This is an excellent video on transition in the workplace – from a Director of Human resources (unfortunately the audio quality is low, but listenable.)
Let’s use your imagination to envision transition at work.
I want you to imagine arriving at work on that first day in a stylish shirt-dress you picked up from Nordstrom on the weekend, tastefully made up, and wearing brown heels.
I want you to imagine the exact route you will take from the moment you enter the premises to the moment you arrive at your desk, and finally to your bosses desk to bid him or her good morning.
Think of every person you will see along the way and think of what words you will exchange. Once each interaction is finished, imagine the camera swinging back and capturing the comments they are making to each other once you’re out of earshot. What are they saying and how does that make you feel?
Now repeat the same imaginative leap forward in time to envision other transition experiences you may have at work.
Transition in big companies
The good news is…
The transgender tide is sweeping over corporate America so fast, it seems some companies are almost actively encouraging employees to transition. At Netflix, for example – where gender reassignment surgery is included in the company health plan – employees joke that transition might even boost your career as management strives to prove how trans-friendly the company is.
It is also well known that the culture of tolerance in some companies is so high – and the penalties so sharp for non compliance – that the office can be one of the most accepting and positive environments for transgender people.
But of course, the economy does not solely consist of corporate America but of small and medium sized companies. Even here, though, while managers and business owners may not be wildly enthusiastic over transgender employees, they do not want to face the risk of bad publicity and expensive lawsuits.
Unfortunately, there will always remain professional spaces and industries where transition will not go down well.
Freelance and unemployed
For freelance workers, transition has a different slant. When you work for yourself no one’s going to fire you for transitioning, however… customers and clients can approve or disapprove with their dollars, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Therefore, if you are a masseur… and you transition, you may find some clients dropping off. Or not.
For someone who doesn’t have a job to start with, there are also advantages and disadvantages. Clearly, going for an interview for the first time while transitioning will be daunting, but you must also remember that the interviewer never knew you in your previous life… which has many plus points.
Thinking about your professional life, therefore, in terms of whether you should transition or not, is an endeavor with no universal questions and answers. You must examine your own circumstances.
It’s also important to think about the whole picture. Sometimes we focus on the colleagues immediately around us but forget that work can entail a whole series of relationships and interactions (depending on the job, of course) beyond our desk.
Some questions to consider…
1. How many people do you have face to face contact with, professionally, each week? How are they likely to view your transition?
2. What is your company’s official policy on transgender employees? If it doesn’t have one, how do you imagine it would be if they did have one?
3. How accepting are your close colleagues of trans-people?
4. Do you think that post transition you will be better or worse at…
– arguing with your boss,
– office politics,
– meeting deadlines,
– working by phone,
– projecting the right image – style, grooming, clothes etc…
Now give yourself a score from 0 to 10…
0 = Transition will be the death of my career and leave me financially ruined.
10 = Transition will have no negative impact on my career, in fact it may aid it.