Supporting transgender and gender diverse persons at the Communications Security Establishment


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Message from the Chief

Over the past 75 years, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) has grown and changed. In our efforts to serve and protect Canadians we have become increasingly diverse and representative of Canada. Canada has changed over the years too, enshrining the Canadian Human Rights Act and a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canada has also recognized and acknowledged mistakes of the past while building a more inclusive and welcoming society.

In 2017, gender identity and gender expression were added to the Canadian Human Rights Act as prohibited grounds of discrimination. The law was changed to ensure that transgender and gender diverse persons are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Today, many transgender and gender diverse persons face challenges in the workplace. Stress and anxiety associated with being one’s authentic self or coming out at work to colleagues and strangers can be overwhelming. Many colleagues of transgender persons struggle with how they can be effective allies and what they can do to support those who are either in the process of coming out or are joining the organization as members of the transgender and gender diverse community.

As a modern and dynamic organization, CSE’s goal is that every employee feels—every day—like a valued, contributing member of a welcoming, respected, and high-functioning community. The purpose of this document is to provide useful advice and guidance to people at CSE on fostering an inclusive and welcoming community for transgender and gender diverse persons. We must eliminate discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression in our policies, practices, and culture. As Chief, I want to make sure that all persons are and feel valued and respected, so they can feel at ease in the workplace and contribute fully and effectively to CSE’s mission.

This document is meant to be evergreen. Laws and best practices supporting the inclusion of all persons regardless of their gender identity or gender expression continue to change and evolve. And CSE will continue to learn and adapt as we build our community together. We will work in partnership with the Two Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (2SLGBTQIA+) community at CSE to ensure that our approach is grounded in the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion.

I encourage all of CSE to engage in conversations and actions that build a sense of belonging for every member of our community, and to be active and supportive allies to transgender, non-binary and gender diverse persons.

Shelly Bruce, Chief
Communications Security Establishment


Many individuals have questions about key terms related to transgender and gender diverse persons. Understanding terms, using them appropriately, and being open to learning are key factors in creating a welcoming environment for all persons. To help, here are a list of key terms related to transgender and gender diverse persons.

Assigned Sex:
The biological classification of a person as female, male or intersex. It is usually assigned at birth based on a visual assessment of external anatomy.
A person whose gender identity aligns with what is socially expected based on their sex assigned at birth.
The practice of intentionally or unintentionally referring to someone (often a transgender, two spirit or gender diverse person) by their birthname or former first name (otherwise known as a deadname).
Gender diversity:
Noting or relating to a person whose gender identity or gender expression does not conform to socially defined male or female gender norms.
Gender Identity:
A person’s internal and individual experience of gender. It is not necessarily visible to others, and it may or may not align with what society expects based on assigned sex.
Gender Expression:
The way gender is presented and communicated to the world through clothing, speech, body language, hairstyle, voice and/or the emphasis or de-emphasis of body characteristics or behaviour.
Refers to individuals for whom chromosomal, hormonal, or anatomical sex characteristics combine in a variety of ways that fall outside of medical and social classifications of male and female.
Occurs when you intentionally or unintentionally refer to a person, relate to a person, or use language to describe a person in a manner that does not align with their affirmed gender. For example, referring to a woman as “he” or calling her a “guy” is an act of misgendering.
Primary Name:
The name that an individual uses day to day which may or may not be the same as the individual’s legal name.
Sexual Orientation or Attraction:
The classification of a person’s potential for attraction to other people based on their sex and/or gender.
Transgender (Trans):
An umbrella term used to describe individuals who have a gender identity that is different to the sex assigned at birth. This includes:
  • Trans men: people assigned female at birth but identifying as male
  • Trans women: people assigned male at birth but identify as female
  • Non-binary individuals: An umbrella term to reflect a variety of gender identities that are not exclusively man or woman. Identity terms which may fall within this category include genderqueer, agender, bigender, genderfluid or pangender.

The definitions above are based on EGALE’s glossary of terms. EGALE is Canada’s national organization that advocates on behalf of 2SLGBTQIA + persons. Some modifications have been made based on consultation with community representatives. If you have additional questions about these concepts, please feel free to consult the additional resources located at the end of this document.

