Although scholars and practitioners alike tend to treat gender as being dichotomous, an increasing number of individuals worldwide identify as non-binary (OECD, 2019). For example, the latest U.S. estimates show that of all LGBT adults 11.3% identify as transgender, which is around 0.6% of the U.S. adult population (Gallup). In France, we can observe an upsurge of young people affirming their non-binary identity online after a survey conducted by YouGov for “l’Obs” revealed that 14% of 18–44-year-olds do not identify as either male or female (L’Obs, 2019). Increased media attention to non-binary issues such as the adoption of a “neutral” gender option on identity documents has not been mirrored in the scholarly literature, although there has been a recent increase in interest in the broader transgender population (Beauregard, Arevshatian, Booth & Whittle, 2018; Hennekam & Ladge, in press; Martinez, Sawyer, Thoroughgood, Ruggs & Smith, 2017; Schilt & Lagos, 2017). While non-binary or genderqueer individuals fall under the umbrella of “transgender: or someone whose gender identify does not correspond to the sex that s/he was assigned at birth, those who are non-binary may face differential challenges compared to those who identify as male or female within the trans community (National Center for Transgender Equality, 2021).
Broadly, transgender individuals experience difficulties in maintaining employment and encounter significant levels of discrimination and other forms of negative treatment at work (Beauregard, Booth & Whiley, 2021). These negative workplace experiences relate to lower levels of well-being and higher rates of depression and suicide (Budge, Tebbe & Howard, 2010). In addition, transgender individuals face unique organizational challenges such as policies that prevent them from accessing gendered spaces like changing rooms and bathrooms that align with their gender identity, or restrictive gendered dress codes that deny them the opportunity for authentic gender expression (Hennekam & Ladge, in press). Moreover, non-binary individuals experience even more discrimination than the general transgender population (Grant et al., 2011; Miller & Grollman 2015) and face greater difficulties at work (Budge et al., 2010). Individuals who identify as non-binary tend to elicit feelings of anxiety and confusion in organizations, increasing the stigma related to their gender identity (Ozturk & Tatli, 2016). Yet, while we know little about transgender experiences in the workplace, we know even less about the experiences of non-binary individuals at work.
This Special Issue adds to the burgeoning literature on gender and diversity management in the workplace. Research on gender, doing gender and gender identity expression in an organizational setting is relevant to human resource management practitioners and scholars alike. However, there is a dearth of studies on employees or workers who identify as non-binary (Miller & Grollman, 2015). Indeed, most studies have focused on LGBT individuals as a group, failing to acknowledge the different experiences of transgender individuals (Hennekam & Ladge, in press). In studies conducted within the transgender population, the emphasis has been on individuals who identify within the gender binary and may want to transition from male-to-female or from female-to-male. Furthermore, much of the research on non-binary individuals has been conducted outside the field of organizational studies and management, and as a result, has not been examined through the lens of organizational theories and frameworks. Drawing upon empirical, theory-driven research, we can better understand the work experiences of non-binary individuals as well as the factors that play a role in these experiences. In addition, more insights into the way co-workers, managers, or workplaces in general can best support non-binary individuals is needed. Through this Special Issue, we seek to understand the workplace experiences of non-binary individuals, how they navigate their careers and workplace relations, the way gender identity diversity is managed at work and how organizations can best include and support these individuals. We hope that encouraging greater academic attention to this growing population will lead to theoretical and practical implications that are useful for scholars and organizations alike.
Taken together, this Special Issue aims to advance knowledge on the workplace experiences of individuals who identify beyond the gender binary by seeking papers that may link current studies to seminal theory on these relevant concepts as well as those that expand notions of gender identity and gender expression to reflect current societal and organizational contexts. The goal of this special issue is to bring to the forefront a collection of high-quality theoretical insights and empirical research that adds to our understanding of the dynamics, antecedents and outcomes associated with living beyond the gender binary. As such, we welcome a range of theoretical insights and empirical approaches that tackle these issues in novel ways, provide links to existing theory and seminal concepts, develop new theory, and/or that add new perspectives on the challenges and opportunities associated with examining this line of research. Submissions should address topical and timely issues of relevance to a broad audience of organizational scholarship and we encourage interdisciplinary collaborations and perspectives. Finally, related to the issue of representation, we especially encourage submissions from non-binary authors.
We invite manuscripts that address, but are not restricted to, the following questions:
- What is it like to be non-binary in a binary workplace? What unique challenges do non-binary employees face?
- What is the role of organizational culture, co-workers, managers, or diversity policies in shaping the workplace experiences of non-binary individuals?
- Does thinking beyond the gender binary enhance creativity/innovation? Are creative/innovative organizations more inclusive of non-binary employees?
- What insights can be gleaned from the experiences of non-binary individuals regarding gender norms, doing gender and gender identity expression? Can organizational gender equality initiatives be informed by these insights?
- What can organizations do to support non-binary individuals and create an inclusive climate at work? How can allyship be encouraged and maintained? Are there specific HRM policies or practices that are helpful? Can best practices be identified?
- How do non-binary individuals see themselves and how do others see them? How do they respond to others at work and which identity management strategies do they adopt? How do they make decisions about gender identity disclosure at work?
- How does gender identity intersect with other personal and social identities, identities such as race, ethnicity and race and cultural background and occupation types?
- What can we learn from cultures where there is a third gender, such as Māhū or Manu in respectively Hawaiian and Tahitian culture, fakaleiti in Tonga or fa'afafine in Samoa, Two Spirit among Native American, First Nation and Indigenous peoples in North America as well as Hijra in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh?
- What can we learn from language issues at work related to non-binary individuals, such as the use of gendered pronouns?