06 MARCH 2023

Increasing transgender visibility and allyship

Our latest LGBTQ+ network event explored how businesses and the built environment can be more inclusive.

With Freehold, our LGBTQ+ network Pride@Grosvenor hosted suppliers, occupiers and property owners to  answer many common misconceptions around being transgender and explore how the built environment can make a positive impact and improve inclusivity, and how we can personally be allies to the transgender community.  

Attendees heard first hand experiences and reflections from transgender spokespeople including:  

  • Maxine Heron (she/her) – Writer, model, trans advocate and marketeer at Jecca Blac
  • Dr Ellie Cosgrave (she/her) – Director of research and community interest at Publica
  • Gaynor Wright (she/her) – Sole principal at Warren Wright Associates and Freehold member
  • Ella Slade (they/them) – Global LGBTQ+ leader at IBM

Busting myths and establishing facts 

MYTHBeing transgender is a new phenomenon.  
Transgender and non-binary people have been around for centuries in culture and history. However, the terms transgender and non-binary are relatively new terms for them 

FACT: There’s still confusion about what these labels mean.  
Non-binary means a person who does not identify as either male or female. Transgender means a person whose gender identity is different from the gender assigned to them at birth. 

MYTH: The transgender community only care about pronouns and gender-neutral toilets.  
This damaging perception downplays a complex, nuanced human experience that includes challenges relating to healthcare, mental health, discrimination and access to work.  

FACTMisconceptions can have damaging consequences. We have seen increased suicide and murder rates across the UK; 2021 was the deadliest year on record for transgender people with a five-fold rise in hate crimes reported over the previous 5 years.  

FACTPractical support for this community remains scarce: Currently gender inclusive care clinics have a 52-month waiting time to get a first appointment, with another 12-18 months to get a second.  

Trans visibility and allyship in property 

Increasing transgender visibility is crucial in helping provide role models, allies and community for people who are exploring their gender identity. The panel highlighted positive experiences in companies like CBRE and IBM who provide support for individuals, managers and teams going through this experience 

The panel also commented on the importance of allyship especially due to the relatively small size of the trans community in the UK and especially in the property sector (In the 2022 census, just 0.5% of the population didn’t identify with the gender they were registered with at birth)This can make it difficult to create change and be accepted.  

Our buildings, workspaces and places, play an important role in either including or excluding people with different gender identifies. As built environment professionals we can address this by engaging a diverse group of people early in the design and creation of places as well as their management to address factors such as safetysignage and creating a sense belonging.  

Publica’s work with the GLA on inclusive spaces was created to help designers and placemakers do just that. Ten projects across London are trialling their new framework.  

Practical recommendations   

  • Ask questions and dont be afraid to make mistakes.  Dont shy away from checking to see what language you should use when speaking with a trans person if you aren’t sure. 

  • Think about your approach. Before asking about a trans person’s lived experience, check to see if they are comfortable answering the question. Consider your intention: body related questions are not necessary to gaining an understanding on someone’s experience but leading with compassion will help build a good relationship and build mutual understanding. 

  • Listen to personal experiences and stories. Attend events like this one and explore resources like this Ted Talk from Dr Vicki Pasternaki. 

  • Create a transgender toolkit for your business. Like IBM’s, this should outline support for people who come out as transgender, what healthcare they can receive through your organisation and how your organisation will engage their manager/team.  

  • Include your pronoun on your email signature and/or social media profile Simple support helps normalise the use of preferred pronouns. 

Photos © Thomas Graham

Group 2