The corporate ban on political conversations at work hurts trans identities
What a mouthful of a title but it’s the crux so pull up a chair and listen to me scream about this because it’s the start of pride, I have half an hour for lunch and being reckless is my greatest strength.
If you work for an American corporation, whether they’re global or not, chances are you’ve also been fitted with the No Political Conversations At Work gag. On first glance it can seem somewhat sensible right? Political conversations are rarely impersonal and they can get heated very quickly. Especially if they’re about contentious issues like taxation, budgetary spending, the right to bodily autonomy for… women… and trans… people, what the fuck? Why are these last two contentious?? Huh?
Here’s the problem.
You’ve only gone and designated some of our entire identities as political topics!
Worse still, you’ve decided that not only is our very existence political but now it’s apparently okay to argue about whether we have human rights or not??? Are you being serious??? As a trans person writing this, the political state of the world right now fucking sucks and being asked to stay quiet at work about it blows.
Politics covers everything and while some things aren’t appropriate for the office, (seriously taxation? really?) others absolutely are! (like trans identities).
When you mandate that we cannot talk about politics, what you do is gag your minority groups and their allies from any kind of effective defence when steadfast bigotry is targeted their way.
Let me give you an example.
Let’s say Fred The Fucking Bigot has deliberately decided to misgender Altair who uses they/them pronouns. They’re in a meeting and Fred uses something other than they/them. Fred smirks. In this situation, when you aren’t allowed to have political conversations, how does Altair or any ally around them correct Fred The Fucking Bigot? Trans identities have been codified as political, bringing up any discussion in the matter would be starting a political conversation, if Fred The Fucking Bigot decides that he doesn’t want to use their correct pronouns and want’s to have an argument about it, whose fault is this?
Is this a political conversation? Who started it? How can Altair trust that their manager will see their side in this? What if this happens frequently? Will Altair be the one who is seen to be the problem?
How can someone who uses they/them or other pronouns introduce themselves authentically without potentially causing a political conversation that can be used against them?
If you cannot talk about politics at work, when someone is steadfastly ableist, sexist, transphobic, antisemitic, racist, queerphobic, etc., how do you tell them to knock it the fuck off without starting a “political” conversation.
How do we defend ourselves?