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Honouring Transgender Awareness Today – and Every Day

Dec 12, 2023

At Invest Ottawa, we are committed to a continuous journey of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I).

Recognizing that the richness of diverse perspectives is integral to innovation and growth, we actively seek out opportunities to evaluate, learn, and practice ways to be better allies. And this mission extends beyond mere acknowledgment; it requires deliberate and consistent action to support our underrepresented communities.

As a leading economic development agency, our mandate is not only to foster business growth. We also set out to cultivate an environment where all individuals, regardless of gender identity or expression, feel valued and empowered.

By embedding DE&I principles at the very core of our activities, we aim to drive meaningful change, both within our team and the broader community we serve. Our dedication to this critical goal is unwavering, as we believe it is crucial and fundamental to creating a thriving, inclusive, and innovative economic landscape.

Following November’s Transgender Awareness Week and Transgender Day of Remembrance, we wanted to share our learnings on these days of awareness and what it means to be a trans-inclusive workplace, along with language and terms used within the transgender community, and 2SLGBTQIA+-friendly businesses you can support.


History of Transgender Awareness Week and Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender Awareness Week and Transgender Day of Remembrance both serve as reminders of the struggles and resilience within the transgender community.

Initiated in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith, the Transgender Day of Remembrance commemorates the life of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was tragically murdered in 1998. This day, observed annually on November 20th, extends into a week of awareness, aiming to highlight the continued violence and discrimination faced by transgender and gender-non-conforming individuals.

Historically, this community has been disproportionately affected by violence, with countless unreported or misreported cases further obscuring the true extent of this crisis. This week in November not only honours the memory of those lost, but also fosters a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by the transgender community, emphasizing the urgent need for change.


Inclusion in the Workplace

Inclusion of transgender and gender-non-conforming individuals in the workplace is not just a moral imperative, it’s also key to fostering a diverse and innovative work environment. Recognizing and supporting gender diversity promotes a more inclusive, respectful, and productive workplace.

“Diversity is a fact, but inclusion is a choice we make every day. As leaders, we have to put out the message that we embrace and not just tolerate diversity.”

–Nellie Borrero (Managing Director, Senior Strategic Advisor – Global Inclusion & Diversity at Accenture)

In today’s rapidly evolving society, the importance of continuous learning and adaptation in the workplace, especially regarding diversity and inclusivity, cannot be overstated. As we strive to create more inclusive environments, it’s crucial that organizations keep pace with the evolving understanding of gender identities and expressions.

Embracing this journey of learning not only fosters a culture of respect and empathy but also ensures that every individual feels safe, valued, and empowered.

Here are some strategies for fostering transgender inclusion in the workplace:

  • Implement Comprehensive Non-Discrimination Policies: Establish clear policies that explicitly include gender identity and expression, ensuring a safe and respectful workplace for all employees.
  • Provide Gender-Neutral Restrooms: Offer gender-neutral restroom facilities and allow individuals to use restrooms that align with their gender identity, enhancing comfort and safety.
  • Offer Training and Educational Resources: Conduct regular training sessions and provide educational materials to all employees, aimed at building awareness, understanding, and empathy towards transgender and gender-non-conforming colleagues.
  • Support Gender Transition: Demonstrate support for employees undergoing gender transition by offering inclusive healthcare benefits and flexible leave policies. This reflects a deep commitment to employee well-being and respect for their personal journeys.
  • Foster an Inclusive Culture: Actively promote a culture where differences are celebrated and all voices are heard, creating an environment where everyone feels encouraged to contribute their best.


Understanding Transgender Identity

As we navigate the evolving landscape of gender identity, it’s essential to understand the language and terms used within the transgender community.

This glossary offers definitions of key terms, providing a foundation for respectful and informed discussions. Our goal is to foster a deeper understanding and support inclusive dialogue in our community and beyond.

Trans or Transgender: Individuals who are transgender have a gender identity that differs from the gender they were assigned at birth. The term “trans” is commonly used as a shorthand for transgender. This identity is a personal understanding of one’s own gender, which may be male, female, a blend of both, or neither, and is independent of sexual orientation.

