News Sunshine State

TRANSforming the Workplace

Maura Mumball Lane

FORT LAUDERDALE–The Greater Fort Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and TD Bank presented TRANSforming The Workshop Seminar at Hyatt Place in Fort Lauderdale. The workshop was expertly presented and provided crucial information for all employers and highlighted the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

The session was moderated by Gina L. Duncan, Transgender Inclusion Director for Equality Florida and panel guests included Richard Gray, Greater Fort Lauderdale Visitors Bureau, Roxanne James TD Bank, Chris Courtemanche Central Intelligence Agency, and Atticus Ranck of Sunserve.

While Fort Lauderdale prides itself as being a top destination for LGBTQ travelers, the outreach to transgender visitors is recent. Richard Gray described his “aha” moment. “One of the things that I like to do is run. One day while on my usual route on A1A, I was thinking about work and I keep thinking, ‘What is this forgotten T?’ I became inspired by the story of Robina Asti and went to my boss and told her that we needed the funds to focus on this important segment of the LGBTQ community.  We commissioned a transgender travel study with Community Marketing Insights and learned some important points. The transgender traveler prefers medium sized hotels. Flying is not a problem and TSA is not a problem. Safety from physical and verbal threats are priority. I am proud to report that Fort Lauderdale is the first destination to market to the transgender community. Our campaign is called ‘Where happy meets go lucky.’”

TD Bank is insistent on diversity in all aspects of their business. According to Roxanne Jomes, Diversity Relationship Manager, “It’s not only what is right for business but the right thing to do. Employees have the right to be authentically who they are.” TD Bank covers 100% of transition medical expenses (feminization cosmetic not yet included) and has guidelines for all employees for workplace culture.  Roxanne hosts “I’m coming out” podcast for employees focusing on a safe, open and accepting workplace.

The Central Intelligence Agency’s missions is to protect all Americans. “We need people with diverse backgrounds if we are going to protect all Americans,” said Chris Courtemanche, the CIA’s LGBT outreach program manager. “Twenty years ago, you could be fired for coming out. My goal is to dispel the question, “You wouldn’t hire me?” The CIA has partnered with the NGLCC and many organizations to change the culture. Heritage month, milestones and reinforcement from leadership are helping with the changes in the workplace. “There’s a lot of ignorance out there, we just need to educate.”

“If you hire a transgender person, they will be your most loyal employee,” according to Atticus Ranck, Director Transgender services at Sunserve who brought the session to the real world workplace. “Before you recruit, you must train.” Atticus offers employers and staffs training sessions to become transgender competent. “It is important for everyone in the organization to have understanding from the CEO to the receptionist. Preferred names vs legal names, health insurance companies that are transgender inclusive and antidiscrimination policies are all elements of the material provided. Another discussion is the understanding of those who prefer to remain in stealth mode and the necessary understanding of privacy.”

“It has never been more important to pass than it is now,” said Gina Duncan. “This is more than a discussion of bathrooms. This is an opportunity for employers to recruit talented and dedicated employees.”