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RailsConf 2019 - Trans Eye for the Cis Ally: Ensuring an Inclusive Community by Julien Fitzpatrick

Julien Fitzpatrick
Software Engineer at Artemis
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RailsConf 2019
May 2, 2019, Minneapolis, USA
RailsConf 2019
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About speaker

Julien Fitzpatrick
Software Engineer at Artemis

Experienced software engineer skilled in a variety of technologies, including JavaScript, Ruby, HTML/CSS, Rust, and SQL, as well as web frameworks such as Rails and Ember.js. As an art school grad and former professional cartoonist and illustrator, I also bring a fresh perspective and creative problem solving abilities.

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RailsConf 2019 - Trans Eye for the Cis Ally: Ensuring an Inclusive Community by Julien Fitzpatrick


Trans and non-binary people are becoming increasingly visible in the workplace, as well as in community spaces such as meetups and conferences. Most managers and event organizers want to be inclusive and welcoming but frequently, in spite of their best intentions, often come up short. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an actual non-binary trans person just tell you what you should be doing and why? VOILA! Allow me to swoop in and fix your interview process, your community event, even your office space! Can you believe? Shamazing!

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Hello. Thanks for the warm. Welcome. That's very kind. So welcome to my talk. This is trans. I for the sis Ally. My name is Julian. I use they them pronouns. I used to be a cartoonist now. I'm a software engineer. I've been working as a programmer for like the last four and a half years. I work at agrilyst which is an indoor agriculture management platform. We are hiring of course. So feel free to talk to me if you're interested in learning more about

that. I am contractually obligated to say that A my spare time. I enjoy powerlifting hanging out with my very cute dog. His name is jpeg. I enjoy obsessively reading about the details of Freddie Mercury's life. And I finally I'm a little bit of a queer eye's superfan. So like what is queer eye before we get into the actual topic of the talk. I feel like I need to give a little background regarding Clear Eyes. So we're on the same page as a show on Netflix. On its surface is a makeover show where five gay guys take one person each episode

makeover their hair their clothes are housed there cooking ability the most importantly their feelings. So usually add someone who's had a really hard time in their life and struggled and some way until like the fibers are called they come together and I helped them get their whole life together almost every episode of the show ends up being really emotional. This is Anthony crying. So if you never watched it before and you really want to watch like us feel good tear-jerker show. I highly recommend it. So I should also mention I even

though I'm definitely like a superfan. I also don't think it's perfect. And there's a lot of valid critiques of many aspects of the show. So even though I'm not going to talk about those. I'm really happy to talk about all the various critiques of queer eye like in the hall or on Twitter or whatever. So if you want to talk about that later, I'm more than happy. So anyway, this talk is called trans I-4. This is a lie after the title from the original version of queer eye, which was Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. I've never watched the original. So like definitely don't ask me anything

about it. I don't care honestly really different from anyway. And I know you're probably this is a lie. If you're here, you're a likely interested in making your work places and events more inclusive for Trans people, which is really great. The truth is there are so many small things and some larger things that you can do to not only give your existing trans co-workers and community members a good experience, but also to make sure that even if you don't currently have any trans co-workers or community

members you're providing a space and an experience that will be welcoming in the future. So let's start with the basics not even the basics with the basics of the basics. So simple answer is trans means you don't identify with a gender you were assigned it first and that is it. So it's not everybody who feels this way ends up identifying with or using the word trans to describe themselves. But the word is there if they want to use it. So for example of someone who is a

trans man is someone who is assigned female when they were born and figured out later that he was mail. A trans woman is someone who was assigned male Libras and later realized she was female. It's not that complicated cyst just means you identify with a gender you were assigned at Birth. So like when you were born the doctor was like it's a boy and you like cool boy you're set to school. Anyway, so transgender and trans and cisgender and says are adjectives that people are not engendered or cisgendered. So just if you want to be respectful just you know, you's the

right language. What does non-binary non-binary like literally just means you're done or just doesn't fall in that male-female binary. It just Falls outside of that some combination or absence of male and female. There's a common misconception for whatever reason that non-binary mean someone who was assigned female at Birth you like Liam's a little masculine but in reality and I'm by no means a million things. There's no one way to be non-binary. That's not even two or three ways. There is like infinite ways to be non-binary and technically it falls under the trans umbrella.

