Transitioning at work

I transitioned at work a while back (time flies when you’re having fun as they say lol), but wanted to make an entry talking about my experiences in it. This post is going to go through and talk about my experiences and what I did, as it went really well. There are many reasons for this, but I think a large part of it was tied to the way I handled this. I certainly didn’t do it alone though. I read as many posts as I could by people on Reddit or other blogs I could find. The most influential though was perhaps EntirelyAmelia’s post along with various reading from HRCStonewallSHRM (which is a resource many HR departments use), and reading what public guidelines I could find like Earnest Young’s policy. No single resource was used in the entirety, but as you’ll find out when you get to my letter you’ll see parts that were heavily influenced by these sources. There were others, but I can’t seem to find them again. Before we get to that though, there was a lot to go through.

At that point in time before telling work I would pack two wardrobes on work trips, and go out presenting female if I thought I could get away with it without coworkers noticing. In one case I went to work presenting male, went back to the hotel to change and put on makeup to go to dinner at a nice place presenting female, and then went back to the hotel to change back into the clothes I had on earlier to go into the office to do a change. Still had makeup on though as I was alone in the office for the work I was doing. I started to get flagged in security due to either boobs or anatomy (if I presented female and didn’t tuck well enough) and that prompted me to get my Global Entry done so I could get precheck and avoid the body scanners almost 100% of the time. After that it wasn’t a problem. Back to the topic of this post though. I was leading two lives through this period and it went on for about 4-5 months. Over time it progressively became harder and harder to keep things separate and not accidentally say/do/etc something in the office. Like missing nail polish when I removed it Sunday night after putting it on Friday night.

So around the winter holidays I decided I needed to tell work and stop living two lives. I tried to get a meeting together the week between Christmas and New Years. That didn’t work out, but I knew I’d have to tell them as I was submitting my legal name change at that point in time and my boss would know at minimum due to it having to get updated in HR systems for stuff like payroll. At this point I should probably mention something else I did. I left my previous job earlier that year. One reason was professional development and career growth, but the second one that was going to make me leave no matter what was that I didn’t feel the prior company would be supportive if I transitioned there. So I looked for a new company that was professionally a good step for me, but that also would be a global and ideally publicly traded company as those have the strongest protections out there as a general rule. I found one that was just about ideal for that point in my career.

I submitted my legal name change on one of the last days of the year. I went back to work in January after the holidays knowing that was coming but nervous about talking to HR. I ended up setting up a meeting with them to disclose my intent to transition and start to build the plan to do it. HR said they were supportive and to let them know what I needed. They hadn’t had anybody transition in the company before, although ironically a second person had come to them a few days later doing the same thing. So I provided them the resources I had found regarding how to handle it, but they ended up telling me that I didn’t even need to disclose it outside of my immediate supervisor. I saw this as majorly flawed as a course of action. Showing up one day presenting female is in no way what so ever the right way to do it IMO. That’s how rumors and shit talking behind your back get started. I told them that wouldn’t work and I was going to send an email to the people I work with as I interact with people globally within the company. Furthermore, I felt it was critical to have my boss and ideally the VP of the department aware and on-board as well.

After talking to HR we set a date that coincided with my legal name change. A plan took shape largely influenced by myself where the week before going full time I’d tell my boss on Monday. Wednesday talk to the VP. Friday talk to my team before sending out an email to ~130 people. The next 2-3 weeks were crazy. I scheduled a week long work trip the week before telling my boss which helped as I was busy there and able to kind of distract myself from having anxiety about it. Monday comes and I find out that we are getting lunch with a new hire to my team. That was totally unexpected and while it could’ve thrown a wrench in things, I pressed on with the original plan. It’s one of the benefits of building a plan. You then execute the plan and unless it’s a major issue derailing things, you just keep on track with the original plan. After lunch I told my boss.

