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Building a More Inclusive Company with TransCanWork


How many adults in the United States today identify as trans? What’s the difference between gender identity and gender expression? What does cisgender mean? What’s the best way to find out a colleague, friend, or patron’s gender pronoun?

These were a few of the questions asked and answered at recent trainings hosted by TransCanWork for Center Theatre Group staff. Inspired by the Skylight Theatre Company production of Rotterdam—which featured a trans character’s journey—we partnered with TransCanWork to help us make our company a more welcoming place for members of the trans community.

The trainings were also part of a larger, ongoing effort to create a culture of greater equity, diversity, and inclusion at Center Theatre Group.

In an effort to create an authentic and ongoing ‘community of learning’ at our theatre that acknowledges and seeks to repair injustices, we need look no further than the work on our stages to discover rich opportunities and partnerships to help us learn and create a more inclusive and representative organization. The themes and ideas in Rotterdam inspired us to learn more about what it means to be a trans person in today’s world and think about ways we can make our theatre and its operations more welcoming to the trans-community, said Center Theatre Group Director of Social Strategy, Innovation and Impact Leslie K. Johnson, whose responsibilities include serving as the theatre’s chief diversity officer.

TransCanWork hosted three trainings for staff members working on Rotterdam from departments across the company devoted to helping participants better understand the spectrum of gender and sexuality, debunking stereotypes and understanding the diversity within the trans population, and learning how to communicate in the most inclusive and sensitive way possible with trans people and about trans issues.

In addition to sharing facts like the adult trans population of the US today (1.4 million) and the percentage of American kids who identify as trans (0.7 percent), the training leaders walked staff through the difficult questions and decisions that arise in the process of transitioning that might surprise cisgender people (who identify and present as the same gender they were designated at birth).

They also led exercises in introducing yourself and your pronoun and offered other tips for creating more inclusive environments. The sessions concluded with staff members putting the training in action in the creation of work-related communications like casting notices and social media posts and role-playing conversations with patrons.

We have a philosophy of radical hospitality at the Douglas, which means that we want everyone to feel truly at home and just totally, completely welcome in our space, and the training was one more way to ensure that, said Center Theatre Group Audience Engagement Manager Jaquelyn Johnson, who oversees the Douglas Concierge staff.

We all really enjoyed how interactive the training was and how we were encouraged to ask questions—and even to say something wrong, because that’s how you learn. In the process we realized that we have an opportunity to improve the signage for our all-gender restroom at the theatre and to help people use it before the house is open. The training helped us to see blind spots like this and learn more.

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