Creating space for gender identity conversations
I recently hosted a webinar for some of my colleagues in Clifford Chance’s Asia-Pacific offices about my transgender identity to celebrate Transgender Day of Remembrance. The webinar made me think about my own experiences and reminded me how lucky I am to share my transition with others and pave the way for others to be themselves in the workplace.
As an openly gay transgender man, who has been on testosterone for 20 months and recently had top-surgery, I’ve faced my fair share of difficulties and discrimination in the workplace. My previous employers reacted positively at first to my wanting to transition, and then became increasingly unsupportive the closer I came to starting my medical transition. They suggested I sit in a different room to the rest of my colleagues out of fear that I’d become aggressive towards them after taking testosterone and even delayed offering me a permanent position for being a transgender man.
It’s therefore no surprise that I was nervous when I came to Clifford Chance and wanted people to accept me for who I was. Happily, my fears were misplaced. I was empowered by the fact that my managers were solely focused on the quality of my work – rather than my gender identity – and that I was asked for my input on the more personal aspects of the Firm’s transgender policy in 2019, for example gender neutral bathrooms and dress codes.
I think the policy is a great start as it demonstrates that the Firm is taking the topic seriously and really beginning to support transgender people. However, there is a high rate of unemployment among transgender people more broadly and a strong correlation between mental health issues and gender dysphoria.
More needs to be done to raise awareness and demonstrate that transgender people exist and can succeed at the Firm and the broader legal industry – If LGBT+ representation in law firms needs improvement, then transgender representation is non-existent. So much so that earlier in the year, I presented a Lunch & Learn about my personal experience and the steps the Firm could take to improve the experience of transgender people, including normalising pronouns to over 50 colleagues, made up of the Senior Management Team, Partners and Business Professionals in the London Office. The event was significantly oversubscribed and led to colleagues from all backgrounds and levels of seniority congratulating me, offering me their support and asking for more information and ways that they could help. By being openly transgender, hosting events and creating a space for dialogue at work, I hope to be a role model for future transgender people looking to pursue a career in law or the City, whilst being their authentic selves.