Transitioning leads to greater life and job satisfaction

Published: 14 September 2017 at 10:00

Nick Drydakis close up

Anglia Ruskin study suggests improved anti-discrimination laws could also benefit employers

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Transgender people who have altered their outward appearance and accepted a new identity experience better mental health and greater job and life satisfaction, according to a new study.

More legal and workplace protections for trans workers, such as allowing them to change gender identification on official documents without undergoing gender reassignment surgery, would also help employers and countries maintain a more productive workforce, according to the study, published today (Thursday, 14 September) in the journal IZA World of Labor.

The research, led by an economist at Anglia Ruskin University, found that transitioning improves self-esteem by 27%; body image by 30%; optimism about the future by 26%; and enjoyment of life tasks by 48%.

However, the paper referenced studies from across the world which found that 71% of trans employees attempted to hide their gender transitions from employers, while 57% delayed transition to avoid workplace discrimination.

The study suggests being open about one’s trans identity and coming closer to a desired outward appearance that matches gender identity may promote life satisfaction and mental health.

In addition, traits like optimism, happiness, internal control and self-esteem coming from transitioning could enable trans employees to overcome challenges at work, and to perceive their job as being more fulfilling and satisfying.

Under the Gender Recognition Act, the UK enables individuals to acquire the preferred sex (men, women) for all purposes under law, but only once they have successfully applied to a Gender Recognition Panel.

The author, Dr Nick Drydakis, suggests in the paper that trans people should be able to change gender identification on official documents without undergoing sex reassignment surgery, in order to reduce employment or social exclusion for people who cannot or are reluctant to undergo such a procedure.

Dr Drydakis also recommends that legal employment protections against discrimination on the grounds of gender identity should become mandatory.

Dr Drydakis, Reader in Economics at Anglia Ruskin University, said:

"Not every trans person wants to or is able to undergo sex reassignment surgery. There are many reasons they may not do so, including finances or simply the length of time such a procedure takes, during which time they are vulnerable to social exclusion and biased treatment. There should be no sex reassignment requirement related to the ability to change official ID documents. 

“Biased treatment of trans people could be reduced if legal protections and inclusive workplace practices were in place. Greater progress in the gender transition process is related to fewer mental health problems as well as greater life and job satisfaction.

“For employers, this equates to a workforce that is more supportive of trans employees, and there is evidence to suggest this results in an increase level of commitment and job satisfaction.

“The workplace is one of the most likely places for trans discrimination to occur, yet only 22 EU member states have explicit legal employment protections against gender identity discrimination.

“An active trans population enjoying equal treatment in the labour market will be better able to help build the social and economic capital of their countries."

The full paper can be read at http://wol.iza.org/articles/trans-people-well-being-and-labor-market-outcomes.