The events of May and June have been quite a wake-up call. The police killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans, national protests, escalating use of police and military force, the murder of four Black trans people and two white trans persons, last Friday’s reversal of healthcare discrimination protections, Monday’s Supreme Court ruling, Pride month, Juneteenth Day and a global pandemic have been a resounding invitation to cultural transformation. We have no doubt that you’re feeling it too.
So what do all these things mean for your organization?
Implications of the Supreme Court ruling on Title VII
Let’s start with events from just these past seven days. This Monday the Supreme Court handed down a 6-3 decision on three cases testing whether or not gender identity and sexual orientation were included as part of protections on the basis of sex under Title VII.
The landmark decision stated, “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.” It is unclear how this decision will impact religious employers and the nation’s largest employer, the US military and its ban on trans people being hired or beginning their transition. But in the rest of the private and public sector, for all businesses with more than fifteen employees, this decision has profound implications.
Knowing they can no longer be fired for transitioning will inspire trans people to come out in their workplaces. This means that now, more than ever, companies need to have their Gender Transition Guidelines not only written, but in the hands of all their employees. HR personnel need to be trained on how to facilitate an employee’s transition and talent acquisition teams must be equipped to attract and hire gender diverse job applicants.
Managers need to be educated on managing gender diverse teams. Likewise, to avoid sexual harassment lawsuits, and more importantly, to create a positive work environment, all employee’s must be trained on how to interact respectfully with TGNC colleagues.
While Monday’s decision has huge implications for your company, the SCOTUS decision is only relevant to the workplace. The rights of LGBTQ+ individuals are still not protected in other spheres, including housing, education and healthcare. This fact was dramatically illustrated by events from last Friday.
Implications of the HHS Ruling on Section 1557 of the ACA
One week ago the Department of Health and Human Services issued a ruling reversing the earlier Obama administration ruling supporting protections for trans people provided under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. The ruling indicates that “sex” is to be understood as biological sex so patients do not have to be treated for anything that does not pertain to the gender they were assigned at birth.
This means that trans and non-binary people may not be able to access or continue on the hormones or have the surgeries that help them align their bodies with their gender identities. It also opens the door for trans and gender nonconforming (TGNC) people to be denied access to other necessary medical care. Consequently, your gender diverse employees may be highly distressed about their ability to access insurance or healthcare moving forward.
While Friday’s ruling invites medical providers and insurers to refuse treatment or coverage to trans and non-binary people, please assure your TGNC employees that there is still grounds for hope. To start with, the ruling will not go into effect for sixty days, so nothing changes immediately. Also, two national LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations, Lambda Legal and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), along with the ACLU have already said they will be filing suits against the ruling, which could tie it up in the courts for some time and prevent it from going into effect until the cases are decided.
Given that major medical providers and insurance organizations have already come out against the ruling, Lambda Legal, HRC and the ACLU will have strong support in their lawsuits. Also, please remind your employees that Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act is still a federal law, which is stronger than any administration’s ruling, and that law states that it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of “race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in certain health programs and activities.”
Since SCOTUS just determined that, in regards to employment, “sex” includes gender identity and sexual orientation, this will be added impetus for courts to overturn this Trump Administration ruling in regards to healthcare.
Implications of Black Lives Matter
While there is grounds for hope, in regards to equitable healthcare for trans and gender nonconforming people, there is also much grounds for concern. Likewise, the effects of racism on the TGNC community continues to be an area of deep concern. To help us better understand how racism impacts Black trans people, Transformation Journeys Worldwide has invited our esteemed colleague, Dionne Kettl, to share her insights with us.
TJWW: Dionne, please tell us a little about yourself and the Black trans community.
Dionne: I am a Black trans woman, an HR Manager, and the Co-founder and Deputy Director of TRANScending Barriers Atlanta, a Black trans-led 501(c)3 non-profit. Being part of the TGNC community and the Black community, I am marginalized in both white-dominated society and within the LGBTQ+ community. Because the LGBTQ+ community mirrors our larger, cisgender dominant culture, marginalization is the reality for Black TGNC people, and especially for Black trans women.
