We spend most of our waking hours at work, and most of our time at work building relationships with people we see more than our own families. This is why the stress of hiding one’s true identity eventually becomes more damaging than the alternative. Coming out as Transgender in the work environment is often the last step to take towards embracing our authentic self and discarding the painful past that we consider a lie.
Nobody would ever make the mistake of saying this is going to be an easy transition. You are going from what many consider to be “wearing a mask” of the expectations of others, mostly because of fear of rejection, cruelty from those we thought were our friends, and the threat of outright violence, to finally emerge the person you know down to the depths of your soul that you were born to be…the person you know that you are. At the end of the day, stepping into the light of your true self is scary and life altering. It is also an absolutely necessary step. You can ease that journey a bit by preparing yourself.
If you have come to the decision that this is something you must do, you have already gone through pros and cons of coming out at work or school. On the one hand, there is the very real truth that not everyone will understand nor will they be quiet about it.
You never really know how a person is going to react when their expectations are challenged. While they may eventually come around to accept and embrace you, open hostility and ridicule is a very real possibility, especially if they have little to no experience with the LGBTQ community.
You would hope that everyone would realize that people are people with the same feelings and rights to happiness as anyone else. Some people need to be reminded you are just being the you that you have always been, regardless of exterior trappings. It’s not your job to educate people on the trans community, but you may find yourself in that position.
The most frightening of possible reactions is violence. According to the “Office of the Victims of Crime” website, statistics indicate that one in 2 transgender individuals are sexually abused or violently assaulted some time in their lives. The conclusion seemingly that the majority of transgender individuals are living with the aftermath of trauma and the fear of possible repeat victimization. After all this, what if you lose your job because of this decision?
You have also considered the pros, which includes being able to relax after the stress of having to hide who you are. That stress can risk your physical and emotional health, preventing you from developing close, more genuine relationships with colleagues or clients, and from doing the best job you are capable of.
Perhaps most rewarding of all, developing close friendships and a support structure with other transgender people in the community. It is a wonderful thing to be able share with and belong to a community of people who have gone through similar experiences as yourself. It is the human condition to want to be a part of something bigger than oneself. With social media and the internet being as prevalent as it is today, nobody should ever have to feel like they are alone. As you are embraced by a community of peers, so too, can you provide support to someone else who might also be struggling.
You need to use whatever resources you have at your disposal to protect yourself and your livelihood when coming out at work. Reaching out to the trans community, anonymously at first, since companies now do thorough internet searches on current and future employees, to take suggestions on how to get the legal ball rolling is one way to begin. Find out what your rights are. There are currently no federal protections guarding you against being fired based on gender identity. However, many states, cities and counties have laws or ordinances that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and expression.
Some states interpret their existing non-discrimination laws to protect transgender people. Research the laws in your city or state before coming out at work. A good idea is to approach a qualified Human Resource officer that is HIPAA certified and preface the conversation with an explicit understanding that it will be involve confidential health information.
“The New York City Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, including health care settings. In New York State, Medicaid, Medicare, health insurance through the Health Marketplace and many employer-sponsored plans cannot discriminate because you are transgender. This can include coverage for treatments recommended by your doctor, including surgeries and hormone therapy. This information and more can be found at https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/transgender-resources.page “