Non-binary people don't consider themselves trans. I'm non-binary entrance. So I don't know that's not me but like it's totally fine. And if someone tells you their non-binary and they're not trans like just accept it. It's okay. If you don't understand, I think something really important that since people often don't get it but it's like it's okay for you to not understand trans people in order to respect us and treated with dignity. I don't know what it's like to be cysts or straight, but that doesn't stop me from being able to respect others. You don't have to totally understand

what it's like to be someone in order to respect someone. So I don't know if you can even read the text, but Tana saying people say a lot of stupid shit and I think that's funny. So you meet a trans first and they might want you to use a different brand than you're used to you might not understand because to you they don't look like someone who would use those pronouns or maybe they want you to use they them pronouns and you're like the wild concept. I've never encountered before just try all you have to do is try you don't have to get it

if you mess up or someone corrects you you just quickly say I'm so sorry and correct yourself. Don't make a big deal out of it. Eventually. It will be second nature just take practice while we're talking about pronouns. I should mention in front of their just a person's breath. I feel like my friend on today, then they're not if it's become common for people to be like preferred pronouns. But only when they talk about trans people, it's like actually everybody has a price, they're not prefer. They're just all so where's the mentioning that sometimes people for whatever

reason start thinking of them is like really great cuz I could just use they them for everyone. It's a really simple solution out have to remember different tone for different people. But this is bad. If you have a trans person who's using he him pronouns and you call him they actually still miss tendering him. So you have to learn a different name for everyone. You meet you can probably learn pronounce from a set of like three that most people use compared to having all those names like think about it. Now that we've discussed some

Basics. Let's move on to the next level and talk about what you can actually do right now to make things better. More welcoming for Trans and non-binary people at your company or events or meetup group or what have you. Go back to pronounce for me as a non-binary person. It is impossible for someone to guess what my pronouns are just by looking at me. So my life is just like a series of awkward situations where I have to figure out how to tell a person or a few people or the whole room full of people who can

be the case are binary trans people to they might also find it hard for people that know right away what their pronouns are. So a really simple way to mitigate. This is by being proactive just make sure where the people are given every opportunity to State their pronouns at the beginning of a meeting where a new person is introduced to the company. I have whoever is running the meeting start by saying their name and their pronouns and have all the other employees follow suit to make it a supernormal thing. If you have an employee page on your website have everyone include their pronouns this

also helps Active employees know that you at least intend to be a trans inclusive space and that goes a long way at least for me. So it goes for events anywhere person's name is Twisted try to include their pronouns always offer pronoun stickers or pans or have a way for people to write their pronouns on their badges like large enough. So people can see them easily and write yours to even if your cyst especially if your sis and like encourage others to do the same, even if you know their says so anytime someone tells just make sure front of their part of the introduction.

I'm bad at doing this to so it's okay, like don't feel bad that you don't do this all the time. But this picture is a pronoun stickers from a meet-up where I live in Portland called Donut Day us which is really great. So make sure people know if they're interviewing candidates to introduce themselves with their name and their pronouns and May are the candidates do the same if your company or your event has a slack make sure everyone includes their pronouns in the profile or they just plain name don't make it a thing that only the trans people have to deal with normalize

it so like everyone does it insist that Thing You Do So on that note you might want to consider that if you do have a trans employee or co-worker, you might want to ask them directly like what they want you to do. If someone else misgenders them in a meeting or like and whatever you're hanging out so don't assume that everybody is bold enough to correct others. I'm certainly not especially if they're new to the company. They probably like I don't I don't want to say anything. I don't rock the boat, but by the same token don't

