Summer Demos Jun 18, 2021 8:00:00 AM 10 min read

BETA Explore Recap: An Introduction to the Transgender Experience

To celebrate Pride month, we welcomed Vanessa Sheridan, a business consultant, author, transgender activist, and trainer for June BETA Explore. We were grateful for the opportunity to listen and learn at “An Introduction to the Transgender Experience.”

Below are the key takeaways, quotes, and terms from our speaker!



Most people see gender as black and white, but in fact, it’s grey. It’s more like a ball of colorful rubber bands — there are many different expressions of gender.

  • Think of it as a human stool, and we have three legs/pegs:
  • Sexual orientation: who you sleep with; who you’re attracted to; internal matter
  • Gender identity: who you sleep as; who you identify as; internal matter
  • Gender expression: visual/verbal cues: sartorial, body language, behavior, verbalized, body morphology; external matter
  • The western-culture gender binary system is rigid; it says that sex is determined at birth, and gender is based on sex at birth (and you should not change it). This can create alienation in the trans community.
  • There is a lot of diversity within the transgender community:
    • Sexual orientation is all over the map
    • Bodies/morphology
    • Gender realignment
    • Every other kind of diversity (Racial, cultural, age, physical/ etc.)

  • Being transgender is NOT: a mental illness/ pathology, a physical or cognitive disability, sexual orientation, a delusion, a lifestyle, communicable, or being a morally deviant sexual predator.



“Everyone wants to feel safe and valued, and wants to be affirmed and accepted,” said Vanessa Sheridan. There are many misconceptions about transgender people, especially on media. Due to these accusations, transgender people are often given a difficult time, and feel alienated.


  • “People discriminate against what they SEE.” You can’t tell what someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity is by just looking at them, so it’s important to ask.
  • Discrimination is a ‘Visual Phenomenon’
  • Difficulties in the trans community: 
    • 40% have attempted suicide
    • 44 trans people murdered in the U.S. in 2020; 28 in 2021 so far
    • Unemployment is twice the national average, and with people of color, it’s three to four times
    • Disproportionately living in poverty, homeless, and incarcerated
    • Increased mental illness and substance abuse rates
    • Difficulty with: ID and official documents, doctors/medical professionals, medicalization/pathologizing of identities, airport/ TSA security, public restrooms

While discrimination is ongoing, organizational discrimination against trans/GNC people became illegal on June 15, 2020. The Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ are protected from discrimination in the workplace, and that no organization has the right to discriminate against trans/GNC persons.



Employers should encourage and enforce trans-inclusiveness and gender authenticity; when people are free to be truthful and genuine about who they are, they can bring their whole selves to class, work, relationships, and to life.

Authentic people deliver higher performance because they’re no longer hiding who they are, which frees up mental and emotional energy and causes them to be focused on doing one’s work.

Five fundamentals to trans-inclusiveness in the workplace:

  • EEO policy / best practices 
  • Workplace attire
  • Employee Accommodations (restrooms, locker rooms, etc.)
  • Gender realignment support
  • Trans-specific healthcare benefits 


It’s about behaviors, not beliefs:

  • Keep focus on action, not opinions
  • Offering respect, dignity, and professionalism to everyone
  • Personal feelings or religious beliefs are not the issue here 
  • It’s about how we treat each other



You can’t always tell just by looking at someone. Asking and correctly using pronouns is one of the most basic ways to show respect for gender identity. When people are referred to with the wrong pronoun, it feels invalidating, dismissive, alienating, disrespectful, etc. 

  • Pronouns are not ‘preferred’, they are someone’s personal pronouns.

Phrases to avoid:

  • Sexual preference
  • Gender choice
  • Lifestyle/alternative lifestyle
  • Tranny
  • He-she



  • Choose to be a transgender ally
  • Respect all gender identities
  • Don’t “out” transgender people
  • Don’t automatically assume that people are gay, straight, cis, trans, etc.
  • Don’t let homophobic or transphobic comments slide
  • Don’t ask personal physical questions, especially of gender diverse people, unless they are required (Ex: do not ask about “the operation”)



Sexual Orientation: “who you sleep with” ; who you’re attracted to.

Gender Identity: “who you sleep as” ; who you are.

Gender Expression: “external, visual cues such as sartorial, body language/behavior, verbalized, and body morphology.

Gender Binary: A system of gender classification in which all people are categorized as being either male or female.

Transgender: Umbrella term for people whose gender identity differs from sex assigned at birth.

Intersex person: Someone born with a variation in their sexual or reproductive anatomy, can include: genital, hormonal, chromosomal differences, etc.

Cisgenger: Person that has a gender identity that matches assigned sex at birth (another term is gender typical).

Gender nonbinary: Person who does not identify exclusively as a man or woman; may identify as both, neither, or between, not all non-binary people identify as transgender.

Gender Authenticity: The right to express one’s identity and orientation without fear of coercion to conform to gender stereotypes.