Coming Out at Work

I have said, and will continue to say, that I am exceedingly lucky to be transitioning in this day and age. I am also lucky to have a supportive family, amazing friends, and very accepting coworkers.

When I was considering transitioning, one thing I really got hung up on was what transitioning would do to my career. I am an attorney, and just graduated law school a year ago. I was worried that beginning my career and then transitioning right after would be detrimental to my job– I didn’t want people to have to get to know me as a trans person and get to know me as an attorney all at the same time.

But, it was obvious that I couldn’t hold it in anymore. So I worked with the firm diversity coordinator and my closest friends to come up with a strategy. Ultimately, I sent my office an email. I sent it at 4 pm on a Thursday. I wanted to be able to leave the office quickly if I got too overwhelmed or if it went badly. I also didn’t want to have to be there the whole week if it was weird. So, I did it. And it’s been awesome.

Within two hours of sending it, I had about 30 emails back from various attorneys and staff expressing their support. I have had not one weird or awkward moment since. I am now on the firmwide diversity committee and am starting a new pro bono project to help with name/gender changes for trans people.

Here’s a copy of the letter I sent:

Dear Los Angeles Colleagues,

I am writing to tell you about a matter that is essentially personal but will result in some changes at work—I am transgender. This means that while I was born female, I identify with the masculine and will be undertaking the process of physically transitioning to a more male appearance. While I doubt this will come as a shock to any of you, the decision to physically transition has been the culmination of a ten year process of self-discovery. With the support of my family, friends, and wonderful colleagues here at [firm], I am ready to live as authentically as I can.

I’ve done my best over the last several months to make this transition go as smoothly as I know how. It turns out that there’s no ‘handbook’ to refer to on these matters. I regret that I have not been able to talk to each of you personally about this, but as you can imagine having ‘the conversation’ is a somewhat emotionally draining experience (usually for both parties) and so I’ve sometimes shied away from it, even when opportunities presented themselves. For this I hope you’ll forgive me.

Starting today, I ask that you call me [name] and use male pronouns (he, him, his) when referring to me. I am in the process of legally changing my name to [name] and Human Resources has been very supportive in making arrangements to change my name and gender on all my firm documentation. Our goal is for everything to be as smooth and uneventful as possible.

This change will inevitably take some getting used to, and there will be a period of adjustment. One thing I’m acutely aware of is the disruption and awkwardness that is brought in terms of ‘renegotiating’ social relationships that are to a large extent premised on one’s gender. The last thing I want is for any of you to feel nervous about ‘saying the wrong thing’, accidentally using my prior name, mixing up pronouns etc. These things happen and I am very used to it. I have developed considerable immunity to slips of the tongue etc. I am not shy about discussing any aspects of my situation that you may be curious about – indeed I’d welcome the opportunity to discuss it with any of you.

If you would like to learn a little bit more about what it means for someone to be transgender, I direct your attention to these resources, which are all quite good:
http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/transgender-faq
http://community.pflag.org/Document.Doc?id=202

One thing I want to add is that I feel I am extremely lucky to have found myself working in such a wonderful environment with such amazingly supportive, sensitive, compassionate and understanding colleagues. Many people in my situation face incredible difficulty when they attempt to transition at work, and in many cases it is the fear of the consequences of doing so that delays or even prevents them ever making the decision to live their real lives. I thank you all for your continued support and understanding and look forward to a bright future together.

Warmly,
BJK

2 thoughts on “Coming Out at Work”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s