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  • Morgan Messick

Journey to Authenticity: Transitioning in the Workplace


A group of co-workers of varying genders having a meeting, courtesy of The Gender Spectrum Collection

In 2014, Time magazine featured trans actress Laverne Cox on its June cover alongside a captivating headline proclaiming that "The Transgender Tipping Point" had finally arrived.

“Transgender people,” the article read, “are emerging from the margins to fight for an equal place in society. This new transparency is improving the lives of a long misunderstood minority and beginning to yield new policies, as trans activists and their supporters push for changes in schools, hospitals, workplaces, prisons, and the military.”


A transfeminine executive with a non-binary employee, courtesy of The Gender Spectrum Collection

At the time, this story was viewed as a significant turning point for the representation of transgender individuals in the media.


However, it never actually led to tangible improvements for the transgender community in the United States, despite the ongoing fight for comprehensive LGBTQIA+ rights.

Transgender people in 2023 are still dealing with outdated stigmas, as well as growing threats to their safety and existence. Despite the progress that has been made, many transgender people across the globe still face prejudice both at home and in the workplace.

Today, we will take a closer look at some of the challenges a trans person might face when applying for and adjusting to a new workplace.


Applying for a New Job

Transgender individuals may face a myriad of unique challenges when applying for a new position, from deciding what name to put on the application to finding appropriate healthcare coverage. Let’s look at some of the most common challenges and how best to deal with them.


Discrimination

Unfortunately, discrimination against the transgender community still exists in many workplaces. A trans individual who is otherwise highly qualified may experience discrimination during the application process, even being passed over for a job because of their gender identity.

The best way to combat this challenge is to research companies that are known for being inclusive and welcoming to the LGBTQIA+ community.

You can also look for companies that have specific policies in place to protect transgender employees from discrimination.


Name and Pronoun Use

If your legal name and gender marker do not match your gender identity, you may face challenges when using your preferred name and pronouns during the application process.

However, you can make this easier by applying using your preferred name and pronouns. When you are offered the job, you can then discuss any necessary legal name changes during the onboarding process.

Healthcare Benefits

Many insurance plans do not cover transgender healthcare needs, such as hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgery. This can make it challenging for transgender individuals to find jobs that offer comprehensive healthcare benefits.

Before accepting a job offer, you may wish to research the company’s healthcare policy to ensure that it covers your specific healthcare needs.


Disclosure

Deciding whether or not to disclose your gender identity during the job application process can be challenging. On one hand, disclosing your identity can help you avoid discrimination and ensure that you are treated respectfully. On the other hand, disclosing your identity can also make you feel vulnerable and exposed.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to disclose your gender identity is up to you. You can choose to disclose during the interview process or wait until you have a job offer in hand.

 

You’ve Got The Job! Now What?

Entering a new workplace as a transgender person can feel daunting, but with a plan of action in place, you can gain confidence and create a supportive work environment. The first step is to decide if and when you want to come out at work.

It is important to remember that coming out is a personal decision, and you should only do so when you feel comfortable and safe.

Once you have decided to come out, identify an ally whom you trust in the workplace, such as a close colleague or supervisor, to confide in. This person can provide support and help you navigate the transition process. You may also wish to research the company's non-discrimination policies and any support groups or resources available for LGBTQIA+ employees.

When it comes to updating personal information, you may need to work with Human Resources to ensure that your name and pronouns are correctly reflected in internal systems. You should also discuss any accommodation needs, such as the use of gender-neutral bathrooms or a private space for pumping breast milk.

If you plan to transition medically, be sure to discuss the time off you may need for medical appointments and procedures with your supervisor. Additionally, research your company's insurance policies to ensure coverage for transition-related care.

If you plan to change your gender expression, talk to your supervisor about a timeline that works best for you. You may also want to consider temporarily working from home to ensure a comfortable and safe environment during your transition.

Remember that every person's transition journey is unique, and it is important to create a plan that works best for you.

You deserve to feel supported and respected in your workplace, and with proper planning and communication, your transition can be a positive experience.


Coming Out to Your Co-Workers

Coming out as a transgender person at work can be a challenging and nerve-wracking experience, but it can also be incredibly liberating and affirming.

It is important to remember that you have the right to express your gender identity and be true to yourself and that your co-workers have a responsibility to support you in this journey.

Once you have an action plan in place, you can start to think about how you want to come out to your co-workers. Some people choose to do it individually, while others prefer to come out to a small team or through an organization-wide email.

There is no right or wrong way to do it, so choose what feels most comfortable and authentic for you.


Timing is also an important consideration. You may want to come out once you feel comfortable expressing your gender identity at work or after a certain project is completed and you have more of your team’s attention. It may also be helpful to have upper management on board so they can offer support and signal to the organization that you are accepted and welcome as yourself. After you come out, your co-workers may have questions or be curious about your transition. It is important to have boundaries and only share what you feel comfortable with. You can also direct them to resources or support groups if they want to learn more.

Ongoing Support

If you're considering or in the process of transitioning, know that there are plenty of resources and support for you out there. It's completely understandable to feel overwhelmed or unsure about where to start, but there are people who want to help you along the way. One great place to start is by looking into LGBTQ Employee Resource Groups. Ask your organization if they have one, or consider starting one of your own with other LGBTQIA+ colleagues. Being part of a community that supports and understands your experiences can be incredibly empowering and make the process feel less isolating. In addition to that, there are also many online resources that provide information and support for trans individuals. Some great options include:

These organizations offer hotlines, chats, and resources for those seeking support and guidance.

It's important to remember that transitioning is a personal journey and that there is no one right way to do it. Take your time, make changes at your own pace, and always advocate for your rights.


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