TRANSSEXUALS IN THE WORKPLACE

** A GUIDE FOR EMPLOYERS **



by Barbara Copeland, contributing editor (West Coast),
Gender Expressions Magazine
(Reprinted from Gender Expressions Magazine, Vol. 1, #7.
Gender Expressions Magazine grants permission for this material to be freely
copied and distributed.)

To the employer: possibly you were presented this material by one
of your employees, quite likely soon after learning that the employee
was undergoing or had already undergone a "sex change." Much information
and misinformation abounds in the media, but little of it is helpful to
the employer in comprehending the new status of their employee. Also,
small or new companies are likely to have never encountered such a
change in status before; hopefully the text that follows will be useful
and informative. This article is written in respect to the case of the
male-to-female employee; however, most of the information applies
identically to the female-to-male employee if the sense of the pronouns
and gender-specific statements is reversed. The remainder of the text
is presented in question/answer format.

***** What IS a Transsexual? *****

The answer to this question is best given in rather technical medical
terms. Strictly speaking, a transsexual is a person with the condition
known as Gender Dysphoria Syndrome, a psychiatric term which means
"feelings of conflict and discomfort felt by a person due to the
anatomical gender of their body." Research indicates that Gender
Dysphoria Syndrome is the psychological condition which results from a
birth defect in the matching of brain and body, similar and perhaps
related to the condition known as intersex, in which a child's body at
birth has genitalia which are not clearly either male or female or has
characteristics of both male and female. In other words, transsexuals
are persons born with a perfectly normal and healthy brain of one
gender, but in a body with a perfectly healthy and normal anatomy of the
opposite gender. The affected person lives with a struggle to reconcile
their natural personality, gender identity, and body image with their
physical body and social status until a time in their life when the
conflict becomes too great to bear and they seek medical help to change
their anatomy and social role. No effective psychotherapeutic treatment
for transsexualism exists, since the only defect is the mismatch of body
and brain, and a healthy gender identity (even a mismatched one) cannot
be changed; therefore the only effective treatment is to surgically
change the gender of the body to align with the person's natural gender
identity, a "sex change." Such treatment is effective in relieving the
secondary problems of depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety which
often accompanies gender dysphoria, and the patient is then able to
pursue a normal life in their new gender. Today, transsexuals are
potentially valuable research subjects in the new studies of pre-birth
programming of gender identity and personality into the brain during
fetal development, though the rarity and desire for privacy of
transsexual persons often makes the gathering of data difficult. At
present there is little agreement in the medical community as to the
cause of a person being born transsexual; researchers and physicians
today are largely divided into groups advancing theories of either
genetic causes or fetal-development causes. Environmental conditions
seem to have an effect on how long the individual is able to adapt to
their reversed-gender life situation before seeking medical help to
correct it. Transsexualism is rare, occurring at a rate of one for every
ten thousand births. Currently, no method capable of detecting the
condition at birth is known.

***** Why aren't there any female-to-male Transsexual persons? *****

There certainly are: about 45% of all transsexuals are female-to-male.
Male-to-female transsexuals receive the largest amount of exposure
through the media of TV and print, apparently because they are
considered more "newsworthy" in our traditionally male-oriented society.

***** Are Transsexual persons homosexual? *****

No, transsexualism has nothing directly to do with sexuality at all; the
"sex" root of the word refers to gender rather than sexual preference.
This misconception, largely disappearing today, apparently resulted from
public confusion of transsexuals with two much larger groups: effeminate
homosexuals (gay males imitating feminine mannerisms or dress as an
expression of their sexuality) and transvestites (males, usually
heterosexual, who find enjoyment in wearing female clothing); neither
of these two groups has the body- identity gender conflicts which are
experienced by transsexuals and lead to an eventual change of physical
gender. Transvestites outnumber transsexuals by at least 50 to 1; gay
males outnumber transsexuals by about 900 to 1. In addition, these other
two groups are composed entirely of males only; transsexuals are nearly
evenly divided between male-to-female cases and female-to-male cases.
Transsexuals, both before and following surgery, may be heterosexual,
bisexual, Lesbian, or celibate, with the proportion of celibacy being
somewhat higher than with the general population of women. Transsexuals
are NOT members of any known AIDS high-risk group.

***** Does this affect our company medical insurance? *****

Many group insurance policies have specific exclusions which limit or
eliminate payments for transsexual surgery; if your policy has no such
exclusions, your employee may seek coverage for medical expenses under
your current plan. Insurance companies with exclusion provisions do so
only because the surgical costs are expensive -- surgical and hormonal
treatment for transsexuals has been legally established as medically
necessary treatment, and not cosmetic in nature. An insurance company
might, for instance, have a similar exclusion for liver transplants,
another very expensive procedure. Whether or not your insurance company
provides coverage, it should not affect your rates.

***** Will this affect the productivity of my employee? *****

Often, the employee in their new gender role is more productive and
produces higher quality work than in the past, due to the improvement
in their own self-esteem and motivation. Time off from work to recover
from surgery procedures may be necessary, however -- but it should be noted
that your employee will have no need for maternity leave in the future
since she will not be able to bear children, so net time lost from work
may prove to be less than in the case of your other female employees.
The process of changing gender usually takes several years to complete,
with surgical, hormonal, and social changes progressing at different
rates with different individuals; you can expect a dramatic change in
her appearence and in the expression of her personality. Your employee
may already have completed much or most of the transition before
advising you. Transsexuals are often conservative individuals and
frequently set high standards on their appearence and performance
following their gender change. If your employee is doing heavy physical
work, bear in mind that her entire muscular structure will change to
female norms, and she may not handle tasks requiring physical strength
as easily as she did before. [The opposite applies to the female-
to-male, of course.]

***** How do other companies handle this? *****

With the increased public awareness of transsexuals today, the major
problem which remains is that the employee is an object of curiosity
among co-workers for several days following her appearence in her new
gender role. Very large corporations with large numbers of employees may
encounter a transsexual employee every few years, and often set up
internal guidelines. In nearly all cases, a memo is circulated among
coworkers informing them simply that the employee will return to work
at a certain date as a female employee. Some companies call a short meeting
of coworkers at which management and the employee is present to inform
them of the change and to answer any questions which may appear; this
technique is particularly effective in keeping the transition smooth.
One company (IBM) also transfers the employee laterally for several
months to a different department; at the end of that time she is given
the option of either returning to her original department or staying in
her new position. If the employee is new to the company sometimes no
action at all is necessary, since her former gender status may be
undetectable to others, or even to management itself.

***** What is my employee's legal status? *****

Upon completion of her surgery, under state law in every state she is
considered to be female, and entitled to all the considerations applying
to that gender. There are differences in details of how administrative
law handles such cases from state to state. Your employee will take care
of any needed legal matters concerning state and federal identification
papers, tax status, social security, and legal name change herself.
Please note that for employers participating in a state-subsidized
equal-employment plan, your employee may now be a "double bonus" person,
fitting into both the female and handicapped categories, and entitling
the company to a substantial subsidy (details vary from state to state.)|


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