I began hormone replacement therapy two months before I started a seasonal job for the summer. When there was an opportunity to stay on full-time in the fall, I knew I would need to let management in on my upcoming second puberty. The staff was going to find out one way or another! I was fortunate to be working at a corporate restaurant in an art museum in a major city, so most of the management team was progressive enough (even by 2011 standards) to go with the flow. I asked them if they could address the staff as a whole on my behalf and ask them to address me by my proper pronouns and name. When I told them I wasn’t quite comfortable using the men’s or women’s locker rooms, they gave me a locker with the back -of-house staff that wasn’t segregated.
Overall, I felt that they were very amenable to my needs during this incredibly awkward time in my life. It was definitely a struggle to get the entire staff to use my proper pronouns but I had a couple of allies who would help correct them when needed. The company offered really good benefits and in 2015, I was able to have top surgery covered by my insurance. My manager helped me navigate my short-term disability leave and made accommodations for me that went above and beyond when I returned to work. She was incredibly supportive of me throughout it all. I ended up staying at that job for seven years, mostly because of her.
While I feel like I am really fortunate in my transitioning on the job story, it was still emotionally and mentally taxing. I had a wonderful support network and an amazing therapist that helped me navigate through the mispronouncing, deadnaming, dysphoria, and the uncomfortable interactions with guests who didn’t know how to address me.
Before 2020, there were some statewide mandates but no federal protections for transgender folks in the workplace. The supreme court case Bostock v. Clayton County acknowledged that employers cannot discriminate against transgender employees on the job. This includes, gender identity, gender transition or sex assigned at birth. If you or anyone you know is experiencing discrimination, there is legal recourse, no matter what state you reside in.
Transitioning on the job can be quite challenging for some folks, especially if they have been with their employer for any length of time. Some folks may experience being passed over for promotions, loss of respect, or strained interpersonal relationships. I encourage people to have an external support network in place and an ally or two at work (if possible) before embarking on this journey. As terrifying as the prospect may be, there is nothing more empowering than to be able to authentically express who you are. A new found sense of confidence in your gender expression will ripple throughout every other aspect of your life, including work!
If you are interested in exploring talking with your employer about your transition and want to talk with someone, please reach out to iAmClinic or iAmCouncil for career counseling or coaching. Our career coaches also works with employers who are interested in creating a more inclusive environment for their transgender employees.
Other resources that may be helpful are: