The Miami transgender experience: How to be a better employer and friend

Last month we partnered with Connect MiamiSAVE, and the YES Institute for an eye-and-heart opening talk with four Miamians about the transgender experience here.

The convo centered on how Miami is doing at creating a place for those who don’t fit neatly into binary gender categories.

While the panelists shared their personal stories, including what it was like to come out as transgender to their family members and the adjustments they went through as they began presenting themselves as a gender different than the one assigned at birth, those watching commented with a barrage of questions.

The common thread among them: How can I help?

So we pulled together, based off the recommendations the panelists made throughout the talk, a few guidelines.

The biggest takeaway? Good intentions will carry you a long way.

Panelist Noah Pantaleon’s retelling of the moment when he and his wife told their children that he was going to transition, is one that just might restore your faith in humanity.

How to show support and acceptance for your transgender friends

  • Pronouns matter. One of the things that makes gender-conforming allies most nervous is figuring out which pronoun to use to show acceptance.
  • You know what happens when you assume. So don’t. Ask. “Never assume someone’s gender identity,” one of the panelists, Kezia Gilyard, recommends. If you don’t know their preference, ask. Politely.
  • Respect their boundaries. Ask transgender friends if they want you to correct others in social situations when they get the preferred pronoun wrong, or if they want you to let them handle it.
  • Be willing to try again. If you do mess up someone’s pronouns, don’t get “jammed up,” Noah says. Just apologize, move on, and work to get it right the the next time.
  • Questions. If there is something you don’t fully understand, ask your transgender friends in a sensitive and polite way. If you are still unsure, try some self-research or books on the subject.
  • Think about how your actions affect others. The consequences for leaving someone unseen and unacknowledged could be deadly for them.



How to create an inclusive workplace

Maybe you have a transgender employee and want to make sure they feel comfortable coming in every day. Maybe you want to make sure that you’re not missing out on great employees because they don’t feel welcome in your office. There are some steps you can take that will go a long way to make your workplace a welcoming one for transgender people.

  • Check company forms. Make sure you have options other than “Mr.” and “Ms./Mrs.”, either by adding additional options or leaving a space for someone to fill in their preference. The panelists agreed that if application forms at work have space for genders other than simply “male” and “female” then they feel safer and recognized.
  • Check insurance policies. What, if anything, is covered in relation to hormones or gender-reassignment surgeries? If nothing is covered, can you work with human resources to change that? “That’s putting your money where your values are,” Kezia said.
  • Change vs. Communication. Changing office policy is great, but if there is no open conversation to go along with them, then that change is meaningless. Umut Dursun from the YES Institute suggests an open conversation any chance you get so that all employees are on the same page.
  • Effort. Make an effort to recognize your co-workers and call them how they want to be known. “If they are seen, they will survive. It’s that simple. Name and pronoun,” Umut said.  
  • Don’t be awkward. Make sure to give transgender co-workers the space they need. Kezia said sometimes awkward moments will happen, but just be understanding.


Fortunately Miami also has two great local organizations available any time for guidance and support.

The YES Institute: The source for knowledge on gender and orientation

On June 16 and 17, they are hosting their signature two-day course for communication solutions on from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. The course is focused on how to include all viewpoints in conversations, despite disagreements that can come up.

Call  305-633-7195 to register.

SAVE: Dedicated to protecting LGBTQ people against discrimination. They regularly canvass for greater protections for LGBTQ individuals, host workshops, and organize community education and outreach efforts.