There are several hallmarks of the dominant culture. It is white cis-male dominated, so white cis-men have most of the wealth. Racism and prejudices abound. Black folx experience increased policing and incarceration rates and there are not enough resources for oppressed and marginalized groups. But fortunately, in these months of May and June, race and gender identity have taken center stage in American society, and rightfully so.
TJWW: Dionne, we are delighted about this week’s Supreme Court decision, but we also know that, historically TGNC individuals and Black people have experienced discrimination in the workplace. What are the implications of those two intersections? What challenges do Black trans people experience regarding employment?
Dionne: The SCOTUS decision is definitely a landmark decision. However, the events of these past two month have clearly demonstrated that we do not live in a society where we all are equal and treated equitably.
While there have been many movements for equality in our country, Black TGNC people are still fighting on the dual fronts of discrimination based on race and gender identity. Where those two intersections meet, the experiences of Black TGNC folx are compounded.
Consequently, we experience discrimination in virtually every sector of our daily lives, including but not limited to healthcare, education, relationships, and employment.
Opportunities to sustain ourselves with gainful employment are rare, outside of non-profit work, which is seldom lucrative for Black TGNC people. Because of racism and prejudices against being Black and TGNC, employers are more likely to discriminate based on either factor or both. Opportunities for advancement are virtually nonexistent for Black TGNC people.
Although 41% of Black TGNC respondents to the 2015 US Trans Survey had some college education, and an additional 44% of us had an Associate, Bachelor or Graduate degree, due to difficulties in gaining and keeping employment, 21% of Black TGNC respondents had resorted to sex work and other means of economical sustainment, if it can be called that, in the underground economy. This disproportionately leads to higher rates of incarceration, drug abuse, and HIV/AIDS, which exist at the highest rates among Black TGNC people, especially Black trans women.
TJWW: What challenges do trans people of color experience in regards to obtaining healthcare?
Dionne: The difficulty in obtaining healthcare for Black TGNC people is directly attributed to not being able to secure gainful employment. Without the capital and position to receive healthcare benefits, we are left to either pay out of pocket and/or turn to alternative means of income (i.e. sex work).
Even those who are gainfully employed, whether with a non-profit or for-profit organization, may have an employer that does not offer employee healthcare benefits or their benefits may not cover transition-related medical needs. Black TGNC people also have to navigate the misgendering, unprofessional treatment, and medical mistreatment experienced by TGNC individuals of all ethnicities.
These factors, coupled with prejudice and racism by healthcare professionals that correlate with identifiable mortality rates and other qualitative and quantitative data surrounding Black cisgender patients with white doctors and surgeons, make finding affirming healthcare doubly daunting for Black TGNC people.
TJWW: What can organizations do to alleviate the discrimination experienced by Black trans and non-binary people?
Dionne: Organizations can recognize cultural differences and create an environment that has zero tolerance for racism, prejudice, and harassment in the workplace. They can also update their dress codes to be gender neutral and ensure that employees can use their chosen names and pronouns, along with the facilities that match their gender identity or gender expression.
Recruiters and hiring managers need vigorous retraining on cultural competency and ethics, while HR departments and Senior Management need to include diversity, equity, and inclusion as a mandatory part of their strategy. In addition, an anonymous (nameless, faceless, voiceless, genderless) interview process needs to be tried, tested, and perfected with the goal of bypassing recruiter prejudices.
Each of these measures would go a long way towards eliminating discrimination resulting from racism or transphobia, or from the intersection of both, in the workplace.
Thank you Dionne, for sharing your wisdom, insights and expertise with us.
To discuss how Transformation Journeys Worldwide can support your organization with its cultural transformation through our wide range of trainings, contact us here.