The coronavirus-induced lockdown has had a massively disproportionate effect on transgender people, particularly in the home.
In the peer-reviewed medical journal, The Lancet, a report titled Health care and mental health challenges for transgender individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic showed that transgender individuals are still “facing unprecedented difficulties with mental, physical, and social wellbeing, as well as difficulties accessing healthcare” across the world.
This is everything from accessing specialist healthcare, to having to be penned inside a home environment that is abusive. The Scottish Trans Alliance said that 80% of transgender people surveyed in Scotland have experienced emotional, sexual or physical abuse from a partner or ex-partner — and that was before lockdown even began.
When a trans person’s identity is rejected by family and partners, the home can become a prison. Going to work can no longer be an escape.
Lianna Brinded, head of Yahoo Finance UK, and Xavier White, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and innovation marketing manager for Verizon Business have used #ChamberBreakers podcasts to ask what business can do to support the mental health of black, indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC), members of the LGBT+ community, and other vulnerable groups.
Kirrin Medcalf, head of trans inclusion at Stonewall and trans youth worker at Gender Intelligence who uses pronouns he/him and they/them, believes that for trans people, the answer is “much more.”
“We know that LGBT+ people, especially trans people, have poor mental health outcomes,” says Medcalf. “Some people will try to say, ‘well, this proves that trans people are mentally unwell.’ What it actually proves is that being trans isn’t the cause of poor mental health. It is the way transphobic people react to them.”
“That is being exacerbated by being at home all time — isolated from your chosen family and friends. The lockdown situation makes me think of a time where this was my life as a teenager. I didn't go out. I didn't have friends. I was constantly at home and isolated. And that was due to the transphobia and bullying I experienced as a young person.”
What can business do to help trans people?
First of all, Medcalf points out that firms need “just start employing them.” Medcalf.
“The way to be able to get out of violence is to be able to have your own money so that you can leave if you want to,” he added.
A benchmark report by McKinsey published in June 2020 showed that LGBT+ “lived experiences” at work was still rife with discrimination — even discrimination against workers based on their gender identity or sexual orientation is illegal in a number of countries across the world, and more recently the US on June 15 this year. McKinsey pointed out that in certain countries, simply being transgender is illegal.
For transgender and non-binary people, they “were far more likely than cisgender people (men who were assigned male at birth and women who were assigned female at birth) to be in entry-level positions.”
Meanwhile, only fewer than two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies offer trans-inclusive healthcare coverage.
But Medcalf points out that companies need to rethink the way they do things. He wants managers to look at how trans people are excluded from jobs or may not be able to provide references because employers were transphobic.
“You should see being trans as in some way specific knowledge too,” Medcalf says. “They have knowledge that no other person is going to be able to bring and that is useful to a company in and of itself.”
“But companies need to make sure that they are ready for trans people in the first place,” Medcalf continues. “There's no point getting loads of trans people in and saying, ‘oh gosh, we don't know what to do with these people’. You might harm them because you're not set up for it.
“If you have a good experience with one company, you'll see more people coming through. Once you start showing that you're a safe environment, you'll be surprised how many trans people might already work for you.”
For insight and resources surrounding inclusivity programmes at work, see Stonewall and Gender Intelligence. For trans people experiencing domestic violence and bullying, see Galop, Stonewall and The LGBTIQ+ Outside Project blog series for insight into supporting mental health outreach programmes.
The six-part podcast #ChamberBreakers is out every Thursday. Next week’s episode features Richard Cooper, founder of homeless charity Foot Works, discussing the danger COVID-19 presents to some of the marginalised in our society.
Check out the fourth #ChamberBreakers with Christina McKelvie, Scotland’s Minister for Older People and Equalities and the accompanying article, as well as clicking, subscribing, and rating the podcast here.