International Transgender Day of Visibility – on 31 March – sheds light on issues the trans community faces, including in the workplace. Although perceptions seem to have changed in the past few years, a third of trans people have been the target of derogatory remarks, experiencing bullying and abuse and being outed without their consent in the workplace, according to a UK survey conducted by Stonewall in 2018.
Chloe Moore has been working as a rating engine manager at BNP Paribas Cardif for two years, and has nearly 13 years’ experience in the insurance industry. She is a member of the Pride UK Network – part of BNP Paribas’ LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group – and has been active in promoting the rights of transgender people in the workplace. As a trans woman, she describes how companies can support staff through transition and create a more diverse workplace.
Why is gender identity a topic that companies should address? How can they support trans staff?
Companies can create a win-win situation here. Trans identities are quite present in the cultural zeitgeist right now, but this doesn’t remove the anxiety and conflicts that trans individuals experience every day. So when a company actively introduces policies and procedures for their transgender staff members, it helps them understand the level of support they will likely receive should they decide to transition.
As a result, trans staff will experience greater satisfaction in their workplace and a closer affinity with the company, and will likely be more willing to give back.
What are the obstacles you faced when coming out as a trans woman at work?
I was lucky to transition in a company that was supportive of my decision. Before that, I suffered greatly from depression, so saw transition as the only option I had to pursue a future, as I’d exhausted all other means of putting it off. I consider myself fortunate, as not all trans individuals experience the level of support I received, whether at work or in their private sphere. I have friends who lost their families, their jobs, their homes – and some who lost everything.
Although I didn’t experience much transphobic behaviour in the workplace, after transitioning I did experience sexism at work, where I’d changed employer, such as being talked over during meetings and having my ideas disregarded by my colleagues – and I was unfortunate enough to be sexually assaulted outside of work. This forced me to realise the privilege I’d had, and how unsafe the world can be for women.
As a result of the assault, I took up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to help with my confidence, but ironically it’s there I’ve faced the most transphobia. When I started competing, some people took umbrage at this, outed me publically, and began a hate campaign to petition against my participation. When confronted with these statements, I try to talk about the processes in place to ensure fair competition, and the science behind transition, explaining how testosterone levels are affected by HRT and how scientific studies show no discernible advantage when competing. This underlines the general lack of information around the transition process.
You are working on guidelines to manage gender transition in the workplace for BNP Paribas UK staff. What are the key recommendations that you give managers in this document and why is this important?
Most of my recommendations are based on simply showing empathy and compassion. They include useful definitions and expressions, and general dos and don’ts for engaging with a trans person about their identity. There are recommendations on how managers can accommodate people who are transitioning, from starting the process with HR to the dress code. I tried to ensure that as many questions were answered as possible, whether they were on how to deal with reactions from colleagues, time off for treatment or everything in between.
Implementing policies is a great first step – what should companies do on top of that?
Policies are a great base, but they can also feel cold or too wrapped in jargon to relate to. It’s important that companies communicate on the support available for their staff, trans or otherwise. Promoting things like the Pride, Disability, Multicultural, or Parent & Carer networks, which foster diversity and give individuals a place where they can connect with similar people, is a must.
the company also gives opportunities to launch initiatives and projects, like the guidelines I’ve written, it shows these staff members have a voice, and that they’re valued in the workplace, regardless of their identity. By giving increased visibility to these communities, internally and externally, companies can participate in wider societal issues and build inclusive workplaces.
What advice would you give a transgender person who would like to transition, especially in the workplace?
The first thing I’d recommend is to be honest with yourself about what you want, and to talk to people in your personal life that you love. It’s vital that you talk about your feelings openly, to get a sounding board. I was lucky to have the support of my family, who surrounded me with kindness. My identical-twin brother was extremely supportive, but didn’t try to sugar-coat my experience, offering down-to-earth advice which helped a lot. Once you have the support of your loved ones, you can move on to the workplace by initiating the conversation with a trusted colleague or HR manager you feel comfortable being vulnerable with.
What do you wish people asked you?
I wish people asked me about the things that concern them, rather than making hurtful comments, so I can give them informed answers.
When it comes to questions, intent always trumps language. So if a question comes from a respectful place but has harmful language, I’d have no issues answering so that further questions can be better informed.
BNP Paribas Pride
Founded in 2009, BNP Paribas Pride is a network of staff working to make the Bank, and the world, a more inclusive place where everyone feels valued and respected no matter who they are.