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A Pride Month Q&A with Irvine grantee partner, Trans Can Work

Lexi Adsit

Lexi Adsit, Trans Can Work

Pride Month is an opportunity each year for the LGBTQ community to celebrate their diverse identities and experiences, and to honor the resilience and bravery of the activists who have fought – and continue to fight – for equal rights. Despite gains, Californians must advocate for LGBTQ recognition and protection in the face of increasing violence and hate, healthcare disparities, and discrimination in and outside of the workplace.  

Transgender workers in particular face a harsh reality in the workplace. A recent global study conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that 62% of transgender and gender diverse employees surveyed in the United States experienced 10 or more aggressive behaviors or negative work experiences in the past year linked to their gender identity or expression.  

In recognition of Pride Month, we interviewed Lexi Adsit, the Executive Director of Trans Can Work, a leader in supporting trans Californians, particularly those of color, to access quality jobs and build their power in the workplace, and in helping employers create safer, more inclusive, and equitable environments where transgender employees can thrive.  

Lexi Adsit, Executive Director of Trans Can Work

Briefly tell us about Trans Can Work. What does your organization do? 

Trans Can Work aspires to change the landscape of work so transgender, gender diverse, and intersex (TGI) people can find success and thrive in the workplace. Additionally, we envision a world where TGI people are economically empowered to live their lives to the fullest.  

What are some of the biggest barriers that transgender Californians, particularly BIPOC communities, face in finding and maintaining employment, and how do you work to overcome those barriers? 

Even in a state as liberal and progressive as California, we constantly hear stories of our clients experiencing discrimination and harassment in the workplace, whether it’s microaggressions or more intentional pushing people out of jobs. These jobs continue to represent a lifeline for all of us. Especially for BIPOC communities, we continue to see implicit biases, barriers to promotions or management, and even discrimination when trying to get into training or apprenticeship programs.  

We enter as a solution with multiple approaches. We empower and support our jobseekers to navigate the job market and find and apply to quality jobs. And we work directly with employers so they aren’t perpetuating the same forms of harm and are building safe, equitable workplaces for the benefit of everyone.  

It’s also our hope that soon we’ll be able to provide trainings and workshops so that our employees know their rights in the workplace when faced with discrimination and harassment. 

What are some practices and strategies employers can use to create a more welcoming, inclusive, and safer workplace for transgender employees? 

It really has to be a holistic approach. We recommend looking at HR policies, taking everyone through cultural competency trainings, finding ways to evaluate employees on their work, and applying those evaluations equally. Additionally, a lot of big employers have the resources and opportunities to create pathways programs to help someone with little to no formal education become trained to do work and succeed in the organization. You can hire and build up employees who tend to stay at a job longer, be more innovative and diverse in thought and practice, and ensure your company’s culture is welcoming and diverse.  

What does success look like for your organization? What are you hoping to achieve? 

We try to be both ambitious and realistic in our goals; we hope to find safe and equitable workplaces for each of our job seekers, while knowing that the reality of discrimination and harassment in the workplace is still rampant. 75% of TGI people experience some form of harassment or discrimination in the workplace, and the average annual earnings of TGI people is $11,000 or less. We want to change these data points, transform these realities, and support TGI people to find safety and success in the workplace. We see an opportunity in Generation Z being more gender and sexually diverse, and with Millennials slated to take over the majority of the workforce by 2025. 

How can funders better support your organization’s work and/or the transgender community? 

The number one way is to continue to fund our work. An incredible partner organization, Funders for LGBT Issues, found that only $0.01 of each donated dollar nationally goes to LGBT issues. Additionally, philanthropy can do the work of creating safe and equitable workplaces for TGI people, hiring TGI people at all levels, and building pathways for folks with no formal education or employment history to find employment in the sector.  

Finally, what does Pride Month mean to you?  

Pride Month is a reminder to me that this movement was born out of violence and oppression by the police and state that was written and enforced by laws. Pride Month is a reminder that trans people have always existed and cannot be erased or eradicated. Pride Month is a reminder, to me, that we all have to show up for each other in order to celebrate our lives.  

Photo credit: Trans Can Work