Choosing whether or not to disclose your gender identity at work is a big decision and a personal choice. Fears of discrimination, stigma, and backlash prevent many non-gender conforming Brits from being their authentic selves in the workplace. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. With careful consideration, gender identity disclosure at work can be one of the most liberating decisions you’ll ever make.
This guide aims to empower you to make the best choice for you. We’ll explore everything you need to know about coming out at work, including:
- Tips on how and when to disclose
- Considerations for a supportive workplace
- Legal protections
- What to do if you experience discrimination or backlash following your disclosure
First up: We look at how to know whether gender identity disclosure at work is the best option for you.
Should I Disclose My Gender Identity At Work?
Before we dive in, we want to emphasise that this is a completely personal decision. As such, it’s essential that you only disclose your gender at work when you feel ready and comfortable. Under UK law, you aren’t obliged to reveal your gender or sexual orientation to your employer unless you choose to. That said, being able to be fully yourself in the workplace can be a liberating and empowering experience, provided your employer prioritises workplace inclusivity.
When it comes to deciding whether to disclose or not, you should take the following factors into consideration:
- Company culture: Firstly, assess how inclusive your employer is. This will be a good indicator of how much support and acceptance you can expect to receive. Look for signs of gender diversity in the workplace, such as gender identity policies, diversity initiatives, LGBTQ+ workplace support, gender-affirming workplace practices, and other inclusive policies. All of these indicate that your employer is a safe space for you to disclose.
- Comfort and safety: Next, consider your own well-being. How would gender disclosure at work impact your mental health? What are your expectations and fears? How will gender expression at work affect your personal and professional life? Answering these questions is a good way to ensure that disclosing aligns with your goals, values, and mental space.
- Legal protections: Before disclosing your gender, get to know the local and national laws protecting gender identity in the UK. By understanding your rights, you can make an informed decision on whether it’s the best move for you. Moreover, you have a clearer understanding of your employer’s legal duty regarding your disclosure.
- Other relevant factors: Context is important here. While gender identity disclosure at work is the right choice for some, it may not be for everyone. Therefore, it’s vital that you consider other factors that may come into play. For example, it may not be worth the stress to disclose if the job is temporary or if you are planning to leave in the near future. On the other hand, it may be the right choice if you see a long-term future in the company and you are surrounded by a strong support network.
Before you make your decision, be sure to read on as we discuss some challenges gender identity disclosure at work may present.
Challenges Of Disclosing Your Gender At Work
Gender identity disclosure at work is not a decision to take lightly. While the benefits are huge, disclosure can present some challenges. These include:
- Bias and discrimination: Unfortunately, prejudice and a lack of awareness still exist surrounding gender identity. As such, in the wrong company, some people may face bias, discrimination, and even harassment following their gender disclosure. This can create a hostile and unwelcoming work environment, leaving you feeling isolated and unsafe at work.
- Lack of awareness: As we mentioned above, many people still don’t understand gender identity. This can result in confusion, misconceptions, and unintentional insensitivity. Examples include being misgendered, feeling excluded, and dealing with comments or frustrations from people who don’t understand or accept your gender identity.
- Privacy concerns: Sharing personal information about your gender or sexuality may lead to colleagues disclosing your gender identity to others without your consent. Whether done intentionally or not, this can significantly impact your emotional well-being in the workplace.
Now you’ve weighed up all the factors and considered the potential challenges, here are some best practices on how to disclose your gender identity to your employer.
8 Tips On Gender Identity Disclosure At Work
Choosing to come out to your employer is a deeply personal decision, and prioritising your well-being and safety is paramount. As such, we’ve put together 8 tips to support you when disclosing your gender identity in the workplace.
- Take time to self-reflect: Don’t rush your decision. Instead, give yourself time and space to gauge if you’re ready enough to make the decision. Some people can feel pressure to jump into this decision quickly because they feel guilty for “lying” or “hiding something” from their colleagues. However, you have no obligation to share this information until you are 100% comfortable. Trust us; your colleagues will understand.
- Do your research: Educate yourself on your company’s policies, local laws, and available resources to support you during your gender identity disclosure. This should include researching trans rights at work and your employer’s policies on gender transition in the workplace
- Pick the right time and setting: Disclosing your gender identity should be done at a time that suits you and in an appropriate setting. Typically, you may choose to speak one-on-one with your direct supervisor or HR team. Check out our guide on how to discuss diversity concerns with your employer.
- Seek support from your network: Reach out to trusted colleagues or potential allies for support, guidance, and advocacy. In particular, speaking to people who have gone through a similar experience can be extremely reassuring.
- Brace yourself for some questions: Your disclosure may prompt some questions or misconceptions about your gender identity. If you’re comfortable addressing them, prepare concise and informative responses. If you don’t want to respond, plan how to politely shut down the questions in a calm and professional way.
- Advocate for education: Speak to your employer about the possibility of providing the workforce with training to help colleagues (and leadership) better understand gender identity and promote inclusivity. For example, request gender identity training, workshops on non-binary inclusion in the workplace, and other educational resources that will address potential unconscious bias and micro-aggressions.
- Ask for support: You shouldn’t have to go through your gender disclosure alone. Request any relevant support and accommodations that will help you make a smooth transition and feel comfortable following your disclosure. For instance, asking for LGBTQ+ employee resources or accommodations to the company dress code.
- Practice self-care: The disclosure process can be overwhelming, so it’s important to prioritise self-care. Seeking counseling or joining a support group can help you navigate the process.
While in most instances, gender identity disclosure at work is a positive experience, that’s unfortunately not always the case. The next section covers what to do if you experience a negative reaction following coming out.
What To Do If Your Gender Identity Disclosure Is Unsuccessful
If your gender identity disclosure at work doesn’t go as planned, consider the following steps:
- Document incidents: Start by keeping a detailed record of any discriminatory comments, actions, or incidents. This is an important first step because it establishes a pattern and will provide evidence should you wish to pursue further action.
- Speak with HR or management: Don’t let the issue linger; it will only fester and start to affect your mental health. If you feel comfortable enough, address the situation with HR or a manager that you trust. Try to remain calm and outline the incidents and the impact they have had on you. Then, ask about the next steps and how they plan to rectify the issue.
- Seek support: Lean on trusted colleagues, friends, loved ones, or staff networks for emotional support during this difficult process.
- Get legal advice: If nothing changes or HR doesn’t take your complaint seriously, consider seeking legal advice. Speaking to Citizen’s Advice or a legal professional will give you a clear understanding of what your options are under the 2010 Equality Act.
- Get out: In some cases, discrimination can be solved. However, if it continues or you don’t have the mental space to fight, start looking for a new job. While standing up and advocating for fair treatment is a noble and important thing to do, it’s not worth sacrificing your mental health. If things get too much, it may be time to move on and find a diversity-positive employer.
Find A Supportive Work Environment With Aspiring To Include
Everyone deserves to feel safe, seen, and included at work. Unfortunately, many people still face discrimination and othering in the workplace because of their gender identity. As such, making the decision to disclose your gender is a significant one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. While in most cases, employers and colleagues are supportive and welcoming, in some instances, you may experience some less than positive reactions. It’s important to address these issues with management or HR, provided you feel comfortable enough to speak up.
If the discrimination continues, it’s time to look for a new employer. Aspiring to Include is a valuable resource for job seekers seeking a supportive work environment. Our resource hub offers a wealth of guides and resources on inclusive work practices for both job seekers and employers.
What’s more, we offer job postings from companies committed to EDI on our inclusive job board.