Many trans men I spoke with said they had no idea how rough women at work had it until they transitioned. As soon as they came out as men, they found their missteps minimized and their successes amplified. Often, they say, their words carried more weight: They seemed to gain authority and professional respect overnight. They also saw confirmation of the sexist attitudes they had long suspected: They recalled hearing female colleagues belittled by male bosses, or female job applicants called names.
This afternoon I had an LGBTQIA training on campus. Everyone is expected to take some diversity training during the year where I work and this was the first one that had an opening for me. While I didn’t expect to learn a ton of new stuff, since I’m generally pretty immersed in these conversations, I was still curious as to how things would be presented and received.
It turned out that my colleague and office-mate was signed up for the same class and so we headed on down to it together this afternoon. We all sat down, they did some introductions and started in on the training with an overview of the differences between sex identity/gender identity/gender expression/sexual orientation. We got through the first set of descriptions around sex identity and they stopped and opened things up for smaller discussion in pairs with a few questions:
“When - and what - did you learn about your own sex identity? From what sources did you learn it? When was the first time you learned about bodies that were different from yours?”
At that point I knew I had a choice as these discussions continued: either not share who I am at all or come out to my colleague here at the training. While I was out at my last position, and I’ve been a part of some LGBTQ+ staff spaces at this job where I’ve come out, I haven’t yet had those conversations with my immediate colleagues here (though I planned to). Thankfully, I knew that my colleague was LGBTQ+ supportive (we’ve had plenty of conversations that have touched on the subject as it relates to current events and other things), and I made the snap decision to just open up.
So when things came around to the second topic (gender identity), and my colleague and the other woman in our group shared about how they were (and I quote) “pretty boring” in that their gender identity and sex matched up nicely, I paused and then continued with “well, I haven’t shared this with you, but mine don’t.”
I’ve come out plenty of times (including to a couple people this past weekend - I’ll probably share a bit more on that here in another post), and I had a pretty good sense of how my coworker might take things, but there’s always that moment where you just have to take that leap of faith and hope things work out well enough.
Thankfully they did.
She (along with the other woman in our little group) responded in supportive ways, and we moved on to the next topic.
After the training was over the two of us were walking back to the parking lot and we had a few minutes to talk a little bit more about it. She thanked me for feeling comfortable in sharing that with her and reaffirmed that she was totally supportive. She asked about how comfortable I felt presenting male in the working world and I talked a little about that before we each took off.
It wasn’t exactly what I had planned, I mean, usually I’m far more deliberate and careful in how I approach this. But I also see very little value in hiding something, especially in a fairly safe environment with someone I feel I can trust, and it just seemed like the right thing to do. I’ll probably arrange for some time to grab a coffee with her so we can talk a bit more at length, but feeling a good mix of relief and gratitude around the whole thing. I’ll get to the rest of the office eventually, but this is another good little step to have taken.
Zoe Knox is a transgender woman who came out to her wife in July 2015. She and her wife have three kids – including a trans daughter – and she continued coming out to her family and friends slowly since then.
In March, she came out at work via an email to her colleagues. She says she immediately received more than 70 emails of support from coworkers. Then, after she came back to work the Monday after Easter, she found that her coworkers had thrown her a party to celebrate her identity. They’d written her notes of encouragement and already gotten her a new nameplate.
In a time where trans people face astoundingly high rates of workplace discrimination, inequality and harassment, this is such a breath of fresh air. Congratulations, Zoe, on both your big announcement and your awesome coworkers.
So for my final project in my challenge and change class, I’m researching LGBT discrimination in the workplace. I’ve created a survey to try and collect some information on the topic and it would awesome if you guys could do it!
Today’s interviewing is over (and I think/hope very successfully so). After a phone interview, a networking chat, and the two face to face meetings this week I’m feeling good about where things are moving on the job front, but also glad tomorrow is a quiet day.
Since it’s often a point of curiosity, I thought I’d share a selfie all suited up from the interview process. It’s almost certainly not how you all are used to seeing me, and as I’ve shared before, putting on a suit and tie feels a bit like doing drag. Either that or I’m David Byrne in Stop Making Sense. Not that many people don’t feel comfortable in interview attire, but there’s an extra layer for me.
I don’t know exactly what this round of job searching holds, but I do know I won’t be waiting a year and a half to have coming out conversations in whatever role I step into. And while I’m continually figuring all of this out as I go along, I am feeling more aware of the importance of my identity and expression in all the spaces I inhabit, and more confident in my ability to advocate for myself and others like me. The workplace is undoubtedly a part of that. Might be worth taking stock of how my women’s professional wardrobe is looking.