Answering key questions

Many people at CSE ask important questions about the agency’s approach to supporting transgender and gender diverse persons. The following is guidance we provide to create a safe, respectful and welcoming community at CSE.

For transgender and gender diverse persons

Will discrimination against transgender and gender diverse persons be tolerated at CSE?

No. CSE promotes a work environment free from discrimination and harassment based on sex, gender identity, gender expression,perceived gender and sexual orientation in accordance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act and other federal legislation aimed at eliminating all forms of discrimination. All employees are expected to also conform with CSE’s Values and Ethics Code.

If I face harassment or intimidation based on my gender identity or gender expression, what should I do?

If someone believes they are being harassed or are a witness of harassment or violence in the workplace they must report the incident as soon as possible to CSE’s Harassment and Violence Prevention Program (HVPP) Office.

If you have discussed a possible or potential occurrence of harassment or violence in the workplace with your manager, they should contact the HVPP Office immediately to report the incident. Your management team has a responsibility to prevent harassment and violence in the workplace.

Will CSE respect my choice of name and the pronouns I use to identify myself?

Yes. All CSE employees, contractors and visitors are expected to behave in a civil and respectful manner. This includes using the primary name, pronouns, honorifics (i.e. Mr., Miss, Dr., Ms., Mx) and gendered language chosen by every individual in both written and verbal communication. Intentional misgendering or dead-naming is unacceptable and is a form of harassment.

What can I expect from management and colleagues in building an environment that respects my gender identity and gender expression?

Everyone at CSE has a role to play to build an inclusive environment and community that supports transgender and gender diverse persons.

Chief, Deputy Chiefs and members of the Executive Committee (ExCom) are responsible for championing and modeling respect for human rights and establishing a respectful environment for all employees that affirms the value of equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace. They are expected to demonstrate leadership and commitment by holding management at all levels accountable for a workplace free of harassment, discrimination and violence.

Directors General, Directors, Managers, Supervisors and Team Leaders will communicate openly, respectfully, supportively and honestly with their employees. They provide opportunities for employees to respectfully express their views. Managers demonstrate leadership that inspires, motivates and supports employees. They nurture equity, diversity and an inclusive and respectful work environment free of harassment, discrimination and violence. They support employees’ personal goals and work-life balance while effectively ensuring organizational and operational requirements and performance. They ensure the health and safety at work of every employee and foster a culture of well-being based on human rights for all persons.

Employees are responsible for supporting the creation of a healthy and safe work environment that promotes individual and organizational well-being. They are expected to carry out their work in a way that respects human rights and values, equity, diversity and inclusion.

As a transgender or non-binary person, will information about my gender identity or gender expression be protected?

All Employees are responsible for protecting personal information under CSE’s control in accordance with the Privacy Act. This includes information related to sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, which is considered sensitive personal information.

Because of the sensitive nature of this information, CSE and its employees must not disclose or share this information without your consent or knowledge.

Some employees will be comfortable telling colleagues about their gender identity. Others will prefer to keep this information private. Disclosing a person’s transgender status violates their privacy. It may also expose them to unnecessary stress and/or unintended negative consequences inside and outside the organization. There is both a legal and moral duty to protect this information.

Due to some hiring requirements and processes (for example criminal record check), a transgender or gender-diverse applicant’s/employee’s current and previous legal name(s) and current and previous legal sex designation(s) may be recorded in employment related documents. An employee’s gender identity or gender expression will remain confidential unless the employee has provided their express informed consent authorizing the sharing of this information.

If an employee’s transgender or gender diverse status information is required to be disclosed for exceptional circumstances, the employee should be told to whom the information will be disclosed and for what purpose. Information related to an employee’s gender identity or gender expression will only be used or disclosed by CSE in accordance with sections 7 and 8 of the Privacy Act, which govern the use and disclosure of all personal information under the control of government institutions. CSE has administrative controls in place that ensure that your personal information is not disclosed to anyone who is not permitted access under the Privacy Act.

The all-gender washrooms are too far away from my desk to use them on a regular basis. Can I use the facilities that align with my gender identity and expression?

Yes. Employees can use the facilities that align with their gender identity and gender expression. Requiring or pressuring a transgender or non-binary person to use facilities that correspond to their sex assigned at birth, asking about the status of medical transition or to “prove” their gender identity is not appropriate and may be considered harassment.

