Kim had this information about her work experience up at her own site, and I thought it was son good, I asked if I could put it up here.

Coming out at work (Part 1)

Preface

In order to accurately document the steps I took to achieve an open dialogue with Human Resources, I have included some important E-Mails I've kept all this time.  Telling the story purely by memory wasn't going to be enough to help those who are looking to achieve a similar dialogue with Human Resources at their company.  As a result, this section will be quite long.

Gathering Corporate Information

In June 1999, I was one month into hormone therapy and seeing a therapist on a bi-weekly basis.  I stopped attending the weekly group meeting with other transgender people because I was too focused on electrolysis.  I needed a break somewhere from my incredibly busy schedule and group meeting was chosen since it usually ran until 10pm.

Even though I had just started hormone therapy, I wanted to start gathering information about how my company would deal with a transgender individual such as myself.  I didn't want the effects of the hormones to do the talking for me.  Would I be fired in the same manner as some individuals who come out at work?   Was there a chance that I could be accepted?  If so, would I be forced to work for another department?  I didn't have any of these answers and it was important for me to get them before anybody ever found out about me the hard way.

I started by searching the corporate Intranet under the Human Resources section where all the policies and procedures of the company are published.  After spending some time reading through it I wasn't any closer to a definite answer.  I only knew that the company was very much in favor of corporate diversity and that I would not be discriminated on age, sex, religion, etc.  Almost every company has the same policy, but I wanted to find something specific.

I decide to write a letter - June 25, 1999

The next place I looked was the corporate diversity forum, which had less information except for one particular posting on GLBT issues.  It was written in such a way that it seemed like it came from someone who worked with Human Resources.  I decided to take a chance that evening by carefully writing a letter to this person.  What follows is the actual letter I sent.  Keep in mind, I had no idea who this person was, but it was very important for me to come across as being rational and completely flexible.

A close friend of mine is an employee of your company and is considering a gender transition while remaining an employee.  I have been asked to serve as an interface to allow this individual to get the answers they need to ensure a smooth transition for everybody.  I hope that you would be willing to provide such answers or to point us in the right direction so that we may get those answers.  If you can, please let us know who we should be conversing with if you are not the correct person to handle this issue.

I have been told by this individual that the company has been very active with the promotion of diversity in the workplace.  We are assuming that this includes those people who are Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual or transgender (GLBT).  If so, how does one manage the transition within the workplace without upsetting the balance of the local workplace?

In recent years, those employees who are Gay, Lesbian and Bi-sexual have been widely accepted in the work place.  In fact, I know a few individuals who fit into this category at the company where I work.  For the most part, it's considered a non-issue.  However, where does a transgender individual fit in?

Basically, this individual is looking for answers to the following questions:

1.  Is there already a written policy about transitioning within the workplace that nobody knows about?  If so, where do we get a copy of this documented information?

2.  Has anybody ever transitioned with the company in the past?  If so, how did the company deal with the issue?

3.  Is the company willing to protect the rights of the individual who is actively pursuing transition?  This would include the right to remain employed in the department that he/she currently works for.

4.  Is the company willing to provide sensitivity training for employees who work with this individual?  This would include employees that work in other departments as well.

5.  Is the company willing to protect the individual from any harassment from other employees?

6.  Is the company willing to allow the individual a leave of absence, similar to maternity leave, for the purposes of Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS)?

7.  Is the individual required to complete GRS before being allowed to adhere to the dress code of the new gender?  If not, I am assuming that the company will try to be open minded and allow the individual to make that decision on their own provided they respect the following wishes of the company: 

A.  Work with your manager on this issue.  Fellow employees should be aware of the change ahead of time using programs such as sensitivity training.
B.  Slowly phase into the new dress code by taking a more androgynous approach at first.
C.  Have a professional appearance.  i.e. Individuals seeking M-to-F transition should not have a beard.
D.  Get a legal name change.
E.  Keep doing your job well.  That is why the company hired you in the first place.