Oh btw since I saw a post about it. To my trans followers applying for jobs:
When they ask for your name on the application, just put in parentheses your preferred name. You don’t have to justify or explain it. A LOT of cis people go by different names. Including three of my cis coworkers. If anyone asks you can brush it off as a childhood nickname/you share that birth name with a relative/just never went by it. But chances are no one will even know except your boss or manager. And even then my managers don’t.
No one gets suspicious if you’re really casual about it. It’s what I did for my application and employers won’t deadname you if you go “oh yeah everyone just calls me ___”
It might not work everywhere, but it’s my advice for trans people in the workplace if you’re worried about being deadnamed. The only people who will have to know your legal one is a manager and chances are they won’t bother telling anyone because it’s not relevant.
As far as everyone at my work is concerned, the name I use is the only name they know.
You also DONT have to disclose that you’re trans, and for the pronoun game, just squint and correct them like “I’m a guy/girl” (I have no tips for non binary pronouns as this is from my own personal experience and I only use he/his) and usually they’re caught off guard enough to not question it. No one likes confrontation at work and if you are confident, play it off as “I’m just really feminine/masculine sounding ya know what can you do?” No one says anything. If they do, address it with your employer or manager.
Just my advice is to not get visibly upset. Playing it off as casual will make them more flustered and remember that embarrassment to never make the same mistake again. But if you get upsetti, then they get defensive. But if you’re cool and firm about correcting lightheartedly without audible aggression, they’re get flustered that they were wrong.
Anyway those are my personal tips and experiences as a short, feminine trans guy with a high voice. No way will it work for everyone, but for me, none of my coworkers misgenders or deadnames me and I didn’t have to tell my boss I’m trans at all for her to start using the correct pronouns after I corrected everyone else.
Stay safe, hope my advice helps someone scared about starting working!
Coming out can seem impossible; just another challenge stacked on top of dysphoria, on top of figuring out medical expenses, on top of the already real struggle of being transgender in a society that seems to be trying it’s best to say that we don’t exist. This was the weight I carried a year ago before coming out at work. How would I approach my store, all of the employees, the boss, with being transgender and keep my job? And if I kept my job, would I be comfortable?
A year later and my coming out process there went infinitely better than I could have ever imagined. I sat my boss down this week, told him a little bit about the online community I am a part of, and ended up having a really rewarding conversation about what he thought made my coming out process at the store as successful as it was.
What I believe began this process on a smooth course was approaching my leadership with my needs and allowing the atmosphere to be one of team building. I listened to my boss’s concerns, and we came up with a game plan that made him and I both comfortable. He never treated my coming out or my identity as a problem but he gave me insight into what he would have to face as a store manager and we made accommodations for each other. He had me write a letter addressing the store that contained necessary information; my pronouns, my name, and how I wanted this process to be handled on the individual level. He read this letter to the department supervisors and then very clearly told everyone that he was establishing a zero tolerance policy for harassment of any kind.
That policy and my openness to respectful questions and even my openness to talking about my transition as it happened made a huge difference in not alienating me from the other associates and gave others the room to understand that what was happening really wasn’t that strange at all. I was able to share parts of my transition that were exciting; new patches of facial hair, my voice dropping, my top surgery. There were even parents who reached out to me because their children were questioning their gender.
When the boss and I spoke the other day, I learned that there had been people in the store opposing my transition, that had voiced their concerns, but he understood the strain I was already under and him and the other leadership sat those people down and explained that regardless of their personal beliefs, I had the same right as them to work comfortably and to feel safe.
For trans people who are working on coming out in the workplace, my advice is to be stern but flexible. Know what your hard “no’s” are. People aren’t allowed to ask you about your body, to make your workplace uncomfortable, or to press their personal beliefs onto you. But if you have the capacity to make this a learning process where you work, that’s something that can benefit you, other associates, and any other trans person that applies.
For cis employers and employees, allies to the movement, please be ready to defend and protect trans people in your workplace. Being cisgender gives you more weight to use in conversations. Even just letting people know that something they ask, say, or do is unprofessional is a huge help to trans workers because that will be one less burden to carry. I had a few associates reach out to me and tell me that they were proud of me and that they supported me and that made a huge difference too. Being a source of positivity and support can make a very real difference in someone’s life.
Under the cut is an example of the letter I sent to my boss last year, edited for privacy and because I’ve learned a little more in the last year. Thanks for being a part of coming out week, for taking the time to hear my experience, and for your continued support in the movement.
Stormcatcher is transgender. His gender fluctuates as often as the storms under his command, but she usually prefers being referred to in feminine-coded terms.
As such, she’s very defensive of other trans dragons, especially in her workplace. Anyone who pokes fun at a male Ridgeback with a short nose-horn will have the Boss breathing down their necks. Anyone who makes a joke about “girls with deep voices” will get screamed at to GET BACK TO WORK.