assume the person wants you to say or do anything. So just ask him in advance. Would it be up to them? Cuz it will happen and it's best to know ahead of time what the person wants you to do not know if you've hired a transfer center someone who has just come out you're wondering if something is okay just don't assume I just asked so like for example This is from my real life. If you have a non-binary employee, and usually you go to conferences at the team and everyone shares rooms with the same gender

employees. And you happen to have an exact split between men and women and then you're one non-binary employee, which is me which person the employee wants to room with just ask and if I did ask which was really lovely but also sometimes there's there's a lot of things you should never ask what vegetables should be pretty simple to figure out just think like would it be okay for me to ask assistant? Please ask questions. If not, then it's not okay to ask if an employee either don't ask if

they've had the surgery which is by the way not as there's no like the surgery that's not a thing. That's a conversation for another day. So anyway, I don't ask we literally any question that has to do with their body. Especially their genitals like you would think that's obvious. Don't ask invasive medical questions, but it's if it happens all the time people. Like I asked you about your chick at work that does not happen to me, but I know it's happened to other people and it's like anyway, so it's extremely common if

you're a trans person have people you barely know casually ask about what's in your pants. It's not appropriate like ever so we're going to health insurance don't wait until I transfer sin is interviewing for a job or at your company to find out if you have trans inclusive health insurance, you should find out today because most insurance companies these days have like some section in a literature or someone you can talk to you and ask them like what's cover and what's not in regards to trans Healthcare specifically, so just take some time to familiarize familiarize yourself with it. So

when someone is interviewing with you and I like I do you have hands inclusive inclusive health insurance in your leg. You know, it's like it's not a great look. Anyway, so bathrooms come up a lot you probably if you're says you probably haven't put a lot of thought into bathrooms, but for a lot of trans people it can be a Minefield of course, but like for me, it is important that you know about the extent to which some of us sometimes fret and worry about bathroom. So you can try to do better in all

the way is the bathrooms come up in life, which is all the time since I really like working remote is cuz I never have to think about the drama of a gendered office bathroom even in the best friend Leah scenario. I always feel some kind of anxiety sometimes after I've gone out of my way to wait until all the men are gone or in a meeting before I use the men's room in an office, especially if I don't know all of them and usually there's only eight or no Like I can't stand up to pee. So it's really awkward

gender-neutral bathroom. That's nearby or in the basement. If I'm at an event like a conference or meet up and I don't know the bathroom situation ahead of time. Sometimes I stop drinking any liquids hours ahead of time. Even if I'm thirsty and I won't eat anything 4 hours ahead of time. Even if I'm hungry just because I want to avoid having to use the bathroom while I'm there unless I know for sure that there's a bathroom that I'm going to be comfortable in so like what can you do? Faurecia

what I'm saying is like some people sometimes people just a lot more thought in the bathrooms. So what can you do about it? The best case scenario is you have singles to haul gender-neutral restrooms is like the Holy Grail of toilets every time I go to a place and I'll see you in like so this is the least anxiety-inducing bathroom scenario. If you already have single stall bathrooms, but their gender just like take the signs off. There's no reason for this. You have two things. I have toilets and a lock don't forget his arm, and it's so

silly. Anyway other things maybe you have a large office or event space with bathrooms in several locations. Is it possible to put new signs on one of them to make it gender-neutral sometimes events will put up temporary signs over one set of bathrooms to make them gender-neutral for that one event. Only if you do have gender-neutral bathrooms, but they're like really hard. Define put up signage by the gender bathrooms. So people know where to find them myself a truffle pig for gender-neutral bathrooms like I didn't go to like a giant event space needle.