8.  Once the individual is living in the role as the other gender on a full-time basis, will there be a restroom problem?  This might be the biggest problem, but the company should protect the individual by allowing them to use the restroom of their new gender.  If not, this will eventually be an issue for the other employees.  They will begin to view the individual as the gender opposite to what they were.


Thank you for your time.  We really appreciate any answers you can give us.

The surprising response to my letter

I received this response to my letter two days later:

Dear Kimberly and Friend,

Greetings.  Let me start by saying I am flattered to have been contacted by you!!  I will try to answer your questions and defer as necessary.  I am not in human relations so I do not have all the answers - I may have some of the same questions.....

I am a MtF TG.  I have worked with the company since Nov. 1998.  I assume you got my name from the Diversity forum -- which is why I sign my name -- I am proud of who I am and willing to help others where I can.  I have known people who have transitioned, each has their own stories - some good, some not.   When looking for a new job this past year, I sent out some resumes with Lisa's name and noted at the bottom my status and I did have a couple of positive responses - for other reasons interviews did not take place but they were willing to extend an interview.  I did have a few "Thanks for being up front -- you do not meet our requirements..." responses as well.....

I do not know of any official policy, I would hope that the focus on Diversity will extend to people like your friend and myself.  The best thing to do is to talk to the manager or the HR generalist.  Those two resources will be important if you choose to transition and choose to stay with the company.  My experience is that transition occurs and all the pressures cause the person to seek new employment often in another field.

1)   Unknown, I would contact the HR generalist or HR Mgr.  I could do that on your behalf if you would like.
2)   Unknown.  I have only been with the company since Nov. 1998.
3)   Again, unknown.  The HR generalist or HR Mgr. would be people to chat with.
4)   Diversity is a big item right now, I would guess that the company would provide such training.  I do not know what part of the company you work for.  Certain departments and/or buildings may be easier than others.....
5)   I believe that the company is committed to protect all employee's from any harassment.
6)   The company via the website offers options to fill out a leave of absence for several different reasons.  That leave would be with the approval of mgt.....
7)   Unknown.  I personally, without discussing with anyone, have and do wear makeup (blush / eye shadow / lipstick / nail polish ) in a toned down neutral color manor - not bright red .....  I also "cross dress" at work - meaning I have and do wear "women's" clothes from sweaters/jackets to slacks to underwear/bra/hose even if it noticeable under other clothes.  Yes I often get funny looks or laughs behind my back etc. but I have not been attacked or confronted either.    I also have natural long hair that I pull back into a "professional" look.  I would love to wear dresses and heels to work but I'm not sure what would happen.....   I would suggest an androgynous appearance - it meets both the company and your personal goals.  You can save the dress and
heels for outside of work....
     A)   A definite.
     B)   My suggestion as well.
     C)   Always - It will make everyone feel better.
     D)   Part of the process, that also requires Social Security / Drivers license etc....
     E)   Yes.  You do not need to give the company an out to fire you for not doing your job.

8)   Again, it depend on where you are... Some places in the company have one rest room.  Some places have a Male, a Female, and a Unisex wheelchair accessible bathroom. Over time, it should not be a problem but initially you may find you have to walk to the bathroom off the loading dock (walking by the rednecks along the way) to use the bathroom.....It also depends on you the person and how confident you are about yourself.  I have (not at this company) while out as Lisa used the Female rest room with out problems....

Your note of questions was very well spoken.  I hope this has helped.  If you need / wish to write or call me, please feel free to do that!

*hugs*

Lisa

My jaw just about hit the floor after reading this response.  I never anticipated to find someone else in the same company that had the same feelings.  Once I got over the initial shock, we began corresponding with each other on a fairly regular basis.  We did not make it a point to meet face to face until several weeks later.  Even though I managed to find someone in the company similar to myself, I did not have any answers from a representative of the company.  This is the assurance I needed.

