Talking Points

PECO sheds light on transgender issues

In its latest panel discussion today, PECO, an Exelon Company, will discuss “Transgenders and Transition: It’s Time to Talk” at Energy Hall (2301 Market St.). Coming on the heels of Exelon’s new transgender policies that prevent discrimination and outline how managers and employees can more sensitively discuss transgender issues, the company’s LGBT caucus helped to create a panel of local experts to outline issues impacting transgendered individuals in the work place.

“PECO has a long history of embracing diversity and inclusion,” explains Martha Phan, manager of PECO’s internal communications. She says two organizations within the company, PECO Pride and Voices of Diversity and Inclusion, regularly do educational outreach and helped planned the event.

“Every year they focus a panel discussion on a tougher topic,” Phan explains. “You can have an HR policy, but it’s another thing to have a discussion about it and to really create awareness and allow us to have candor and an open dialogue.”

Several local and national experts are taking part in the panel. “The real deep discussion is going to be how do you make the work place more welcoming and less judgmental,” explains Nurit Shein, executive director of the Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia, and one of the panelists. The Mazzoni Center is the only LGBT health center in the region, currently treating more than 800 transgender patients. Shein says it’s the largest program of its kind in the United States.

Shein is joined by Mara Keisling, executive director of The National Center for Transgender Equality, and Stephen Glassman, chair of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, along with two PECO employees in transition who will speak about their personal experiences.

“Employment is key to having housing, health insurance and accessing appropriate care and self esteem,” explains Shein. “We’re trying to give them some of the things we’ve seen in our professional work, how they can be more welcoming and have no assumptions.”

Shein, who credits PECO with being proactive when it comes to LGBT issues overall, says many times it comes down to simply asking a person how he or she would like to be addressed. “People just don’t think about these things,” she says. “We live in such male and female worlds.”

“Transgenders and Transitioning: It’s Time to Talk,” Oct. 18, 1 p.m., Energy Hall at PECO, 2301 Market St.