Coming out at work & the privilege of support & acceptance

The letter I wrote: 

“Hi All, firstly, for those of you who are new to the company, I’m the outsource proofreader, editor and copywriter for xxxx (company) and I do the PR. I have been with the company for over four years, so am really part of the furniture, but work from home. That said, I am coming into the office more regularly and interacting with more of you, and I am currently going through something that impacts on you as well, so I just wanted to share my journey with you so that we’re on the same page and things are most comfortable for all of us. 

I am transgender. Yes, like Caitlyn Jenner ๐Ÿ™‚ โ€“ just the other way around. I was assigned female at birth, but I have never felt comfortable with that label or role, so I have undertaken the process of aligning my body with who I am. To put it in xxxx speak, I am undergoing a process of becoming my most authentic self and finding my voice. And my voice is less Mariah Carey and more Barry White ๐Ÿ™‚ I have been on testosterone for 6 months, which explains the weight loss and the muscle gain which you have noticed. You will increasingly notice that my voice is deeper and will continue to become deeper and that I will grow facial hair.

I realise that this is very new in our cultural awareness as a country and certainly new to you, so I am writing this to put this out in the open so that I feel more comfortable around you, and you in turn feel comfortable and don’t have to wonder about what is happening and being too worried about asking questions. 
It has become increasingly difficult for me here, and out in the world, to be seen as female by some and male by others, and if you’re not sure how people are reading you, it becomes very difficult to know how to interact with people. There are very different appropriate behaviours for men and women, and I am finding my way around those day by day. To help me in this transformation socially, I would request that people use male pronouns for me. I am still Germaine by name, and always will be. I will always still be the same person I’ve always been. Just more confident and self-assured. Another practical issue I’m having to come to terms with is bathroom use. The last thing I want is to make women, especially those who don’t know me, feel uncomfortable in a bathroom, which is a safe space. But I realise that it will also be an adjustment for the men in the office, so I will be using the disabled bathroom. At xxxx event functions on other premises I will have to use the male bathroom.

I understand that this is a lot to take in, but I hope that you will celebrate it with me as I grow exponentially each day as the person I was always meant to be – my authentic self, with my own, authentic voice. Should you have any questions, I am very open to discuss them (keeping in mind, of course, that you would not ask anyone else at the office about their genitals – the first question that all trans people get asked).”

I have received great support and wonderful, undreamt of responses to coming out at the office and from all of you re my decision to go by male pronouns. It would, however, be very remiss of me not to make you aware that this support is rare and a privilege.
Workplace discrimination and transphobia is the norm for the trans community at large, exemplified by the bathroom bill in America where trans people are being sexualised and painted as predators for simply wanting to use the bathroom that represents their gender. A friend of mine in South Africa has to face the daily humiliation and anxiety of being referred to by his female name and pronouns while he has a full beard because HR has no idea how to handle him, and yet another friend has been demoted and effectively pushed out of the company.
Re pronouns: I am privileged enough to look male and therefore choose the comfort and safety of male pronouns. Many transmen, non-binary trans people and, especially trans women, do not have this luxury or privilege. They do not have, and in some cases don’t want, the privilege of passing (aligning to society’s ideals of what a man or woman should look like), and for this they face discrimination, harrassment, social anxiety and bullying that leads to innumerable health problems and even suicide, and in the worst cases, which are sadly way too many, physical violation and death.
 As Leelah Alcorn said, “Fix society, please.” Being accepted for who we are and having the freedom to move freely in public and private spaces should not be a privilege.


6 thoughts on “Coming out at work & the privilege of support & acceptance

  1. Pingback: Messages of support from colleagues: Coming out at work | life writ large

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