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Doubt and Defiance: Lessons from a Trans+ Journey in the Workplace



The question was designed to cut deep: "how can you be sure of anything ?" It was another attack in a long campaign of harassment aimed at undermining my confidence and professional standing. Today, that question reminds me that finding your voice can lead to remarkable personal growth, even in the most hostile environments.


This Trans+ Day of Visibility, I offer lessons I learned confronting prejudice. I hope this empowers anyone facing doubt, discrimination, and toxic workspaces. I also extend a hand to organisations seeking transformation – because my journey shows the power of courage, and I'm ready to share my story with your team.


7 Hard-Won Lessons for Toxic Workplaces


  1. Trust Your Gut:  When something feels wrong, it probably is. Gaslighting and belittlement are designed to make you question yourself. Seek validation from trusted friends or a therapist, not those vested in maintaining a toxic status quo.

  2. Documentation is Your Shield: Keep detailed records of incidents: dates, times, witnesses, and exact wording. This evidence may be vital, as I learned during a fraught settlement process.

  3. Boundaries are Power:  You have the right to feel safe. Clearly define what you will not tolerate. Enforcing these boundaries protects your mental health and may even expose an abuser's true nature to others.

  4. Find Allies, Discreetly: Not everybody is a bigot. Quietly identify colleagues who might offer support or witness your struggles. This network can be a lifeline.

  5. Know Your Rights: Research local anti-discrimination laws and company policies. This knowledge empowers you to advocate for yourself more effectively.

  6. The Workplace Isn't Everything:  Toxic jobs skew your perception of reality. Invest in hobbies, relationships, and self-care that remind you of your worth outside of work.

  7. Leaving Can Be Victory: Sometimes, the healthiest option is exiting with dignity. Negotiating a non-disclosure agreement and severance allowed me to build a new life on my terms.


The Power of Authenticity

Those years were unimaginably painful, yet they made me who I am today. Trans+ people, unfortunately, gain a unique insight into workplace dynamics. According to the 2021 US Transgender Survey, over 30% of respondents faced employment discrimination that year alone.


My journey taught me that when external forces try to crush you, the only way out is through. Embracing my true gender has unlocked a wellspring of confidence, creativity, and resilience. My existence challenges limiting assumptions, which ripple outward to every project I touch.


Acceptance as a Stepping Stone - Accepting a person's existence without fully grasping the reasons behind it. It's a starting point for seeking further understanding but acknowledges that there will be things we don't comprehend.

Implications for Acceptance without Understanding™

Through experiences like this, I've learned that acceptance isn't a guarantee. In such situations, it's important to remember: "Live your life like a clock." A clock acknowledges its history but doesn't dwell on it. Its purpose is to move forward relentlessly. When faced with those who refuse to progress, the best course of action may be to continue your journey, leaving them behind as I did.


Let's Transform Your Workplace

If you're an employer grappling with unspoken prejudice, I'm here to help. I offer insightful and impactful consulting, advisory services, and speaking engagements to:


  • Educate teams on trans+ experiences and respectful language

  • Empower employees to recognise and dismantle unconscious bias

  • Foster a genuinely inclusive culture where difference fuels innovation


Crucial to successfully leading a business, is surrounding yourselves with an amazing team. But sometimes that team needs to be supplemented by equally amazing consultants. Cynthia is one such consultant. Her professionalism and well thought out approach quickly provided me with the peace of mind to engage her on our project. 
- James Bunting, CEO, Leighton

Let's build a world where everyone can thrive, regardless of gender identity. Contact me today to begin the transformation.


Remember: doubt can be either poison or fuel. The choice is yours.


 

With over 25 years of dedicated leadership in the corporate, feminist, and LGBTQ+ realms, with a profound commitment to LGBTQ+ and women’s rights, I’m thrilled to be recognised by the British Diversity Awards. I stand ready to support, consult, educate, and advise on your next diversity challenge. Your journey towards inclusivity begins with a conversation. Reach out to me at cynthiafortlage@cynthiafortlage.com with any inquiries.



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