Skip to main content

Gender Affirmation Toolkit For Vanderbilt Employees



Vanderbilt University is committed to providing staff, faculty, students, postdoctoral scholars, and visitors with safe, inclusive, and healthy work and educational environments in which no member of the University community is excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination in any University program or activity based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Vanderbilt University prohibits discrimination based on any category protected by Vanderbilt policy, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Gender-based and sexual harassment, including sexual violence, are forms of sex discrimination in that they deny or limit an individual’s ability to participate in or benefit from University programs or activities. University policy also prohibits retaliation against individuals who raise issues of potential discrimination or who participate in an investigation of any claim of discrimination. These policies encompass Title VII of the United States Civil Rights Act, Executive Orders 13,087 and 13,672, and the decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, 590 U.S. __ (2020).

As part of our commitment to providing a safe working environment for all, the University has developed these guidelines for employees who are transitioning or identify as transgender, genderqueer, or non-binary, as well as the managers who support them.  The following guidelines are informational and evolving. Accordingly, the provisions of applicable existing University policies or agreements are controlling.



Gender identity: Gender identity is generally defined as a person’s own sense of identification as man, woman, both, or neither as distinguished from actual biological sex, i.e. it is one’s psychological sense of self.

Gender expression: Gender expression is everything we do that communicates our sense of identification to others.

Sexual orientation: Gender identity is distinct from sexual orientation, which describes to whom a person is romantically attracted.

Transgender: Transgender individuals are people whose gender identity, expression, and/or behavior are different from those typically associated with their assigned or presumed sex at birth. Someone who was assigned the male sex at birth but who identifies as a woman is a transgender woman. Likewise, a person assigned the female sex at birth but who identifies as a man is a transgender man. A person who has a gender identity other than “man” or “woman” might simply self-identify as transgender or use other terminology to define their identity, such as “non-binary.”Moreover, some individuals who would fit this definition of transgender do not identify themselves as such and identify simply as men and women, consistent with their gender identity. “Trans” is shorthand for “transgender.” This guidance applies whether or not a particular individual explicitly self-identifies as transgender.


Transgender is correctly used as an adjective, not a noun or verb.  “Transgender people” is appropriate, whereas the following terms are considered outdated, disrespectful, inappropriate, and often demeaning:

  • Transgenders
  • Transgendered
  • Transvestite
  • Tranny (this term is considered a slur)
  • Transvestite
  • Transsexual
  • Referring to an individual as “pre-op” or “post-op”
  • Sexual reassignment surgery


Max is transgender.

Max is a transgender person.


Max is a transgender.

Max is transgendered.

When referring to a transgender person, always use the person’s current pronouns, gender identity, and name, even when referring to the person’s past.

Gender non-conforming: A broad term used to refer to individuals whose gender expression is different from social expectations related to gender.

Transition: Some individuals will find it necessary to transition from living and working as one gender to another. Social role transition – that is, living full-time in the gender role that is consistent with an individual’s gender identity – is an important, and often the most important, aspect of a person’s gender transition. Transgender individuals may also seek some form of medical treatment such as counseling, hormone therapy, electrolysis, and surgical interventions as part of their transition. These treatments may be deemed medically necessary for many individuals, based on determinations of their medical providers. Some individuals will not pursue some (or any) forms of medical treatment because of their age, medical condition, lack of funds, or other personal circumstances, or because they may not feel the treatment is necessary for their well-being. However, this does not apply in all cases and others may require Family Medical Leave of Absence (FMLA). Members of our community should be aware that not all transgender individuals will follow the same pattern, and that decisions about which steps are necessary as part of an individual’s transition are highly personal ones made by the individual in consultation with appropriate health professionals. Whatever form a specific individual’s transition takes, like all members of the Vanderbilt community, they should be treated with dignity and respect. Moreover, the medical aspects of an individual’s transition will often be less apparent, and in some cases irrelevant from a personnel management perspective, than an individual’s social transition at the workplace. As used below, the term “transition” refers primarily to an individual’s social transition, as this is the point at which an employee will usually bring these issues to the attention of  their supervisor/manager.



An employee’s transition should be treated with as much sensitivity and confidentiality as any other employee’s private or highly-personal life experiences. Employees in transition often want as little publicity about their transition as possible. They might be concerned about safety and workplace issues if other people or their manager/supervisor becomes aware of the transition.

