Across the globe, International Transgender Day of Visibility is celebrated annually on March 31st. Various LGBTQ groups host events and celebrations to honor the progress the transgender and non-binary community has made in the previous 12 months. International Transgender Day of Visibility is an uplifting day to look back on the achievements and look forward to the future, and that’s what we’re doing at VMware and within OCTO as well.

At VMware, we are proud to support our employees regardless of who they are or where they are from. We understand that innovation and collaboration happen when we recognize and respect what makes each of us unique. Within VMware’s Office of the CTO (OCTO), we aim to have diversity and inclusion at the core of all we do, and we hold ourselves to our own diversity and inclusion goals. Two of our diversity and inclusion goals come to mind for this day: 1. Foster a sense of inclusion across the organization and 2. Be a champion for D&I inside and outside of VMware. In OCTO, our goal is to create a safe space for everyone to thrive through intentional inclusive practices. We’ve shared below three ways we can help support the transgender community.

As part of VMinclusion, VMware’s corporate diversity and inclusion program, we have Power of Difference communities which are representative of our employees based on commonalities such as shared ethnicity, military service, or LGBTQ identity. Our PRIDE@VMware Power of Difference community (POD) defines themselves as “a community for, and representative of, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Allies and Pansexual (LGBTQ+) people at VMware.” They also have provided the greater VMware community with essential resources for supporting LGBTQ individuals, such as guides to inclusive pronoun use and information about local LGBTQ events.

PRIDE@VMware has incredible activities planned for International Transgender Day of Visibility, including a panel with the Women@VMware POD on “Parents of Transgender Kids: Sharing Their Stories,” and releasing a Trans Ally 101 video. Two PRIDE@VMware POD leaders, Linus Bourque (a CTO Ambassador) and Vance Gleton, shared with me about what International Transgender Day of Visibility means to them and to VMware.

Being trans* doesn’t mean you can’t be successful. It’s just one-side of who we are. I’m very glad that the VMware family has been my ally as part of this journey of being my authentic self. – Linus Bourque, Principal Instructor based in California

We must continue to have representation at the table that reflects the truly diverse culture in which we live, International Transgender Day of Visibility, is a day for us to toast to another member sitting at the table.- Vance Gleton, Cloud Customer Success Manager based in Atlanta

Join OCTO in celebrating International Transgender Day of Visibility by practicing the three meaningful things we all can do to support the transgender community – not just today, but every day!

Inclusion as a default

When we talk about International Transgender Day of Visibility, some of you reading this might be thinking that you don’t know anyone who is transgender. But gender identity is not always something you would know from looking at or meeting someone; with the OCTO mindset of fostering a sense of inclusion, it’s best to use inclusive language across the board to avoid offense or embarrassment, regardless of who you are speaking to. Also, the number of people in the US who report knowing a transgender person doubled within seven years (from 2008 – 2015; link here), so it would be a good idea to get in the habit of inclusive language!

We can start to push for inclusive language in how we talk about people we don’t know by using the pronoun they instead of he or she. Instead of using gendered phrases such as guys or ladies and gentlemen, we can switch to gender-neutral language like folks, all/everyone, or even y’all. Try to not make broad statements that describe all men or all women, as every individual has a unique experience, and not every individual identifies as a man or a woman.

Using inclusive language is not something that will become irrelevant; research shows that US adolescents are identifying as LGBTQ and varying gender identities at higher percentage than the current US adult population. A 2017 study showed that 27% of California youth (age 12-17) are viewed as being gender non-conforming by their peers. A different 2017 study showed that youth age 13-17 are the largest group within the transgender community – over 10% of the entire community.

List your pronouns

Besides names, pronouns are how we identify other people when we talk. Unfortunately, we tend to make assumptions about other’s pronouns based on their name or how they look, but that’s not an inclusive behavior. Sometimes a person’s gender identity does not match their gender expression, so using an assumed pronoun can be disrespectful and embarrassing for both parties.

Within OCTO, we’ve encouraged listing our pronouns in our public profiles and in the beginning of meetings, especially when people do not know one another. Listing your own pronouns anywhere your name is mentioned – email signature, Zoom name, when introducing yourself in a meeting – is a sign of allyship with the transgender and non-binary community. When done broadly, this behavior normalizes not assuming someone’s pronouns, but instead letting the individual specify what they would like to be called.

Be a loud ally and advocate

The transgender community needs allies in every space – especially the workplace! You can adopt OCTO’s mentality to be a campion for inclusion inside and outside of the workplace by showing your support and allyship through using inclusive language, listing your pronouns and encouraging others to do the same, and speaking up when you hear something offensive.

For managers, you can set the precedence for your team by encouraging everyone to list their pronouns, checking for inclusive language in communications or presentations, and cultivating a team environment where everyone feels comfortable being themselves. Provide all team members with resources around LGBTQ company resources, like medical benefits, and encourage ways for people to get to know one another in a safe and comfortable setting.

Currently, there are only 18 states in the US that provide employment protections based on gender identity, so it’s crucial that everyone does what they can to provide an environment where everyone can thrive.

We hope you can take these practices back to your teams to foster an inclusive culture and be a champion for inclusion everywhere. If you want to learn more, check out the following links: A Beginner’s Guide to Being An Ally (GLAAD), Supporting the Transgender People in Your Life: A Guide to Being a Good Ally (National Center for Transgender Equality), & Trans Allies (Straight for Equality).