Good Vibrations Sex & Gender Policy
This memo was written by the Good Vibrations/Barnaby Ltd. Human Resources (HR) department in response to issues brought up by several transgender staff members. While many people have made suggestions, HR is responsible for the content and wording of this memo.
In the writing of this memo many issues surfaced around the power of language. Partly because gender and sex are so fluid, the language used to talk about them is constantly changing; and sometimes that language can very charged. In many cases there are terms that are rejected by some people while being embraced by others.
The intention of this memo is to give some guidelines for language and behavior with the objective of making Good Vibrations a workplace where everyone's gender and sex are not only accepted but allowed to prosper, no matter how non-traditional it may appear to be. It is best to be open to other peoples' preferences about words and terms; and to remember that, when talking about gender and sex, what we want to do is communicate, not offend.
HR is grateful to the many individuals and the Diversity Task Force who have given input and feedback.
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Good Vibrations is aware that gender and sex are fluid. As a company, part of our mission is to make space for, and to celebrate difference, not to ignore or attempt to fix it. All staff members have the right to present any gender or sex with the expectation that they will be supported and respected by the rest of the staff, including and not limited to names and pronoun usage appropriate to their gender identity.
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Background*Under San Francisco City and County law, 'transgender' is a protected class in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations. In this case 'transgender' is used as an umbrella term and includes anyone who might be the following:
- pre-operative transsexual (pre-op)
post-operative transsexual (post-op)
partial-operative transsexual (partial-op)
non-operative transsexual (non-op)
- female to male transgender (FTM)
male to female transgender (MTF)
*Good Vibrations recognizes the existence of many genders, and does not just adhere to the traditional gender binary of male and female.
*Ignoring or refusing to acknowledge someone's gender identity contributes to a hostile work environment and is considered a form of harassment. Such behavior can lead to disciplinary action, and may place the company at risk of violating San Francisco City and County ordinances as well as the California State Fair Employment and Housing Act. Examples of unacceptable behavior include and are not limited to; being dismissive about pronouns, gender language or name preference.
*In order for Good Vibrations to comply with government record keeping requirements, when a staff member is hired at Good Vibrations, they are requested to self-define as male or female; an answer is voluntary. In addition, during their employment, a staff member might also be asked their pronoun preference. Other than being questioned in these two need-to-know situations, a staff member is never required to disclose any information about their gender identity.
*A staff person may disclose their gender identity if they wish. In some work places, if a staff person states a gender identity that is not traditional, it is seen as an intent to make other staff members uncomfortable. This is never the case at Good Vibrations.
*For some staff members, their gender transitioning is an entirely personal matter and not a subject for discussion in the workplace.
*Staff may use any name that they prefer, the only exception being the name used on their payroll check, which is considered their legal name and must therefore match the name on their social security card. Some people do not use their legal name as their preferred name. Refusing to use a staff person's preferred name or suggesting that a staff person use a name other than their preferred name is considered a form of harassment and can lead to disciplinary action.
*Some people transition from one gender to another and may no longer consider themselves to be transgender. An example is someone who transitions from male to female and who then identifies as a woman, not a transgender woman.
*An individual might present a gender that is neither female identified nor male identified.
*Some people, such as two-spirits and bi-gendered people, might sometime present as male and sometime present as female. (See discussion of two-spirits under the definition of 'Gender'.)
*Being transgender in the world outside of Good Vibrations can be difficult. Just because we have a progressive work environment, does not mean that being transgender at Good Vibrations is easy.
Good Vibrations Guidelines
- It is best not to make assumptions about anyone's gender.
- It is best not to make assumptions about what pronouns someone prefers. There are many pronoun possibilities other than those associated with the traditional gender binary, like 'she' and 'he'; some examples are: ze, se, hir.
- While pronoun usage might be confusing for some people, it is not the responsibility of the transgender staff to correct staff who make mistakes with pronouns and other gender specific language.
- Those staff who are traditionally gendered can be allies to transgender staff by supporting other staff in using appropriate pronouns and other appropriate gender specific language (i.e. sir, ma'am, gal, guy.) In other words, if you know someone's pronoun preference and/or gender identity, it is not okay to ignore it.
- If you make a mistake and use the wrong pronoun or gender specific word, just correct yourself and try to get it right next time. There is no need for lengthy excuses or explanations.
- It is okay to discreetly ask someone for their pronoun preference. Asking can seem awkward, and so can asking someone's name when you think that you should know it. It is better to ask than to assume. A good question is: "What pronouns do you prefer that I use when I am referring to you?"
- It is best not to assume that any transgender staff person will know all the details about other staff members' specific gender identities or about gender identity in general. If you have questions about gender identity you can ask the Senior Director of HR and Administration or the Payroll Administrator.
- When describing sex toys, staff are encouraged to use language that is specific to the body rather than to gender. Some women have penises, some men do not, so it is appropriate to talk about a 'penis' toy as opposed to a 'men's' toy.
- The appropriate way to support someone who is transgender is to respect how they self-identify without second guessing their motivation or their history. It is never appropriate to discuss how well you think someone fits the gender identity that they present.
- People's gender identity may change over time. It's important to be open to change in the gender identity of everyone around you and to not pass judgment if someone changes frequently.
- Some people have problems with the use of adjectives like 'bio' or 'genetic' to differentiate those staff who are not transgender from those who are, because these words seem to imply that there is no biological or genetic aspect to being transgender. Other people use these terms and find them quite helpful and descriptive. It is best to be open to other peoples' language preferences and to remember, that when talking about gender and sex, what we want to do is communicate, not offend. Some alternatives terms are 'not transgender', 'traditionally gendered', 'male-assigned' or 'female-assigned'.