First contact with HR via E-Mail

In mid-September 1999, I decided to resend the letter above to the Human Resources manager in my building.  It didn't work as I had intended.  She ignored the letter and never responded.  When I told Lisa that I did not receive a response, she sent a letter to HR explaining that my inquiry was genuine.  I didn't know Lisa did this until she told me.  A couple days later, Lisa received a response which indicated that I should get in touch with the HR manager by the end of the week.

Not wanting to have someone represent me for such an important issue, I sent the following letter to the HR manager.  For anonymity reasons her name is referred to as HR:

Dear HR:
I understand that you wanted me to contact you sometime before the end of this week to possibly provide me answers to my many questions, as well as any questions you might have.  Even though I would really like to do this, I am very concerned about my anonymity.  I need some type of assurance that everything we discuss will be kept confidential with no negative repercussions to my employment with the company.
As far as I know, my manager and my co-workers are not aware of my future plans at this time and I would like to keep it that way for as long as possible.  I do not wish to make anybody feel uncomfortable in the workplace by sharing my personal information too soon.  The reason for contacting the Human Resources department this far in advance is to give the company plenty of time to respond to the numerous issues that may arise.
If you can provide me the assurance that I need, I would be more than happy to discuss anything regarding this sensitive topic in a face to face meeting this Friday.  I'm not sure how much time you are willing to spend, but I imagine we could easily spend an hour, if not more.  Please let me know what your schedule is like so I can be as flexible as possible.
Thank you in advance for your willingness to have an open dialogue.

-Kim

This was the response I received:

Kim:

The original e-mail that you had sent to me included phrases such as, "...company where I work", "...if I should consider this company as a place of possible future employment", "...YOUR company" etc. were misleading to me.  I assumed (incorrectly) based on these phrases that you were not an employee, and prioritized accordingly.  Therefore, I apologize for my delay in responding to your original message.

I understand that your intent was not to mislead, but to remain anonymous.  I understand and respect your wishes.  However, I believe that if we are to effectively address your concerns, a dialogue between us would be the most time efficient  way to handle this.  I am more than willing to discuss your concerns by telephone during a time that is convenient for both of us.

In an effort to answer your questions with accuracy and to your satisfaction,  I would need to ask questions of my own. We would probably need to send several e-mail messages to accomplish what one telephone conversation could.  Due to the fact that I support hundreds of employees, I need to manage my time to provide assistance to anyone who needs it.  I understand that you have a definite need for assistance, and I am more than willing to offer it.

Regarding your request for a guarantee that your employment will not be negatively affected, we cannot guarantee employment to any employee due to their "employment at will" status.  We can state however, that we have very clear policies in place to protect individuals in the workplace from harassment and discrimination.


I went into a conference room the next day and called her directly.  I made it a point to dial using an outside line (dial 9) and put on my best female voice which wasn't nearly as good as it is today.  Even so, it made me virtually untraceable in the event that something went wrong.

We spoke for over an hour as I explained my situation and attempted to get as many answers from her as possible.  She was very nice and helped me the best that she could with the time she had available to speak with me.  She explained that she didn't have any experience regarding transition in the workplace and would have to get help from corporate HR.  This did not sound assuring at all.

She understood my concern and asked me if I would be willing to have a face to face meeting before she made any phone calls.  I reluctantly agreed, but I also knew that at some point I needed to have some faith that everything would work out.  We made the appointment for the following week.

First contact with HR, face to face

On October 13, 1999 we had our very first meeting together.  I can't possibly remember everything that happened during that meeting, but I can definitely say that I was very open.    She made me feel very comfortable as we discussed my desire to transition with the company.

Knowing that she did not have any experience regarding this matter, I wanted to take advantage of this by becoming her teacher even though I certainly did not have all the answers.  I had plans to purchase a couple of books about transitioning in the workplace and to share them with her.  She agreed that this would definitely help her to see documentation on how other companies have handled this issue.

