By Terry White, King County Metro General Manager

I am proud to celebrate Transgender Awareness Week and voice my support as an ally. All of us have a responsibility to create a workspace that’s welcoming, inclusive, and free of discrimination. This week, King County announced a new policy to support and address the workplace needs of transgender, non-binary, and gender diverse employees. The policy sets out guidelines to:

  • protect employee privacy;
  • support and model the use of names and pronoun;
  • understand what constitutes potential discrimination, harassment, or inappropriate conduct, and the reporting procedure;
  • understand the applicability of county dress codes;
  • ensure access to restrooms and comfort stations; and
  • support employees transitioning in the workplace.

Tomorrow, in observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance, we will lower flags at King County worksites to half-staff to honor the memory of the transgender people whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. I encourage everyone to observe a moment of silence and continue to find a way to do your individual part to make our workplaces, our county, and our world safe and welcoming for all of us.

Below, Metro employees share what Transgender Awareness Week means to them and how to be a good ally. It’s inspiring to see the way we are supporting each other.

Gunner Scott (he/him), Senior Communications and Engagement Planner

Photo of and quote by Metro employee Gunner Scott

What does Transgender Awareness Week mean to you?

“In the early 2000s, I faced discrimination in trying to rent an apartment because of being a transgender man. It was humiliating. It was not the first time and it has not been the last time. That was when I also found out my home state of Massachusetts did not have laws in place to protect people on the basis of gender identity and/or gender expression, which meant the landlord could legally not rent me an apartment, even though I met all the criteria. I spent the next 10 years working with my community to change the law and Transgender Awareness Week was one of the public education campaigns that came out of that struggle (along with passing the state law protecting transgender people in employment, housing, and education in 2011). Today, Transgender Awareness Week provides me the opportunity to be visible to other transgender people who may be struggling to come out, to families trying figure out a way to support their transgender child, and to those who want to be a better ally.”

What is one thing our allies could do to support trans people?

“Disrupt business as usual. I expect allies to intervene when others are being disrespectful of transgender and non-binary people, whether you know someone personally or not. When you hear someone ‘gossiping’ about a person’s gender expression or playing into negative stereotypes about transgender people, I expect allies to disrupt that. That is what helps to change culture — from one of exclusion to inclusion.”

What are the biggest challenges facing the trans community?

“While we have made significant progress in changing policies and laws, we still have a long way to go in acceptance, respect, and creating a culture where transgender and non-binary people can not only survive, but thrive. This is particularly true for Black transgender women who face significant violence, discrimination, and poverty as result of racism, sexism, and transphobia. The 2015 US Transgender Survey* found that nearly half (47%) of all Black respondents reported being denied equal treatment, verbally harassed, and/or physically attacked during just a one year period because of being transgender. In the public transit sector, the same survey found that 34% of transgender respondents and 39% of non-binary respondents experienced one or more negative experiences or treatment using public transit and this increases for transgender and non-binary people of color including: Native American (48%), Multiracial (45%), and Asian American (39%).

“As we strive for equity, inclusion and belonging at Metro, that includes creating a work culture that respects and supports transgender and non-binary co-workers and riders. That is the challenge Metro faces and I think we are up to that challenge.”

Tristan Cook (he/him), Senior Communications and Engagement Planner

Photo of and quote by Metro employee Tristan Cook

What does Transgender Awareness Week mean to you?

“There has been so much progress in transgender rights and societal awareness in the nearly 20 years since my own gender transition, but it’s important to continue to raise awareness. We need to keep making progress to protect the rights of transgender people, especially for transgender folks of color and transgender children. Also, younger generations are changing binary norms and language around gender and we need to elevate and learn from those voices to keep moving forward.”

What is one thing our allies could do to support trans people?

“Transgender is an umbrella term that includes many different identities and experiences. It’s OK if you don’t understand someone’s identity but it is always important to be respectful. If you’re not sure what pronouns a person uses, just ask. Sharing your own pronouns is one way to start the conversation.”

What are the biggest challenges facing the trans community?

“There are an increasing number of state and local bills introduced across the country that restrict the rights of transgender people to use the bathroom that works for them, for transgender kids to play on sports teams, or for parents, schools, or pediatricians to provide the support that transgender kids need to be happy. Transgender people already face a lot of challenges including high rates of suicide. Discriminatory bills like these are based on misinformation and make it harder for transgender people to succeed and thrive.”

