Author Topic: Coming out at work soon  (Read 1173 times)

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Offline RandiL

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Coming out at work soon
« on: June 01, 2021, 11:53:08 pm »
I posting this to attract your thoughts, opinions, concerns, suggestions about coming out at work.

I've been out to my two closest team members for awhile now, and for several years to a few other co-workers. But being out of the office on pandemic duty I doubt word has spread around.

But we're starting back into the office in early July. This is going to force my hand on coming out of the closet formally at work. I could still get away with male mode, but I just don't want to. I've been 100% full time since October, even on work Teams meetings (although who can really tell on the video feed?).

I'm well known in the 160+ person IT department. Before I retired I was one of the technical leads and was highly visible (and if I may say, well respected). I retired because they were giving me more management responsibilities and it just wasn't fun anymore. Now I'm back as a contractor, doing just the technical work with no possibility of management roles. All this to say there's no way for me to be stealth. The majority of the people I encounter in the office will have known me in my male expression.

So, how to reduce the spectacle and just get on with life as Randi? I have seen many threads here as people discuss their own coming out stories and I understand there are many valid paths. Here is how my management wants it to go, and a list of some potential issues.

My supervisor has been very supportive ever since I came out to her a few months ago. The first words out of her mouth were to ask about my pronouns. She has since talked to her manager, who is also serving as the interim general manager of the entire IT department. He would like to meet with me before we come back into the office (i.e. late June) to understand the strategy, name, pronouns, etc. I believe he'll be supportive. We are after all a municipal enterprise in a state where it is illegal to discriminate against somebody for their gender identity or expression (in fact Colorado just passed a new law last week making this fully explicit).

Some things are clearcut:
  • Name: Randi
  • Pronouns: She/her/hers (this is still a challenge for me to internalize)
  • Expression: Anything I feel like. I'll probably go with skirts and dresses for awhile just to get everybody over the hump to understanding that this is for real and I'm serious about it.

I have a few questions and concerns:
  • Announcement: I'm inclined to put together a general announcement to all of IT, since the word will spread in any event. It's going to be the only way to avoid having to constantly explain myself and to tell the proper story in the manner I prefer. I don't know if they'll want to circulate something to management first or if I just write an email blast to everybody. Or something else, perhaps on Teams. Or scary thought, a live announcement at an all-IT virtual meeting on Teams.
  • Bathrooms: I could get away with using the women's restroom since of course they have stalls. I don't know how I feel about that yet. There may be a gender-neutral bathroom on the first floor of the building, but there isn't any on the floor where I work.
  • Locker room:  As for the locker room, I will need to change clothes after riding my bike in to work, and for my lunchtime workouts. I haven't been in there but it's small and likely has the same layout as the men's, where most people sit in front of their locker and change there, and there is a single-use shower with a curtain. I could change in the shower, but I don't know if that's the general practice amongst the other women. I wouldn't want to make people uncomfortable. I have the legal right, but what's the best way to go?

Ok, I'm probably missing something major, but it's a start anyway. Your thoughts?
Forging my new, best life as Randi

My personal blog thread: Randi the lost traveler, finding the right road at last

My HRT thread: Randi's HRT Journal


Offline Angelaney

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Re: Coming out at work soon
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2021, 02:57:16 am »
I think email is a good way to go, IF it's a company where people check their email regularly, i've worked for many companies where email was such a privilege that most people either didn't have it, or didn't check it.
Getting the word out before the rumour mill kicks in, or just to kerb that rumour mill, is good strategy.

Bathrooms, I would look for the disabled bathroom until things settle, in the UK they're legally required even with no disabled staff.

Locker rooms, that's a tricky one, mixed reactions, some people will be fine, some will be fine to your face and freaking out to management behind your back, you're just going to have to see what happens and do the best you can.



I've had a very androgynous non-binary appearance for over 10 years, i'm not out at work, but them i'm not working right now. I've previously had some issues over my hair, nasty stereotypes, i've had strange looks when I've got my nails painted, and i've had a few strange looks when wearing shiney tinted lip balms.

BUT the worst things I ever experienced a workplace were nothing to do with gender, and came about because I was too good at my job, too experienced and too skilled, in fact that's the dominant theme of my 20 year work history.

