Washington State University (WSU) is committed to fostering a learning place culture that is welcoming to and inclusive of students, staff, and faculty of diverse backgrounds, identities, and experiences. This includes transgender, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming students, staff, and faculty. The Employee’s Guide to Transitioning at the University is intended to serve as a resource for employees who are transitioning. In addition, it articulates how WSU expects to support faculty and staff who undertake a gender transition while working at the university.
Anyone with questions about this guide are encouraged to contact the Director of GIESORC (defined below). Anyone with concerns about discrimination or harassment based on protected characteristics, including gender identity/expression, should contact the Office of Civil Rights Compliance and Investigation (CRCI) and/or the Title IX Coordinator. To learn or read more, you are encouraged to review the Resources for Additional Information section at the end of this document.
This guidance draws on the structure and information provided by Western Washington University’s Guidance to Support Employees Transitioning in the Workplace. WSU recognizes and appreciates this source of information. Appreciation is also expressed to WSU faculty, staff, and students who have reviewed and provided input during the creation of this document.
Key Definitions and Concepts
Agender is a term used to describe those who experience very little to no gender at all, or those who reject the concept of gender.
Androgynous is an expression of gender that has both, has neither, or is in between masculine and feminine qualities.
Cisgender is a term describing someone whose gender identity aligns with the gender identity traditionally associated with the sex assigned at birth. “Cis” is a shorthand term for “cisgender.”
Gender Dysphoria is the conflict an individual may feel between their physical or assigned sex/gender and the gender with which they identify. It is often described as feeling like they are not in the right body and being constantly reminded of this. Not all transgender folks experience dysphoria. Dysphoria can exist on a spectrum and can change in severity from day-to-day or moment-to-moment. Dysphoria is completely different and separate from dysmorphia.
Gender Expression describes the many outward manifestations of one’s gender identity, such as style of dress, vocal tone, and mannerisms. Gender expression may be socially or culturally relative.
Gender Identity is a person’s internal, deeply-felt sense of being a woman, a man, or some other gender. One’s gender identity may be different from the gender identity traditionally associated with the person’s assigned sex at birth. Every individual – including transgender individuals – knows best what their gender identity is. Everyone has the right to self-identify their gender and no one should force or pressure someone to identify.
Gender Roles are expectations that society places on the binary men and women genders, which often restrict people from feeling as though they can be themselves without fear of backlash for not fitting into their assigned gender roles. Alternatively, individuals may feel as though they are not “man enough” or “woman enough” if they do not fit society’s gender roles.
GIESORC (pronounced “gee-sork”), also known as the Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation Resource Center, is the office on the Pullman campus that provides resources, community building, programming, and assistance for students, faculty, and staff who want to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community or who are seeking community within a queer space.
Intersex is a sex assignment and/or gender identity used to describe those who do not fit into typical physical definitions of male or female.
Non-Binary is a gender identity that is outside of the man/woman binary, and includes those who are neither man nor woman, or who experience a combination of both.
Pansexual/-romantic is a term describing someone who is capable of being sexually/romantically attracted to any and all genders.
Polyamorous is a term describing someone who desires relationships with more than one person. Polyamorous relationships are not cheating, though they do require trust, open communication, and honesty.
Queer was (and sometimes still is) used as a derogatory term but is more often now reclaimed as an inclusive term referencing broad communities of sexual and gender identities that fall outside of dominant categories.
Romantic Orientation refers to one’s romantic and/or emotional attraction. Though these often align, for some folks their sexual and romantic orientations may not be the same.
Same gender loving is a term often used by black and African American communities as an alternative to gay, lesbian, etc.
Sex is a social construction based on a person’s anatomy; only two categories are regularly recognized (male/female), but this is changing due to intersex activists.
Sex/Gender Assignment (AFAB, AMAB) is the binary label (male/female) that doctors give to an infant at or before birth, most often based on their genitals. The terms Assigned Female at Birth (AFAB) and Assigned Male at Birth (AMAB) are often used to specify the sex that was given to an individual, regardless of their gender identity.
Sexual Orientation refers to one’s sexual attraction, not necessarily their romantic and/or emotional attraction, though often these align. A person’s sexual orientation is distinct from their gender identity.
Transgender, broadly speaking, is an umbrella term describing a person whose gender identity is different from the gender identity traditionally associated with the sex assigned at birth. Some transgender individuals identify simply as women or men, and not as transgender, while some transgender folks identify as non-binary, genderqueer, androgynous, or another gender outside of the gender binary. “Trans” and “Trans*” are shorthand terms for “transgender.”