CSE is working to increase the availability of universal or all-gender washrooms and changerooms at all facilities. CSE recognizes that the use of all-gender washrooms and changerooms is a matter of personal choice and people should not be compelled to use them if their preference is to use a gender-specific facility.

I am anxious about coming out in the workplace. Who should I tell? Are there things I should consider?

Who you tell and when you tell them is completely up to you. You can tell a colleague, a supervisor, Counselling and Advisory Program, or an ally from the 2SLGBTQIA + network at CSE. You can work with someone you trust to eventually engage with your supervisor or manager. Your gender identity or gender expression are protected. Rest assured that coming out will not affect your security clearance.

Your supervisor or manager will work with you to determine the best approach to telling your colleagues about your transition in the workplace. There are several factors you will want to consider:

  • Shift Work – may be necessary to meet with each group of shift workers separately
  • Small groups – face-to-face communications may be the best
  • Larger groups – email may be better. Email allows colleagues to send messages of support which can be helpful

Work with your manager to develop a plan on how and with whom you would like to share this information. It is your choice. Determine with your manager who will share the information and what information you would like to share. For example, you may wish to notify colleagues if you are using a new name and pronouns and the date when you would like that to take effect.

Will the organization support me in my transition at work?

Yes. Managers, colleagues, and organizations such as Human Resources, Security and Facilities Management will be supportive and will engage you on your terms to address the range of issues you may face. We recognize that this could be a complex and challenging time for you, and we will do our best to support you in any way that we can. Your manager and your colleagues also can have access to training to support you in your transition at work and ensure that you are treated with dignity and respect.

For managers and colleagues

A member of my team has come out to me as transgender. What pronouns should I use when I speak with or about them?

It is important to use the pronouns that a person has requested. Their primary name and pronouns should be used in all communications and records. Using the correct pronouns at someone’s request is a way of validating that we all have the right to live our truth and to share our truth.

Using correct pronouns and other appropriate gendered language conveys a sense of safety, respect, and dignity. This involves knowledge about personal pronoun options beyond she/her/hers for women and he/him/his, for men when referring to someone in the third person. Some people go by the non-binary, gender neutral pronoun set they/ them/theirs. Over time, we have also seen the addition of other non-binary, gender neutral options.

Misgendering a person can cause significant stress, anxiety and harm for transgender and gender diverse persons. It can trigger fear associated with a person being compelled to hide their true identity for years and is seen by many transgender and gender diverse persons as a way of diminishing their gender identity and trivializing the challenges they face in living their authentic lives free of discrimination.

A person may choose to use different sets of pronouns. A transgender or gender diverse person may be more comfortable using one set of pronouns with individuals they feel comfortable with and a different one in public. It is important to know that the pronouns/names an individual may want you to use may differ from the way they want to be referred to publicly. Using the pronouns/names a person asked you to use with other individuals to whom they have not shared that information, may “out” a person against their will. Having nuanced discussions about what pronouns/names a person wants you to use in different circumstances is helpful in avoiding that situation which can be a source of significant stress.

At times, you will make a mistake. That’s okay. Acknowledge your mistake and commit not to repeat it. Intentionally misgendering a person is unacceptable. It is a particularly significant source of stress and anxiety for transgender and gender diverse persons. Intentional misgendering of a person will be treated as a form of harassment.

I am a member of the security team. What are some good practices that I can use when engaging with transgender and gender diverse employees and applicants?

When conducting background investigations and source interviews, use the pronouns, honourifics and the legal name and gender for the relevant timeframe(s).

When introducing yourself to an applicant – regardless of their gender identity or gender expression – you can share your own pronouns. It will convey a sense of safety for persons and would demonstrate that CSE understands the complexity of gender identity and gender expression. It shows that people at CSE do not make assumptions about a person’s identity.

Change security records to prospectively reflect legal name and gender-marker changes as soon as possible. Best practices would be to have this completed within 60 days of being notified by the employee of the change.

Take gender identity and gender expression training. A few helpful organizations, including Pride at Work Canada, can provide this training to you and colleagues.

I manage a team at CSE. How can I help a colleague who has or intends to come out in the workplace as transgender?

