To introduce myself. My name is Louise Hannon and this week past saw the first successful constructive dismissal case by a transgender person in Ireland, where I was awarded €35,000 against my former employer. I have been totally astounded by the level of media interest, and the level of positive support, which is extremely encouraging for transgendered people. I’ve been swamped with messages of congratulations and support, which encourages me to think that Ireland is becoming a much more tolerant society, slowly but surely.
I never set out consciously to be in most national papers or radio stations. I set out I suppose to highlight the need to treat transgender people with sensitivity in the employment transition process, and possibly to raise awarenes of the problems faced by those in that process.
I was enormously hurt by the treatment I received especially from my employers with whom I’d had a great respect and a very good working relationship until the point that I was in the office every day as myself, for the first time in my life. I was looking forward to being my true self and helping the company expand and prosper. Unfortunately it didn’t happen as you may know. Normalisation of transgender people is a side effect which will go hand in hand with this higher more visible profile. Gender is a very difficult issue to deal with, on a personal level. In the early stages while different from the sexuality issues of being gay has much the same problems; isolation, self doubt, families who are potentially non supportive.
Societies lack of knowledge on gender issues is just one of the problems facing us. I hope the media attention this week has stirred people to think, and perhaps to be a little more tolerant and understanding of diversity. People deal with their issues in many different ways.. Some become dependent on alcohol to bury the pain, some end up with stress related health issues around depression, some in relationships become violent with the stress and anger, and some unfortunately commit suicide, particularly in rural areas where isolation is a major factor. This loss of life and loss of human skills at all levels is a tragedy for Irish society.
As transgender people we should be allowed to live and be treated as normal human beings and this will bring enormous advantages to our society in terms of productivity and the talents which not only transgender people have but also those who are gay and lesbian can bring to the working environment. Before we even get to a working environment though, our schools need to address homophobia and transphobia as in the early formative school years bullying can do enormous mental and educational damage to the future prospects of our bright young people.
I had the enormous privilege of helping to organise the annual Dublin Pride Festival for four very fulfilling years, with some of the most talented and inspiring young people it is my pleasure to know. Their support and understanding if spread throughout the population would wipe out bigotry tomorrow. I also hope that employers will now take transgender people seriously and put into place a policy dealing with those who wish to live in their correct gender in the working environment. If they do it has been proven by many of the multi-nationals working here in Ireland that diversity and inclusion are ultimately good for the financial bottom line. In the current tough economic climate that makes total sense, don’t you agree?
Read more by Louise Hannon at her blog journal here –