Ryerson has always supported any faculty and staff members going through highly personal changes — it just didn’t advertise it online.
On Nov. 14, the school’s human resources department launched a web page dedicated to helping any faculty and staff member undergoing a transition in the workplace, whether it’s a change in gender, name or physical appearance.
HR did community consultations through the Positive Space and Queernet listservs, which are group-specific mailing lists, at Ryerson while building the website.
“We wanted to put some content on the website to provide an introduction on what transitioning means to employees who have maybe never heard about it before … (and) to let employees who may be transitioning know in advance that the university supports them,” said Laurie Stewart, manager of HR communications at Ryerson.
The new web content is part of Ryerson’s effort to advance inclusion, equity and diversity in the workplace by increasing awareness around transgender, transsexual and transitioning issues.
“To specifically post on your website that you will actively support your employee on this (transitioning) is a very progressive move by Ryerson,” said Stewart.
Stewart said that while many universities in Ontario, including the University of Toronto, also assist transitioning employees, she hasn’t found any other schools that explicitly have transitioning content online.
“They need to see right off the bat when they are applying and looking for a job that they feel included,” added Stewart. “They don’t have to take a chance in asking and not knowing whether they will get a positive reception.”
Putting the content up, according to Ryerson president Sheldon Levy, couldn’t have been done “without the experience of (transitioning employees’) wisdom.
“I would say that you learn what is the right thing to do from the experience that others have,” Levy said.
Ben Peto, an administration director in the Faculty of Communication and Design, helped HR construct the website. He said the online content shows Ryerson’s commitment to inclusion on transgender issues.
Peto announced his transition at work shortly after the web page went up.
“It’s a pretty big deal to have an HR page dedicated to staff who may be considering transition,” he said.
The “Transitioning at Ryerson,” web page includes a resource and information section, a checklist of services offered by Ryerson HR, and a list of frequently asked questions and answers (FAQ) on transgender and transsexual issues.
For Peto, the FAQ page was useful when bringing his transition to Ryerson because it helped him start constructive conversations with his colleagues.
“If there was someone who was asking a lot of questions, I can now point them to the website,” he said.
The FAQ contains recommendations for colleagues of transitioning, transgender or transsexual employees.
The web page also links to services offered through organizations such as the 519 Church Street Community Centre, which provides support groups, legal clinics and housing aid for the lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer community.
The checklist informs transitioning employees of HR’s practical services, such as replacing their OneCard free of charge, drafting emails that ask colleagues to start referring to them with a different pronoun, or updating employee records, tax forms and email addresses with their new name.
Peto said the checklist helped him navigate the school’s system during his transition.
“It’s really complicated, the number of ways your name is linked to things in a university — places that your name pops up that you didn’t think of,” he said.
The web page, Peto added, helped him focus on his job instead of worrying about answering an influx of personal questions.
“It has definitely cut down on the amount of explaining that I’ve personally had to do,” he said.
Ryerson HR will officially announce the new web content in its December newsletter.
A previous version of this story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on November 27, 2013.
This version corrects attribution in the 8th paragraph that was mistakenly given to someone else.