Thursday, 19 May 2011 03:39

Exploring Gender : Transitioning at Work

Written by  Cael

 


I graduate on Sunday. It is strange to think that such a large part of my life is about to be over. I have spent 18 of the 22 years of my life in school. I just don’t even know how to think about it. I don’t even think it will seem real to me until I am just working. It will be so nice not to have to juggle work, school, and all of my other obligations, but learning, reading, writing—I don’t even know what I will do without them. The question now, though, becomes: how do I go about transitioning now that I am not being constrained by the guidelines of my college?

I have talked previously about my name change, and that is the first thing I will pursue, though I must wait because I will be going out of the country and changing a name on a passport is a process more time consuming than the few weeks in which I will need it. Once I can get my name changed, I can begin living as a man. My friends know and are accepting. The only place where the transition will be particularly hard is at work. How do you go about transitioning in a work environment?

1.   Do research into your company and into your state. What are the policies? Will you be protected in your workplace if you decide to transition there? For me, there are no state protections, but the company for which I work does offer protections for gender identity. All employees are required to take harassment trainings for which gender identity is included.

2.   Consider your workplace. How well do you know the people there? How accepting are they? Do you feel comfortable there? I love my job. I love where I work. I love the people. It’s very much like a family once you have proven yourself capable of pulling your own weight and doing your job properly.

3.   Make an assessment, based on 1 and 2, about what you believe will be best for you within your workplace. Would you prefer just to start anew or is it realistic to believe your transition could go well where you currently are?

4.   If you decide to remain where you are and transition, the first step must be to talk to your boss, one on one, and come out to him or her. Be up front about what you say. Answer questions. Reveal what you need and what you expect and he or she will do the same.

5.   Create a plan with your boss about how you will come out to the people with whom you work. If there are managers who oversee you for your boss, he or she should talk to them about the process separately and inform them of what is expected and how to be respectful. These conversations could include you or not, based on the preference of your boss. Once your boss has discussed your transition with his or her managers, a meeting of some kind should be made to inform the rest of the people with whom you work of your transition. It is key for your boss to make this announcement to indicate his or her support. During this meeting, again be willing to answer questions and to be patient with your coworkers.

6.   Be aware this is a change for everyone, and it will be strange for everyone at first. Be patient, and be gentle. The more understanding you can display, the easier it will be for those around you to accept the new you.

During this process, remember that people are sadly uneducated. Many have never heard the term genderqueer or transgender. Always be willing to answer questions, and always be willing to educate those around you because if you don’t, who will. I keep trying to reinforce this fact because I feel like it is so important to remember. People can only learn through the imparting of knowledge, so we must share our experiences so ignorance will cease to dominate.

I hope these guidelines are helpful for those of you who have yet to go through this, or for those of you who wish to support friends through this time. Have any of you out there already had to make this choice? How did you go about transitioning in the workplace? Share your stories, or any suggestions for future articles.