My boss is a good guy, but he is not the type you’d really look forward to telling you’re transitioning from male to female. He surprised me though and was supportive. He didn’t understand it (still doesn’t to a large degree I don’t think), but unless you’re trans you kind of can’t. HR wanted to be present for the meeting, which I told them no I wanted to do it one on one. The reason for this was that I wanted to show my boss I trusted him and didn’t need HR there to “document” it. I did trust my boss though. If I hadn’t, then I’d have looked for a new job because their support is something I see as very important. They need to have your back in case of things happening outside of your presence. This is also a similar reason to why I felt I needed to tell the VP up front.

That meeting with the VP my boss and HR were both there for. My boss had told him already, which I was okay with. The VP was totally supportive and went to each manager individually to talk to them one on one in private about it before I sent out the email. I also sent the email to the VP, my boss, and HR to proof read since I would send it to most of the department. I also decided to tell my team before the email blast as I wanted to tell them personally instead of via email. My boss said he’d call a team meeting Friday morning before sending out the email.

This week I was a wreck. Thank god I had the partners I did at the time as they were amazing. They supported me and carried me through helping me to know it would be okay on the other side. Going into Friday was scary as shit. I was so worried about what would happen. How would my team react? How would the department react? How would the people who talked about Caitlyn Jenner was a “dude” and always will be even if “he” “chopped off his dick”, along with a bunch of other anti-trans sentiments, react? Would I go to lunch with coworkers still? Would I be ostracized and become a pariah?

Friday morning came and my partners gave me a hug, kiss, and offered their support. I was shaking all morning before the team meeting. Then an hour before I was sending out the email my boss called a team meeting. We walk in and he goes, “well I called you all in here… but really I’m not sure what to say here. So I’ll just let (dead name) go from here.” It was honestly all he needed to say. From there I nervously started talking. “Thanks. So I asked (boss) to call this meeting because in an hour I’ll be sending an email out but wanted to talk with all of you before hand. I am transgender. Starting Monday I’ll be presenting female at work, and will be getting my name updated in the system to (new legal name). This isn’t something that came out of nowhere, but instead has been a lifelong journey getting to where I am now. Professionally nothing should change, but I can only imagine what it’s like from your view. So I asked (boss) to get a meeting together where you can feel free to speak your mind. I’ll be happy to answer questions in this room, so with that I’ll leave the floor open.” Most of the team was in an awkward silence before saying they thought I was going to say I was quitting. From there I got a lot of congratulations, support, being told they can’t imagine what I must’ve gone through, etc etc. All in all it was pretty good. One person didn’t really say anything in the meeting though, which I’ll get to later. When we left I felt pretty good. I had the support of my team (at least based off that meeting), my boss, the VP, and HR. I also had a coworker send me an IM when I got back to my desk telling me their cousin is trans and transitioned a few years earlier. He was one of the few people in the family that didn’t cut her out of their life apparently. So that was awesome to hear and showed me I had more support than I might’ve otherwise seen.

From there I just re-read that email. I nervously was texting my partners as well as I waited for the time I was going to send it out. When the time came I proof read one last time then clicked send. In that moment I felt instant relief. It didn’t matter how they responded because it was over. From this point forward things were going to happen as they were. I did everything I could to shape the narrative, but ultimately it was out of my control now. That was extremely liberating. A minute or two later I get a guy coming over going “congratulations!” He was super supportive and wanted to talk about various parts of it and just was all around supportive. By the time he left a few minutes later I had 20+ replies from people saying how happy they were for me, offering support, a trans guy IM’ed me telling me how he remembers that day he did that at his last job, etc. The weirdest thing was that almost instantly many of the women befriended me. I wasn’t prepared for that. But they had welcomed me in arms open. All in all, out of ~130 people this email went out to I got over 50 replies that mirrored the initial comments. I was awe struck. Not in my wildest dreams did I expect to have that level of positive reaction to it. I also was complimented by many people on how I articulated and composed the email. I’ll leave that for you to judge for yourself, but here is the email in entirety:

Good morning!

