For Managers and Colleagues of Trans/LGBTQIA Employees

What do I need to know?

Transgender is a broad umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression is different from the gender they were assigned at birth. Being transgender is not the same as sexual preference.

The process of a transgender individual publicly changing their gender presentation in society is known as “transitioning.” Gender transition is a personal process and it is important to note that there is no one way to transition; some transgender people may pursue one or more gender affirming medical procedures, and some will not.

Using appropriate terminology is an important part of respectfully supporting transgender people.

Cultural expectations

Names/Pronouns: Consistent with the museum’s values of diversity and respect, you should use a colleague’s preferred name and pronouns. A court-ordered name or gender marker change is not required for an employee to use the name and pronoun most comfortable to them. If you are unsure what pronoun an employee uses, respectfully ask your colleague how they would like to be addressed. Not sure how? Try: “My pronouns are she/her, what are your pronouns?”

As part of creating a welcoming environment, all staff are encouraged to share their pronouns. For example, during introductions or on name badges.

It is disrespectful to refer to someone by the wrong pronoun once you have established what they use. Intentionally and/or repeatedly referring to an employee by a name or pronoun they do not use can constitute prohibited harassment.

Privacy and confidentiality: All employees, whether cisgender, transgender, or nonbinary, have the right to discuss their gender identity or expression openly, or to keep that information private. The transgender status of an individual (e.g. the sex they were assigned at birth, prior legal names) is confidential.

Demonstrate respect

  • Once you know a colleague’s preferred name and pronouns – if you get it wrong, apologize, move forward and make a conscious effort to get it right next time

  • Follow the lead of your co-worker; what one colleague may want to share can vary greatly from what another would

  • Ask questions, but don’t expect your transgender colleague to be the educator on all related subject matters

  • While some questions are appropriate and even supportive, if unclear, ask yourself if it is necessary information to know. Specifically, “do I need to know this information in order to appropriately be supportive?” or “would I feel comfortable if I was asked this question?” If the answer is no, don’t ask.

  • Consider educating yourself on your own: there is a wealth of information available to you so you can be supportive and become an ally

  • While your co-worker may have shared their identity with you, it is their information to share with others – respect their privacy and their right to share or not with those around you

  • Likewise, it is not your place to share a transgender individual’s birth name or pre-transition photos: this is a personal, private choice of that individual

Being an Ally: An ally is a supporter or advocate for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.

Here are some ally actions that you can take to help create an inclusive workplace:

  • Don’t make assumptions about a person’s sexuality or gender; not everyone’s appearance or behavior plays to stereotypes

  • Know and understand our policies on sexual orientation and gender identity: non-discrimination and harassment, etc.

  • Let it be known that you won’t tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment in the workplace

  • Incorporate inclusive terminology into your daily life


The following terms will help you navigate terminology used throughout this resource. Please note that these definitions are not exhaustive. The terms defined below are meant as a starting point in understanding.

Ally: Supporter or advocate for the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender community. Being an ally is about using inclusive language, showing respect and support for your colleagues and in this case, members of the LGBT community through your actions and your words. Typically, allies to lesbian, gay and bisexual people are straight and allies to transgender people are cisgender.

Cisgender: A term for people whose gender identity, expression or behavior aligns with those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. Cis- is the Latin prefix, meaning ‘on the same side’, to Trans- which means ‘across from.’ It is the accepted term for people who are “not transgender.”

Gender: The term “gender,” while often used interchangeably with “sex,” refers specifically to the behavioral, cultural, psychological or social traits typically associated with one sex, rather than biological characteristics.

Gender Expression: A person’s external characteristics and behaviors — such as clothing, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns and social interactions — that represent or express one’s gender identity to others. Not all trans people have gender expressions that match cultural norms – e.g., not all trans women are conventionally feminine. A person’s gender expression may also be referred to as their “gender presentation.”

Gender Identity: Distinct from the term “sexual orientation,” refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others.

Gender Non-conforming: An individual whose gender expression is different from societal expectations related to gender. Gender non-conforming, like transgender, is an umbrella term and includes people who may identify as “genderqueer,” “gender fluid,” as neither male nor female, or as non-binary.

Gender Transition: The process through which a person modifies their physical characteristics and/or gender expression to be consistent with their gender identity. It is important to note that gender transition is an individual and personal process, and there is no “one correct way” to transition. Gender transition may, but does not necessarily, include hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgeries and/or other medical or surgical components. The transition process may also include non-medical components such as telling one’s family, friends and/or co-workers, and changing one’s name and/or gender on legal documents such as one’s driver’s license, birth certificate and social security card.

Intersex: Intersex people are born with sex characteristics (including genitals, gonads and chromosome patterns) that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies. Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of natural bodily variations.

LGBTQ: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer

Non-Binary: Non-binary is a spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or exclusively feminine—identities that are outside the gender binary. Non-binary people may identify as having two or more genders; having no gender; moving between genders or having a fluctuating gender identity; or being third gender or other-gendered. Gender identity is separate from sexual or romantic orientation, and non-binary people have a variety of sexual orientations, just as transgender and cisgender people do.

Sex: The classification of people as male or female based on a combination of biological characteristics, including: chromosomes, hormones and reproductive organs.

Sexual orientation: An individual’s enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to another person. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. Transgender people may be straight, lesbian, gay or bisexual. For example, a trans woman who is attracted to other women would be identified as a lesbian or a gay woman.

Transgender: People whose gender identity, expression or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. Transgender is a broad, umbrella term and is good for non-transgender people to use. “Trans” is shorthand for transgender.

Terms to Avoid

Transgender is preferred over transvestite or transsexual, older terms which do not accurately describe all transgender people, and which also have a clinical or stigmatizing connotation. Terms such as she-male, he-she, “real” woman, “real” man, transgendered, “a transgender,” male-to-female, and female-to male may also be viewed as stigmatizing or offensive. Transgender is correctly used as an adjective, not a noun or verb, thus “transgender people” is appropriate but not “transgenders” and “transgendered.”