  • Managers and supervisors should be sensitive to these concerns and should advise employees to respect the privacy and dignity of transgender employees. Other employees should be provided information about a transition only if they need to know the information in the performance of their duties. Personal information about the transitioning employee should not be released to anyone who does not have a need to know unless the employee has provided prior written consent to disclosure. Questions regarding the transitioning employee should be referred directly to the employee, if that is consistent with the employee’s wishes. All employees should understand, however, that questions regarding a coworker’s medical process, body, and sexuality are inappropriate. If it would be helpful and appropriate, managers/supervisors may have a trainer or presenter from EOA or the Office of LGBTQI Life meet with employees to answer general questions regarding gender identity. Issues that arise should be discussed confidentially as soon as possible between the employee and the employee’s manager(s) and supervisor(s).



Gender identity is an integral part of a person’s identity. Avoid using language that makes light of, questions, belittles, or stigmatizes anyone’s identity, including those in the gender affirmation process. Pay attention to and use the language others use for themselves—when in doubt, respectfully ask how that person would like to be addressed.

It is important to use the name that an individual calls themselves by. Referring to someone’s old name (a.k.a deadname) is considered offensive and continued usage is harassment. Unless consented by a transgender person, someone’s deadname should under no circumstances ever be used.

We should all be encouraged to ask people what pronoun they use. If it is not possible to ask for the pronoun someone uses, use the person’s name in place of a pronoun. For example, if the person’s name is Susan, instead of saying “she has today off,” you can simply say, “Susan has today off.”

It is also appropriate to use they/them, which is generally considered a genderless pronoun. This should be used until someone verbally clarifies what pronouns they use or if it is in their signature.




Vanderbilt has many resources to help address issues of equity and inclusion regarding sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity, including Equal Opportunity and Access (EOA), Human Resources (HR), and the Office of LGBTQI Life.  EOA, HR, and LGBTQI Life each play integral roles in carrying out the University’s commitment to provide a positive working, learning, and teaching environments for the entire community.

The staff of each of these departments are specially trained resources and serve as your point(s) of contact for addressing questions or concerns and providing support and information in this area – both generally and regarding the topics referenced below. For example, a transgender employee who is undergoing a gender transition can work with EOA/HR/LGBTQI Life to create an individualized, carefully tailored “transition plan” to help ensure the employee is successful and supported at work. The development of these measures and supports, as well as the employee’s engagement with University resources, is driven by the individual employee. For example, a “transition plan” may focus on adjusting personnel and administrative records and developing a personalized communication plan to share the news with coworkers and clients, as appropriate and informed by the employee’s requests. Mangers, departmental HCM specialists and Vanderbilt IT could be essential partners in assisting with the transition plan. As appropriate during that process, EOA, HR, and LGBTQI Life can serve as a liaisons to other University resources to assist with potential issues such as healthcare/benefits and technology issues

Workplace Guidelines

EAO, HR, and LGBTQI Life are available to address these and other relevant topics on an individualized basis:

Privacy: Vanderbilt employees may choose to discuss their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression openly, or to keep that information private. The individual employee gets to decide when, with whom, and how much, if any, private information is shared. Medical records that contain information about an employee’s transgender status (such as the sex they were assigned at birth) are protected by federal and state privacy laws and should be treated as confidential in accordance with Vanderbilt policy.

Confidentiality: EOA/HR/LGBTQI Life might need to share certain pieces of information that are disclosed to them on a strictly need-to-know basis to take steps to address potential sexual or gender-based harassment. The staff of EOA/HR/LGBTQI Life are trained to take any appropriate next steps sensitively and discretely. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a confidential resource, and additional confidential resources are listed below.

Names, Gender, and Pronouns: Individuals should be referred to by the names and pronouns with which they identify, both in communications to and about them (see above Terminology links for more information on pronouns). This is true regardless of whether an employee has requested or made any updates to their name or gender marker in University or external systems.

Legal Name: An employee may request that their legal name be updated in Vanderbilt systems by submitting proof of an updated Social Security card (or other legally sufficient documentation). Their personal information can be updated in Oracle Cloud under the Personal Information module within the About Me section of the Navigator. Please reference the quick guide. Upon request from the employee, the University will work to update aspects of an employee’s employment record to reflect a change in name or gender. *

Name: An employee may identify a name to be added to University-wide systems and to be used along with their legal name. Personal information can be updated in Oracle Cloud under the Personal Information module within the About Me section of the Navigator. Please reference the quick guide. In many instances, but not all, the employee’s name will be prioritized by those systems and used in lieu of the legal name. This means that an employee’s name will not be automatically updated in every University record. *

Vanderbilt ID Card: The name listed on an employee’s Vanderbilt ID card may be changed. Visit the Vanderbilt Card Services Office to request a new Vanderbilt ID card. Only names in the Oracle cloud system can be used on a Vanderbilt ID. Please note, however, that Vanderbilt ID cards of licensed professionals whose positions require them to be licensed must use the name that is on the license. *

Business Cards: An employee may request to edit the name and/or pronouns on their business cards.

