Q: How long have you been at your recent company, and did you affirm your gender while you were there?
A: I've been with my current workplace for around 3 years now, and I affirmed my gender in November last year.
The process was quite daunting, to be honest, even though we are a firm in the creative design space, and we already have an LGBTQI contingent in our workplace, but I was the first transgender person in the workplace, so it was new ground, but because it's a creative industry, it made the transition and acceptance a lot easier. Because I'm in a management role, it made it a lot more public as well.
Q: How did the conversation go?
A: I vaguely remember mentioning to my directory ports first, because I knew that they were going to be OK with it, and I felt that the people who report to me probably needed to know first. Then I spoke to with one of our directors who is also my senior, and he is also very open minded and I knew the conversation was going to go fine. The main directors are more old school, so I wasn't sure how that would go down. I spoke to our HR person initially, told her what was going on, and I presented a pre-drafted letter that I put together based off letters that other transgender friends used within their workplace, that could be emailed out to the directors by our directors to announce it, so that directors didn't need to think much, they just had to send out the letter.
Q: How did the "old school" people react?
A: They were fine! a lot more open to it than I expected but I guess given it's a creative industry, they might be a bit more open mined. The only request they had was that they would tell the staff, with me next to them as a combined front, which I was fine with. I could see the benefits of that as it showed that they stood by my decision, and because I was in a management role, it also affirmed to staff that they were providing full support.
Q: What was the response from your colleagues?
A: Before we had even finished the announcement which happened over Teams, I had received about 20 private messages congratulating me. It has been 99% positive, the only negative has been one person who at one point didn’t use my preferred pronouns, and that was our receptionist, who is young but very old school, from a different generation basically, and she was very rapidly corrected by HR and practice manager.
Q: Did it all go to plan, or was it better than expected?
A: It was definitely better, I covered a lot of grounds from a legal perspective, I made sure that all my T’s were crossed, all my I’s were dotted, I even sent our policies and procedure to St Kilda Legal, who is a free LGBTQI legal service here in Melbourne. I sent it to them in confidence just to make sure that all our employee policies were all up to date because I wanted to make sure I was prepared for every possible scenario, because there are so many different scenarios’ that are talked about online such as reddit, both positive and negative, but I wanted to make sure there was no margin for error.
Q: What advice would you give to other people in corporate/management positions who are wanting to affirm their gender at work but they’re nervous about it?
A: I would say make sure you do a thorough amount of research on your organisations policies and procedures. If you have not come out yet, don’t mention it until you’re 100% certain that your organisation is going to protect you. While it isn’t legal to terminate a person based on their gender, it is better to be certain that your organisation won’t do that, as they may find some flaws in your work and find excuses to terminate you based on a personal opinion. I don’t encourage people to hide their gender, but in saying that, until you’re 100% certain of your job safety, protect yourself. Even make sure that your zoom login doesn’t have your preferred name used. If you don’t want to use your dead name, use your initials, which is what I did, as it didn’t creative any dysphoria for me. Conveniently my new name has the same initials as my dead name so that worked out well for me.