May 24, 2019 Articles

An Etiquette Primer for Working with Transgender Clients and Colleagues

Transgender cultural competency at its core only requires following commonsense rules of etiquette.

By Ilona M. Turner

Transgender people, while less than 1 percent of the population in the United States, are increasingly visible across society: on television, in schools and workplaces, and in courtrooms. There are now a handful of openly transgender judges in the United States, a number that will undoubtedly continue to rise. Transgender attorneys are also coming out in record numbers, and the first National Trans Bar Association launched in 2018.

As a result, attorneys anywhere in the country should expect to encounter transgender colleagues, clients, or even opposing parties and would be well-advised to prepare ahead of time to treat them with respect and basic cultural competency. You won’t always know ahead of time when someone you meet is transgender, or when someone you’ve known a long time may tell you that they are transitioning. Understanding how to treat transgender people with consideration and respect is important not just because it’s the right thing to do—which it is—but also because it can ensure that you attract and keep clients, stay in compliance with rules of professional conduct, and avoid sanctions in litigation. 

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