Workplace as a gender test laboratory: Gender transition experiences from Finnish workplaces

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School of Business | Master's thesis
MSc program in Management and International Business
MSc program in Management and International Business
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Transsexuality is still considered to be a taboo subject that challenges the taken for granted understanding of gender as immutable and essentialist, male or female category. The fear of discrimination and violence keeps many transsexuals from being able to go through a gender transition process while employed which would, however, be important for the mental and financial wellbeing of these individuals as well as for the society, since the process can take years. My purpose in this explorative study is to gain more information on open workplace gender transition experiences in Finland, and to understand how does the essentialist and binary conception of gender affect interactions in the workplaces during the transition processes. I carried out this qualitative study by interviewing eight transwomen who have been employed during their gender transition process and conducted an analysis on the interview data. Transsexual individuals can possess a unique insider status in both gender categories during different stages of their life, which provided me with an interesting perspective that I utilized in the analysis. Gender in this study is seen as a social construction and as doing that structures interaction and is also simultaneously structured by it. This study contributes to the currently limited amount of research on workplace experiences of gender minorities. The context bound nature typical to gender can be seen in the results of this study where the interviewees' experiences varied not only between different workplaces but also within one workplace. The purpose of this study is not, therefore, to draw general conclusions but to examine gendered structures by analyzing single interactions. There were, however, also elements common to many interviewees. The results show that within a gender transition process there are actually two processes taking place simultaneously, biological and social one, from which the latter one was experienced to be more challenging. The findings indicate how the individuals transitioning from one gender to another are treated differently as men and as women. Stereotypical gender roles are reflected, for instance, in how the informants' human capital is evaluated, and what sort of behavior, dress and speech is expected from them. Changes in gender category that is considered as permanent or breaking the gender norms create confusion that unravels as silence, giving advice on gender expression and discrimination. On the other hand, the findings also reveal interactions where the interviewees are encountered neutrally and positively without confusion. The practical implications of this study highlight the importance of inclusive organizational cultures that recognize diversity in gender, along with concrete HR practices such as flexible working hours during the transition process.
gender, transsexual, transgender, gender transition, workplace, sukupuoli, transsukupuolinen, sukupuolenkorjausprosessi, työelämä
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