Since March 2016, there has been a massive mobilization of both individuals and corporations speaking out against North Carolina’s now infamous House Bill 2. The outcry has been far-reaching and is evidence of a changing climate toward transgender individuals.
When a transgender person walks out of the bathroom, their identity doesn’t go away. Transgender individuals still experience a number of challenges in a number of places. That includes the eight-plus hours spent in the office, on the sales floor, or in the construction zone.
Enter Janis Walworth and Michele Kämmerer.
Both women saw, in their own ways, the struggle that transgender people faced in the working world. For Walworth (a cisgender woman), the realization that there were not enough people helping transgender individuals out in the professional realm was a career-changer. Previously, she had intended on becoming a transgender therapist.
“You can go to a therapist all you want, but that doesn’t help you get through the transition if you have no money,” Walworth said.
Kämmerer, on the other hand, lived the struggle of working while transgender. A retired captain from the Los Angeles Fire Department, Kämmerer spent the better part of her career fearing the backlash toward her identity, and over a decade living with it.
Together, they formed the Gender Sanity Center, a consulting agency for employees, employers, and managerial teams seeking to learn (or educate their coworkers) on how best to work with and accommodate for a transgender employee.
One of the things Walworth did was develop a chart consisting of four scales, representing biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. It isn’t meant to be a comprehensive guide to the difference between sex, gender, and everything in between, but to simply challenge the idea of any one of these variables being synonymous with any other. The scale simplifies and separates identities that, despite often being conflated with each other, are all independent variables.
The Center helps field a number of questions that might otherwise be considered invasive. They consult with the transitioning individual and decide whether or not they’re comfortable answering those questions, or if the Center should handle them.
There isn’t a definitive guide or formula for how Kämmerer and Walworth handle each case. No two transgender people are alike, and what they need from the Center can be vastly different. Some people might prefer to transition quietly, while others want to be a resource for others. The work they do comes on a case-to-case basis.
Recently, however, Walworth and Kämmerer’s roles in the fight have been reduced. While they’re still more than happy to lend their aid younger transgender voices have risen up as well.
“There are fantastic trans men and women are doing wonderful work,” Kämmerer said. “We’re not needed anymore.”
For Walworth, the goal was to become redundant, much as they have now. Most companies now have internal teams that are equipped to educate employees. Going to an outside source is unnecessary.
But that doesn’t mean the women are done. Even if the demand for the women has died out, they continue their work. They continue to do pro-bono lectures at Western Washington University, and help out where they can. The fact that they aren’t needed as they were is, as Walworth puts it, a good thing.