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Ethan Salathiel is a working dad who has transitioned. He shares his tips for employees and employers.
Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility. Working dad Ethan Salathiel became the first person in his workplace to transition while he was employed by one of the big City banks. Last month he told us about his experience of taking flexible working as part of his transition. He then embraced flex again when he became a parent. And, while changing gender and becoming a parent are clearly different experiences he can see similarities in that both involve change.
He said, “As a result of my gender transition and the work I have done since, I view change in a more holistic and systemic way. I believe that everyone experiences transition all of the time. For example, Covid-19 has meant rethinking the way we all work with significant changes to our work patterns. However, there are also job changes, promotions, house moves, periods of parental leave etc. that result in transition of some kind. A period of learning and adaptation for people and businesses.”
Ethans experiences led him to a change in career. He now works supporting other businesses with workplace inclusion and wellbeing through his firm Bound Coaching & Behavioural Change.
He shared with us his tips and advice for anyone going through the transition process. And some tips for companies on how they can accommodate change in their employees.
Be brave and be you. It’s so easy to say but there is a certain amount of courage needed at the start of any transition journey. When you are guided by such a strong inner compass, reflect on that and draw strength from it each day from those first communications with your line management and team. The perception is often worse than the reality. Some people I expected to have the worst reactions were amazing and vice versa. Ultimately it’s your life so focus on you and your identity.
Understand the policies. You need to know what support is available to you so you have the best experience possible. It means researching your company policies and procedures. There is likely a Trans & Non-binary policy. So read it and make sure you understand things like how much leave you are entitled to if you opt for surgeries etc. Clarify anything you don’t understand with HR.
Think systemically. Look beyond your immediate surroundings and draw support from a number of different sources. I was already part of employee resource groups such at LGBTQ+. I was able to safely come out there first. And with the help of work friends I located a trans woman in the business whom I met regularly for coffee. I also confided in one of my career mentor/sponsors at the time who helped me no end.
Think practically about your use of company facilities. For example, locker rooms, gyms, breakout areas and bathrooms/showers. I needed to create bathroom facilities for myself by gaining access to the disabled toilet keys. Thinking about your everyday employee experience can really help. You can map out your daily routines and touch points and work out what’s needed. I also created a ‘safe space’ area away from the desk and noise to go to when I needed to for some headspace or to make medical calls etc. This physical and mental space is important and something which could be easily overlooked.
Finally – be kind to yourself. Transitioning is a huge life change so you will have ups and downs along the way. Try and access some coaching/mentoring as part of your wider support network. An impartial, friendly person listening to you without intent and not judging you is crucial. Most importantly though be kind and patient with yourself as transitioning is not an overnight thing. It takes time. I actually felt a need to embrace this as I always had a sense of urgency in everything I did. Having gone through my transition, I realised that even when your mind and body are finally aligned, it’s not the end. Transitioning is a lifelong endeavour in that everyone is constantly evolving over time. I became a parent during and post my gender transition and that life transition has forever changed and continues to change me as a person!
Companies ought to draw up a transgender policy. Ethan helped create the policy at the bank where he used to work. And getting buy in from employees and those affected by the policy is key.
But little things can make a big difference. Ethan has talked about providing a quiet area of the canteen for example where folk can go to get some peace when inevitably there are challenging days during a transition. And he’s spoken before of how awkward and unpleasant it was having to explain himself multiple times to different people and audiences when he made his transition public at work.
So he’s also got key tips for bosses to help their teams and to foster and retain diversity.
By viewing people and their systems of influence in this way, we can build a more inclusive workplace where diversity is truly celebrated.