We recently caught up with Julian Pietrangelo regarding his Data Analyst apprenticeship and career at UK children’s charity, Barnardo’s.
Alongside his job as a data analyst, Julian, who identifies as a trans man, is chair of the Trans Network at Barnardo’s. As part of this role, he aims to promote transgender visibility across the organisation, as well as making sure other trans colleagues feel listened to and have a safe space to meet.
During our conversation, we discussed more about identifying as transgender in a professional environment, and the importance of inclusivity in the workplace.
What can you tell us about the Trans Network in Barnardo’s?
So, at Barnardo's, we have four Equality, Diversity and Inclusion networks. There’s the Race Equality network, Disability network, Women’s network, and the LGBTQ+ network. They’re all open, so anyone can join them to learn more and get involved in events, for example.
But within each of those networks, there’s also a closed space that only people that identify with each protected characteristic can attend, and these are usually on a regional basis. So, the LGBTQ+ network has generally got one closed space per geographic region, for people who identify as part of that community to go along and meet each other. We’ve set up a separate closed space only for people who are transgender, wherever they are based. Members of this have access to a private group on the intranet where we can post things and keep in touch with each other.
What does your role as chair of the Trans Network involve?
I’m the ‘public’ face of the network, and I do things like organise and run meetings. Sometimes I also represent the network at a more senior level, like in various strategy groups or as part of a consultation about policies. I recently produced some newsletters to update everyone on what’s happening in the LGBTQ+ community in Barnardo’s, and I’m hoping to arrange an in-person meeting next year as they are all online at the moment.
Most years, we have held events or run campaigns as part of Transgender Day of Visibility and Transgender Awareness Week. I’ll usually be involved in organising our participation in these activities at those times too.
Can you share more about the events that the Trans Network may plan?
Barnardo’s primary aim is to help and support children and young people so, of course, that includes LGBTQ+ children and young people. As part of this, I want to show what positive futures for transgender people can look like.
You hear about transgender people in the media, but it can usually be quite negative, or it will just focus on specific personal things like: what’s your body like? What are your pronouns? What’s your name? What toilet do you go to? But it’s never: What’s your career? What are you successful at?
So I want to do something to demonstrate that Barnardo’s is a trans-friendly organisation; that there are a range of people who hold professional roles here, as well as what their career path which has led to here looks like.
This is also where the support of allies across the organisation comes in, as they can help us to share these stories and resources as we make them available to others.
Have you ever had challenges being transgender in a professional environment?
Immediate colleagues at Barnardo's
I’ve been extraordinarily lucky at Barnardo's, in that from the minute I joined there were older LGBTQ+ role models around me. Although there were not many trans people that I knew of, it was always easy to be open. We’ve also done work and run services which specifically help and support LGBTQ+ young people. For example, we’ve had youth groups for the LGBTQ+ community since 2011 and our own in-house LGBTQ+ awareness training was already in place when I joined around eight years ago too.
Over the years, there were people around me who identified in different ways. I identified as non-binary for a while, and I always had people around me that were encouraging and let me change how I identified at my own pace. I’ve only really had good experiences even when I didn’t quite know how I identified or what I wanted to happen.
For example, early on I told my supervisor that I wasn’t comfortable with she/her pronouns, but, at the time, I felt like there weren't really any other options. So she diligently wrote all of my supervision notes without any pronouns. They were a bit clunky to read, but it was a really nice thing to do.
In the various stages of coming out, such as the change of my name, and changing my pronouns twice, everybody at work has been really nice about it.
Other professional experiences
Sadly, there have been challenging times with people outside of Barnardo’s. There was a person who I really liked and worked closely with who just wouldn’t get pronouns right for me or another colleague who also identified as non-binary.
She knew what our pronouns were - if you’d asked her then I think she would have been able to say. But it didn’t feel great to think that I wasn’t worth a little more effort. However, I do understand when people find it difficult to change the pronouns or name they use for somebody. This is where it is so helpful to have allies around, or a group of colleagues who will help and correct each other without you being there. Name and pronoun changes, like any rebranding, get a lot easier with practice.
I think people are broadly well-meaning and I’ll always show patience to people with good intentions. I also have my ‘good ambassador’ head on a lot of the time, but that’s why it’s good to go to Barnardo’s trans network sometimes to have a little rant in a safe space with people who understand my experiences.
But generally my experiences have been really, really good, even when I’ve been concerned about new people joining the team. I suspect that several people in my team just share my pronouns for me when they’re with new team members, so it’s really great that I haven’t had to do that and have never really had to correct anyone using the wrong pronouns for me in Barnardo’s.
How else can colleagues help a transgender person feel comfortable around new team members?
That’s a tricky one. For a start, you might not know that someone on your team is transgender, and there is no need for all trans people to be open about this in the workplace. Assuming you have a trans colleague who has come out to you, then you could ask them how open they are and whether they would like any support in speaking to other team members about it.
In general, we don’t need to know everybody’s gender identity and personal information in order to work with them; we just need to know their names and pronouns so that we know how to refer to them.
For me, at the current stage of my journey, I tend to make the assumption that I will be read by others as female, so I do feel a bit like I am coming out every time I share that my pronouns are he/him. Again, this is where allies can help.
When I first changed my pronouns I told my managers and asked them to either share this with their teams as an announcement or just update people on a case-by-case basis as they came up. I think I may even have provided an example script!
On another occasion, I was delivering a presentation with a colleague and they asked if I wanted to introduce myself. But instead I said to them, “can you say my name, but also slip in a ‘he’ here and there,” which was one way of getting my pronouns out there without it feeling like an announcement.
My tutor at Kaplan was good for this. He just used my correct pronouns within group sessions without feeling the need to draw attention to it, which is exactly what I wanted. My pronouns shouldn’t be a big deal, just respected without question.
There’s also the option of having your pronouns displayed in your email signature. I think it’s good when a lot of people have their signatures displayed so that you aren’t the odd one out if you are trans and choose to include them. However, I think it should always be a choice. That way, the act of putting your pronouns in your signature shows that you’re likely a person that understands what they mean and will respect others.
What about in public/non-professional places?
I think in public places, I struggle a lot with that feeling of judging how other people are perceiving me. For example, at home I can just go to the bathroom, but when I’m in public, I’m questioning whether I look visibly female or male, when all I want to do is go to the bathroom.
I recently joined a football team for women and transgender people, and we had to introduce ourselves by our names and pronouns. It felt a bit like, “I have to out myself again to people I’ve never met,” but in this case I knew that it was an inclusive environment before joining, and everyone else knew what to expect too., So doing the pronoun introduction was still me essentially coming out, but it wasn’t a scary thing and it felt appropriate in the context of the team.
So, I think depending on the environment that I’m in, I have to determine whether I feel safe or not. That’s why I think it’s important for organisations to give really clear signals about their inclusivity, so we don’t have any questions about whether we are safe and welcome. This could be through an all-gender bathroom option, through posters or rainbow lanyards or whatever else makes its acceptance visible as soon as you walk in the door or go their website.
Kaplan resources available for staff and learners
At Kaplan, opinions, views, and experiences like Julian’s are incredibly valuable to acknowledge when ensuring that we promote inclusivity and diversity for our learners and colleagues.
If you need any support or general well-being advice, visit our equality, diversity, and inclusion page where you can find several resources and points of contact for whatever you need.