I know this email is a bit long, but this took me a bit to compose this so I hope you take a few minutes to read through it. I’ve attempted to keep this as short as I can.
Since I’ve started here, my physical appearance has changed a lot. It might be obvious to some people about the reason behind these changes, but perhaps not. In either case I’ve done my best to keep my professional life very separated from my personal life. But now I’m at a point where those can no longer be kept separate and that is the reason for this email.
I am transgender. It’s who I’ve always been and will continue to be. Over a year ago I realized I could no longer refuse to accept it, and I knew what that meant. So I started down the path to transition to live my life as the person I am, not who others (or society at large) thinks I should be. Since I started down this journey I haven’t looked back, except to reflect upon how I am not the person I pretended to be, and it’s helped me be to be happier than I’ve ever been.
Perhaps the easiest way to explain what being transgender is would be to say that I identify as a woman, but it’s more than just that. I’ve felt this way my whole life from some of my earliest memories through to today. It’s not simply about clothing, makeup, or any of the physical stuff. It’s also not that I feel “trapped in the wrong body”, but, like many trans people, am simply working to align my mental, emotional, and social lives with one another. I hope you won’t feel awkward or uncomfortable around me moving forward and outside of using a new name, some different pronouns, and a different appearance things don’t need to change much from how things have been.
Starting this Monday (date) I would ask you to start using my new name, (legal name)(or (common name) as most people do), and female pronouns (she/her/hers) moving forward. I’d also ask to please refrain from using my old name and male pronouns when referring to, or interacting, with me. Our systems are being updated to reflect my new name so there won’t be any confusion from seeing disparate names in Outlook, Skype, or elsewhere in our systems. I know there will be an adjustment period and know it will take time to get used to; however I ask for your understanding in this and the importance of using the correct name and pronouns. I won’t take offense to honest mistakes, provided it doesn’t feel intentional or deliberate, but will start to kindly and politely correct incorrect names or pronouns if needed over time. Beyond that I’d only ask that you see and treat me the same as any other woman in the office. I do want to take a minute, just so there isn’t ambiguity or uncertainty, to say that there are some words (e.g. “tranny,” “she-male,” “shim,” “he-she,” “pre-op,” “post-op,” “sex change,” “MTF,” “TGirl,” or “it”) that are completely inappropriate and never okay to use.
There is more to this than I could ever begin to convey in a simple email and I want to keep this as brief as I can. If you have questions please feel free to reach out via email, IM, or stop by my desk. I’ll be happy to answer almost anything to demystify what being trans really is and help to create a greater understanding of what being transgender means. I also have some resources I can link you to if you’re interested that I’ve used to send family and friends when asked. If you would prefer to talk through personal email instead, just let me know and I can give you my personal email instead. It might seem overwhelming, but it’s really not all that complicated. I, like you, am here to do my job to the best of my ability, and plan to continue doing that.
I have greatly enjoyed working with all of you since I started here. I’ve also enjoyed the professional relationships that have developed over that time, and I look forward to continuing to build upon those relationships. I appreciate you taking the time to read through this, and hope you have a good weekend.
Thank you,
(new name)
I didn’t have a single person who used my old name or male pronouns after that email was sent (granted I left soon after that email was sent to work from home). In the time since then I truly have felt that I’m seen as a woman in the office. I’ll get talked over by guys in the room at times, concepts I put forward are rejected but then proposed later and talked about what great ideas they are, and all the other things that women in the office have to deal with now. I’ve experienced a lot of it. To the point that a person in a senior management role told me how they caught themselves checking me out ~2-3 months later. About the only issue I have is people reminding me about how they told me this stuff would happen when I “joined their team.” It’s one reason I look forward to moving on, and talked about in this job post a few months ago.
For the time being, I’m still at the job I transitioned at. Ironically, that post about leaving actually let to one of the things I had hoped would happen if I stayed actually happening. At almost 3000 words though I think I’ll save that for another day.

