Monday, September 17, 2012

See the World From Both Sides Now

What is there to say?  I am in tears.  My longtime readers will remember my tragic experiences of coming out and attempting to transition with my previous employer.  And what you read about my experiences was greatly summarized and diluted, because at the time; I was in fear of losing my job.  Yes, my previous employer monitored my personal life with the specific intent of finding cause to terminate me.  I would not be surprised if they are still monitoring me just out of the spiteful shrewish nature of the people who were tasked with “handling” me.  All I can say to you if you are still out there is: hi… hope you’re having a great life.  Boy, you sure taught me a lesson!

My previous employer, among other things, compelled me to provide all of the logistics of how to manage my transition (as I was the expert – I have reason to believe the people who laid out that expectation never even opened my painstakingly prepared “plan”).  I was asked how I would dress, what restrooms I expected to use, how my employer was supposed to handle it “when” other people in the office had a problem with me and “if” they decided to benevolently support my transition.  In short, I was asked to defend my right to have a job.  I was “asked” to segregate myself from all external contact with fellow employees; I had to remove people from my “friends lists” on all of my personal social network accounts.  I even had to relocate this blog (I was actually “asked” to stop writing, if you can believe that).  Of course, it took very little time for my “handlers” to figure out that I had just moved elsewhere, but there was little they could do as I had obeyed “the letter of the law.”  Still, I knew they were watching.

Given everything that happened (and this is not even including the changes in day to day relationships), it should be pretty obvious just how litigious of a person I am not.  The truth is, as is probably true of most women like me, I just wanted to be able to live my life in harmony with how I felt inside.  I had no interest in stirring the pot, in making a federal case, or of pushing the boundaries of gender law.  I just wanted to live.  So, I quit.  I started with a new company barely three weeks later (I am not stupid) for the same salary, better benefits, and far less responsibility.  And I repeat… boy, they sure taught me a lesson.

Fast forward six or so months to present day.  I told my boss a few weeks ago why he was giving me vacation at the beginning of September.  If you have been living under a rock for the last six months, you may not know that I just completed FFS and a few other procedures to facilitate my transition.  I told him that I was transitioning to female, that everywhere outside of work, I had been living as Kate for a very long time, and that the surgery I was about to have would make permanent my transition.  His response?  He started walking through the things we would need to take care of – changing my email account, my badge, my name plate, etc.  His one comment was that “if you’ve managed to perform like you have so far while going through all of that, it has nothing but good things to suggest about your future.  I have only ever known one you, and I support you 100%.”

Two days later, I met with HR.  I had only met this woman one time before.  Upon entering her office, the first thing she said was “I have never dealt with anything like this before.  You are a first for me.”  I heard a similar statement from my previous “HR” rep right before being raked over the coals for several weeks.  But what she said next set the tone for everything that has happened since: “But I have been doing a little research.”  She proceeded to ask me how my name would be spelled, whether I knew when the legal changes would be final, and what she could do to help me.  She stated her plan, asked if I could review the communications she was putting together to make sure I was comfortable with them, and proceeded to engage in an entirely cordial conversation about a whole slew of completely other things.  I was never asked what I would wear or what restroom I would be using.  

The communication she sent to our executive team, which was then cascaded throughout the organization, stated in very plain terms what was happening, what was expected of everyone (that I would be treated with respect, that correct names and pronouns would be used in reference to me, and that I would be using the appropriate facilities for my gender, etc.).  With the exception of my employee records (which understandably cannot be changed until the legal changes occur), the company actually updated everything from my email address to the nameplate on my office with my correct name.  All this happened while I was off lying around in Mexico.

I returned to work today.  You will not believe what happened.  As I entered the building, I passed a coworker.  She looked at me, smiling, and said… “Good morning.”  A short time later, I passed another colleague as I walked to my office.  Readers, you will not believe what he said.  He said… “Good morning,” and then proceeded to talk about operations with me for a few seconds.  I next passed one of the most religious people I have met there, and what she said to me was… it was just… um well… you be the judge.  She said “Good morning.”  Before I made it to my desk, I passed her a second time.  We laughed at the coincidence.  

What followed over the next two or so hours was a string of coworkers and office neighbors stopping by to welcome me back and to chat about my surgery, or to catch me up on what happened while I was out.  I heard everything from, “Wow, you look great,” to “How did it go?”  And regarding emails received bearing my new account name; you will not believe the responses I got.  I heard everything from… a response to my email, to… a “welcome back” and response to my email.  The horror!

Two of our directors in sales stopped by my desk to welcome me back… what nerve!  One even had the audacity to suggest I should take it easy and not overdo it so soon after surgery.  Can you imagine?

