As a gender non-conforming person of color public transportation can be scary to navigate. Sometimes I just don’t have the capacity to withstand the harassment and everyone gawking at me. Transport request apps like Uber have been vital for ensuring my safety and wellness on days when I’m navigating unfamiliar environments or just don’t feel comfortable dealing with other people's’ prejudice.
When I received an invitation to meet with Lana Goehring, Project Specialist and head of UberPride (an Employee Resource Group) to discuss gender non-conforming and trans issues, I was eager to have honest conversations about safety. Lana, as a fellow transfeminine person, understood how serious these issues were to me. In the past I have had private cars drive past me because they don’t want to pick up someone like me. I’ve also experienced harassment from drivers themselves. I wanted to speak with Lana about the work that Uber is doing to protect trans and gender non-conforming people on all fronts.
I was pleased to find out that they have revised their community guidelines for driver-partners explicitly stating that racial and gender discrimination is not allowed. There is even a push to have racial and LGBTQ sensitivity trainings offered to both driver-partners and vendors. Lana explained that if you ever experience discrimination that you can report directly on your app and it will be taken care of immediately. Steps are also being taken to ensure that trans drivers are referred to with their preferred names and can drive even if their ID documents don’t coincide with their current appearance. Trans driver-partners are being actively recruited in India and now – across the world – if you become an Uber Pro Driver the company will cover college tuition. This is a major resource for many trans and gender non-conforming people who have been denied educational opportunities due to compounded discrimination.
With all the anti-trans discrimination rampant in our country right now, I wanted to hear about how the company is ensuring trans protections. I was grateful to discover that the company released a statement against this DOJ ruling and emphasized that their non-discrimination policy superseded these recommendations. What is more, the company covers all costs associated with transition (including mental health services) and is, in fact, releasing trans healthcare guidelines including instructions on appropriate protocol to handle employees’ transitions. This is really important as many health insurance providers still list vital transition related healthcare as “cosmetic” and “not medically necessary.”
All together I was impressed to see how Lana and the folks at UberPride were insisting on moving beyond tokenism and ensuring full protections for trans and gender non-conforming people – setting a standard in a country where, unfortunately, anti-trans discrimination is becoming the standard.