Authors: Marié McGregor
Transsexualism is generally poorly understood by the general public and by employers at work, the latter the focus of this article. Transsexual people are discriminated against, ridiculed, alienated and harassed by the transphobic reactions of society. Nonetheless, it appears that awareness of the condition is indeed increasing because of greater societal acceptance of transsexual people, re-assignment surgery and hormone replacement therapy more easily available and accessible, and coverage by the media. The article investigates the nature, causes, diagnosis and prevalence of transsexualism. The alignment of a transsexual person’s sexual expression with her or his internal identity by surgery (though expensive), hormone therapy and posture and voice training are discussed. Relevant South African laws serve as background for a critical discussion of the first two reported cases dealing with discrimination against transsexual people in the workplace. The writer welcomes the Labour Court’s approach of destigmatising transsexualism and allowing no unfair discrimination against such people. The writer views the judgments as wake-up calls for employers to get their houses in order and to embrace the diversity of their employees. It is hoped that this will lead to better employment relations, which, in turn, will enhance the quality of working life for transsexual people, and will have a positive ripple effect on broader society. Other important issues include raising awareness of transphobia and transsexualism among employers, the medical community and the wider population. Employers have to root out discriminatory practices against transsexual employees. Policy-makers in academia and the health sector will have to review, amongst others, the curricula of universities to provide for sexuality training prioritise funding for treatment and, investigate adequate and affordable treatment for transsexual people. Government will have to prioritise enforcement of non-discrimination by reviewing policies and laws, and making changes where needed.
transsexualism, transgenderism, transphobia, nature, causes, diagnosis and prevalence of transsexualism, unfair discrimination, alignment, re-assignment surgery, hormone replacement therapy, laws, case law