A little thought into the bathroom situation. If you're hosting a company event or an off-site, it would be awesome. If whoever put the events together could do like a little bit of Recon in advance of the bathroom situation just so that like the trans people know like in advance what it is. Like what does it what's what's the situation might be a little bit of an unusual may be totally unnecessary depending on where you are, but personally sometimes if I'm in a situation where I have to use a gendered bathroom and it's like I'm like freaked out about it. I

have a bathroom buddy will Scout the bathroom right before me just to tell me like is anyone in there or their stalls to the other doors on the Stalls, which is like a totally new thing for me to experience doorless stalls stuff like that. So occasionally, I'll have a friend going with me. So I feel safer usually for me. Yeah, this comes up in bars that have like a lot of masculine cyst. Great, man, like sports bars and stuff and I got like freaked out about using the men's room. They're so I already have a really good friendship with

the Trans co-worker and they use the same bathroom as you it might be worth like privately asking like he would it be helpful for you to like be a scout or like going with you if you freaked out about it definitely not in front of anyone definitely privately. Definitely if you have like a really good relationship with them. Otherwise, it's just really changed from somebody and as I said, it depends a lot on the relationship you have but I've had friends do it for me at bars with like a lot of dudes and then

it really sucks to be out in a bar like with your co-workers and you feel like you have to leave like I've also left events way earlier because I don't feel comfortable using the bathroom there and it sucks cuz in some cases It means like you missed out on important networking opportunities or you know meeting people that could be evaluating only for you to know or whatever and that sucks. So being of company also ice and events. Sometimes you might find yourself traveling to and from an airport with a trans co-worker.

You probably already know a little bit about how terrible the TSA is just from like existing going to the airport, but you might not be aware like how awful it can be if you're trans trying to get through the airport sometimes not for everyone but you know, unfortunately there's not a lot you can do personally about the GSA just being awful but there's ways you can be supportive. So how I feel so you might not be aware of this but the scanners that they put you through the airport require the operator to decide over the course of a

like half a second whether to put you as male or female And the way the scanner scans your body for bombs or whatever is like it Compares your body to what it expects a male or a female body to look like so like for example before I had Top surgery, but I've been on testosterone for a while. I got stopped and frisked every single time for a chest abnormalities. I still sometimes get flagged and frisk for the you like even more horrifying groin abnormalities jump out and be like,

I have Swift Taylor Swift Would you like and like Pat me down? It's like really invasive anyway, so sometimes literally depending on the mood of that TSA agent and how transphobic they are. Like what city you're in or whatever extremely poorly. It has the potential to be a really humiliating experience if you're trans. So if you're the best person in the situation like you don't really have to do a lot but like make sure you're close by in the security line pay attention to how the TSA is

treating her co-worker. Listen to how they're talking to them be prepared to serve as a witness if things go badly consider having your phone ready to record it if something really bad happens, if it's TSA tries to move your co-worker to a different location be ready to step in and ask your coworker if they want you to follow Most of the time it's fine. It's like may be awkward at worse but things can and do go really really wrong for Trans people moving through TSA and it's good to be prepared in case this happens to your coworker so that like speaking from experience

like being traumatized by TSA is a really awful way to start a work trip. And if you want to learn more about like what it's like to fly Wild Friends on there was a really great article in New York Times recently. I was an opinion piece called Flying while trans that I would invite you to read as well as a piece that is referenced in that about a really specific bad experience that one transmission went through you can see like exactly how bad it it can be like and it can be extremely extremely bad. So you might not have considered or realised is how much more

trans-friendly your workplace becomes when you allow people to work remote. Even if you have a primarily like IRL office if you just have like if you just blank it allow people to work remote as much or as little as they want without having a necessarily say like I have a really good reason for doing it like that. They shouldn't have to like have a really good reason. They could just say I'm working remote today and no one cares Vine. Yeah. So if you do that, then you unintentionally a lot of common issues that trans people face in workplace the bathroom issues ourselves, of

course, but there is other less obvious things. So sometimes people can have days or weeks or months where they have really bad gender dysphoria. If you don't know what that is, then like look it up. It's sort of hard to explain but it's it can be really debilitating for a person to experience and when it happens it's often just like way easier to just work remote then have to manage your dysphoria in an office setting where there is a thousand different. Is that could be sending you off and making it worse? So like I don't experience that much gender dysphoria anymore. But when