The only place where I think being out, might be a problem, is at job interviews, but even then i'm not so certain. Not in the days of diversity quotas.


Offline Pammie

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Re: Coming out at work soon
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2021, 05:29:45 am »
I posting this to attract your thoughts, opinions, concerns, suggestions about coming out at work.

I've been out to my two closest team members for awhile now, and for several years to a few other co-workers. But being out of the office on pandemic duty I doubt word has spread around.

But we're starting back into the office in early July. This is going to force my hand on coming out of the closet formally at work. I could still get away with male mode, but I just don't want to. I've been 100% full time since October, even on work Teams meetings (although who can really tell on the video feed?).

I'm well known in the 160+ person IT department. Before I retired I was one of the technical leads and was highly visible (and if I may say, well respected). I retired because they were giving me more management responsibilities and it just wasn't fun anymore. Now I'm back as a contractor, doing just the technical work with no possibility of management roles. All this to say there's no way for me to be stealth. The majority of the people I encounter in the office will have known me in my male expression.

So, how to reduce the spectacle and just get on with life as Randi? I have seen many threads here as people discuss their own coming out stories and I understand there are many valid paths. Here is how my management wants it to go, and a list of some potential issues.

My supervisor has been very supportive ever since I came out to her a few months ago. The first words out of her mouth were to ask about my pronouns. She has since talked to her manager, who is also serving as the interim general manager of the entire IT department. He would like to meet with me before we come back into the office (i.e. late June) to understand the strategy, name, pronouns, etc. I believe he'll be supportive. We are after all a municipal enterprise in a state where it is illegal to discriminate against somebody for their gender identity or expression (in fact Colorado just passed a new law last week making this fully explicit).

Some things are clearcut:
  • Name: Randi
  • Pronouns: She/her/hers (this is still a challenge for me to internalize)
  • Expression: Anything I feel like. I'll probably go with skirts and dresses for awhile just to get everybody over the hump to understanding that this is for real and I'm serious about it.

I have a few questions and concerns:
  • Announcement: I'm inclined to put together a general announcement to all of IT, since the word will spread in any event. It's going to be the only way to avoid having to constantly explain myself and to tell the proper story in the manner I prefer. I don't know if they'll want to circulate something to management first or if I just write an email blast to everybody. Or something else, perhaps on Teams. Or scary thought, a live announcement at an all-IT virtual meeting on Teams.
  • Bathrooms: I could get away with using the women's restroom since of course they have stalls. I don't know how I feel about that yet. There may be a gender-neutral bathroom on the first floor of the building, but there isn't any on the floor where I work.
  • Locker room:  As for the locker room, I will need to change clothes after riding my bike in to work, and for my lunchtime workouts. I haven't been in there but it's small and likely has the same layout as the men's, where most people sit in front of their locker and change there, and there is a single-use shower with a curtain. I could change in the shower, but I don't know if that's the general practice amongst the other women. I wouldn't want to make people uncomfortable. I have the legal right, but what's the best way to go?

Ok, I'm probably missing something major, but it's a start anyway. Your thoughts?
Hi!
Is there a HR department? They may want to manage the process with you?
In terms of bathrooms I can’t believe there would be a problem with using the ladies though again HR steer is worth getting.
Good luck anyway hun! Xx


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Offline Maid Marion

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Re: Coming out at work soon
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2021, 05:58:54 am »
Are you going to wear pants with no pockets?  Are you going to bring a purse or bag for your keys?
Is your wardrobe large enough to go to the office full time? 

You didn't mention shoes.  Shoes can be a big part of a women's wardrobe.  High heels are a sure way to attract attention via their distinctive sound.

Marion

Offline Battle Goddess

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Re: Coming out at work soon
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2021, 08:15:41 am »
Great thoughts, Randi.

As per the bathroom, I think you have to consider that with your new designation and mode of dress, it would be wildly inappropriate to keep using a men's room. You thus get to use any other option that suits you.

On our recent road trip, DW seemed surprised that I walked into the women's room with her to take care of things. She asked afterwards whether I commonly did so. Sweeping my hand from head to toe, I asked, "Looking like this, you think I'm not?"


I'm also with Pammie in that HR needs to be in on this even if you're just a 1099 employee now. I have no doubt your management SPRINTED there upon hearing the news,  but you might want to confirm, and HR might even have some boilerplate language they want you to use.

