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Transgender Day of Visibility: Jonathan Slater

Civil Service LGB&TI Champion Jonathan Slater says Transgender Day of Visibility is "a time to share and uplift the voices of our trans community", but we should treat all our colleagues with respect at all times.

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By Civil Service LGBT+ Network

This blog post was originally published on GOV.UK.

Each year, 31 March is International Transgender Day of Visibility, an annual event to celebrate transgender people and raise awareness of the discrimination they face worldwide. Transgender, or trans, is an umbrella term used to describe those whose gender identity is different from the sex recorded at birth.

Gender identity and expression are central to the way we see ourselves and engage in the world around us. Visibility is important to make sure that the needs of trans people are met, discrimination is addressed, and individuals are not left feeling marginalised, alone and isolated.

Trans visibility is also important for parents, carers and friends of young trans people. If a child or loved one is struggling with their gender identity, it’s important that we know where to turn for support.

a:gender staff network

Transgender Day of Visibility is a time to share and uplift the voices of our trans community and to renew our efforts to build working environments that are inclusive and supportive of trans colleagues, ensuring that they are treated with the same levels of respect and fairness as everyone else. This includes, for example, respecting and using everyone’s preferred name and pronouns.

We have done much in the Civil Service over recent years to raise awareness of the issues faced by our trans and non-binary colleagues, driven on by a:gender, the cross-government staff network supporting trans, non-binary and intersex employees.

One of our key achievements in the last 12 months has been the launch of a model Gender Identity and Intersex policy package, which is available to Civil Service HR departments to support them in creating cultures and working practices which are inclusive for, and supportive of civil servants of all gender identities. Several departments have already adopted the package in full, and more are currently working towards adopting it.

Year of Inclusion

2020 is the Civil Service Year of Inclusion. Individuals feel included if they have a sense of belonging in their organisation; they are able to bring their authentic self to work, and they have a voice in their organisation. It is the Civil Service ambition to be the most inclusive employer in the UK. It is my ambition, as Civil Service LGB&TI Champion, that the Civil Service should be the most LGB&TI-inclusive employer in the UK, so that we establish working environments where lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex civil servants feel included, safe and supported.

A sense of inclusion is particularly important in these times of social distancing, which can so easily become social isolation, and we all have a part to play in ensuring all our colleagues feel included and connected. Bear in mind that for some LGB&TI people it is difficult to be their authentic selves at home and in their communities, and an inclusive workplace can be somewhere where they do feel safe. Our departmental and cross-government networks have a vital role to play in maintaining a sense of belonging and countering the isolation experienced while physically separated from the workplace.

I am proud of what we have achieved so far, due to the hard work of LGBT+ staff networks in departments and civil service organisations, of the cross-government staff networks a:gender and the Civil Service LGBT+ Network, of departmental LGB&TI Champions, and of LGB&TI civil servants and their allies. But I am aware that there is always more to do.

Recent People Surveys have shown that a higher proportion of trans civil servants than their colleagues say they have experienced bullying, harassment or discrimination: we need to work to understand why that is happening and find ways to address it.

Saluting trans colleagues

I will continue working with departments, supported by a:gender and the Civil Service LGBT+ Network, to improve the experiences of our trans non-binary and intersex colleagues. Senior Civil Servants need to show leadership in this respect, but every civil servant has a part to play: treating all your colleagues with respect and dignity, and making sure your workplace is a safe and supportive environment for everyone.

While ‘visibility’ becomes harder for all of us in the current climate, let us all pause for a moment today to salute the courage and achievements of trans women, trans men and non-binary colleagues, who have been prepared to take the risks involved in being visible role models in the Civil Service, and who have contributed so much to the Civil Service and to wider society.