Jahn Westbrook

by jahn westbrook

My avant-garde decision was to start wearing skirts to work. My therapist supported this decision; one that would test my self-esteem and challenge my fears. My friends and colleagues were understandably confused and shocked. My department manager and I talked. Disclosing I am transgender and explaining what that was took up a multiple city block walk.


He listened as intently as ever. I explained my plan, and that I was talking with employee relations and Human Resources. To my overwhelmed surprise, I was the first person to transition where I work. This is extraordinary, considering I work for a University, surrounding a historical park.

I told him that I was ready to send a letter to all my colleagues. There were too many people, working all hours, spanning myriad departments, for me to tell everyone in person. There were a few people I did talk to in person, though. Those I had a long working relationship with, and felt I owed it to them at least. There were external business relationships I had also, which I handled in similar fashion, with a slightly altered version of the letter below.

After copying and pasting my letter, I contemplated not sending it. At this point in time, I had just separated and looking at divorce. My ex- clearly had not tolerance nor desire to try to understand. I feared this could also happen at work, which would have been devastating.


When we returned to our office, my department manager immediately started researching about gender dysphoria. I told him I had a couple of books, available for the staff, if he wanted to read through them. He ended up not taking me up on my offer, but other’s in my office did.

So, here is my entire letter:

Friends and Colleagues,

I am “personally” writing to each of you today in an effort to quell or confirm any rumors. I apologize for not coming to each of you in person, but that realistically couldn’t happen, and I must resort to this electronic method. And, to those of you I’ve known for nearly a decade or longer, forgive me for also not talking to you in person.

By now many of you have noticed alterations to my wardrobe. This is due to me having been diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria, a medical condition, not a psychological or mental disorder, in which a person’s birth sex is incongruous to that person’s gender identity. For the majority, gender identity and gender expression are congruous with each other and the social role we all play. In my case, Im physically male, but ever since I was a child I knew identified more as female.

It is important to know there are many shades of being transgender, the common umbrella term. I would like to be absolutely clear with each of you that being transgender is neither a life-style nor a choice. Would you voluntarily choose to live one way and feel another? It has nothing to do with exhibitionism, being a transvestite, cross-dresser, drag-queen, or female impersonator. It is solely the disassociation of ones gender(both “physical” and “hormonal” characteristics) and assigned sex(the visible “Masculine” and “Feminine” classification by society). I have struggled a life-time of trying to figure out what was going on with me, suppressing and living a sheltered life out in the open. As a consequence, I have and continue to see a professional therapist and with her guidance over many years, have been able to come to terms with who I am, and that there is nothing shameful with how I feel or who I am. I hope you all will feel the same way, as my personality hasn’t changed one iota.

I played at the roles of boy, son, man, husband throughout my life. At each stage it became increasingly more challenging to keep at the place society dictated. I was scared to death at being ostracized, ridiculed, shamed, et cetera, so I kept up every effort to act the “Masculine” part. As you can probably imagine, for those who know, this was a contributing factor to the dissolution of my marriage, and I am not ashamed of this. It is what it is. Ive moved on and am happier than I have been…well since probably I gave up my pacifier. Self discovery is a tremendous way of enlightenment and I am fortunate to have reached a point where I have found it.

I have stated previously that there are many shades of grey to being transgender and though I am not at the extreme end of the spectrum to transition, who knows where life will take me. For right now I have reached a point where I am comfortable with my gender identity.

I want you to know that I hope for full acceptance, though I am a realist and know that that my not be reality. It is within each of you to try to understand and accept my decision or not and I begrudge neither of you your individual decisions. But also, please understand I will not engage in futile arguments trying to defend my decisions. Regardless, my intentions are not to embarrass any of my friends and colleagues.

As always, my door is always open to each of you. I invite each of you to come and talk and ask me any question(well, almost any…) you have. I have some books available to you, I only ask that you write down that you have them and only keep them for no more than a day to allow others the use of them.

If you would rather talk to someone other then myself, you can seek out N— of Employee Relations; B— Counselor for Wellness Center; or J—, HR Generalist. Don’t forget there are also (social services organization) for questions, or the LGBTQ office is available to you.

Thanx, for reading,


After my letter went out, I was approached with many questions. Colleagues accused me of being courageous and brave. In some ways, my coming-out brought me closer to many of my colleagues. I’m sure it was all in my head.

There were complications, mostly centered around bathroom use and a personal incident which had nothing to do with the work place environment. Those incidents were bred of ignorance. Human Resources intervened and 100% supported my position as a female to use the facilities of my gender identity. There were even the jocular…er, snide…comments that I dressed better than other women in my department. I found that amusing. Whatever the issues were, they were their issues and not mine.

The ensuing couple of months, were a transition for my department. I was very tolerant of pronoun faux pas. After all, I had worked as a male with some of my colleagues for nearly two decades, at that time. As time went on, we settled into our new reality. I became less tolerant of gender and pronoun mistakes, and would not acknowledge when called by my male name or when male pronouns were slung my way.

About a year, after I came out, I acknowledged my need to fully transition. I suspect I always knew I was going to. I had external reasons for my initial denial, which were in conflict with my internal female identity. In order for me to live my authentic life, I knew I had to physically transition. Post GRS, there were little changes, since I had already identified and presented as female.

mir, irini, peace, amn,



TU Articles