Finally, you work in IT. A fair few will think it's cool, a tiny few will be aggrieved, and most won't give a hoot because we geeks only care about technical prowess. Betcha some won't even notice.
"It's not really a choice. Because we're not choosing to transition...we're choosing to be happy." -- SarahC

"Freedom comes at a high price. But I have paid that price, and I am free." -- Muhammad Ali

"Have a gentle manner ❤️" -- Chrissy Ryan
"Working on it" -- Battle Goddess


Introductory Post: https://www.susans.org/forums/index.php/topic,242617.msg2196235.html

Whiny HRT and Transition Blog: https://www.susans.org/forums/index.php/topic,244163.msg2217618.html

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Offline Angelaney

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Re: Coming out at work soon
« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2021, 11:21:26 am »
Finally, you work in IT. A fair few will think it's cool, a tiny few will be aggrieved, and most won't give a hoot because we geeks only care about technical prowess. Betcha some won't even notice.
\

You're not wrong, geeky types are pretty cool with this sort of thing!!

But there are a lot of "IT people" who are not geeky at all and don't really know anything beyond one single specialist subject...... Like how to install one very industry specific software package and charge $20'000 for it, but as soon as a monitor needs moving they're like "I can't do that, i'm not trained for that", and these people don't show the qualities you mentioned, they're not the same breed, they got into it for money and have no interest or natural talent.

Offline RandiL

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Re: Coming out at work soon
« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2021, 06:36:44 pm »
Thanks everybody, really great thoughts, ideas and concerns from each of you! I'll quote each below and respond inline, just because I've learned how to do that! I am a geeky type after all.

I think email is a good way to go, IF it's a company where people check their email regularly, i've worked for many companies where email was such a privilege that most people either didn't have it, or didn't check it.
Getting the word out before the rumour mill kicks in, or just to kerb that rumour mill, is good strategy.

Bathrooms, I would look for the disabled bathroom until things settle, in the UK they're legally required even with no disabled staff.

Locker rooms, that's a tricky one, mixed reactions, some people will be fine, some will be fine to your face and freaking out to management behind your back, you're just going to have to see what happens and do the best you can.

I've had a very androgynous non-binary appearance for over 10 years, i'm not out at work, but them i'm not working right now. I've previously had some issues over my hair, nasty stereotypes, i've had strange looks when I've got my nails painted, and i've had a few strange looks when wearing shiney tinted lip balms.

BUT the worst things I ever experienced a workplace were nothing to do with gender, and came about because I was too good at my job, too experienced and too skilled, in fact that's the dominant theme of my 20 year work history.

The only place where I think being out, might be a problem, is at job interviews, but even then i'm not so certain. Not in the days of diversity quotas.

Yes, email is generally read by everybody, even the field workers, because a lot of communications come out that way. I agree email is probably my first choice.

Oooh painted nails and lip balms, I forgot about that!

I won't be looking for any more jobs after I finally finish what I'm doing now so I won't need to interview in the future. Then I'll be truly retired!

Hi!
Is there a HR department? They may want to manage the process with you?
In terms of bathrooms I can’t believe there would be a problem with using the ladies though again HR steer is worth getting.
Good luck anyway hun! Xx

Thanks Pammie, yes both you and BG point toward HR. I'll ask my management about their possible assistance, and as BG said they are probably already in the loop. In the past our HR department stayed totally hands off about contractors, but I think their guidance can help keep the organization out of trouble.

Are you going to wear pants with no pockets?  Are you going to bring a purse or bag for your keys?
Is your wardrobe large enough to go to the office full time? 

You didn't mention shoes.  Shoes can be a big part of a women's wardrobe.  High heels are a sure way to attract attention via their distinctive sound.

Marion

Yes I'll bring a purse for my "stuff", especially when I'm wearing skirts and dresses. I'll be schlepping all of that back and forth between home and work on my bicycle. I have waterproof panniers, and it's a fairly easy ride, at least for the warm season.

"Shoes can be a big part of a women's wardrobe" lol yes, I wear women's size 13. Of course that's not what you were talking about. I've only just recently found some 13's on Zappos, so I'm up to 5 whole pairs! As for high heels, the entire building is carpeted except the bathrooms and the break rooms, so I won't be click-click-clicking down the hall. Probably for the best since I'm 6'2" and as a runner, foot care is important to me.

