Why you should stop asking “how can we win on the trans inclusion debate?”

Young people carry pride flags during gay pride on René-Lévesque Boulevard, Montréal, Canada.

Lots of clients and contacts say something like “we won’t have an opinion on the trans inclusion debate because there is no way to win.” Normally followed by “it’s just so toxic”.

I get it, but my gentle challenge to you is perhaps the problem is your starting point. To help, here are some things you may want to ask yourself.

Why do you want to have a point of view? Perhaps you’re committed to DE&I being at the core of your marketing or creating an inclusive workplace is a real passion. Brilliant, then ask…

So why does that mean you have to “join the debate”? Starting out here immediately gives a sense of having to take sides. Let’s remember, this is about fostering an inclusive and equitable environment. And actually, that could be being active, taking proactive steps to ensure the communities you serve (internally and externally) can be safe and entirely themselves. Do you have an Employee Resource Group (ERG) set up as a safe space for sharing and giving a view to the business of what they would like to see? The power of these groups cannot be understated.

Then you may believe that to be an ally or be equitable in your approach or decision-making, you have to be loud. But let’s check that – do you think the transgender community exclusively wants you to shout loud? It can sometimes be forgotten that the transgender and non-binary community is made up of real people, people who are more than just their gender identity. In fact, what we’ve heard is that for the majority its entirely exhausting to read the news, watch the tv, switch on the radio and all you hear is loud voices and debate about an issue so emotive for them. You can be vocal, supportive of a community and amplify their voices in a range of ways – big and small.

So with that in mind, what are you trying to “win”? Is there actually a race or debate you’re seeking to either come first in or thwart an opponent? When we really think about it, we probably aren’t trying to win anything. It’s perhaps more likely you’re afraid that you’ll say something which will be criticised and your reputation will be negatively impacted. But remember, actions speak louder than words. So again… what can you proactively do to be diverse, equitable and inclusive. If you have the answers to that (which we can help with), it may feel more natural to have something to say.

Another really powerful tool to combat that fear, is education. As we talked about in our recent piece for myGwork, you can make a big difference by learning about this community. Think about diversifying what you are listening to, watching and reading. Follow a couple of different accounts on social, listen to a different podcast one morning. Make it easy for yourself – you’ll be surprised at the impact it can have.

Finally, a personal plea. On the issue of this conversation being “toxic”. It’s perhaps understandable why some of the debate has been politicised. There are literally political, legislative and legal conversations being had. But, you as a corporate can be pragmatic, calm. Even if you do have a specific view to share, you can do it in a way which is respectful, understanding and patient. Some of our best work for clients in this space has been complimented for exactly that – being a level headed voice in a debate which has got all too noisy.

So all this to say, yes of course find your corporate voice (and we can help you here too) but let’s think again about what your starting point is and maybe you’ll find it easier to know what to say.

Hannah Cambridge, Co-Head, Crisis & Issues at FleishmanHillard London.

If you’re currently facing a similar challenge and would like some help, please get in touch. You can contact [email protected].