Unbundling gender identity & sexuality: Trans*

In my role as Co-Chair of the UK LGBTA chapter at Mercer, I have a responsibility for supporting and driving both diversity (to celebrate and raise awareness of LGBTQ topics) and inclusion (to educate, inform and help colleagues who are unaware of or uninformed on LGBTQ topics to feel at ease.)   As part of this, we decided to run a series of sessions around unbundling gender identity and sexuality, to help us to better understand what makes us different and what we have in common.  The sessions are open to everyone – whether colleagues working with clients or colleagues within this space, colleagues who are part of this community and want to learn others’ perspectives or colleagues who are just plain curious to understand more.

A few days ago, we hosted our first lunchtime session on Trans*.  Even as an out & proud member of the LGBTQ community, I confess, I was really unaware of how diverse and complex Trans* really is, but for those who are wondering what Trans* means, let’s start with a definition.  Trans* is an umbrella term that refers to all of the identities within the gender identity spectrum. Wow, that sounds complicated, I hear you say.  It is, and it isn’t – the image I’ve used for this post will help unbundle what trans* means.  During our lunchtime session, our two guests shared their personal experience of life as trans*, followed by Q&A.   Our guest speakers were Samantha Jayne Nelson & Pips Bunce.

First up, we heard from Mx Pips Bunce (Mx is pronounced as it looks, and is a gender neutral title.)  Pips identifies as gender fluid spending half of her time as Phil and the other half as Pippa both at work and at home with her wife and children and works closely with Stonewall and OUTstanding, specifically on education around trans* and non-binary identities.  Pips shared her personal story of growing up, gaining understanding of her gender fluidity, how her family helped and supported her decision to embrace who she is, and finally the journey to share with her employer, Credit Suisse.

Along with her role as Head of GM Technology Core Engineering Integration Components, Pips is co-chair of the firm’s LGBT Ally Program and a member of Credit Suisse’s EMEA LGBT committee (which both aim to encourage an inclusive work culture where all are encouraged to bring their whole self to work and to promote authenticity in the workplace regardless of gender identity, gender expression or sexuality.) Through her courage and openness, she is helping her employer, colleagues and many other businesses to respect and embrace our true selves.

Pips was awarded 4th position in the prestigious Financial Times and OUTstanding LGBT and Ally Executive leader list and is an active proponent for many of the firms diversity and inclusion activities, helps produce articles for CS to help inform allies of the importance of inclusivity in the workplace (including the Trans Q&A Guide and the LGBT Ally Program – Focus on Trans Video),

Pips also works with many mainstream media firms such as the BBC to highlight the importance of Ally programs in progressing LGBT inclusion and on specialized publications such as this BBC documentary talking about gender fluidity in the workplace. She presents to many groups on LGBT inclusion topics and is engaged with many external groups (including Stonewall, OutStanding, GiRes, Trans*Formation, P3 Proud Professional Parents etc.) and other affiliations focused on LGBT challenges and continually strives to improve the culture of the workplace and society for all.

Pip shared some interesting statistics during her session:

  • Up to 30% increased productivity when people allow themselves (or are allowed to be) authentic
  • 1/3 employees fear they would be treated differently were they to be their true selves at work
  • Suicide rates amongst the young LGBTQ community is almost 10x higher than the whole population

Whilst we have made some great progress, clearly we still have more work to do!

Our second guest was Samantha Jayne Nelson.  Sam is a VP in the Global Energy Risk Engineering at Marsh, specialising in offshore platforms and subsea assets, with extensive experience developed over years as an offshore installation manager in the oil & gas industry.  Sam also happens to be a trans woman.  Sam shared her very personal story of her journey from a traditional male upbringing in the North East to becoming the woman she is today.  Sam allowed us to share in her personal struggles and conflicts as she strove to reconcile the person she was portraying to work with the real Sam inside and the importance allies played in her journey.  As a gay man who felt great trepidation about coming out, I could relate in a small way to Sam’s story, but Sam’s down to earth and engaging story really inspired hope and positivity.  As well as her senior role in Marsh, Sam is also Chair of the Marsh UK Pride colleague resource group, an active member of LINK (LGBT insurance network) and is passionate about creating an environment where all people are valued for their diversity, authenticity and journey.

Sam & Pips also shared a brilliant and simplistic way of getting to grips with the gender identity spectrum – the gingerbread person (the image used for this post.)  The link is included below for further reading, but whether informing colleagues, customers or kids, this is a great way to help people start to understand the real diversity of gender and sexuality.  If you’d like to learn more, there are lots of resources out there to help you better understand, feel more comfortable or start your own journey of discovery.  Pips & Sam recommend:

The Gingerbread Person: http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/genderbread-person

Trans*Formation: http://www.transformationuk.com

Stonewall: http://www.stonewall.org.uk/our-work/campaigns/trans-equality

Focus on Trans* video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjl8xOJXfE8

Link LGBT Insurance Network: http://www.lgbtinsurancenetwork.co.uk

Diversity Role Models: https://www.diversityrolemodels.org

Gender Identity & Research Education Society: http://gires.org.uk

Mermaids.org: http://mermaidsuk.org.uk

Fresh into 2017, and I already feel like I am learning – becoming more aware of the differences and uniqueness of those around me.  As a Customer Experience guru, this can only help me better serve my customers, and hopefully help me become a better person.  I’d really encourage all of you to take a little time to explore and embrace a little more of those around you – educating yourself is a great way to broaden your horizons and celebrate diversity!

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