How gen Z is tackling transphobia in the workplace – Screen Shot
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How gen Z is tackling transphobia in the workplace

By Mary Swine

LGBTQI rights

Jan 9, 2020

The first day of my new office job comes around. Swapping the extremities of dingey bars in Peckham for the windowless haunt in Whitechapel is a drastic change. Waking with the rest of London to head to my office gig, travelcard purchased in a new non-offensive t-shirt. I squeeze into the overground, ready and excited. A stable wage and hours is something I’ve daydreamed about while pouring lukewarm pints of Amstel in dark corners of SE15.

Stepping into the east London office, the prospect of what’s to come is almost overwhelming. This air of excitement and hope falters as the reality of my co-workers comes to light. The white Kanye West fan drops the n-word casually on a day to day basis and the greying Aussie specialises in homophobic slurs before lunch. Men old enough to know better talk to me about my ‘bush’ and sniffing other women’s knickers. This all seems to come to a humorous head when I’m asked if “LGBTQ is a type of sandwich?”

Generation Z, as we’re described, is the fully digital generation. Born from 1995 onwards, we’ve grown up alongside the housing crisis’, a recession, polarising politics—all of which were documented on our iPhones. Not only are we tech-savvy, we’re also queer as fuck. With only 48 per cent of generation Zers identifying as straight, this is the smallest percentage of heterosexuality ever recorded. This alone should be cause for celebration and triumph by our stonewall predecessors. However, we aren’t at the identity politics utopia, yet.

In 2019, research published on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia about sexual harassment in the workplace showed that 70 per cent of LGBTQ people endured harassment at work. My prediction is that as more young people from the community enter the workforce, these numbers will continue to increase. Arguably, this is the biggest cultural disparity between generations in the UK right now. Not everyone suffering from workplace harassment is queer and under 30, and not everyone harassing colleagues is straight and over 40. However, statistics indicate that these are the two groups most likely to be the victim and perpetrator of harassment. Identifying how workplace harassment has changed is instrumental in this discussion.


Workplace harassment has evolved from macro to microaggressions. Whereas my mother has stories about men biting her arse by the photocopier, my incidents may share the same backdrop but are more subtle. With culture and expression accelerating rapidly, the disconnect between generations is understandable. It is the common consensus that one should not sink their teeth into a female coworker’s arse, but, at the same time, we are still learning collectively of the dangers of microaggressions. Although these microaggressions are not considered to be as outrightly offensive, they still perform in the same way as macroaggressions and isolate and hurt the group or individual they are targeted at.

To stop this kind of behaviour, we have to change collective education. The fear of the unknown is often at the heart of prejudice. Offering educational programmes could improve understanding and therefore reduce these workplace incidents.

Different organisations are helping to change wider society’s understanding of marginalised groups. One of these organisations is Gendered Intelligence (GI), a charity whose mission is to understand gender diversity. Established in 2008 as a community interest group, GI offers services including support services for young trans people under 21, while also delivering educational programmes to universities, schools and workplaces. Screen Shot spoke to the charity’s spokesperson about its workplace programmes.

“When it comes to the training we deliver for professional settings, it’s often someone from HR who reaches out to us,” they said. “Sometimes this is in response to someone in the organisation coming out as trans, or on the flip side, it could be in response to transphobia or lack of knowledge around trans matters. Often, ‘trans awareness training’ is seen simply as a necessary part of the fuller equality, diversity and inclusion package that workplaces are keener than ever to showcase.”

But has GI’s work impacted the mainstream working sector? It seems so, “We recently delivered our 1000th training session on trans awareness, which is a mega achievement for a grassroots organisation (now charity) that started as an art project 10 years ago.” As GI became bigger, so did the demand for factual, straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth knowledge about trans people in the wider working sector. The feedback the organisation receives from clients shows that the impact it is having is deep and meaningful, and that people are leaving the sessions knowing a bit more about an often invisible or maligned part of society. “We know that this increased knowledge and visibility has made it easier for trans and non-binary people to come out at work, to be visible and respected for who they are, across the board. At the end of the day, if GI has made even one workplace more trans-friendly and enabled someone to come out and be accepted at work, the thousand sessions have been worth it,” explains the charity’s spokesperson.

