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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Things I Learned Being The Only Out Trans Person At Work

            In early April of this year, after only about a week and a half or so in my temp job I took the plunge and came out at work. Now, I’m on a computer all day, so it’s not like I’m dealing with customers so there were no worried there. But as far as I know, I’m also the only transgender person at this work (Unless someone is not out or just passes really well.) Hell, I don’t even know if there are any other LGBT people besides me and my boyfriend. And while my experience is probably not typical (As unfortunately many people don’t have such a happy ending) but there is a lot I learned from all of it in the very least in my situation.

Managers are ridiculously professional about it
            You know what happened when I told my trainer? She said “Alright, wear what you want, use whichever bathroom you’re comfortable with.” And that was… pretty much it. Nothing major I had to do or say just… simple as that. And when I told my actual manager when I asked which locker room to use (My work has an on site gym) he told me I could use the women’s locker room… and then asked if I wanted to update my name in the system. I didn’t even plan on asking that! But sure enough, he got my e-mail and everything updated. Oh, and by the time training was done and I got my actual desk, the name tag never said “Samuel” on it. I don’t know if they’ve had this before, but they were super professional about it. And anytime a manager has talked to me, it has been totally normal. Well, mostly.

The people that aren’t professional about it are unprofessionally supportive
            In my job I have a “work director” who is just below my manager. She is a very nice lady that talked to me when I first came out at work and said I’m her first transgender employee but she will be understanding and help me. She then one day told me that if anyone has a problem with me or “bitches” to her about me, she will and I quote “Tell them to mind their own fucking business because if they have a problem with you, they need to find a different place to work.” Not the most professionally worded support, but I’ll take it dang it!

Nothing grand happens afterwards
            I’m not entirely sure what I expected from coming out. I thought there might be a sensitivity training or something maybe or some sort of announcement. But after I came out… there was nothing. I came to work in a dress and it was… normal. No one said anything. I’m sure some people looked curiously (Some coworkers admitted later to wondering about it) but no one glared. I didn’t get any comments or have anything bad happen. It was… totally normal. The work day was exactly like any other work day. It was like I was just a human being. And related to this

No one gives a shit (in a good way)
            I began talking to coworkers relatively quickly and got to know them and they learned about me. And of course I got occasional questions and curiosities. But overall through talking to them I learned something very important… they didn’t care. It’s just another part of who I am to them. It’s not my only feature, it’s not a talking point, I’m not a gossip piece I’m… just a person who happens to be transgender. And honestly, I’m really thankful for that.

The best thing is not getting attention
            People support me at work, absolutely. But like I said, I’m not a discussion piece. And some people think of this image of being told they’re so brave or inspiring but really… I don’t get a whole lot of attention because of it. I talk to coworkers a lot about normal topics. And not having it brought up all the time is a relief. I like to talk about it, but I’m more than just being transgender. And when the only mentions of it are in passing, it makes me feel just that much more like I’m a normal human like everyone else.

People will help when asked
            My coworkers always respond well when I make requests. I don’t mind being playful and being teased and teasing them back. However, if I say a certain thing is off limits, they immediately back off. And when I began voice therapy I was very nervous about how I would sound. But instead, coworkers encouraged me greatly to talk and practice my voice and refused to make fun of me for it. It became another part of the work environment. And everyone adjusts when asked, and it’s seen as totally normal. They don’t think they have to “cater” to me or that I think I’m special, they’re just understanding.

It’s scary no matter what
            You would think with all this support I’d have nothing to be afraid of. And in all reality… there probably isn’t anything I should be afraid of. But that doesn’t mean I’m not afraid. I still often wonder how I look when I leave my apartment. I wonder if people will stare. I wonder if my outfit looks good. I wonder if I look “female” enough. I wonder how my voice will sound. Whenever I go to the bathroom I hope that I won’t see anyone face to face just in case they read me as “male.”

            Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my work environment and my coworkers. But nothing ever truly gets rid of the fear. I just happen to have a better situation than most. And even though the fear is still there, I’m conquering it day by day. And maybe, just maybe, one day I won’t be afraid of anything.

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