A recent study by the Human Rights Campaign revealed that 72% of US adults agree that “transgender people should have equal rights and be able to live free of violence and discrimination.” Research in Britain also shows the majority of people have positive attitudes towards transgender people. A further study revealed that awareness levels have increased significantly, with 42% of those surveyed stating that they personally knew someone who is transgender.
An opportunity to show awareness
With awareness levels at an all-time high, and modern consumers increasingly holding companies to account for their actions, transgender inclusion and awareness represents the perfect opportunity for brands to demonstrate their commitment to equality and send a powerful signal to stakeholders that they care about doing what is right.
Having said that, there is no doubt that the fear of getting it wrong represents a major barrier for PR pros in grasping this particular nettle.
The good news is that there are plenty of companies out there who are doing a great job of joining the conversation in a positive way, as well as those who still have a lot to learn. Studying their moves is an excellent place to start.
Companies leading the charge
Recently, fashion retailer Monsoon faced a potential PR crisis when a non-binary customer was ejected from one of its high street stores after attempting to try on prom dresses.
When the individual bravely called the retailer out on social media, for the way in which they had been treated, Monsoon’s social team was quick to act.
Not only was a public apology issued, the individual was invited back - with the vital acknowledgement of how hard this might be for them - and Monsoon offered to cover the cost of the “perfect” dress.
Brands must show insight
Monsoon’s response ticked multiple boxes from a reputation management perspective, it was quick, it was kind, it was apologetic and it showed real insight into what that person must have felt. But, perhaps most importantly, it treated the customer as a human being.
Given that the law recognises gender reassignment as a protected characteristic and it is unlawful to discriminate (intentionally or not) against someone because they are trans, it was also a well-executed exercise in damage limitation.
Either way, Monsoon has now joined a handful of progressive brands which includes the likes of IBM, Google, Levis and Goldman Sachs who have clearly and openly stated their commitment to trans inclusion and who are being recognised for their positive work in this area.
The fashion retailer will now need to ensure it does the necessary due diligence in cascading its inclusive position to those on the shop floor, to avoid any repetition of the episode. Failure to do so might make any positive moves made to-date appear hollow.
It is, however, vital to remember that trans inclusion is about far more than just averting PR disasters. Our ultimate goal should be to do something much more powerful: to shift the narrative away from the toxic one that can exist, towards one which is open, inclusive and supportive of trans and non-binary individuals - a task for which communications pros are perfectly positioned.
Written by Aby Hawker, founder of communications consultancy www.TransMissionPR.com
If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe for free to our twice weekly event and subscriber alerts.
Currently, every new subscriber will receive three of our favourite reports about the public relations sector.