My boss sent me an email.  It said, “Welcome back.”  And that HR person: she sent me two notes today.  She actually had the gall to ask how I was doing and to echo the director’s admonition not to over exert myself.  Unbelievable.

I was stopped by security on my way out.  She wanted to tell me how proud she was for me, and what an awesome thing I was doing.  Can you believe that?

Seriously, I could not be more touched or more impressed by my company and its people.  One might almost think they value people and understand what is truly important in a business… results.

To my former employer: Boy, you sure taught me a lesson!

And those tears?  They are tears of joy.

Happy Monday, Friends!  Next time, I will fill you in on the surgery experience.
Peace and hippy talk,


  1. I am so very glad your return to work went well. And I am glad you appreciate that it did. Your attitude towards them is just as (if not more) important as their attitude towards you is... because your sanity and dignity depend on it. And, you always seem to have such a great attitude. People will slip and use the wrong gender descriptives occasionally, as I'm sure happens already... try not to let it hurt you. It's sometimes going to be accidental and it's sometimes going to be intentional, and in neither case is it acurate. I am so happy for you, Kate. I'm so excited that you can have a peaceful work environment. I'm glad that (slow as it may be) the world is beginning to be somewhat more accepting of the variety of people around them. I love you and continue to be very proud of you.

    1. Hi Jenifer!
      I could no be more appreciative, and I can't help crediting my previous employer to some degree with my current attitude. They really did teach me a lesson. :) What is funny is that since I started working here, I have dealt with pronoun troubles. Being referred to as "sir" when I first started living as myself was enough to ruin my entire week. By the time I started my current job, that sensitivity had passed. It doesn't bother me at all; in fact, I often find it amusing... though it very seldom happens. What is especially amusing now is that when I went to work as a boy; I would still somewhat regularly be mistaken for a girl.

      It's all good, and I am very happy.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. So happy for you with how things are going at work. There are companies out there that value their staff. I went through a similar process with HR where I work in the run up to my transition. We worked through everything, agreed when I would transition and how we'd tell colleagues (I'd have loved to have seen everyone's faces when HR read out my letter, I've been told there was a sense of relief when they were told I was changing gender and not dying). When I rang to speak to my boss a few days later and was talking to one of the receptionists she said if she'd known when she saw me leaving on my last day she'd have given me a hug. I didn't have a lot of emails on my return, a couple but I did have a couple of people chat to me but it was all 5 minute wonder stuff.

    The thing with the company that I work for though is that it gets a hammering in the UK press every so often but as far as its people are concerned its getting to be a really good place to work because they really are doing what they can to look after their staff as they are the most valuable asset they have.

    1. Hi Jenna,

      You know the best part of all of it (at least in my opinion)? Most of the email communication I had on my first day back was actually work related. I really appreciated that more than anything. That is not to say I don't like a little attention, but it was very nice that the people I work with are still working with me. That felt the best of all.

      Take care, and thanks for your comments!


  3. You have me on the verge of tears, too, Kate. You have truly paid your dues, and built up some good karma. Being treated properly and with respect for that huge chunk of your day is going to make life so much better.

    What a long, strange trip it's been!


  4. Kate,

    First of all, congratulations of the highest level are in order, for you and the people you work with. Such high caliber individuals are rare and true gems. It makes it all the easier to appreciate them, especially when you consider the contrast to your previous workplace.

    You see in that way I can truly relate. As I came closer to full time, I brought the subject to my employers. Both men who made it clear I would not be full time at work. Eventually I did go full time a few months ago, but not at work. As time went on it made more sense to me to be full time everywhere. After my last rebuff, I knew I had to make other arrangements. After a couple of weeks between jobs I found a position where I fit well. I am myself there. The only ones who know of the old me are the owners, the PR manager and the floor supervisor. The difference is wonderfully amazing. And Kate, you're very right when you say, "boy, they sure taught me a lesson."


  5. Oh Kate!

    I am so glad to hear you had such a smooth transition "debut." I am working with my HR and management team now at work to transition in place and fervently hope it is as smooth as yours. I thank you, Kate, along with Sarah and so many others for going before me. It's a first for my HR person also but she did research, read a couple of books and contacted colleagues. We are teaming up to make this work smoothly!


  6. Hello, Katey. I just discovered your blog thanks to a friend (Sarah) who knew just where to point me as I struggled with coming out at work. I'm only out to the boss, the bigwigs and my closest friends... and I have set in my mind my birthday in March as a date for my casual friends and coworkers. I just wanted to congratulate you on making such an amazing transition and for documenting it so others like me can be inspired and hope for the best. I wish you well and look forward to reading more about you as I dig back though your entries! My blog should you be totally bored and have a need for something other than insomnia medication is -- It's nice to "meet" you!

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