When our first meeting was over I felt very relieved to have come this far.  She was going to help me the best that she could and I had to make sure I stayed focused on doing my job.  That evening, I decided to send her this E-Mail to thank her for the time she took to meet with me: 

I just had to let you know that I felt today's meeting went better than I had ever anticipated.  It was a tremendous leap of faith, but you helped me see that I definitely made the right decision by having this discussion now, rather than later.  My expectations were definitely exceeded!
I'm going to see if I can find that "blue book" at Borders so I can check it out.  I'll let you know if I like it as much as all the comments seemed to indicate.  This book might turn out to be one of the best resources to handle corporate issues for everybody involved.  It might help us save time too.  We have already spent nearly three hours together and I'm sure we could have spent even more time with the other issues that we didn't discuss.  I expect this trend to continue, especially when management gets involved.
I was also wondering how you would like to keep in contact for the "little things".  Meaning, if I like the "blue book", I would like to let you know.  If you have any ideas for my "coming out" letter, I would like you to share them with me.  I'm not sure if we should or need to do everything through corporate E-Mail.  Please, let me know how you would like to handle this.  You can E-Mail me or call me anytime.
Thanks so much for your time.
-Kim

Her response:

Kim:

Thank you!  I agree that we had a very productive meeting.  I tried my best to make you feel comfortable, and I hope that I succeeded.  I appreciate your confidence in me to assist you with this situation, and thank you for being open and honest.  We did cover a lot of ground, and I know we have a long way to go.  However, I think we both recognize that the lines of communication between us are open, and we will be able to discuss every aspect of this process so that everything goes as smoothly as possible for all concerned.  You did make a good decision to start looking into what needs to happen and when, and who should be involved.

As far as the "little things", we could communicate through e-mail if you'd like.  If not, please feel free to call me, as Kim.  When the "big things" come up, it will probably be best to have a face-to-face.

During our meeting, I think I let you know about some of our resources - Corporate Medical for Short Term Disability questions, Corporate HR for policy issues, and our Wellness Director.

The Wellness Director called me today to say that she was very interested in speaking with you (or communicating with you through e-mail).  Please know that she DOES NOT know who you are, just that you are an employee who is inquiring about gender reassignment.  She has a Masters in Counseling.  The reasons why she would like to communicate with you are to fully understand this situation, (like I am in the process of doing) so that she can prepare a game plan, i.e. timeline, to ensure we are providing you with the most appropriate assistance.  Everything will be kept confidential.  I do recommend directly communicating with her - what are your thoughts?

 

Second Contact with HR - November 5, 1999

This meeting came about as a result of my sudden decision to have a consultation for facial surgery with Dr. Ousterhout.  The moment I made the appointment, I sent a letter to HR explaining my plans.  As a result, she decided that it was important to schedule a meeting to discuss what I was planning to do.

Prior to this meeting I went to Amazon.com and purchased two copies each of the following books:

True Selves - Mildred R. Brown and Chloe Ann Rounsley
Transsexual Workers - Janis Walworth

I brought one copy of each into our meeting and permanently donated them to the company.  She asked me if I was sure I wanted to do this and I assured her that it was important for me to help the company through this process in any way that I could.  Her favorite book of the two was Transsexual Workers since it covered many different topics about transition from a Human Resources perspective.  We affectionately called it "the blue book" because of its bright royal blue color.

During the meeting, she asked if I could outline my transition plans the way I could envision it happening.  I didn't realize it at the time, but it was brilliant.  She was going to use this outline to help ensure the company would be ready to take certain steps in unison with the steps that I was taking to complete my transition.  I was still in control of my transition, she just wanted to make sure she was ready for anything given the surprise decision to seek a consultation for facial surgery.

We also decided that after the outline was written, we would meet on occasion to ensure we were both in sync with each other.  This usually meant meeting once every 4 to 6 weeks, unless something important came up.