- If you are interested in and/or confused about someone's gender issues, do not assume that everyone is willing to discuss their particular gender identity. An acceptable question could be something like: "Is it okay if I ask you a personal question about gender right now?" Be prepared to receive "No" as an answer.
- If you feel that you have been harassed or discriminated against because of your gender identity you can talk to your supervisor, your manager, or the Senior Director of HR and Administration.
- Questions about gender identity can always be directed to Senior Director of HR and Administration or the Payroll Administrator.
These definitions are by necessity general and brief. Please be aware that the language of sex and gender is constantly changing. Much could be written about each of these terms and in fact much more has.
*Gender: How you do or do not present yourself to the rest of the world in degrees of male and/or female can be considered your gender. Gender is related to behavior and is an identity and an expression of self. What constitutes the proper behavior for your gender is determined by your culture, whether or not you subscribe to that determination. One of the ways that the body is related to gender has to do with the extent to which hormones affect behavior, an area of investigation with a lot of theories but many unknowns. Various cultures say there are only two genders, while a number of cultures acknowledge many genders. Some cultures say that there are two-spirit people who embody both a male and a female gender and who may choose to live in the world as either gender or cross back and forth at will. If a person's gender does not match their assigned sex, then they might be referred to as non-traditionally gendered or gender-variant.
*Sex: The physical aspects of the body that are traditionally labeled male or female help determine what is called one's sex. Some of the primary female sex characteristics are a vulva, a uterus and ovaries. Some primary male sex characteristics are a penis, testicles and a prostate. Some traditional ways of comparing secondary sex characteristics in adult female and adult male bodies include looking at differences in amount of body and facial hair, muscle and fat distribution, and hormones. While it may be questionable to continue to label these characteristics as male or female, these are the physical aspects of the body that one might consider changing if one is transsexual. Not everyone is born with only male or only female sex characteristics (see definition of Intersex). If one's gender does not match one's assigned sex then they can be referred to as non-traditionally gendered. The interplay of sex and gender is very complicated, but it may help to know that some people say that sex is what is between your legs and gender is what is between your ears.
*Transgender: Everyone in this culture gets assigned a gender at birth. Someone who is transgender has changed from their assigned gender and now presents themselves as a different gender. The term 'transgender' can also be used to describe people who are non-traditionally gendered. Some people use the terms 'transgender' and 'genderqueer' interchangeably; some see them as separate and distinct identities.
*Transsexual: An individual who self-identifies with a sex other than the one assigned them at birth is a transsexual. These individuals may or may not choose to change their primary or secondary sex characteristics to match their self-identified sex. Some transsexuals (post-op) have had operations to change their sex, some are planning to have operations (pre-op), while some will not have operations (non-op). For some people in the transgender community, the distinction between pre-op, post-op and non-op transsexuals is becoming less important.
*Intersex: [from www.isna.org The Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) website] a person with an intersex condition is born with sex chromosomes, external genitalia, or an internal reproductive system that is not considered 'standard' for either male or female." The ISNA prefers the term 'person with an intersex condition' because the phrase borrows from the disability rights movement and doesn't define the person by their condition. Some people use 'person with intersex' as an alternative. The current practice in the western medical system is to "normalize" people with intersex conditions by performing unnecessary and unwanted treatments, including surgeries on babies with genitals that do not appear to fit the prevailing image of male or female. Intersex activists are working to create a world free of shame and secrecy and to educate parents and medical practitioners in order to end the practice of using unnecessary and unwanted treatments to reinforce gender assignment.
*Genderqueer: People whose gender does not fall within the traditional male/female gender binary can be referred to as genderqueer. This could include transgender, transsexual, two-spirits, non-gendered, or poly-gendered people. To some people, genderqueer is a specific identity and some gender-variant and some non-traditionally gendered people don't identify as genderqueer.
Book and Publications-Bornstein, Kate. "My Gender Workbook"
-Califia, Patrick. "Public Sex: The Cultures of Radical Sex, 2nd Edition"
-Califia, Patrick. "Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism"
-Colapinto, John. "As Nature Made Him"
-Dreger, Alice. "Intersex in the Age of Ethics"
-Dreger, Alice. "Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex"
-Kessler, Suzanne. "Lessons from the Intersexed"
-Feinberg, Leslie. "Transgender Warriors"
-Lotney, Karlyn. "Ultimate Guide to Strap-on Sex A Complete Guide for Women and Men"
-Nestle, Joan editor. "Genderqueer: Voices from beyond the Sexual Binary"
-Preves, Sharon. "Intersex and Identity: The Contested Self"
-Queen, Carol. "Pomosexuals"
-FTM International Newsletter
The Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) is devoted to systemic change to end shame, secrecy, and unwanted genital surgeries for people born with an anatomy that someone decided is not standard for male or female. We urge physicians to use a model of care that is patient-centered, rather than concealment-centered:
-Intersexuality is basically a problem of stigma and trauma, not gender.
-Parents' distress must not be treated by surgery on the child.
-Professional mental health care is essential.
-Honest, complete disclosure is good medicine.
-All children should be assigned as boy or girl, without early surgery.
Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits
"Gender Education and Advocacy (GEA) is a national organization focused on the needs, issues and concerns of gender-variant people in human society. We seek to educate and advocate, not only for ourselves and others like us, but for all human beings who suffer from gender-based oppression in all of its many forms."
"The Transgender Law Center (TLC) is a civil rights organization advocating for transgender communities."
"This site is the internet contact point for the largest, longest-running educational organization serving Female-To-Male transgendered people and transsexual men."