Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry today sent a memo to agencies answering common questions about how transgender and transitioning employees should be treated in the federal workplace.
“Managers and supervisors should be aware that not all transgender individuals will follow the same pattern, but they all are entitled to the same consideration as they undertake the transition steps deemed appropriate for them, and should all be treated with dignity and respect,” OPM wrote in its guidance.
There are several stages in the process of transitioning from living as a male to living as a female or vice versa, OPM said. First, an individual starts seeing a mental health provider to decide how they might go about transitioning. The second step is usually hormone therapy. And after a period of time on hormone therapy, the person will then live full-time in his or her transitioned gender role for at least a year before becoming eligible for gender reassignment surgery. This “real life experience” is usually when an employer becomes aware that the employee is transitioning to another gender, OPM said.
At this point, the transitioning employee should be allowed to use restrooms or locker rooms designated for his or her new gender, OPM said. There’s a little wiggle room there. OPM said “a reasonable temporary compromise may be appropriate in some circumstances,” but the transitioning employee should not be required to have undergone or show proof of gender reassignment surgery or other medical procedures to use the facilities. OPM also said a transitioning employee must not be required to use facilities that are unsanitary, potentially unsafe, or unreasonably far away from his or her work station.
And as soon as someone starts openly transitioning, OPM said supervisors and co-workers should start using that person’s new name and the pronoun appropriate for his or her new gender identity. And OPM warns supervisors and co-workers not to purposefully refer to a transitioning employee by his or her old name, gender or pronoun. This “may undermine the employee’s therapeutic treatment, and is contrary to the goal of treating transitioning employees with dignity and respect,” OPM said.
As part of the “real life experience,” transitioning employees start dressing at all times in clothes appropriate for his or her new gender identity. OPM said an office shouldn’t use dress code rules to prevent the employee from living in his or her new gender identity.