Moving on. Literally. (First interview post transition)

A month or two back I started applying for a new job. My current one has kind of hit a dead end professionally speaking, I’ve stayed ~6 months after their generous ability to “work remotely” from Thailand for a month for SRS, and feel that I can now move on without burning professional bridges. Additionally, I’m now healed to the point I’m back to 100%. I can go 3 days without dilating if I need to, although try to do it daily since I know once I drop off daily it’ll never come back. Relationships crashed around me last fall in a spectacular way and I’m still trying to rebuild a social infrastructure that was lost when that ended. Unfortunately, no matter how much I want and wish I could restart a relationship with partners from that group, she’s seemingly moved on and I don’t think a possibility of me being a part of her world exists anymore. Maybe I’m wrong and that does exist and one day our paths cross again, but I can’t keep waiting for that day that may never happen. I miss the three of them immensely and loved them all. So with my job being now professionally at a dead end (and remaining that way likely for the rest of the year at best), SRS is basically recovered from, and only a handful of really close relationships at present… now is a good time to move if I’m going to. If I found relationships here again, or got a new job here, or whatever then who knows how long I’ll remain in this area. I started applying and ended up with two positions that I was interested in. One didn’t work out. This is the other position.

Phone interviews went really well. Everything aligned there, rough salary numbers were close enough to talk further, etc. So they offered to fly me to their office in the Pacific Northwest for the last interview stages in person. I was totally on board and a week or so later was flying out there. Unfortunately due to some issues with connecting out of Chicago my original flight the night before wouldn’t workout and resulted in getting up at 330 AM Eastern, to land at 1130 AM Pacific, and go right to 6 hours of interviews.

Walking in presenting female for a senior level technical role in IT for the first time was surprisingly easy and comfortable. It really was amazing how just natural I felt. Here I was in a place where nobody knew I was trans and everybody saw me as a woman. I can’t say I wasn’t worried about “tells” outing me, like my shoulders, voice, makeup/beard stuff since electrolysis is still on-going (and makeup was ~10 hours old when I landed), hand size, or whatever else might “out” me. I absolutely was concerned about all of those things. The thing about it though is… it didn’t matter. I was there to interview for a position they wanted me for. They wouldn’t spend ~$1500 to fly me out if they didn’t want to hire me at that point. Once I got into the interviewing all of that faded away. I ended up with an intent to offer by end of the next business day (note, it was only an “intent” as there was a lot to discuss/clarify about the overall offer itself prior to them getting a written approved). I’m likely going to get a written today or tomorrow and then be deciding if I’m going to take it the same way I figured that out before transitioning. Nothing has changed there.

What has changed, and will change if I take the offer, is that nobody there will know my past. Not a single person there can “remember” the persona I crafted for the public. I’ll be walking into a place where people don’t know that person before. They don’t know I had SRS. They don’t know anything other than the person I always wanted to be and now am able to exist as. That’s powerful. Yes I’d miss so many of the friends and family I have here, but I need to move forward in life. I’ll do what I can to maintain and ensure those relationships don’t get lost, but I need to build up the life of the person I am now. Without the history of my past there. I spent ~20 years in my current area before transitioning. It’s really hard for me to not see things through the lens of the person I was, regardless of myself not being that person. I need that to end. I need a way forward. I need to build new memories solely as the woman I am founded from that foundation.

One thing I do want to talk about though regarding my experiences. As I’ve said before I’m extremely fortunate in that I “pass.” This made it infinitely easier as people see me as a woman, instead of being trans. I have a few thoughts on this. First and foremost, regardless of how it should be currently in our society “passing” makes things easier. But what does that entail? Well, you might be surprised. There are a lot of women who have “masculine” features, so work on finding yourself and being happy with yourself. Whoever that is. With that being said, personally speaking voice is one of the singular most important things for me and has helped people to overlook otherwise “masculine” features. For what it’s worth, I started transitioning just after turning 28. It took about 6-9 months before I was generally “passing” (although my voice wasn’t since I hadn’t worked on it at all). My genetics happened to respond well, but don’t think that you can only successfully transition when you’re younger. Furthermore, I didn’t transition for society. I did it for myself. And I am so glad I did. To those of you reading this blog in the early stages of potentially transitioning, or having started to… it gets better. It’s not an easy process and you have to work at it. Find out how to dress yourself properly to make shoulders look smaller (like I have to do). Work on your voice if that’s important to you. We are all different in our journey on this path, but you have a lot of control over your destination. If “passing” is important to you like it was to me, then you have to work at it repeatedly and brush yourself off when rough patches happen. Figure out what you want though and work relentlessly towards it. I absolutely will say though it’s worth every ounce of fucking effort I’ve put in, and I still work on things daily (like voice). I’m trying to get to the point that I have as much experience as any other younger professional woman, and that means a lot of time practicing. Things will get better and in the mean time try to enjoy the ride. It’s a once in a lifetime experience that is unlike anything else I’ve ever been through. Here’s to moving forward with my own life, and hopefully helping you move forward with yours. Cheers!