Creating an outline forced me to think about things well into the future, which was really only a few months of time.  To some people, a couple of months doesn't seem very long at all.  Trust me, when you are in the middle of transition a couple of months seems like a very long time.  Here is the outline I created to show just how many variables there really were in those future months:

I'm having a little trouble trying to come up with a decent timeline.  The problem is, I can't see that far in the future.  I don't have any idea what's going to happen after we tell my manager in January.  So, I think we should start off with what we can see and then build from there.  Here is what I have so far:


Tuesday, November 16th - Inform my manager that I wish to take two vacation days from work (if I don't have that many, I will request pay withholding).  The days will be Thursday Dec. 9th and Friday Dec. 10th.  Hopefully, she won't have a problem because I can't back out of these dates.  I'm flying to San Francisco for a consultation with Dr. Ousterhout for facial surgery.

Wednesday, November 24th - See my endocrinologist.  I will be at the 6-Month mark for hormones.  Go home for Thanksgiving after my appointment.

Thursday, December 9th -  Fly out to San Francisco from Logan Airport in Boston.  Roundtrip airfare $350 (what a deal!)

Friday, December 10th - Meet with Dr. Ousterhout for facial surgery consultation.  Consultation fee: $75   X-Ray fee: $150

Saturday, December 11th -  Fly from San Francisco to Logan Airport in Boston.  Drive back home OR stay with Mom & Dad

Sunday, December 12th - SLEEP!  If I'm not home already, drive back home.

Sunday, December 26th - Leave my parents after spending Christmas with them.  This might be the last time I will be there for a while.  Family tensions might be high.

Tuesday, January 4th - Get ears pierced, finally!  Hair should be long enough to hide them.  Unfortunately, hair will be so long that people will probably think something is up with me.

Monday, January 10th (TENTATIVE) - If I'm bold enough, I might begin part-time living.  I'm not sure how I will feel, so this is up in the air a little bit.  However, with the way I've been feeling lately, I might be ready.  Should we be telling my manager around this time??

Monday, February 21st (MILESTONE?) - This is my 9-Month mark for hormones.  It is also around the time where I will need to see the endocrinologist again.  I may be prescribed a testosterone blocker to help ease body hair.  In any case, something tells me I will be pushing a B-cup and will require undergarments.  If this is true, my manager should know before this point.

Monday, April 3rd (TENTATIVE) - Begin the process of getting a legal name change.  Total cost should be $500,  $250 for the lawyer who stands in front of the judge and another $250 for the paperwork.  This won't happen in one day, it is something that might take the whole month, if not longer.

Monday, June 5th (TENTATIVE) - This might be the day where I am ready to go full-time depending on if I've had facial surgery or not.  Again, this all depends on how I feel about myself.  If I have been doing lots of part-time living, I might be ready.


This is what I have so far.  I realize I probably gave too much detail, but it might help you in any case.  If you need to discuss anything or see something that I left out, please call me.

Thanks.

My breasts were very sore around this time and I had a feeling that I might explode with growth.  Too bad it didn't happen that way like it did for someone I knew who was much older than me.  Of course, I had no idea what to expect so it was best that I remain prepared for anything.

Prior to going out to San Francisco, we had a third meeting to discuss the outline I created.

After facial surgery consultation

As soon as I returned from my consultation, I sent an E-Mail to HR explaining the details of the consultation as well as anything I was feeling.  This was the way communication was handled from this point.  Every time I had any information to share, I would share it.  If HR wanted a meeting to discuss anything, we would get together for a meeting.  I was very open with her and she was very receptive in return.

About a month and a half after the facial surgery consultation I decided that I wanted to have the surgery.  Some people might have signed themselves up immediately after the consultation, but I did the responsible thing and spent a lot of time to think about it.  On one hand you have the immense expense and on the other I knew that without surgery, I'd never be able to blend in.