Transition refers to the process by which a transgender person may bring their gender expression, legal and/or non-legal gender markers on documents and records, and/or physical characteristics, into conformity with their gender identity.
Not all transgender people transition, and not all people who transition go through a transition process that includes medical steps such as hormone therapy or surgeries. Transitioning is a very personal process, and there are many ways to transition. Every employee who transitions is entitled to respect, regardless of the particulars of how or whether they transition. Also, not all transgender employees must transition in any way in order to identify as transgender.
Transitioning with Your Co-Workers and Others on Campus
So that WSU can best support you through your transition, you can meet with your supervisor to discuss topics including the following:
- The role you would like your supervisor to play in communicating with your co-workers and others on campus about your transition (e.g., letter, face-to-face, individual discussions, etc.);
- (If needed and relevant) Establishment of a flexible timeline for your transition in relation to co-workers and others on campus. This may include items such as anticipated time off for transition-related medical care, when to inform others, and when to update your name in the university systems;
- Whether you believe an educational workshop or facilitated conversation would be beneficial for your co-workers, and further the maintenance of a respectful working environment. If you think this would be beneficial, you will also discuss timing, content, participants, and whom should be conducting the training. You should never be required to participate in the training or conversation, but should be invited to do so.
Employees may choose to discuss their gender identity openly or keep information private. Supervisors, other employees, and students should treat disclosures of transgender status, plans to transition, etc. as private information. If an individual were to share this information without your consent it could be considered a violation of the WSU Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct (Executive Policy #15) if the specific conduct in the situation meets the policy standard for a violation.
Names and Pronouns
All employees have the right to be addressed and referred to by the name and pronouns they use. Changing one’s sex marker with external administrative agencies (e.g. Department of Licensing or Social Security Administration) or obtaining a legal name change is not a prerequisite to using a person’s correct name and pronouns. You should be aware that the deliberate use of an incorrect name and/or pronouns of any employee could be considered a violation of Executive Policy #15. If you feel that a WSU student, employee, alumni, volunteer, and/or another individual connected with WSU is harassing you, please contact the Office of Civil Rights Compliance and Investigation (CRCI) or the Director of GIESORC immediately.
Updating University Records and Systems
Unfortunately, the name and gender marker change process at WSU is a complicated and difficult one. Please consult our online resource for detailed instructions at https://thecenter.wsu.edu/resources/transstar-student-resources/wsu-name-change-processes/. For instructions on how to change your name and gender marker externally to WSU, visit https://thecenter.wsu.edu/resources/transstar-student-resources/externally-changing-your-name/. This website details the name/gender marker change process through the county courthouse, the Department of Licensing, your birth certificate, and the Social Security Administration Office. For the time being, you could choose to update your “nickname” in WSU systems as your chosen name; staff, faculty, and administrators are expected to utilize nicknames over official names.
WSU does not have gender-specific dress codes; any department, organization, or event dress codes should be gender-neutral. If you run into any dress code that is not gender-neutral, please feel free to contact CRCI or the Director of GIESORC.
Transition-Related Leave and Benefits
Supervisors should provide reasonable flexibility to meet a faculty or staff person’s need for transition-related appointments. An employee’s transition may include medical care. Leave for medical care related to transition should be treated the same as leave for any other medically necessary care. As with leave for all medically necessary care, confidentiality regarding transition-related medical leave must be maintained and information should be shared only with employee permission and only to the extent necessary. Employees are not required to share specific medical information with their supervisors. You can simply tell your supervisor you are requesting leave for medical reasons and then work directly with Human Resource Services (HRS) if disclosure of any specific medical information is required.
Transitioning employees with questions about benefits and leave should contact HRS. HRS can help coordinate leave for the employee.
Access to Restrooms and Locker Rooms
You have the right to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with your gender identity. This right is protected by Washington state law. Gender inclusive and/or single-use restrooms and locker rooms are available for any member of the university community who wishes to use such a facility. Information about gender inclusive/single-use facility locations can be found at https://thecenter.wsu.edu/resources/gender-inclusive-restrooms-locker-rooms/.
Discrimination and Harassment
WSU policies (EP 15) and the Washington Law Against Discrimination explicitly prohibit discrimination and harassment based on gender identity and expression. All WSU staff, faculty, and administrators are responsible for following the provisions of EP 15. Supervisors are responsible for promptly addressing discrimination and harassment, including behavior taking the form of jokes, in consultation with CRCI. You should also be aware that most WSU employees have EP 15 reporting requirements, meaning that if they learn of discrimination and/or harassment, they may be required to report that information to CRCI. If that occurs, CRCI will reach out to you with resources and reporting options; you may decide whether or not you would like to work with CRCI. If you do have a concern about discrimination or harassment based on gender identity or expression, you may contact CRCI directly for assistance or to make a complaint. Alternatively, you can begin by speaking to the Director of GIESORC for advice or assistance on filing a complaint with CRCI.
