NPJ Book Review: Gender Ambiguity in the Workplace: Transgender and Gender-Diverse Discrimination by Alison Fogarty, Lily Zheng


Gender Ambiguity in the Workplace: Transgender and Gender-Diverse]Discrimination by Alison Fogarty, Lily Zheng (2018)

My read: What is the difference between sex and gender? The authors note that sex refers to the biological aspects or differences in a human being including genetics and genitalia whereas gender focuses on how a person identifies her or himself, their roles and self-expression.

Ambiguity is an insightful take on what occurs when a baby is assigned a biological and genetic identity that is in conflict with the person’s gender identity. Intolerance and prejudice are linked when any individual opposes the gender identity of another human being based on preconceived cultural, political and social notions of what a male or female is supposed “to be” in terms of behavior, as a result of their genitalia. “You are a biological male, so act and dress like a biological male,” as if there is a set of rules written in stone on how males or females are expected to dress and behave, let alone “biological definitions” of male and female as determined by a physician at birth. When not conforming to learned expectations, violent behavior and abuse may result, and indeed has so across the country.  Insecurity and fear are woven into the fabric of intolerance.

This fascinating study delves into the psychology of our biological and gender identity in the workplace and associated discrimination. The research is original and extensive and numerous examples from transgender people offer a very human aspect to the challenges they face in today’s work environment. The authors talk about “doing ambiguity” and implementing genderless and gender-fluid dynamics in the workplace.

This is both an individual and, an organizational workbook. The book is written for “leaders seeking best practices related to bathroom access, workplace transition, hiring practices, inclusive workplace culture, and more, this book offers guidance and novel policy recommendations designed to ensure the success of transgender employees.”

If an organization wishes to explore a gender-fluid policy this work is a good starting point. The authors have offered though-provoking and discerning insights not only in gender ambiguity but what tolerant, open-minded, human and humane means. Do to others as you would have them do to you, is an ageless lesson.

My question for the future is – will programmable, human-like AI or Artificial Intelligence help us become more tolerant or exacerbate human tolerance/intolerance through software defining what is a human male or female and the roles the male/female identify with? The question comes with any number of assumptions. My suggestion is this study helps expand awareness of what we mean by human and the difference between our biology and our gender identity.