Great thoughts, Randi.

As per the bathroom, I think you have to consider that with your new designation and mode of dress, it would be wildly inappropriate to keep using a men's room. You thus get to use any other option that suits you.

On our recent road trip, DW seemed surprised that I walked into the women's room with her to take care of things. She asked afterwards whether I commonly did so. Sweeping my hand from head to toe, I asked, "Looking like this, you think I'm not?"

I'm also with Pammie in that HR needs to be in on this even if you're just a 1099 employee now. I have no doubt your management SPRINTED there upon hearing the news,  but you might want to confirm, and HR might even have some boilerplate language they want you to use.

Finally, you work in IT. A fair few will think it's cool, a tiny few will be aggrieved, and most won't give a hoot because we geeks only care about technical prowess. Betcha some won't even notice.

Yeah I envision standing before the mirror in the men's room adjusting my bra. Ok, maybe I won't envision that!

It'll be interesting to see what kind of feedback, if any, I get from this. Some IT people may feel constrained from mentioning it because it might lead to an actual conversation lol.

You're not wrong, geeky types are pretty cool with this sort of thing!!

But there are a lot of "IT people" who are not geeky at all and don't really know anything beyond one single specialist subject...... Like how to install one very industry specific software package and charge $20'000 for it, but as soon as a monitor needs moving they're like "I can't do that, i'm not trained for that", and these people don't show the qualities you mentioned, they're not the same breed, they got into it for money and have no interest or natural talent.

Yeah hopefully not too many of those limited IT types. We shall see!

Thank you again, I have a more optimistic outlook on it now.
Randi
Forging my new, best life as Randi

My personal blog thread: Randi the lost traveler, finding the right road at last

My HRT thread: Randi's HRT Journal


Offline Faith

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Re: Coming out at work soon
« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2021, 10:06:56 am »
a few thoughts based on my coming-out-at-work (not relating to or responding to any previous replies)

HR .. should be involved as a first step. How you present to HR and their expectations will depend on the HR person and policies as a whole.  I got the:
'do your thing, let us know if anyone bothers you' routine.
'Send an email? No way. no reason to tell everyone'
'Bathroom? We'll take care of it'

 - I was already out to the point where I was noticed by close workers prior to HR. HR was the 'formality' for pronouns and name. Which would not get changed by the company until I had the legal, official, paperwork done .. except my badge, my co-worker and I do the badges so that gone updated right away. Also, being domain admin, all my logins and email addresses got magically updated right away as well ;D
 -  became known company-wide without the email because our HR person is the biggest gossip in the building (which I already knew)
 - Bathroom troubles started as soon as I used a ladies room on 2nd floor. The 'converted' bathrooms on the 1st floor were for my use. Sure, run downstairs each time, hope you make it, riiight! Apparently they figured there would be male junk being waved openly in the restroom. Excuse me? private stalls and I don't even want to see it myself I'm not about to show it off! Yes, HR spearheaded that campaign as well, even put it in an email (well, not about the junk waving). I gave a good response on that right back at her and CC'd management that's over HRs head. That got a fast hand slap for HR and my Ok to continue. Translation - the lawyer saw it and screamed "lawsuit coming" (of which I had already contacted two firms)

Summation,
I had the least trouble and most support from co-workers .. most I didn't even know but I do now. Instant popularity. It's was like I had just started rather than having been there for 10 years.
I had the most trouble stemming from the HR person.  Did I mention that along with being a big gossip, she's also the biggest bigot all the while proclaiming her tolerance and fairness.

Oh, back to the basic warning, yes HR should know. Hopefully the actual HR person is supportive and not a closet bigot.

so much to say and no way to cover it all, everyone's 'out-at-work' story and subsequent experiences are all different. If you decide not to email word will get around anyways. I was the talk of the shop (in a good way) for many months.

Offline Battle Goddess

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Re: Coming out at work soon
« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2021, 02:08:31 pm »



 everyone's 'out-at-work' story and subsequent experiences are all different.

I, for one, am self-employed and have found both management and HR to be very supportive. It's almost as though they were expecting it.