I also worried about timing.  One thing I learned from this experience is that there is no such thing as perfect timing.  If you wait for the perfect time, you will be waiting forever and this is usually what happened to me.  I'd wait forever unless something happened to force me to make a decision.  This time, I wanted to make the decision on my own.

I called Mira at Dr. Ousterhout's office and scheduled surgery for May 3, 2000.  It was still far enough away to let me schedule my life around the date, yet I wouldn't be waiting forever.

Around this time I also decided to call about a new therapist.  My insurance coverage was changed at the end of 1999 and the therapist I was seeing decided move on to another organization.  I hadn't been to a therapist in over a month and I knew that I would require letters for SRS.  It was also important to establish a relationship with a therapist to help me deal with any issues surrounding facial surgery.  I knew better than to do it alone.

Telling my manager

Very soon after returning from the consultation, before my decision to have the surgery, I thought it was time to tell my manager based on conversations I was having with HR.  We wanted to give her (my manager) some advance notice to prepare for the day that I arrived back to work as a woman.  I also wanted to inform her that I planned on getting my ears pierced a couple of days after New Years.

It wasn't easy getting her to go to a conference room with me.  Somehow I had to be discreet, yet get her to agree to go behind closed doors.  At first she resisted stating anything I had to say could be discussed within the confines of her cubicle.  When I mentioned that it was urgent she asked me what it was about.  I was getting impatient with her.

My mind raced and suddenly I had the perfect method to get her into a conference room.  I simply explained that we had a major Y2K issue and I needed to discuss it in private so as not to alarm any of the other co-workers.  That was all it took to get her up out of her chair.  Thank Goodness!

Once in the conference room I told her that the major Y2K problem concerned me.  I was not Y2K compliant and then I proceeded to tell her why.  Seriously, that's exactly how I started to tell her.

When I was finished telling her everything that she needed to hear, she said, "I had a feeling you were going to tell me something like this."  My hair was quite long and I had been on hormones for 7 months.  Things were slowly changing and it was getting more difficult to hide.

At the end of January, I had a meeting with both HR and my manager.  We discussed the outline I created and talked about my recent decision regarding facial surgery.  Most importantly, my manager was told by HR that I was still in charge of my transition plans.  I feared that once my manager was involved, it would open up the possibility of being micro-managed.  It probably wouldn't have happened, but I wanted to be safe rather than sorry.

My co-workers would not find out about me officially until the day of my facial surgery which was pushed out until June 5th, 2000.  I still had personal things that I wanted to schedule prior to surgery, such as seeing the dentist.  That didn't stop Mira from lecturing me since she thought I was rescheduling due to fear.  It wasn't fear, I just wanted my schedule clear so I could have as much recovery time as possible.


Coming out at work (Part 2)
What I learned 5 months after transition

No matter what the temperature is, it's cold

This is perhaps one of the worst things to experience after you transition on the job.    At first everybody was great and they honestly did their best to accept me.  However, I have to accept some responsibility for such a chilly atmosphere.

In my defense, you have to understand how difficult it is to transition on the job in no time at all.  Prior to facial surgery, I was still the same person.  The only difference was my long hair, my pierced ears and my occasional strange moods since it was getting difficult for me to not squirm with anticipation.

After facial surgery I had just one month to recover and then it was back to work.  You just can't do that without feeling some type of head trip and without wanting to talk to someone.  I found it impossibly difficult to pass myself off as some new person.  I struggled to find some middle ground.  During this struggle my co-workers distanced themselves from me.

Well over a year later, the atmosphere was still chilly and it seemed like it was getting colder at time went on.  I knew I needed to quit the company and move on, however, I had lots of bills to pay.  With SRS coming up there was no way I wanted to give up such good pay.  I decided that it was in my best interest to deal with it the best I could and remain with the company for as long as I could stand it.

The day I knew I needed to quit

At first I had no clue the atmosphere was so chilly.  Things seemed pretty normal and I did my best to try and make sure my co-workers were comfortable around me.  I wanted to keep my distance since I felt that my presence alone might be interpreted as shoving my personal politics in their face.