In some cases, WSU employees with supervisory responsibility must take immediate action to end offending conduct and protect the well-being of the complainant. Supervisors must take such interim measures in consultation with CRCI, HRS, and the WSU Division of the Attorney General’s Office.
Resources for Additional Information
Office of Civil Rights Compliance and Investigation (CRCI): French Admin 225; 509-335-8288; firstname.lastname@example.org
Matthew Jeffries, GIESORC Director: CUB 401; 509-335-8841; email@example.com
Commission for Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation: https://president.wsu.edu/gender-identity-sexual-orientation/
LGBTQ+ Faculty/Staff Association, contact Matthew Jeffries, 509-335-8841, firstname.lastname@example.org
Trans* Friendly Healthcare Providers in the Palouse: https://thecenter.wsu.edu/resources/transstar-student-resources/transstar-friendly-health-care-providers/
On-Campus Name Change Processes: https://thecenter.wsu.edu/resources/transstar-student-resources/wsu-name-change-processes/
List of Additional Resources on Each WSU Campus: https://thecenter.wsu.edu/resources/
Off-Campus Name Change Processes: https://thecenter.wsu.edu/resources/transstar-student-resources/externally-changing-your-name/
The Pride Foundation: https://pridefoundation.org/; Eastern & Central WA contact: Tylene Carnell, email@example.com; Western WA contact: Craig Williams, firstname.lastname@example.org, 206-323-3318
Inland Oasis: http://inlandoasis.org; email@example.com; 425-791-1611
Alternatives to Violence on the Palouse: http://atvp.org; 509-332-HELP; 115 NW State St., Room 305a, Pullman
National Center for Transgender Equality: https://transequality.org/; 202-642-4542
Trevor Project Crisis and Suicide Prevention: 866-488-7386
How to talk about gender and sexual identities: The ABC’s of LGBT+ by Ashley Mardell (now Ash Hardell)
Guidance for Supervisors and Managers
If you have an employee who is transitioning, you should be sensitive and affirming when addressing their needs and concerns.
- If an employee of yours comes out, ask them what name and pronouns they would like you to use. Follow up to see if you should use this name and these pronouns publicly or just in private communication between the two of you.
- Correct co-workers and colleagues who use the wrong name and/or pronouns.
- Do a search for the current (or deadname) of the employee to see where a name will need to be changed (e.g., websites).
Additionally, here are several policies to keep in mind:
Discrimination and Harassment- Executive Policy 15
Consistent with WAC 162-32-040, WSU considers discrimination and harassment based on an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity/expression to be prohibited. This is outlined in the WSU Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct, Executive Policy #15 (EP 15).
Improper conduct toward a particular individual, individuals, or groups on the basis of one or more of the protected classes (listed in EP 15) that is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it has the purpose or effect of: creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment; or unreasonably interfering with work, academic performance, living environment, personal security, or participating in any WSU activity.
Examples of conduct that may be considered violations of EP 15 if the elements of the EP 15 Policy Standard are met include, but are not limited to:
- Asking unwelcome personal questions about an individual’s sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity, transgender status, or sex assigned at birth;
- Intentionally causing distress to an individual by disclosing the individual’s sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity, transgender status, or sex assigned at birth against their wishes;
- Using offensive names, slurs, jokes, or terminology regarding an individual’s sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity;
- The deliberate misuse of an individual’s preferred name, form of address, or gender-related pronoun (except on legally mandated documentation, if the individual has not officially obtained a name change);
- Posting offensive pictures or sending offensive electronic or other communications;
- Unwelcome physical conduct.
Dress and Grooming Policies
Consistent with WAC 162-32-050, WSU units may require standards of dress or grooming that serve a reasonable business or institutional purpose, such as promoting safety, developing a unit’s identity, or projecting a professional, positive public image. However, WSU units cannot require an individual to dress or groom in a manner that is not consistent with that individual’s gender expression or gender identity.
Consistent with WAC 162-32-060, WSU units must allow individuals the use of gender-segregated facilities, such as restrooms, locker rooms, and changing rooms that are consistent with that individual’s gender expression or gender identity. WSU units cannot request or require an individual to use a gender-segregated facility that is inconsistent with that individual’s gender expression or gender identity, or request or require an individual to use a separate or gender-neutral facility.