"It's not really a choice. Because we're not choosing to transition...we're choosing to be happy." -- SarahC

"Freedom comes at a high price. But I have paid that price, and I am free." -- Muhammad Ali

"Have a gentle manner ❤️" -- Chrissy Ryan
"Working on it" -- Battle Goddess


Introductory Post: https://www.susans.org/forums/index.php/topic,242617.msg2196235.html

Whiny HRT and Transition Blog: https://www.susans.org/forums/index.php/topic,244163.msg2217618.html

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Offline Emileeeee

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Re: Coming out at work soon
« Reply #9 on: June 03, 2021, 04:53:26 pm »
I did it on the job at an international company. I never made an announcement over email. I contacted HR first, then I contacted my boss. They did all the rest, such as switching names on accounts, giving me a new email address, and getting me a new badge.

The only introduction to the team was during a morning meeting. They introduced me as a new employee using my new name and that was it.

I asked about bathrooms and relayed my fears. They said if anybody had a problem with it, they should take it up with HR. For about the first year, I used one on a floor that didn't have many people on it, but they didn't tell me to do that. I just didn't want to make anybody uncomfortable.

Not one single person gave me any grief about anything, although I could tell some had reservations. Customer meetings I had to dial into without video were terrifying. I was sure they were hearing a guy. They never said anything either though.

It was pretty obvious when male coworkers went from seeing me as a guy to seeing me as a woman, because their demeanor around me completely changed. They went from trying to act tough to being super friendly.

It went so smooth, it makes me wonder if I wasn't the first person to do this. I wasn't aware of any others, but with over 100k employees, it's not like I knew everybody. Trans people weren't in the yearly sexual harrassment class until the year after I came out though, so it's possible I really was the first. It actually made me uncomfortable. I didn't like feeling like they changed the training just for me.

Offline RandiL

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Re: Coming out at work soon
« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2021, 12:27:29 am »
Thanks @Faith and @Emileeeee

I hadn't really thought about NOT making an announcement to all of IT. I worry that everybody I meet will want me to tell my story and for others the rumor mill will make up a different story.

It makes sense to talk to HR and see what they suggest. I'm in a little different position as a contractor rather than an employee. I'll talk with management first as I know my supervisor is supportive and I think her manager will be as well. Colorado has strong protections for transgender people, and in fact just passed a new law last week explicitly addressing it.

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Offline Angelaney

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Re: Coming out at work soon
« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2021, 02:16:36 am »
Colorado has strong protections for transgender people, and in fact just passed a new law last week explicitly addressing it.



I bet they have traffic laws about running red lights too  ;D

I do hope things are different over there, honestly. In the UK we have a lot of rules and laws when it comes to employment, but most of them are easy to bypass in other ways.

The most common being that it's illegal to discriminate based on age, but how would a candidate ever know if they didn't make the cut because of their age? The employer could use a million different excuses.

I always do a good job and i'm difficult to pick fault with, so once a manager decides i'm a threat, they go extremes to find reasons to get rid of me, i've even had illegal material and a falsified browsing history planted on my work PC in an attempt to get me fired (whilst I was on vacation). Why? Because in the UK you can't just kick someone out without a reason, it's the law.... So instead of getting sacked, you get months of mental torture as they isolate you from colleagues, ruin your reputation and set you up to fail.

So for as much it's nice to see laws to protect people like us, I also know that laws don't change the way people think.

Sorry to be such a downer, recent experiences have really affected me quite badly.


Offline Faith

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Re: Coming out at work soon
« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2021, 06:11:22 am »
I, for one, am self-employed and have found both management and HR to be very supportive. It's almost as though they were expecting it.

Some companies just have better management teams than others do ;D

... I hadn't really thought about NOT making an announcement to all of IT. I worry that everybody I meet will want me to tell my story and for others the rumor mill will make up a different story ...

I rather enjoyed informing each person that had the nerve to ask. I kept the narrative more on track that way and gave me the opportunity to educate. Sure, rumor method can be, and most likely is, messy yet no matter how you do it .. email, individual, address a group, say nothing .. in each case people will talk amongst themselves and make up their own stories.