Non-Binary: Non-binary refers to a spectrum of gender identities that do not exclusively align with traditional male or female categories. This term encompasses those who may experience their gender identity as lying outside the binary concepts of male and female, or as a fluid interchange among multiple genders, not necessarily tied to the gender assigned at birth.

Gender Non-Conforming: Gender non-conforming individuals do not adhere to societal expectations or norms regarding how they should express their gender, based on the gender assigned to them at birth. This term is inclusive of various ways people express their gender that diverges from traditional gender norms, which can include dress, personal pronouns, behavior, and more.

Genderqueer: This term is used by some individuals who regard their gender identity as outside of, not aligned with, or beyond the binary framework of male and female. Genderqueer people may see themselves as a mixture of genders, as a distinct third gender, or as having a fluid or fluctuating gender identity.

Gender Fluid: Gender fluidity refers to a dynamic mix of male and female. A gender fluid person might feel more like male some days and more female on other days, or perhaps feel that neither term describes them accurately.

Cisgender: A term used to describe individuals whose gender identity aligns with the gender they were assigned at birth. For example, someone who is assigned female at birth and identifies as a woman is cisgender.

Supporting 2SLGBTQIA+ friendly businesses in Ottawa

Ottawa, a city celebrated for its vibrant and inclusive culture, is home to a wonderful array of 2SLGBTQIA+ friendly businesses. From leisurely bike tours to cozy bookshops and elegant dining experiences, here’s a spotlight on some of Ottawa’s finest 2SLGBTQIA+-friendly businesses:

Escape Bicycle Tours: This proudly 2SLGBTQ+-owned and operated tour company offers bike and e-bike tours of the city’s landmarks, history and culture.

Black Squirrel Books: The store regularly hosts events that celebrate queer culture, including readings, workshops and performances.

Milk Shop Ottawa: Celebrating the 2SLGBTQ+ community no matter what month it is, you’ll find local items created by queer artists year-round.

Parlour: This queer-friendly restaurant in the Westboro neighbourhood offers an incredible dining experience.

Vanitea Room: This elegant spot is not only known for its delectable high tea service and menu, but they also host weekly drag dinner shows and a monthly drag brunch show you won’t want to miss out on!

Little Jo Berry’s: A unique and community-focused vegan café, known for its delicious vegan treats and its commitment to creating a safe, inclusive space.

Resource: Ottawa Tourism


For businesses and entrepreneurs seeking to create a more inclusive workplace for transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals, a variety of Canadian and international resources are available. Here are some valuable resources to consider:

  1. The Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI) offers a guide for creating a transgender-inclusive workplace.
  2. Egale Canada is Canada’s leading organization for 2SLGBTQI people and issues, focusing on research, education, and advocacy for human rights and equality.
  3. The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (CCGSD) promotes diversity in gender identity, expression, and romantic/sexual orientation through education, health, and advocacy services.
  4. The Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health (CPATH) supports the health and well-being of trans and gender-diverse people through a network of healthcare providers.
  5. Peninsula Group Limited provides best practices for transgender inclusion in the workplace.
  6. Pride at Work Canada collaborates with employers to create more inclusive workplaces for LGBTQ2+ individuals, offering various services including workshops and networking events.
  7. The Centre for Social Innovation offers guidance on creating trans-inclusive workplaces, including strategies for both basic accommodations and fully inclusive practices.

Our commitment at Invest Ottawa to fostering an inclusive environment goes beyond policy—it’s about nurturing a culture of empathy, respect, and celebration of diversity in all its forms.

By embracing the richness of varied experiences and identities, we not only enhance our professional spaces —we also enrich our personal lives and the community at large.

Today, and every day, we stand in solidarity with the transgender community, committed to learning, growing, and making Ottawa a beacon of inclusivity and innovation. Let’s continue this important work together, ensuring that every individual feels seen, heard, and valued.

Invest Ottawa
Invest Ottawa, is Ottawa’s leading economic development agency for fostering the advancement of the region's globally competitive knowledge-based institutions and industries. Invest Ottawa delivers its economic development services through a unique partnership with the City of Ottawa, where the City and Invest Ottawa, through its members set the strategy and manage the programs that move Ottawa’s economy forward. Invest Ottawa is a non-profit, partnership organization that operates on an annual budget that comes from a variety of sources including: municipal, federal and provincial government; membership fees; professional development programs; and private sector contributions.

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