With the training programmes GI offers, does it believe there should be steps towards making this mandatory in our society? “It’d be easy to rest on our laurels and think that transphobia will simply dissipate with time, but we’re seeing time and time again that hate crimes against trans and other LGBTQ+ people are on the rise in the UK. We need to be taking active steps towards ensuring that workplaces are following through on their legal duties to protect people from discrimination. We need to be particularly aware that trans people are often excluded from or ejected from the workplace simply for being trans, so we won’t stop our work until everyone is equal in this respect.” said GI’s spokesperson.

Positive change is happening through the help organisations like GI offer. Tackling transphobia in the workplace is just one issue among many, but GI’s work will continue to be a catalyst for change as it helps to bridge gaps between generations and make all aspects of work accessible. For now, patience is essential, but hopefully soon—not as thick a skin.

Going on a holiday trip? Make sure you check out ‘The Worst (& Safest) Countries For LGBTQ+ Travel in 2019’

As more countries legalise same-sex marriage, and pride parades take place in a greater number of cities, queer tourism expands to all corners of the world. Yet despite the overall improvement in attitude toward the queer community, many LGBTQ travellers continue to be under threat.

The travel website Asher & Lyric conducted a research on ‘The Worst (& Safest) Countries For LGBTQ+ Travel in 2019’ and subsequently published an LGBTQ+ Danger Index, which gives a detailed breakdown of which destinations queer folks should visit or avoid on their travels.

While many people tend to look at legalisation of same-sex marriage as the primary indicator of how queer-friendly a country may be, the reality is far more complex, and as the research shows—multiple other factors should be taken into consideration when contemplating a vacation spot.

Among the eight factors Asher & Lyric looked at in its research were legalisation of same-sex marriage, worker protection, protections against discrimination, criminalisation of hate-based violence, adoption recognition, illegality of same-sex relationships, propaganda and morality laws and findings of Gallup’s 2018 poll: “Is it a good place to live for gay or lesbian people?”  

“We have seen LGBTQ+ people dear to our hearts be discriminated against and our deepest desire for writing this article was to bring awareness to these issues and hopefully catalyze change,” Asher & Lyric told Screen Shot.

The country ranked as the safest destination for queer tourists was Sweden, followed by Canada, Norway, Portugal, Belgium, the UK, Finland, France, Iceland, Spain, Malta and New Zealand.

The US ranked 24 in the list, a relatively low score among other western countries, which can be attributed to its patchy mechanism for protections against discrimination.

At the very bottom of the list was Nigeria, which was deemed most dangerous. Above Nigeria, the riskiest tourist destinations for queer people were Qatar, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Iran, Sudan, Barbados, Malaysia, Malawi, Zambia, Saint Lucia and Uganda.

In many cases, the picture isn’t so black-and-white. “Certain cities, tourist areas or resorts can sometimes be LGBTQ+ friendly even when the laws of the country as a whole are very anti-LGBTQ+,” said Asher & Lyric. The same is true, however, of holiday spots where anti-LGBTQ sentiments aren’t palpable on the surface yet are ingrained into law or are prevalent in the general attitude of the culture.

“We honestly had no idea that there are still countries that have the death penalty for same-sex relationships,” Asher & Lyric said. “That shocked us so much, and I think most people in Western countries would be shocked as well. We also were surprised by the laws and attitudes still present in many popular Caribbean vacation spots such as Jamaica.”

In Jamaica, ‘buggery’ (anal intercourse) can land one in prison for 10 years with an added sentence of ‘hard labour’, whereas ‘homosexual indecent behaviour’ is punishable by up to 7 years in jail with or without hard work. In the Maldives, another popular holiday spot, homosexual intercourse, ‘indecent’ acts with a person of the same sex or same-sex marriage can result in up to 8 years in prison or 100 lashes.

This is where an index like the one composed by Asher & Lyric comes in handy. On its website, you can also find a page with tips written by several queer travelling experts who share their experiences.

The LGBTQ+ Danger Index has already generated discussions on the issue among media outlets and in countries mentioned in the research. “We’ve already seen the research being shared on local news sites around the world which is causing a positive stir,” said Asher & Lyric, “For example, in the Caribbean, many of the islands that were included in the study are discussing changing the “buggery laws” because of how much it’s hurting their tourism dollars.”

The attitude toward the queer community is dynamic and subject to change according to a whole slew of factors, including political, cultural, religious or economic fluctuations in a society. So before planning your next trip, be sure to do your research and consult up-to-date expert sources about how queer-friendly the holiday spot you had in mind is.