What It's Like To Come Out As Transgender At Work

The idea of transition scared me more than anything I had ever considered in my life. I could lose my job, my relationship, everyone and everything in my life.

Jul 16, 2013 at 11:30am | Leave a comment

I started at my current job in March of 2012, but it wasn’t until a year later that my coworkers were introduced to me. A year is a long time to wait to say “hello,” but my particular situation was a bit unique: I’m transgender.

Taking things a step back, I should note that at 26 years old, I felt that I was doing okay, professionally. I had been consistently working a full time job since I was a junior in college. I made enough money to pay my bills. I was working within my field of study. I enjoyed the work I did. I should have been loving my work, loving my life. Life was seemingly okay, but something was wrong.

On and off, throughout my life, I had very conflicting feelings about my identity and existence. Growing up, something just felt, well, something felt “off.” I never fit in as a boy, and I certainly was not feeling okay in my role as a man. My skin crawled, I felt irritated, and I was an emotional wreck throughout adolescence and into adulthood. Chemically, my body felt as though it was running on diesel when it needed unleaded. By 23, I was beginning to break down.

Being transgender was not something I was prepared to accept about myself until I was on the verge of collapse. Everything the media had shown me regarding transgender individuals pushed the same narratives, over and over: “I’m trapped in the wrong body!” and “I knew since I was 3 years old!”

That wasn’t me. I didn’t feel “trapped,” I just felt wrong. Nor was I sure self-aware of my true gender identity as a toddler. As my own narrative didn’t match the traditional trans narrative, I was quick to ignore my own gender dissonance, brushing it off as being ridiculous. As Zinnia Jones outlined in her article, “The Trouble With Depicting Trans People,” these “wrong body” and “I knew from an early age” stories did nothing but make me feel more isolated and alone, putting off transition and trying to ignore these feelings.

In 2010, I found myself with a stomach ulcer that prevented me from working more than a few hours at a time, sending me to the emergency room on 5 separate occasions. The solution, as diagnosed and prescribed by a psychiatrist, was to try to realign who I was through antidepressants and anticonvulsants, as I had developed a hand tremor. Unfortunately, this was just a patch on a much larger problem, as the medication eventually lost effectiveness over the course of the next few years.

At 26 years old, I finally came to terms with who I was and what I needed to do to correct the unbearable state of my mind. My tremors and depression had returned full force, and all the Xanax in the world wouldn’t have helped. I knew what I needed to do, but at the time, I had just started a new job. The last thing I could afford was to lose it by transitioning.

The idea of transition scared me more than anything I had ever considered in my life. I could lose my job, my relationship, everyone and everything in my life.

Realizing that my options in life were limited to transitioning or pain and death, I came out to my partner as trans, beginning therapy sessions and hormone replacement therapy treatments shortly thereafter.

During my annual performance review in January 2013, I came out to my two direct supervisors, explaining that I was transgender and had been on HRT for 3 months. I elaborated where necessary, and gave them them the green light to ask whatever sort of questions they may have, whether reasonable or absurd.

Being Transgender in the Workplace from Rae Rome on Vimeo.

In the months that followed, I worked with management and human resources to develop a path forward. Various things had to be coordinated, including how my co-workers and client contacts would be told about my trans status, what restrooms I would have permission to use, how and when to update name and contact information on e-mail and company files, and how instances of harassment would be handled.

The morning of March 4, 2013, 12 months after I had started this job, I went into work for the first time as Parker Marie Molloy.

Even with careful planning, there have been bumps in the road. I’ve overhead bathroom gossip between two women lamenting the fact that they had to share it with someone like me. I’ve experienced issues with embarrassing name mismatches on company documents. I’ve been on the receiving end of stares and mumbles in the hallway. Complete strangers have yelled and called me names on my way to and from work.

I spent more time in an empty office or a bathroom stall crying than I’d like to admit, but I knew that each passing day would get a little easier, a little brighter. That was enough to keep me going. That said, I am so much happier these days than I’ve ever felt before. I am me. I’m not hiding anymore.

This was originally posted at Thought Catalog. Follow them on Facebook here.
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