Gender Marker: Vanderbilt is currently working on a process for employees to change their gender markers in Oracle, with an anticipated date within calendar year 2021. Please check back for updates. *

Benefits: Employees are subject to requirements outlined by their health plans. To find out coverage and copays under your health plan, contact Human Resources or visit their webpage under “Benefits” to find your specific representative. Examples of topics employees may wish to discuss with their local HR benefits team include:

  • Health insurance coverage for gender-affirming health care
  • Paid time off/leaves of absence
  • Accessing family-related benefits (e.g., family leave and/or pension)

View the Transgender Services from Aetna here:

Workplace Attire: As a matter of best practice, expectations, rules, or policies around workplace attire should be applied equally and in a gender-neutral manner to all employees to whom they apply, and such expectations, rules, or policies should not be used to prevent any employee, including transgender or gender non-conforming employees, from living in the dress affirming of their gender identity and/or gender expression.  Questions regarding workplace attire should be directed to the EOA or HR.

Access to Restroom and Locker Room Facilities: An individual’s access to gender-segregated facilities (e.g., bathrooms, locker room facilities) is consistent with their gender identity.

In addition, Vanderbilt has single-use, all-gender restrooms in many of its buildings. These restrooms address the considerable stress people may face when having to guess which gendered restroom they should use in order to feel comfortable. However, no employee should be required to use a segregated facility apart from other employees because of their gender identity. Employees generally may not be limited to using facilities that are an unreasonable distance or travel time from their worksite. A list of current all-gender restrooms on campus can be found on the Office of LGBTQI Life’s Trans@VU website

* The card office, HR, and others are working towards a CY2021 go-live for these efforts



Vanderbilt University values cultivating and fostering an environment where anyone can learn, work, and live safely and comfortably. As a community, we are committed to preventing and responding to gender harassment. The university offers several resources to help anyone learn about, prevent, and respond to situations involving gender harassment.

Those resources include:

Resources for Reporting Discrimination

  • Equal Opportunity and Access: Responsible for implementing, administrating, and coordinating Vanderbilt’s nondiscrimination and antiharassment policies.


Resources for Support 

  • Project Safe Center for Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response: this center provides a broad array of resources and programs for faculty members on issues related to gender harassment, sexual harassment, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and other forms of sexual misconduct including workshops on reporting and responding, trainings on how to identify students in distress, information on how to support survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence, customized programs and more.
  • Office of LGBTQI Life: A cultural center and a place of affirmation for individuals of all identities, and a resource for information and support about gender and sexuality. The office offers resources, trainings (such as P.R.I.D.E. Trainings) and supportive staff to support employees.
  • Vanderbilt Trans@VU website: A collection of resources on the LGBTQI Life website which provide information on navigating University systems for transgender, trans, gender-variant, non-binary, agender, other non-cisgender people and allies at Vanderbilt University. Relevant policies on name changes, health care coverage, as well as gender inclusive restrooms and additional VU resources are all included on the site. s
  • Work/Life Connections-EAP:  this program provides counseling, as well as support for crises and critical incident stress management interventions.

Visit the Project Safe Center for Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response’s advocacy webpage for additional resources, and information on confidentiality regarding any of the resources listed above.


Health Resources

  • VUMC Program for LGBTQ Health: Assists LGBTQI people in finding and connecting with healthcare providers who are educated and skilled at providing culturally competent care. Vanderbilt University Medical Center offers gender-affirming services, including /medical appointments and ER visits.
  • Vanderbilt Clinic for Transgender Health: The Clinic for Transgender Health at Vanderbilt University Medical Center brings together specially-trained experts to provide and coordinate comprehensive care for transgender and gender nonconforming adults. From physicals and health screenings to hormone therapy and transition-related surgeries, the team is committed to understanding patient goals and needs. No matter where one is on their journey, a welcoming and supportive environment awaits.