions.  Masculinizing bottom surgeries, erectile and/or testicular implants require at least two trips to Montreal. (Note: There is no reimbursement for travel costs under the UBC Extended Health Plan.)
  • Supportive garments (for breast augmentation and chest surgery). (Note: The UBC Extended Health plan will cover surgical brassieres required as a result of surgery at 80% (100% for Childcare employees), up to a maximum of $150 per person per year.  Some employment groups may also use their Health Spending Account credits to cover these costs.)

For information on surgery, visit the Provincial Health Services Authority’s How to Get Surgery page.

For more information on funding, visit the Provincial Health Services Authority’s Surgery Funding page.

Counselling and support/social groups

Trans Care BC

There are a number of counselling services and supports that are available to you for your emotional wellbeing. Finding the right fit with a counsellor is important, and Trans Care BC can connect you with counselling information that best suits you in your area. If Trans Care BC does not have the information for a certain area, they will do research and find someone close to you or on Skype.

Should you find counsellor through a referral from Trans Care BC, the extended health benefits plan can provide financial support under the psychological services provision.  The extended health plan provides 100% reimbursement of reasonable and customary charges for services provided by a registered psychologist, registered clinical counsellor or social worker, up to a maximum of $2,500 per person per year.

QMUNITY: Counselling Services and Support/Social Groups from QMUNITY (BC’s Queer Resource Centre)

QMUNITY offers free, short-term counselling as well as support groups and social connections where individuals can meet, share experiences, or just have fun with others.

Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP)

UBC’s Employee and Family Assistance Plan provider, Morneau Shepell, offers confidential and voluntary short-term, issues-focused counselling support that is available in-person and by phone, web or mobile app. While an employee can request a counsellor who has gender and diversity training including past experience working with transgender, two-spirit or gender variant individuals, there is no guarantee that they will get the most experienced for their needs and it will also depend on availability.

Other External Resources

Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre: CWHWC provides low-barrier wellness services to transgender and gender non-conforming people in ways that are respectful and celebratory of clients’ identity and self-expression. The services include, general health care, counselling, legal resources, and a community kitchen.

Prism Services: Three Bridges Health Centre: Prism is Vancouver Coastal Health’s education, information and referral service for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, Two-Spirit and queer + (LGBT2Q+) communities.

Time Off

For more information on short-term sick leave provision, medical appointments, and the long-term disability coverage specific to your employment group, please click here.