I used to have to wear a binder there were days when like the way my clothes fit over my binder would be a huge dysphoria trigger and like I would sometimes like on one occasion. I had a panic attack and an event because I was just like I just couldn't I couldn't deal and had to go home. So yeah, I know there's times that I would have to wear a binder that was uncomfortable and it would like to restrict my breathing or made my chest hurt and if I had to go into the office and then like goes straight to a meet up or something afterwards, you're only supposed to wear a binder for 8

hours and Max and I would end up having was breathing problems. I would be in pain for like days afterwards. But if I could work remote that I wouldn't have to put it on until I left to go to the event later and it was just like so I'm so many problems and this is like obviously this is just one personal example, but there's so many different situations. Or the ability to work remote create so much more trans friendly workplace kind of by default. So it's worth considering. So strug's to func if you're not familiar with queer eye is it

means struggle to function? This is something that really it kind of goes for any marginalized group and you might not be aware of it. But like these days trans people's rights are on the line almost constantly. We just become a really popular Target at public discussion and news a large variety of news media and like other media. So if you're trans, it's like it's almost impossible to ignore and it can be really hard to deal with I've had days were like I can barely function cuz I read something about how the Supreme Court is deciding whether I should be protected from

discrimination in the workplace. There is also been discussion recently about rolling back a lot of healthcare protections, that would make it. So trans people can be refused Medical Care in general like even if it's not related to transition at all, so that's Really really scary and it's hard to not let the news affect you when it has to do with your day-to-day life. Especially when it sometimes feels like no one cares that like your life is on the line. So what can you do? I strongly recommend reading this great blog posts by Laura Hogan from

2017 called Mandarin and terrible times that talks a lot about this and makes a lot of wonderful suggestions personally. I really like when I see my co-workers like show a little public support on the internet, you know, like even just like a lick retweeting a thing or just saying something small and like another example is like at my last job when it was Pride season, my boss has little tiny trains Flags. It was really cute and she put them all over the office and then she put one on the front door and I was just like

it was really cute and subtle and I just I really liked it and it It made me feel like someone was thinking about me and it mattered a lot. So in recent years, I've noticed a trend among meetups conference is another events in groups that were like formally for women in Tech, but they're like attempting to rename themselves to be more inclusive, but unfortunately it often seems like they're not really sure who they're trying to be in class at 5. So they end up naming their group sees things like women and non-binary or women and fans or like the in my opinion extremely confusing

when you can. I've never met anyone who was like notices woman who was like yeah swim kick in like none of us liked it. Anyway, it's usually everyone means well the event organizers they want to be inclusive of trans women possibly inclusive of non-binary people, but probably not trans man, but like they probably should of confusion about what they want to be inclusive of and like what the best wording is we want to include so, you know, if you're confused right now like I don't blame

you it's like it's confusing. So let's break the whole thing down from the beginning so we can figure out what's wrong with most people of current approaches and see how we can do it better. First of all, I'm going to assume that whatever event or group were talking about. I probably started as something for women because women are still an underrepresented gender in Tech many women experience, misogyny and discrimination in the workplace has ended many text faces many women were raised to conform to like some particular personality types like traits like me don't rock the boat. You don't

speak up can't be pushy and I can really affect their careers in really big ways. It's still a male-dominated field and most men are raised to be the opposite of all that stuff. So that means I can be exceptionally hard for women to 400% makes sense that over the years groups and events have popped up. So women inside can organize and commiserate and network among other things going to see if her space. in recent years old women's faces become more aware that they should be more inclusive to trans women, which is great because women

and it should be obvious like for women. It should also be for trans women. Like that's a no-brainer that I'm just offering off of here. So people have become more aware of the existence of trans women and their Collective needs to be recognized and accepted part of women's faces. They've also become aware of other marginalized genders. Most notably non-binary people. Usually though women spaces first become aware of non-binary people because someone in the group who formally identified as a woman comes out as nonbinary to the group doesn't want to exclude that person until

they start saying women and non-binary or like some more inscrutable women and fans. Like this is where we start getting into issues cuz non-binary means a lot of different things that means a lot of different things. So the messaging with both of these can be really really confusing. There's not binary people who were assigned male at Birth and don't consider themselves fans. There's people like me who were assigned female at Bristol took testosterone and now like, you know you for lack of a better phrase, you look like a man to most people even overall

