Exactly three years, I started my first real job. Right at the very same time I started binding. The problem was that this job was in New York, and I lived in Philadelphia, which is a two hour commute on the bus. Each way. Binding is a real pain when you’re sitting on the bus for 2 hours, but I would do it because at that point I couldn’t not bind – it felt awful if I didn’t. Still, people saw me as a girl and I didn’t know any better.
Some people have asked me what others said about me being flat chested at work. Rather, a flat-chested girl. Since I didn’t go from boobs to flat, I can’t speak for the change in chest. But trust me, the #1 thing people notice about binding is… absolutely nothing. They don’t. (Except my mother, who just glared at my chest without wanting to bring up the subject.) And passing as a boy or not is also highly unrelated to binding. Same with surgery! Some people still think I have boobs (small ones! but they’re convinced something’s there). They see what they want to see.
So at my next job, job number two, I transitioned a bit more. When I arrived they asked me about my name, because I used Mich already as shorthand in emails and such. It naturally came up in conversation, and so I assented to go by Mich. Once somebody starts calling you something, it sticks, especially since I was starting a new job in a new city. So now pretty much everybody I interact with calls me that, and I can’t stand when people call me by my old name. At this job there was a very relaxed atmosphere. It was 7-10 people and to say there was no HR department is an understatement; at times we were more like roommates than coworkers. Not to mention that out of 10 people, another was a gay furry into BDSM and another was a transgirl – and we all knew this and talked of it openly. So I was pretty out as queer, but mildly out as transgender. I always corrected people when they said I was a lesbian, and we made fun that I looked like my boss’ son. This is where I wore my “Legalize Trans” shirt, which sparked conversation on the subject. Some people “got” it, some didn’t.
I’m now at my third job. When I was hired, I was smack in the middle of everything, and hadn’t decided exactly how I wanted to handle my “public” gender. I was still fighting against being forced to choose male or female. In the end it was too late, and ‘girl’ was chosen for me, before I had the guts to say anything, or had firmly decided to take it in the opposite direction.
At this point, I really don’t want to bother coming out at this job, because it’s a much larger company inside a humongous corporation (even though I have my own little ways of acting up, gender-wise). All of my coworkers are pretty much strangers – most I’ve never even met in person, or at all – and I don’t relish in the thought of strangers knowing strange things about me. Besides, it’s only temporary, I will be leaving this job soonish.
In between I’ve taken an important step in affirming my “public” gender as male. Because again, for practical purposes you’ve got to choose, and it’s taken me 2 years, but I’ve finally realized that I feel so damn uncomfortable with people seeing me, treating me, labeling me, and categorizing me as female. Since I really wouldn’t mind at all if the seeing and the treating and categorizing were male instead, then there’s nothing wrong with that except waiting any longer.
So I’ve resolved to slowly come out to friends and family and start correcting people who are above the ranks of anonymous strangers. Above all, at my next job I will definitely be out as transgender. I even wrote the FAQ section already for the next update to my professional portfolio, in which I include a big disclaimer on my (trans)gender identity, in hopes that I can avoid correcting people in person as most as possible. Or at the very least will have the guts (and a good excuse) to do it.
12 thoughts on “Transitioning At Work”
I’d been at my current job for about 7 years when I came out to my boss and his boss as a male-to-female transsexual. Shortly thereafter, I left work one day to start a short vacation. That was my last day as David and I returned a week and a half later as Constance. While I was out, the bosses made the necessary announcements that I helped HR draft. It’s been a very easy transition at my workplace, and for that I am tremendously grateful. I know many other people who’ve had much less positive transitions.
I’ve heard this is the case for a lot of transpeople – a definitive break, a hard transition. At least it seems the easiest and most straightforward, especially if it is well received with your colleagues.
But for someone who has been blurring the lines more and more for years, it’s tricky. My biggest obstacle is that I couldn’t just “ok, I’ve transitioned, now I’m a guy” and be done with it. That’s why social transition has been so difficult for me, but also why I’m leaning more and more towards a binary direction, at least for these purposes.
I have the deepest respect for those who transition in non-binary ways. Really, what I’m doing is fairly straight forward: I’m going from one to the other. When one blurs the lines, it seems to cause confusion for some folks. It seems that many, if not most, people think of gender as one or the other. Blurring and queering gender is a truly brave thing.
Being a trans- anything is never straightforward! We all have our struggles, and often they are more similar than they appear.
I’d been at my current job for a few months when I accidentally came out as genderqueer. I had been trying to just get my name updated on the payroll systems but things went a little further, with my boss individually visiting every other manager in the company to explain (somewhat badly). Needless to say the entire company now knows my name…
But he was trying at least. He took it upon himself to go and visit our HR legal advisers to get informed about what he should be offering and then offered it (and more).
I’m in a very customer-facing role, mostly dealing with big corporations, and surprisingly not one of our customers has caused me any problems.
It’s been a pretty easy transition in terms of name change, though most people have gone back to using gendered pronouns for me. It’s kind of hard to tell your managers off for that in front of customers though, and most of the time I don’t really care what pronouns people use.
Wow, it sounds like your boss is pretty awesome. Dealing with customers is a whole different bag usually, so I’m glad to hear of positive experiences with genderqueer people. I’d be curious to know more on how others tried to adjust, and what other changes took place (like bathrooms and pronouns – which are two biggest issues right now).
work is weird, yeah? i feel like i have to balance my own needs/boundaries/mental health with my need to have a job and my desire to not make everything awkward. and i live in a small town.
i wear a “gender tag” at work; it’s a little blank sticker that i stick on my shirt. on the sticker, i write “woman”, “man”, “both”, “neither” with boxes beside them– and i tick the box beside “neither”. i get some pretty interesting responses from customers (i work in retail)– but my supervisor is cool with it. so, yay!
Oh, I love the gender tag idea, I should wear one everyday.
You’d think looking like a boy would be enough, but that’s the problem with liberal people trying to be respectful and open minded….
“…that’s the problem with liberal people trying to be respectful and open minded….” i know, right? it’s weird how people can cause us so much grief by being open-minded. i can’t really fault people for thinking i’m still a girl even though i bind and wear guys’ clothes; they’re just trying to refrain from policing my gender. it’s kinda funny, sometimes.
i’m going to write a post about my gender tag adventures– cuz you meet some pretty interesting people when you’re wearing a gender tag. lolz.
I got a great question via email and I wanted to share my answer.
Just like that: “girl? I’m not a girl.” It usually goes along the lines of “preach it sister” or “guys and gals” or “who are the girls on the team” and I will sometimes wait until they include me, but I will always say “I’m not a girl, so no.” In fact, today one of my coworkers called me “girl” (as in, “girl, watcha doing lookin stylish”) and it’s not the first time it happens. So what did I do? I say “girl? what you talking about” and called him “girl” back.. maybe he’ll get it, probably not. But he did look categorically surprised when I walked into the men’s room and gave him the nod (he even raised his eyebrows and everything).
It’s these little things that turn my day around.