One day my manager asked if I would be willing to attend some offsite training so I could help out with the project we were working on.  I took that as a very positive sign.  Nearly five months into transition and they still considered me to be an asset.  I was very happy about that.

The offsite training was in Cleveland and would last for three weeks, but I was able to fly home every weekend since personal responsibilities exist no matter where I am.  While there I had a great time!  Everybody was nice and I was meeting new people.  There was one woman in particular that I made friends with right away.  The very first day of class, she invited me to her house for dinner with her family.

At first I was really nervous about this gesture.  I still wasn't post-Op and horrible thoughts of being found out went through my head.  Eventually, I calmed myself down and decided that this was a step I would have to take eventually.  I can't keep myself locked in the closet forever as life passes me by.  For my own good, I accepted her kind offer and it was the best decision I made.

That first evening I met her husband and her three children.  Her youngest was nearly a year old and he was sooo cute!  I asked if I could feed the baby and of course she accepted my offer.  Anything to give her a little break was fine with her.  Unfortunately, my mothering skills were very sub-standard.  Not having any experience, I only managed to get in a few spoonfuls of food before the baby started to cry.  I was in a panic not knowing why I was causing the baby to cry.  I was simply doing my best to be gentle with the baby since I was the one with the spoon.  Big mistake!

Mom had to bail me out and to my astonishment, she was shoving huge spoonfuls of food into the baby's mouth at a pace I couldn't believe.  She told me that when baby's want to be fed, they certainly don't want the slow and gentle approach.  They want to be fed now!  After learning this lesson things went far easier the next time.  I did exactly as Mom did and there were no complaints from the baby until the end of the jar when the baby was getting full.

Another night I was there Mom was so exhausted that I volunteered to make dinner for the family.  She forgot to take out the hamburger in the morning before she left so it would be fully defrosted by the time she was home.  It didn't help that she had no clue how to defrost it in the microwave either.  Thankfully, I was there to help her out and within 10 minutes I did an expert job defrosting dinner.  She was thrilled for my assistance.

After three weeks of having such a great time in Cleveland, it was time to come home.  I didn't even get to the door of the building when it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I caught myself going through my ritual.  "Is my hair OK?  Is my makeup OK?  Is my skirt to the knees?"  This was the checklist I was going through before I entered the building.

In Cleveland, nobody knew my past, but here in New York the whole building was aware of what was going on.  In Cleveland, everybody said "Good Morning" and smiled, but here in New York I received the look that I like to call the "deer in the headlights" look.  I was immediately depressed at the thought that my co-workers didn't want anything to do with me and it was at that moment that I knew I would be leaving the company when it was the right time.

How can I prevent such a chilly atmosphere when I transition?

Let's be honest, you can't.  The only way I can see it happening is to switch jobs to another department within the company and hope your former co-workers keep quiet.  Most importantly, you may be struggling to keep your own mouth shut too (at least I was struggling).

If you decide to keep your current job, I highly recommend staying for at least four or five months before moving on.  When you do move on, you will find that people who don't know anything about your transition will treat you with more respect and kindness.  If you decide to stay longer than six months, I recommend going on an interview for another job.  Even if you don't accept any job offers, you may appreciate the how people treat you differently outside your own company.

My recommendation:  Transition on the job

Even though the workplace is chilly for me, I can't say enough how important it is to keep your current job when transitioning.  It will give you a place to ground yourself and give you the experience and confidence necessary for living the rest of your life as a woman.  Then when you are ready, you can switch jobs, leave your past history behind you and be the person you've always wanted to be.

I managed to stick with my job for 27 months after transition before becoming successfully self-employed.  It wasn't easy to tough it out for as long as I did.


Would you like to make an anonymous contribution?

If you have any advice you'd like to share, please contact me , and I'll give it a permanent (and anonymous) home.