"Metro Allies" banner on Transgender pride flag

Tim Flanagan (he/him), Bus Operations Division Director

Photo of and quote by Metro employee Tim Flanagan

“I want all of our employees to be able to come to work and be who they are. You are who you are and you deserve to express that internally and externally. I am here to support you. I truly appreciate the diversity at Metro and I want people to feel comfortable being themselves. If I hear anyone saying anything disrespectful or negative, I won’t tolerate it. It is our responsibility to support people for being themselves.”

Wan-Lin Tsou (she/her), Customer Relationship Manager

Photo of and quote by Metro employee Wan Lin Tsou

“It is very important to me to be an ally to the trans community because every person should be able to thrive in our society. Also, when we say we believe and want to work towards Equity and Social Justice that means that we need to especially watch out for one of the most vulnerable groups in our community.

“Right now, it is especially important to stand by our trans BIPOC members because their intersection between gender identity and race can make it even more difficult to find employment, attain resources, develop self-confidence and esteem, fight against depression and anxiety, and attain the same opportunities like everyone else. Finally, the incredibly harmful anti-trans bills that are being passed across the US is also another reason that we need to be allies to the trans community. What it means to me to be a good ally:

  • Learn about trans folx and their stories.
  • Learn why it is wrong and incredibly harmful to misgender someone. It is so validating to anyone if you use their preferred name and preferred gender pronouns.
  • Stand up and defend trans folx. If you hear something negative, respond and correct it. Silence is acceptance.
  • Vote! Write your representative and other state representatives to strike down harmful and detrimental anti-trans bills.
  • Amplify trans voices and follow trans folx on social media.”

Gerald Freeman (he/him), Special Events Coordinator

Photo of and quote by Metro employee Gerald Freeman

“We all are human beings and we all have our own opinions about things. Everyone should live their life how they want to live it and not how others want them to live it.”

Jana Demas (she/her), Rail Deputy Division Director

Photo of and quote by Metro employee Jana Demas

“We need to be as inclusive as we can be to everyone. Not only is it the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense. Those in the transgender community often experience the intersection of discrimination being othered within our mainstream culture. We need to recognize the unique perspectives they bring and the contributions they make by creating welcoming spaces for them to do their best work. I know many in the transgender community have spent a lot of time in their lives not feeling welcome. We can be good allies by inviting people into our spaces, making it safe for them to share their opinions, backing them up, amplifying their voices, lending our credibility, and connecting through our similarities.”

Marissa Sindall (she/her), Project Manager

Photo of and quote by Metro employee Marissa Sindall

“It’s important to be an ally to show our coworkers, friends and community members they are not alone, and they are surrounded by respect, love, and acceptance. We need to show others that they can also be an ally and we can advocate and leverage our strengths when others may not be able to.

“What does it mean to be a good ally?

  • Respecting and holding space for those around you to be their authentic selves free of judgement and harassment
  • Listen – have an open mind and an open heart. Listen to the stories and experiences of our trans loved ones and the trans community.
  • Learn – It is about effort not perfection. Learning is not a one-time thing we are always learning new ways to support our friends. The more we learn about the trans and non-binary community the more we can provide meaningful support.
  • Support – this looks different for everyone. You can start by providing your pronouns when you introduce yourself, using gender inclusive language, or by simply showing up to an LGBTQ+ affinity group meeting.”

Jake Jacobovitch (he/him), Superintendent in Transit Facilities

Photo of and quote by Metro employee Jake Jacobovitch

“The purpose of Transgender Awareness Week is to educate people about transgender and gender non-conforming people and the issues associated with their transition or identity. A person’s gender identity shouldn’t mean that they should not be treated with respect and dignity. We are all different in many ways, but in the end, we are all the creator’s children. We are all family, and as family, we should all be kind, understanding, and take care of each other.”

Keiko Budech (she/her), Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Program Manager

Photo of and quote by Metro employee Keiko Budech

“Everyone deserves the right to be their full selves every day. The Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging team at Metro is here to support and stand with our transgender community and celebrate their brilliance. To be an ally is to be active in the fight for transgender justice by addressing systemic oppression, centering intersectional identities, and building a world beyond the binary.”

Ernest Kandilige (he/him), Interim Assistant General Manager of Finance and Administration

Photo of and quote by Metro employee Ernest Kandilige

“We want to nurture an environment of inclusiveness that does not discriminate against people based on their gender, race, religion, or protected class status. Our differences are a strength, not a weakness. It is important to provide everyone the same opportunities in our society regardless of gender identity. If we don’t, we are missing out on the brilliance that transgender and non-binary folks bring to the table.”