This is how you support your employees

A friend who I met at the company I worked at through college posted something today that was amazing to read. She was in a “leadership sensitivity meeting” (which as an aside can’t they figure out a better way to word that?) that was about employees who are transitioning or exploring their gender. This is a large corporation (anybody in the US would know of them) and they have always been great about supporting minority groups. But to actually have a proactive session talking to management of an entire campus about trans issues, experiences, and how to support trans employees is amazing. It was done by a trans person at the company who explained their experiences and how best to support trans people.

When I worked there I had inklings and thoughts that I’d love to transition, well more accurately be “forced” by somebody to make me transition since I could then blame them if it went poorly, I also didn’t have any positive affirmation that they would support that. And when you’re a young trans person who is still hiding and afraid to even open that proverbial closet door even just a crack out of fear, you need to have support. I saw a post on Reddit today about how schools with gay/straight groups foster a more inclusive and supportive environment. And reading comments people asked, “why are straight people included?” Which is a question I couldn’t figure out the answer to. Thankfully, others posted the answer which is two fold. First, it allows people to go without “outing” themselves. I can go and just say I’m supporting a friend or want to be an ally, and develop a safe and supportive environment to come out to first. And when you’re an adult you lose a lot of that. Especially as a trans adult.

When I started actually accepting I was trans I had to find all kinds of support resources myself. I thankfully had recently found Reddit which has an amazing community in /r/asktransgender that helped me initially. But I still hid that from friends, family, and perhaps most importantly from coworkers because I didn’t know how any of them would react. When you’re about to tell people you’re gay or lesbian some people will reject you and shun you. But, especially over the past decade, that has thankfully become increasingly rare. However that’s not true when you tell people you’re trans. Especially on the trans female side, and even more so if you’re a trans woman of color. We need to know we have support. And while I don’t expect everybody to go around waiving flags and marching in parades, it would be nice for companies who have inclusive policies (like this one my friend works at) to let their employee base know that they have inclusive policies.

For me if I had known that this company support trans employees when I worked there, it’s entirely possible that would’ve helped me to transition years sooner than I did. And I can’t predict how that would have changed my life, but I can say that it would’ve meant starting transitioning in my early 20’s, which means physically I would’ve seen more changes than I have. But perhaps more importantly it would’ve given me 5 or more years of being who I am and not hiding behind a persona of a person I thought society would accept.

But, that’s the past. And this is the present. So if you happen across this post and are in a position to try to help LGBTQ+ individuals within your company, or are part of a company who is like the one I’m talking about in this post, I’d implore you/your company to not just silently support people. But instead to proactively support people through putting out information as it relates to LGBTQ+ topics and your company. Ideally a handbook/guidebook kind of thing that explains some of the basics of LGBTQ+ terms, issues, and ways to support those individuals. As well as what the company policies are and potential avenues for employees to go down (i.e. talk to HR or boss first, whomever you’re more comfortable with kind of thing). And send this out as a “this is why our company is awesome” kind of internal marketing thing. Doing this is a win for all. It first showcases how your company supports their employees and makes them feel good about working for that company, but it also provides information to those who were like me and hiding out of fear.

One thing I will say though even when I worked there, and I don’t recall seeing any policies in their guidelines/HR policies, I have no doubt I would’ve been supported at that time by the company. And the fact that regardless of HR policies or guidelines I have no doubt I would’ve been supported if I had transitioned there is amazing. And that is how you support your employees.