Coming out to My Co-Workers
I had worked in the same market with the same people for years and many knew me in my personal life. So inevitably word made it into my professional life, even though I did not present as female at work. Being out was a huge relief for me in itself because it allowed me to at least drop a persona and be myself more. In November, when I was interviewing for a position in New Hampshire, I was not presenting as female at work even though I was ready for that step. So when I met my new manager Brandon I came as John to the interview. I did not want to give him any reason to pass me up for the spot and he might not have passed me up, but there was a certain unknown of the culture moving up here from Georgia.
“AFTER NOTIFYING MY BOSSES I WAS GIVEN THE TOUGH RESPONSIBILITY OF BEING THE FIRST EMPLOYEE TO TRANSITION IN A MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR COMPANY”
After making the move I did not say I was transgender out loud, but I left little room for doubt. I wore makeup to work, my nails were manicured and polished, and mom jeans were a daily necessity. After notifying my bosses I was given the tough responsibility of being the first employee to transition in a multi-billion dollar company. So I had to introduce a little more procedure into my approach than before. Corporate left it up to my discretion on when and how to tell my co-workers, when I wanted to officially go by Jennifer, and what timeline of events would take place. I decided that since my co-workers and I lacked a deep personal relationship, that a notification email and a follow up meeting would be sufficient. So I found a few letters online that I thought read well and then composed my own. Last week the following email was sent out to my co-workers.
I am writing to tell you about a matter that is essentially personal but will result in some changes at work. Some questions have arisen about my looks and mannerisms the past couple of months, and it is now time to explain what is going on.
I am transgender. I have had transgender feelings since I was 5 or 6. My discomfort only increased the older I grew, and 3 years ago I came out to my friends and family.
Years ago I was diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, the treatment for which includes psychotherapy, hormonal treatments and/or various surgeries. Accordingly, I have been working with my therapist and doctors, following the Standards of Care that set out treatment guidelines for this condition.
Outside of work, I live as a woman. My family and friends call me Jennifer, and I have intentions of obtaining a legal name change. The legal name change will be the first aspect of my personal life that will have an effect in the workplace. Once my legal name changes so will my prelude name, email, and all legal documents that are intertwined with my job.
Human Resources has been very supportive and has provided a written policy when it comes to gender change in the workplace. I am working with management on a timeline for changes and will keep you informed of events that affect me in the workplace. I’m very pleased to be able to take this step toward personal wholeness while staying at a job I have found very rewarding.
As branches that I previously have worked at learned, this change will not affect my ability to do my job. In fact, I may be less distracted when I no longer have two personas to juggle.
Some of you may not understand the life changes I’m undertaking. I would be happy to answer your questions or direct you to additional information. Some of you may not approve of what I’m doing; that is your right. However, I expect that everyone will treat me with basic human respect and professionalism.
I do ask that you attempt to use female pronouns (she, her) when referring to me. The nickname of “J” will continue to work for all of us to reduce confusion at the branch level. I know this will take a little time to get used to, and I expect that you’ll make mistakes at first. All I ask is that you try to get it right. I am still the same easy going individual that you have come to know this past couple of months. For the time being we are refraining from having conversations with the customers directly as they can figure it out organically. If they have questions Brandon or I will be happy to speak with them in a private setting.
Jennifer “J” Simmons
Until today the guys at work were very quiet about my announcement. I assumed it was them needing some time to absorb the information and to realize that the eyeliner was not because of my “Lynyrd Skynyrd” fandom. At the meeting the only concerns expressed by my co-workers were fear of offending me because they were not used to having a female in the branch. I am sure in the coming days and weeks there will be bumps in the road, but as long as everyone is willing to be professional and make an effort we should be fine.