Earlier this month, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued an executive order clarifying that all City employees and members of the public shall have access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and other gender segregated facilities that align with their gender identity as they currently describe it. The executive order stipulates that no one will be required to show identification, medical documents, or any other documentation to verify their gender in order to access single-sex bathrooms and locker rooms located in public parks, City agency offices, and other municipal properties.
The Mayor’s action expands upon existing legal protections for transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) people. It also offers a progressive response to the volume of anti-transgender bills designed to prevent TGNC people from accessing facilities consistent with their gender identity, and ultimately preventing them from fully participating in public life. Already this year alone, over two dozen bills were introduced, and more are expected in future legislative cycles. These bills would jeopardize the safety and well-being of an already vulnerable population.
While important to mention, this post is not meant to spill more ink over the backlash to the rapid expansion of rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) people, and its acute impact on TGNC people. There are already very thoughtful posts about this topic here, here, and also here. Rather, this post serves to explore what it really takes for a jurisdiction like New York City to implement well intentioned executive orders like Mayor de Blasio’s by outlining three key implementation strategies that look beyond the basics of workplace trainings, and reporting incidents of discrimination.
#1 Leadership Development
When Mayor de Blasio signed this executive order, he sent a powerful message to his administration, and in particular those responsible for running the City’s 130 agencies. Each one of these agency leaders manages hundreds, if not thousands of staff. In order to effectively implement this executive order, agency leaders must collaborate with their executive teams, managers, and front-line staff to accomplish three goals: 1) clarify how the Mayor’s executive order impacts their everyday practice, 2) create a vision to adopt the necessary practice shifts required, and 3) execute the change in tandem with committed leaders across these extremely large government systems.
Recognizing that most City leaders are just beginning to learn about the needs of TGNC people, investments must be made in executive coaching to help leaders effectively communicate why practice shifts must be made to respect, affirm, and meet the individual needs of TGNC people. Through ongoing coaching, executives will learn the most respectful language to use when talking about TGNC people, gain an understanding of the most affirming practices when working with this population, and have access to further support when they are in doubt about what to do or say. The message and actions of executives more knowledgeable and confident with working with TGNC communities will have an undoubtedly positive impact on TGNC people, and make them feel more welcomed and included to participate in all opportunities the agency makes available.
#2 Coalition Building
For implementation to take root, agency leaders must also do the necessary, and sometimes time-consuming ground work of building coalition with division leaders, managers, and supervisors on the front-lines. Such coalitions will enhance the communication and clarity of agency expectations as they relate to respectfully serving and meeting the individual needs of TGNC community members. When working in coalition, key stakeholders have the opportunity to express their concerns and work with leadership to address them, which leads to greater buy-in of the necessary practice shifts. Early adoption of practice changes must take place in order to cultivate a more TGNC inclusive agency. Once the necessary buy-in is secured, changes are more likely to spread across each agency and be embraced by staff throughout.
Central principles to building effective coalition is understanding, appreciating, and navigating workplace culture. Specifically, leadership must recognize and have a plan for addressing the conscious and unconscious bias of staff that contribute to unwelcoming or even hostile environments for TGNC people. Failing to address this aspect of the agency’s culture may pose significant challenges to building effective coalitions. It may also exacerbate existing barriers that prevent TGNC staff from fully participating in all available leadership and career development opportunities. It may dissuade TGNC recruits from applying to job opportunities at City agencies. Worse, it could signal to TGNC people that City services they are eligible to receive will come at a price of harassment, discrimination, and violence.
#3 Ongoing Education
The Mayor’s executive order mandates training for managers, supervisors, and front-line staff. Training alone will absolutely create important dialogue among staff. Unfortunately, training alone is not the silver bullet that will eradicate the implicit staff biases held towards TGNC people. Accomplishing the latter requires long-term investments in continuing education opportunities, agency leadership involvement amplifying the needs of TGNC staff, and strong alliances with TGNC community members, leaders, and experts to strategize new tactics to transform agency culture.
One continuing education strategy designed to compliment ongoing staff trainings includes organizing a community forum moderated by agency leadership. Appropriate agency staff are tasked to share efforts currently underway to build more TGNC inclusive services, and community members are encouraged to share feedback and ideas on how to expand upon the agency’s current efforts. The event could be hosted during the month of March, aligning with the International Day of Transgender Visibility.
RPC Advisory Services
As Guy Kawasaki famously said, “Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.” Rhodes Perry Consulting specializes in tackling the hardest LGBTQ diversity & inclusion implementation challenges. RPC has a demonstrated record of supporting large government agencies develop their executives, build coalition, and implement concrete strategic management solutions. If you liked the ideas shared in this post, and want to learn more about solutions for your government, for-profit, or non-profit organization, please subscribe to the RPC newsletter today.