I would like to change the world.
I would like to not need to create safe spaces.
But I don’t live in that world.
I was witness to a hostile work environment, one inadvertently inspired by a transgendered individual. I pioneered a plan to create a safe and inclusive workplace for this person and any others who may be deemed different, through the process of difficult conversations. I researched the transgendered community, I researched various communication methods and styles with special attention given to difficult discussions and then began the process of starting those conversations with coworkers, colleagues and various people throughout the corporation. I tailored each conversation to the individual in order to draw them in and draw them out of their preconceived notions of what it meant to be transgendered and instead drew them into the understanding of the complexities, difficulties and struggles experienced by transgendered people. I was a grain of sand seeking to change the landscape by suggesting that gender was a social construct. I dared to question why.
I have a dream.
That one day we will not be judged,
by our physical characteristics,
but by the content of our character.
I understand that the change that I made was not a great change; that I did not change the world. I did what I did, because it was what I could do. I gave neither speech nor presentation. But I engaged. Fully. Fighting in my small pocket of the world for what was right. For justice. There is no value that can be laid to this fight. It is and always will be, simply–the right thing to do.
Task Accomplished and Skills Gained
- Reconnaissance : In any battle one must study the terrain. Observe the habits, rituals and customs of hostiles and silent citizens alike. I spent a week discovering these things, keeping tabs and taking note.
- Situation Room: This is where research was conducted, into the customs and culture of transgendered life. This is where I learned about different communication methods and styles. This is where reconnaissance and research joined to become a plan of action.
- Engage the Hostiles: I began to talk. Fluid, natural conversations that I would push towards social justice, equality and what it means to be transgender, how gender is indeed a social construct. I engaged with stealth, with the intended never realizing that this was the intention. That there was a purpose. Instead it was their idea, their own changed perspective and expanded world view.
- Observing a Situation: Often learning to watch and listen gets lost in the doing and talking. The ability to capture the details of a situation is vital.
- Communication: Adapting speech and conversation to a diverse array of settings, situations and people.
- Work Across Cultural Barriers: Understanding diverse cultures allows a person to navigate in today’s interconnected world.
- Change Agency: To make change requires risk taking, careful research, communication and above all a deep seated desire for social justice.
Don’t wait. It shouldn’t have taken me a week to become an active participant in changing the environment I was in. I wasn’t confident. I was thinking too big. But I learned that change doesn’t need a big fancy initiative, it just needs action. Period. I have learned to take action. Quickly.
Do not be afraid to make mistakes. You absolutely will. You will do or say the wrong thing. Many times. This is part of the human condition. We are imperfect on our best days. Own your mistakes and they will teach you how to be humble, how to be real. When I first began talking to people about the transgendered community, I stammered and I stumbled. I had never been a big talker, and certainly not one to initiate a conversation of any kind. But I didn’t give up. I couldn’t answer everything, but I knew to admit when I didn’t have all of the information.
You do not have to know everything to start something. Some changes shouldn’t wait. Some changes can’t wait. Trust your gut. You’ll know when change needs to be immediate. Go in and make an honest, stumbling effort. It might mean the world to someone even if they never knew it was you.
I was a grain of sand with the dream of moving mountains. Well really, just one mountain. And not even a big mountain. More like a hill. But no, this doesn’t adhere to my demand to own my accomplishments. It was a mountain, but not just one. It was a range. And I was at the foot of the first hill. But oh what a hill it was. And I think here that the greatest impact was not so much what it has done for me, and not even what I may have accomplished for a single person in the transgender community, but it was that I created other grains of sand. Others who in my absence would use their own voice to create change. And that is a truly awesome thing. And I am both proud of it and humbled by it.
Gender Inclusion: Creating A Safe Environment Through Difficult Conversations – This case study seeks to explore how a hostile work environment can be mitigated through clear and open discussion about gender, sexuality and what it truly means to be transgendered. Learn More
Bridging the Gap: A Look Into a Gender Bi-furcated Culture – This essay discusses the role of gender as a social construct and contrasts that construct against the nature and science of what gender actually is. Learn More