And educate, yes, plenty say "it's not my job to educate, they should go educate themselves". The problem with that is you don't know where they will get their information from .. probably from the internet and most likely wrong. I do it myself as much as possible. Inappropriate questions, sometimes. Not from desire to ridicule or embarrass, usually ignorance. I can handle educating the ignorant. You can always tell which ones are 'digging for dirt' or are genuinely curious and want to learn.

Offline Oldandcreaky

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Re: Coming out at work soon
« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2021, 12:47:25 pm »
Randi, if you are as kind in person as you are in pixels, I want your coming out to be good. Good people deserve good things. However, be wary of divulging too much. Your transition will trigger clucking. Don't let the chicken fill the air with distortions of you.

Offline RandiL

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Re: Coming out at work soon
« Reply #14 on: June 04, 2021, 03:34:41 pm »
@Emileeeee What your company did was interesting, just introduced you as a new employee and left it at that. That could be an useful, and politically correct way to address it.

@Angelaney I appreciate your concern. It's true that laws mean little if individuals don't do their part. I have hope based on my experiences here in my city, despite its conservative reputation. But yes it's likely there will be those who are unsupportive. I have a good reputation in the organization and I'm so old, ahem I mean senior, that most likely few if any will be negative to my face.

@Faith that's a good point about the pluses of communicating in person. I'll give that some serious thought.

@Oldandcreaky thank you for believing in me. I hope I live up in real life to my reputation around here. Your recommendation of caution resonates based on what you've said about your own experiences, and I've already begun limiting my self disclosure. I tend to be an open book so this is a change for me.

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Offline Pammie

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Re: Coming out at work soon
« Reply #15 on: June 04, 2021, 04:28:10 pm »
@Emileeeee What your company did was interesting, just introduced you as a new employee and left it at that. That could be an useful, and politically correct way to address it.

@Angelaney I appreciate your concern. It's true that laws mean little if individuals don't do their part. I have hope based on my experiences here in my city, despite its conservative reputation. But yes it's likely there will be those who are unsupportive. I have a good reputation in the organization and I'm so old, ahem I mean senior, that most likely few if any will be negative to my face.

@Faith that's a good point about the pluses of communicating in person. I'll give that some serious thought.

@Oldandcreaky thank you for believing in me. I hope I live up in real life to my reputation around here. Your recommendation of caution resonates based on what you've said about your own experiences, and I've already begun limiting my self disclosure. I tend to be an open book so this is a change for me.

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I think it’s natural and right to start slow though, as I said earlier in this thread working with HR to plan your path and get them in your team.
I found that I moved from seeking stealth to being openly and publicly trans and im really comfortable in this place but I did it at my speed.


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Offline RandiL

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Re: Coming out at work soon
« Reply #16 on: June 04, 2021, 06:24:03 pm »


I think it’s natural and right to start slow though, as I said earlier in this thread working with HR to plan your path and get them in your team.
I found that I moved from seeking stealth to being openly and publicly trans and im really comfortable in this place but I did it at my speed.


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Well I'm not sure how slow I'll be starting as my plan is to wear skirts and dresses at the start to ensure I'm seen as female. Lol

I intend to be openly trans, not stealth at all. There's no hiding, unless I just stay in my cubicle. Since nearly everybody has known me for years I'll try to be an ambassador and show them that trans people are not to be feared, and we are just normal humans trying to get along.

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Offline Pammie

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Re: Coming out at work soon
« Reply #17 on: June 04, 2021, 06:26:26 pm »

Well I'm not sure how slow I'll be starting as my plan is to wear skirts and dresses at the start to ensure I'm seen as female. Lol

I intend to be openly trans, not stealth at all. There's no hiding, unless I just stay in my cubicle. Since nearly everybody has known me for years I'll try to be an ambassador and show them that trans people are not to be feared, and we are just normal humans trying to get along.

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When I said start slow I was absolutely not talking about presentation but more about not shouting it from the rooftops and self publicising


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Offline RandiL

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Re: Coming out at work soon
« Reply #18 on: June 04, 2021, 06:28:47 pm »
When I said start slow I was absolutely not talking about presentation but more about not shouting it from the rooftops and self publicising


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I think this is good advice. A number of people on here said something similar.

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My personal blog thread: Randi the lost traveler, finding the right road at last

My HRT thread: Randi's HRT Journal


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