On calls, Filipino workers can safely adopt women’s voices, names, and clothing, all while earning a decent wage. But their success at work doesn’t protect them from the discrimination they face outside of it.
Interviewing for a job while trans is one of the more discouraging experiences. Let’s discuss the facts. I have over 15-years of experience in the hospitality industry and I’ve worked in virtually all aspects of operations. I have opened seven restaurants for a corporate restaurant chain; I’ve been everything from host supervisor and key employee to training and banquet manager. In short, my resume is pretty damn impressive, so that’s why it feels so odd that I have difficulty finding a job, even one that’s not in a supervisory position.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled this week that it is illegal – and has been illegal – to discriminate against employees based on sexual orientation.
After a complaint was brought, questioning whether
the ban on sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to protecting LGB people from discrimination, the commission ruled that it does apply to sexual orientation. This effectively means that even without a law in place like the now-dead ENDA, it is illegal to fire, not hire, harass, deny a raise to, or otherwise mistreat an employee for being LGB.
The EEOC had already affirmed that trans people were protected from workplace discrimination by Title VII.
“[T]he question is not whether sexual orientation is explicitly listed in Title VII as a prohibited basis for employment actions. It is not,” the commission found. Instead, the commission stated that the question is the same as in any other Title VII sex discrimination case: “whether the agency has ‘relied on sex-based considerations’ or ‘take[n] gender into account’ when taking the challenged employment action.”
The commission found that sexual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination for several reasons. Among the reasons, the commission stated, is because sexual orientation discrimination “necessarily entails treating an employee less favorably because of the employee’s sex” and “because it is associational discrimination on the basis of sex.”
It’s still unclear if there will be any further review of this question, such as a definitive ruling from the Supreme Court about how to interpret Title VII. There is also always the question of implementation for those businesses who will not listen to the EEOC and continue to discriminate against their LGBT employees. But all asterisks aside, this is actually groundbreaking.
anyway here is a story about how to be a stellar fucking workplace:
when i filled out the human resources forms and things for my current job, they (like most forms) had a ‘gender’ option. which was, like most forms, binary. i’m not binary, and i’m a little too feral about it to just play nice, so i added an extra box and put ‘nonbinary’ to force inclusion of my gender identity.
fast forward a couple of weeks. my boss calls me in his office when i arrive at work. shockingly, there’s been a glitch/problem with the HR paperwork because the computer system couldn’t recognize a profile that didn’t accord to a binary gender assignment.
in most cases, you might expect to get a mild scolding, a talk about ‘listen we know the system is binary and that’s unfortunate for you, but sometimes you just have to pick your battles; we know they said gender not sex but you know what they meant; just write whatever your legal id says;’ etc.
instead, my boss said: ‘we want really badly to adhere to your identity, but we also want to pay you, and we couldn’t get your paycheck out without a binary selection. they really ought to rename it biological sex, but since they didn’t, we slipped past the system for now by feeding it your file-based sex identifier. i wanted you to know this for the purpose of preceding any event in which you might find that marked in your files, official mail, or anything like that, and wanted you to be aware that there’s no intention there of mislabeling or misidentifying you for administrative purposes. in fact, your glitch opened up a can of worms, and we’re now working with the human resources department to fix stuff like this so that non-M/F gender identifiers won’t be rejected by our systems or force anyone to disclose or self-name as a marker they are uncomfortable with. it’s just the start a process for fixing that system to be inclusive of everyone, and once we can fix it, we’re gonna update your information back to the appropriate identification for you.’
that is, instead of
aligning with the majority/in-power group
saying they would be flexible with one instance, but had no interest in creating a more accommodating system
took short-term steps to avoid negative consequence as an impact of my identification
let me know directly a) what i would see, b) that they intended to continue to respect my identity, and c) that the underlying issue would be addressed
expressed intent and action focused on creating a more accommodating / recognizing system overall, rather than blaming a singular instance
it’s a little thing but all of the little things i’ve dealt with in my workplace so far have made a big difference in my comfort, happiness, productivity, and success being here. all workplaces should strive to be like this.
Action Steps for trans folks before Obama leaves office
Get your passport changed. They’re good for 10 years which means you can have matching ID no matter your state. It does not require any kind of surgery.
Get your Social Security changed. The Bush (w) administration (and previous idr) used the social security database to root out trans people in the workplace and out us to our employers. I know it’s not a value you’re likely to see directly, but I have little doubt that the Trump/Pence Whitehouse would reinstate No-Match-Letters. No surgery of any kind required.
Even if nothing else, they will surely become harder to update in the near future.
As much as possible, get all your documents to match. The trump administration will surely cast nonmatching documents as a sinister case of fraud.