Gina Duncan Champions Transgender and Nonbinary Leaders

Gina Duncan works with emerging leaders and established corporations to achieve true belonging and inclusion, not just check-box invitations for diversity. She has conducted hundreds of Transgender Cultural Competency workshops for all segments of society.

A national and international advocate, corporate trainer, and speaker specializing in transgender dynamics in the workplace, classroom, and society, Gina is the recipient of many awards, including being named one of the 100 LGBT Movers and Shakers in Florida. For Equality Florida, she serves as the state Director of TransAction Florida, the state’s transgender inclusion initiative comprising a 1,000+ person advocacy network led by the TransAction Florida Advisory Council.

Recently, Gina shared how educational efforts bolster transgender and nonbinary rights and protections.

Todd Wellman: What has recently brought a smile to your face?

Gina Duncan

Gina Duncan: There are many because I am so fortunate to do the work I do. But nothing makes me happier than lifting up others in the community, helping to shape future trans / nonbinary leaders. We conduct six month TransAction Leadership Academy Sessions, where we work with future community leaders ages 18-30. They experience advanced organizing, advocacy, and public policy training, as well as media and messaging personal skills. We just concluded our Sarasota-area class, and at the last session, each member is required to give a dissertation of what they learned, what they liked, and how they are going to use their new skills for the betterment of the trans / nonbinary community. We have done these sessions all over Florida, but this class was especially engaged and enthusiastic. What made me smile through my tears were the emotional dissertations of these amazing young people who all spoke of how they were going to miss our classes and how they were going to miss our time together. Due to the pandemic, many felt alone and isolated. This space together gave them community and camaraderie.

TW: When everyone is invited and included in a workplace, a workplace benefits from increased insight and innovation. So what keeps workplaces from inviting and including everyone?

Employers that embrace diversity clearly have a competitive advantage in the global economy in areas of recruiting and retention.

GD: Either ignorance or intention. I have had the good fortune to facilitate about 300 transgender cultural competency workshops for all segments of society, and major employers are seeing the value of providing a safe, inclusive, and welcoming workplace for all. Employers that embrace diversity clearly have a competitive advantage in the global economy in areas of recruiting and retention. Workplaces where transgender- and nonbinary-identifying employees feel unsafe or unwelcome usually come from a place of feared ignorance, ideology, or conservative religious beliefs. People fear what they don’t understand, and often that is the case with leaders of mid- to small-sized companies. I have often been called in when there was a gap between policy and practice — what is written and what is the actual lived culture of the company. Inclusion and equity takes work, education, practice, acceptance — and then repeat.

TW: The non-invitation and non-inclusion of individuals of transgender experience, for example, is so pervasive, that it seems clear to say all workplaces have work to do. What’s the starting point for an organization?

Even the most inclusive organizations understand that consistent and recurring education is the key to truly having an environment where all employees are treated with dignity and respect.

GD: Creating an environment where everyone can bring their true selves to work begins and ends with knowledge, with education. Even the most inclusive organizations understand that consistent and recurring education is the key to truly having an environment where all employees are treated with dignity and respect. Even within our community, the evolution of language and the expanding diversity of lived experiences continue to change and evolve. For example, creating an inclusive workplace for trans employees now looks very different from the expectations of the nonbinary community.

TW: To successfully invite and include others, do organizations need to admit they have particular challenges to be addressed, or can they be successful through general application of best practices?

GD: As we have seen this past year regarding racial equity, organizations do need to take a clear-eyed look in the mirror and not be afraid to admit that these are evolving issues and that intention and consistency is important. Even the most progressive organizations I have worked with have recognized that social equity is intersectional and must be centered in a commitment to holistic, affirming inclusion. And to re-educating, as these specific issues evolve and mature. Best practices are for check marks. But living, breathing organizational culture must be constantly attended to, groomed, and nurtured.

TW: What is something you would love people in Florida and beyond to know, so they are inspired to better invite and include others?

We grow because we are open to new experiences.

GD: That opening your heart and mind to affirming inclusion makes everyone thrive. That truly, our differences make us stronger. Embracing diversity is like traveling to a new place, learning new things, and learning a new language. We grow because we are open to new experiences. And we grow because we not only invite others into the room, but we invite them to a seat at the table.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Read more about my nonfiction writing here.

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