I think that, for a lot of transsexual women, coming out at work is probably one of the hardest things to do, depending on the type of job they have. For some, actually leaving their job and starting over is probably the most effective (sometimes easiest) way to go through it, and that’s fine by me.
But for myself, I guessed that coming out at work would be possible, and definitely preferable to leaving my good-paying job and launch myself into the unknown in the midst of redefining myself. So, I opted on relying on other people’s openness to get through it.
I had couple of ideas on how my “coming out” could be executed, ranging from “just showing up” to having a full office meeting, with someone from corporate kind of introducing the situation to everyone before I showed up in full attire and makeup, ready to shine… But of course real life has a way of reducing the amount of drama we can put ourselves, and others, through. When I actually met with human resources, the response wasn’t exactly what I expected: our wonderful RH person basically told me that they (the company) would take no official action towards my transition, not even an email informing anyone.
She had a good reason for this: making any sort of announcement (even if it came from me to everyone) would have made this an event that was out of the ordinary, and that shouldn’t happen. It would be like having a party for a gay man coming out. No, the important thing was that we should act like this was the most normal thing in the world. Not avoiding the issue, just not putting a special emphasis on it. However, there was something that she could do, unofficially. She spoke to one or two of the girls here at work which were known to be part of the rumor mill, and asked them to spread the word around. They did so a week before I started coming to work as a woman, and I heard nothing of it – no feedback or comments, no whispers and no weird looks. Like nothing was going to happen.
And then on the weekend, I did a few changes. I modified my LinkedIn profile including my gender, name and picture, did the same on Facebook, re-added a few of my colleagues at work, and I prepared for the next Monday. And lo and behold, for most people it was kind of like business as usual. No gasps, no negative reactions. But that doesn’t mean I had no reactions at all. Two of the girls from Marketing came to see me to offer their support, tell me how I looked nice and happy, and ask me a few questions about my transition. My boss, when he came in (even though he was aware of what was happening), actually wondered who the heck was talking to his other employee, until I turned to look at him. He says he was “pleasantly surprised” and it “wasn’t as weird as he thought”. An honest opinion from a great person if there was any. But my response to his comment is just priceless and made him laugh hard enough that the girls in customer service had to shush him: “What did you expect, a purple sequin dress and feathers up my ass? I’m not a drag queen, boss, just a woman!”. Yeah, I said that.
Not everything went as smooth as butter however. One thing that I quickly learned was that some people, men and women, were uncomfortable with me using the women’s bathroom. And, though I was disappointed at this reaction (and, a bit annoyed that if the “individual” bathroom we have was used, I’d have to just stand there and wait), I accepted it as a normal hurdle in my transition.
That was on October 15th, 2012. Today, I can say that since then everything has been pretty peachy. Actually most of my interactions with other people have been “business as usual”, but for a few exceptions. One of the things that I realize is that my social interactions have taken a step forward. Something as simple as one of the girls (I call ’em the “fab five”) from customer service complimenting me on my nails, or a guy from R&D telling me he likes my shirt, that goes a long way into boosting my confidence. I’ve also found that it was great having people asking me questions and then continuing the conversation, that feels great too.
Also, I recently asked my HR friend to put her feelers out to see if sensibilities were better about me going to the right bathroom and it seems people are a little more comfortable – but the deal right now is that I should only use the women’s bathroom whenever the individual one is busy, and that satisfies me for the time being – I actually got that email yesterday and the occasion hasn’t presented itself yet, so no biggy. On the other hand, my boss continues to call me Eric and “him” by reflex, still working on that while trying not to make him feel too guilty about it.
So all in all, coming out at work was a good experience, one that went pretty smoothly, and I’m very satisfied with the current state of affairs.