“This is a time for healing, not more conflict.” – Susan Stanton, fired transgender City Manager of Largo, Florida

Transgender symbolOver the years, a record number of U.S. companies have expanded benefits and protections for their LGBT employees. According to the Human Rights Campaign, “More and more companies are including LGBT people in their non-discrimination policies and offering benefits to employees’ domestic partners.”

As a lesbian consumer and investor, I’m supposed to have more trust for these companies… at least that’s what the research concludes. Surveys conducted by Harris Interactive and Witeck–Combs Communications, Inc. reveal that, “Consumers who self-identify as LGBT have deeper trust for products and brands that not only target gay consumers, but even more so for products offered by companies that have progressive policies toward gay and lesbian employees.”

The HRC rates companies (on a scale of zero to 100) with its Corporate Equality Index by noting how they treat LGBT workers, customers and investors. It behooves companies to try and improve their ranking. Why? According to Kirk Snyder, an author and expert on gays in the workplace, “If your employees are happy, you’re going to make more money because they are also going to be more productive, creative and committed to doing excellent work.”

I’ve always been an out, happy and productive employee. U.S. companies have made great strides in the past twenty years and I’ve certainly benefited from safe work environments and domestic partnership benefits. But unfortunately, the transgender community is still trying to catch up to these same protections offered to many of us as gay and lesbian employees.

According to HRC, “Transgender employees can present unique workplace challenges. Transitioning employees – those who are moving outside the socially accepted standards of dress, physiology and/or behavior of their birth gender – often cannot avoid challenging community standards about what is gender-appropriate self-identification, appearance or expression. Furthermore, little legal protection exists for workplace gender non-conformity.”

Hopefully, things are improving. In April, a well-known sportswriter at The Los Angeles Times announced to readers her intent to change her byline along with her gender. Mike Penner is transitioning to Christine Daniels. In a John Ireland interview, Daniels indicated that, “Her employer’s approach to the situation helped normalize her gender-switch.”

Not everyone is so fortunate. Jamison Green, a respected leader within the transgender movement indicated, “I’ve met scores of highly educated, otherwise successful people who have either lost everything when they couldn’t retain their employment or find a new job once their transness became known.”

So how kind are companies with regards to their gender identity policies? Nearly 70 companies offer comprehensive transgender health benefits according to HRC’s State of the Workplace 2006-2007. They write, “Companies such as Eastman Kodak and American Express provide health benefits covering mental health counseling, hormone therapy, medical visits and surgical procedures, in addition to short-term medical leave, without exclusion for treatments relating to a gender transition or reassignment.”

Of the Fortune 10, five prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, but there are two that do not provide domestic partner benefits or comprehensive non-discrimination policies. If you’re a transgender person, don’t expect a thriving career there and perhaps, as consumers and investors, we should think twice about sending our dollars their way.

Want more information on this topic? Click here for workplace gender transition guidelines. If more people understand what it means to be transgender and how they suffer from discrimination, then the more likely things will improve at U.S. companies. Knowledge is power!