Consider it a privilege that a colleague trusts you to divulge their gender identity. For many persons, coming out in the workplace can be difficult. A person may be further along in the coming out process in their private lives and may seek support to be their authentic selves at the office. Be supportive. You should recognize that the history of 2SLGBTQIA + persons in Canada’s security and intelligence community has been marked by exclusion (LGBT purge that ended in 1992), and this may cause anxiety for an individual coming out at CSE. Some CSE employees have expressed concern that coming out at transgender or gender diverse would affect their security clearance. Still today, transgender and gender diverse persons are far more likely to suffer violence, experience homelessness and face hostility, discrimination and harassment than other persons. It is important to listen to their concerns and be supportive.

Do not divulge the person’s gender identity to anyone without their express consent. Be mindful not to unintentionally out your colleague either. This could be a source of significant stress. It is up to them to decide when they are ready to inform people at work about their transition or their gender identity. You should support the employee and let them know that discrimination or harassment based on gender identity and gender expression will not be tolerated. Tell them you will be an active ally.

Being an ally is more than passive support for transgender and gender diversity inclusion. It means taking active measures to support colleagues and contributing positively to an environment where all persons feel respected and welcomed. It means engaging with colleagues and identifying specific measures to foster equity, diversity and inclusion for all persons.

Ensure that the employee knows that they have access to support from Counselling and Advisory Program and from the 2SLGBTQIA+ employee network. Should you feel you need support, know that you can access these resources as well. There is also training available for you and for your team if you believe that would be appropriate. Organizations such as Pride at Work Canada have provided gender identity and gender expression awareness and training to CSE employees and managers.

Work closely with your colleague who has come out to you to provide them the support they need. Work with them to develop a transition plan – recognizing that no two individuals have the same needs, and the transition plan may need to be adapted as the process of coming out in the workplace unfolds. Honest and respectful communications are key in a successful transition at work.

A transition plan may include:

  • The anticipated date for the change of name, personal details, and social gender (how they may change their gender expression at work)
  • Anticipated dates for medical appointments, treatments and surgical procedures and the type of leave to use
  • When to notify Pay and Benefits section of the name change with legal documents such as a new birth certificate
  • When to notify Security for new identity card
  • When and how colleagues should be informed
    • The employee decides who should inform their colleagues.
    • Note that for those who knew the person before transition, there may be requests for more information and support. Some transgender and gender diverse persons find engagement with these colleagues can be stressful and time consuming. Work with the person going through transition to find a constructive way to address the situation. Seek support from CAP if required.
  • Consider whether training for the group is required
  • Be prepared to address any harassment or hostile reaction
  • Consider any Duty to Accommodate (DTA) measures that may be needed. You may consult the Employee and Organizational Wellness group if you require further information.

The transitioning employee may not know all the details from the outset. Give them the time and the space to think carefully about what they want to do and when they want to do it. Recognize that transitioning is a very personal and individual process that can vary significantly from person to person. Use the transition plan as a guide but be prepared to adapt to the employee’s changing needs and wishes.

Know that your colleague who is transitioning will likely need to take leave to address legal and medical aspects of their transition. Work with them to ensure that they have access to the appropriate leave. Also recognize that given the limited number of health professionals that support transition, there will be a level of unpredictability as to when and how frequently your colleague will need to take leave.

Don’t impose the use of the transition plan or a checklist on the person who is transitioning, nor use it do dictate the pace and time of transition. Remember that the information shared with you is confidential, to be handled with the utmost discretion and should be safeguarded in accordance with the Privacy Act. Be empathetic and support your colleague through these challenges. Check in on your colleague regularly to see how they are doing. You will be making an enormous difference in their lives.


This document is designed to support transgender and gender-diverse persons at CSE, their colleagues, their managers, and the organization. It is by working together, by talking to each other and building mutual understanding and respect that the challenges facing transgender and gender-diverse persons in the workplace will be addressed.

This guide was based on work undertaken by EGALE, Pride at Work Canada and organizations such as Public Services and Procurement Canada, the National Security Agency in the United States and GCHQ in the United Kingdom.

This guide was also inspired by the LGBT Purge Fund’s Emerging from the Purge report. This important document highlighted the importance of inclusive practices for 2SLGBTQIA+ persons and contains valuable recommendations on how to improve the federal workforce.

CSE is committed to building a safe, welcoming, and inclusive community for all and will continue to work with partners inside and out of the organization toward that goal.

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