I came out at work on Monday. Such a small sentence but a huge leap for me. It was essentially the last hurdle in my current life to coming out entirely. I am still trying to come to terms with the joyous idea that I will never, ever, ever wear the mask again. I think I will hold a small ceremony at home where I put the last articles of men’s clothing into a bag and take it to Goodwill. It’s been a long time in the making, an entire lifetime has been spent and paid for.
The week before, I talked with our CFO and HR manager and explained that I was coming out at the end of the month and that my name change paperwork would be complete by that time as well. This way they had time to start changing business cards, paperwork, tax forms, insurance, etc. The CFO said that I should probably let people know a little before it happened, so that my colleagues could have a moment to absorb the information, which I agreed was probably best.
After the meeting I began writing the “coming out” email. I did several renditions and I kept erasing it, I didn’t want to give too much or too little and there is a lot to try to get them to understand without overloading them with a long-winded email that no one will want to read. I went online to look for examples and after a while I found one that fit the professional environment. I had to change several aspects, but it helped me as a guide. I am inserting it below, so that you also have an example. I’m sorry but I cannot find the original example link.
Dear Colleagues, I am writing to tell you about a matter that is essentially personal but will result in some changes at work. You may have noticed some changes in my appearance over the last several months, and it is now time to explain what is going on. I am transgender. I have known I was female since I was 5 or 6 years old, but I kept this hidden and did my best to make my life work pretending to be male. Unfortunately, my discomfort only increased, and I was unable to continue living behind a mask that wasn’t me. Outside of work, I have been living as a woman, as myself, for the past 4 years. My family and friends call me “Elizabeth” or “Beth”, and I am in the final stages of legally changing my name to Elizabeth Anne Pitts. Human Resources and Management has been very supportive and is making arrangements to change my name and gender on all company records. I plan to begin working as Beth on May 29th, once the court approves the name change. I’m very pleased to be able to take this step toward personal wholeness while staying at a job I have found very rewarding. This change will not affect my ability to do my job. In fact, I may be less distracted when I no longer have two personas to juggle. Also, as I enjoy being myself more, you may find me more enjoyable to be around, perhaps less grim faced because during 5 days of the week, I no longer must pretend to be someone else. Some of you may not understand the life changes I’m undertaking. I would be happy to answer your questions or direct you to additional information. Some of you may not approve of who I am; that is your right. However, I expect that everyone will treat me with basic human respect. Beginning on Wednesday, May 29th, I ask that you call me by my name (Elizabeth or Beth) and use female pronouns (she, her, hers) when referring to me. I know this will take a little time to get used to, and I expect that you’ll make mistakes at first. All I ask is that you make the effort to get it right. Respectfully, Elizabeth Anne Pitts (formerly [Dead Name])
I was asked to give dates, therefore I tried to give a little play in the time. I wanted to give everyone at work time to absorb this information before I popped into work as myself. But turns out they didn’t need much time at all. I came in Monday, as the mask, wearing the usual male-appropriate clothing and at about 9am I sent the email to everyone in the local company, copying key people in our parent company in Germany. The rest of the day I got a lot of hugs and well wishes and “so brave”, all good things. As you can see above, I gave a date I would like to start being known as me… I think this just made it more awkward for me. I think I should have said, “Beginning today”.
On Tuesday, in a place I have worked for 17 years, I came in to work for the first time as myself. It hasn’t been awkward at all after Monday. Everyone has been very accommodating, though the name thing gets them often. But they are trying so I don’t bother correcting as they correct themselves. I was nervous sending out the email on Monday. I didn’t feel nervous at all on Tuesday, in fact I got to work early. I feel happier doing my job and happier being here. I feel loved and appreciated by the people here, which goes a long way to me feeling the same way back to them.
It is now Wednesday and I kind of did what I said I would do in one of my earlier posts, I would slide into who I am without them noticing much. In other words, I have added pieces to how I dress slowly over time so that once it’s done, no one remembers there being a “guy” at that desk. Though, I did it at a much-accelerated rate.
- Monday – just the mask. Hair pulled back in a ponytail.
- Tuesday – hair not pulled back in a ponytail, very light cosmetics, bra, gray women’s polo shirt (I always wore a black men’s polo shirt before), jeans (they have always been women’s jeans), and women’s shoes (tossed my worn-out men’s shoes in the garbage Monday night).
- Wednesday – The only style of hair I know, typical cosmetics (with foundation, eyeshadow, lipstick, etc.), bra, a women’s shirt (business casual), same jeans and shoes, engagement ring (pink enso silicon ring) & wedding ring (mermaid enso silicon ring), small silver hoop earrings, silver necklace with kitten pendant.
Being out at work doesn’t just make it enjoyable to be at work and to concentrate on what I do, but it gives me confidence. The confidence comes in never, ever having to be the mask again, so when I go to the store after work, it is as me and not me hiding behind the mask. I don’t think about it now, whereas I only ever thought about it before. My first time going to the grocery store, as me, was me going as a nervous wreck and completely freaked out. I walked the store until a self-check lane opened with no line and I rushed through it all just to get back to the safety of my truck. I look back on that and kind of chuckle and kind of sob. I was afraid of not being behind the mask, the mask that started as protection, but it quickly turned into a prison. Leaving the mask behind is the most liberating experience of my life.
Now that I know my company is inclusive, that they not only tolerate me but welcome me, I have put out to the local LGBTQ groups, letting them know to apply here. It is so hard for a lot of LGBTQ people to get good jobs that treat them fairly, I want to help where I can. I’m also helping our HR manager to get our company to the local LGBTQ job fairs and workshops. I’ve gotten pretty far in my transition socially, it’s time right now to start giving to those that still need a hand. If they pay it forward, then equality and fairness will not be far behind for everyone.