non-binary with a lot of us wouldn't feel comfortable going to an event that's called women and non-binary or like women and friends even though we may be a nonbinary so not to mention trans men who are an often completely ignored or forgotten marginalized group who sometimes have experienced many or all of the same or similar problems as women in Tech are just completely excluded. So it's just as you what should you call your group or your event? Like first of all, I want to get this out of the way cuz I feel like a lot of people think that this means I'm saying like

every group to have all genders, but I'm not saying that I think it's fine. It's great to have something that's just for women. You're under no obligation to include more marginalize genders. I just ask that you think about the mission for the group and you think critically about who you're including who you're excluding and why like, especially I ask that you give if you're doing like a martian watch Ender's kind of group I ask that you consider it like you seriously consider why you're excluding trans man because you probably are and you probably shouldn't So yeah,

most of the time these groups an event actually mean the one include everyone who's not assist man. So that would include everyone who was assigned female at Birth everyone assigned male at Birth who doesn't identify as a man which includes many non-binary people on Coors transwomen, it would include some intersex people. So if you've taken a long time to think about the mission of your group and you decided yes, I do want to include all marginalized genders not just you know, Kansas women then I would strongly recommend you consider changing the name and or mission of your group or

events accordingly. My first suggestion is to use the phrase marginalize genders. You know, it's not that Snappy. I'm sorry, but we're at the limits of the English language voice describing your group in opposition to something which I'm not I'm not a fan of being like not this man cuz it's like like I'm just describing words for you can always put an asterisk next to the name on your fire and just at the bottom say describe what you mean or is he not just me at the bottom just otherwise be sure that whatever your group is for like that the naming accurately describes who

the group is for innocent accidentally excluding somebody who you mean to include and if you have doubts diversity and inclusion Consulting that can help you figure this stuff out. Finally, I have a miscellaneous trip to not look up trans people. This happened to me when I playfully tease in a meeting that I had published work under a different name. So no one would ever find it and one of my co-workers went and found it. You found my brother's name. He messaged me and asked me if that was my brush name. He thought it was like a fun cute saying he had no idea.

So fortunately he privately message me about it, but it could have been extremely devastating for me if you had posted it in like a company-wide channel. It made me super uncomfortable that he knew my old name but like at least no one else knew so, you know, please don't underestimate the devastating power that somebody's birth name can have especially if there's a lot of people around if you're in an open office or a company-wide slack Channel personally. More people I meet and get to know who never knew. My birth name is like really special. Like I know they'll never mess up. So

never call me the wrong name and it just feels really good to know that someone has only ever known me as that name and that person so just think twice before you Google you're trans co-worker, especially if other people are around cuz it can have like really really devastating unintended consequences. So in closing, I just want to reiterate that everything I mentioned are like things you should think about today don't wait until you're interviewing or hiring a trans person to start working. Not only because you want to be prepared for the future but also

because you might have a closeted trans person in your company right now, you might also have a stealth trans person who's working with you and I want to be out but they aren't sure if it's safe. So one of the biggest reasons I ended up at my current company is cuz they're already doing other stuff. So I was like, this is great. This would be a great fit for me. So I'm also happy to speak in more detail about any of this stuff after the talk. So if it was for you to come find me in the hallway or there's something about as much as I wanted to some happy to talk more and if you have a more

complex concerned, I'll probably refer you to a consultancy where people get paid to do that. But for most basic questions, I'm really happy to discuss it. And of course, I don't represent all trans people. So if an individual transfer send tells you something that differs from what I said. I'm just respect that person's wishes last but not least. I felt bad that I'll make her a gift didn't have any Bobby. Body has been underrepresented. So here's one of like three Bobby guests are they able to find that weren't stupid, but hopefully you can see why there's nowhere.

I'm going to fit a Total Defense of this talk. Anyway, it's on Twitter and the non-binary tech worker is so feel free to say hi to me talk to me whatever. Thank you so much.

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