During NYC Fashion week, many designers debuted a new selection of gender-neutral clothing lines. Neither man nor woman are signified; rather, these lines aim for comfort, and sleek designs that match everything and everyone. Simple, elegant, easy going — regardless of where these clothes are displayed. This is great for the career-driven twenty-somethings, because it means less emphasis on modelling equality and more on living it.
But along with these new designs, a dark side of NYFW organization was revealed. Recently there have been more and more shows with genderfluid models, which has caused a stir with some older designers. Models have been turned away and replaced last minute after organizers have been alerted to the designer’s wishes — all of which are truly ridiculous.
But why is this happening at such a progressive event?
Gender Discrimination Is Still Happening in the Workplace
The identities of genderfluid and trans people can be difficult for executives to grasp. While there are many individuals in the tech and creative industries who rally behind the movement for true equality, not all of our governing class feels comfortable with this progressive change. Even in the case of NYFW, high level designers and organizers have responded with less-than-kind incentives for those identifying as trans or agender. On the everyday level, this is even worse.
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Discrimination based on sexual preference is absolutely intolerable. It should never EVER be a consideration or an issue in any situation. In reality, there are many people still unwilling and still practicing this discrimination on a daily basis. In labour intensive jobs, or middle-income careers, management aren’t always as accepting. We can’t force an entire society to become accepting overnight. But we can slowly change how we approach hiring discrimination at the c-suite, as well as through media friendly companies who can pave the way for a new acceptance in the workplace.
Colleagues in advertising or tech have their own peers who identify as neutral or trans, yet hardly ever are they asked to fill a role on the outside. While we all want to be hiring based on skills, these companies seldom hire based on skill alone. When in a startup, you want a tight knit group — which usually leads to wanting people whom you can spend 24/7 with. Love to hate, and hate to see leave. In hiring, startups want to hire like-minded people, which leaves us with many issues that can be traced back to the high school clique of whom we identify and accept on our levels.
This can lead to silent gender discrimination like at NYFW.
Top to Bottom Change
While in the media we see such progressiveness towards a new society of sexual neutrality, in the workplace, it’s not at all like that. At the top, legislation and adherence to anti-discrimination laws are for certain. Down in the warehouses and retail stores, offices and assembly lines, the workers dominate the hiring practices and that sometimes means horrible conditions for those whom don’t see gender or sexual orientation as any kind of illicit issue. The problem is vast — and those c-suite professionals need to take a stand.
HR can only do so much; when the supervisors and managers aren’t open and willing, they won’t hire employees that are open and willing to accept progressive positive changes. Many trans and gender fluid persons are skillful workers, but find no hope when they enter into many fields.
Thus the cycle of discrimination continues.
Much of the workforce coming into their career life don’t see gender or orientation as an issue. But those in the managerial level are old enough to still maintain those traditions of discrimination. This causes a defect within the company. While we in human resources can push all we want, those down on the floor are not thinking in terms of a social change — only one with quotas and necessity to make the c-suite happy. This in itself is again perpetuating even more problems.
Making HR a Site of Transformation
Industries have to have HR be a rally point for change. New hires are one thing; but the key to this would be to pursue compliance. It may be more work, but as that new generation of gender fluid people come into the workforce, we have to be ready for backlash from those whom are less willing to change with us. Constant education on the subject. Team building. Most of all an open space so those identified persons can come and air any problems with HR and have it dealt with. Draconian as it is, a push for acceptance has to be made with a push of disciplinary action when another is hateful. Hate, discrimination, and harassment has no place, especially when it’s alienating good employees because of their found happiness in a non-traditional way.
Gender fluidity and trans culture is here to stay, and in 2015 we’re in the middle of that transition.
Photo courtesy of MirjaVM.