Where I’m at with coming out at workPosted: May 10, 2016
For years, I’ve had this idea of the path I would follow for coming out at work. First, I would tell a few people in person, including the principal and my supervisor. Then I would talk to the principal about my plan for coming out to everyone else, and make sure that it was fine by her. This plan entailed writing an email to the school requesting male pronouns and a name change. And maybe a brief explanation about how I feel about my gender. Then I would try to be alert and correct people in the moment so that the adjustment period would move along quicker. Maybe I’d actually feel closer to certain people during this process. Currently, I am far away from almost everyone.
Paths often diverge into other directions, or gradually end or loop back around. I made it through quite a few of these steps, and each time, I felt an urgency to move ahead, and relief and pride for disclosing more about myself:
A little over a year ago, I came out to the principal of my school (workplace).
Then, about 5 months ago, I cam out to the head of the kitchen.
Four months ago, I came out to my co-worker.
Most recently, about 3 months ago, I came out to my supervisor.
I thought my supervisor was the major road block. That once that was taken care of, the rest would happen quickly and effortlessly. Because it seemed to be what I had been wanting for years. I wanted to tell all these people, I thought, so that I could move on to the next stage. But now I’m starting to think differently. I’m wondering if maybe I wanted to tell these people because I actually wanted them to know this thing about me, and not just as a means to get to the next thing. Because as soon as the euphoria of telling my supervisor wore off, the urge to move forward surprisingly died down. Currently I feel no desire to follow the next step(s) in my plan.
I could speculate as to why that is: The rest of the plan is too scary, so I’m tricking myself into believing I don’t really want it. This seems unlikely because emailing the rest of the school and then replying in the moment seems totally do-able if that’s what I want. Doing that stuff is so much more hands-off, and low key, as compared to coming out to someone face-to-face, especially if you don’t know how they’ll react.
Another guess: I’m worried that people won’t understand. I haven’t legally changed my name yet, and I do not plan on changing my gender marker on legal documents. I also don’t plan on using the men’s room. (Luckily there are 3 “staff” restrooms within the school.) Will people be confused by my “partial” or “selective” transition? I’ve talked a lot about this in therapy over time, and I keep getting assured that people will take what I say at face value, and I don’t need to over-explain. I always thought about using a quip about bathrooms in my mass email: “Although I use the women’s restroom, don’t worry – I will continue to clean them all.” Or something like that. If people don’t understand that I am not transitioning into manhood, then so be it, right?
Another guess: Maybe I’ve actually reached the balance I’m looking for. Maybe I don’t actually want to be called by my new name, and male pronouns in all areas of my life because my gender is not that binary – maybe I actually need a little bit of both. This seems possible… I guess that time will tell.
Or: I am focused on my upcoming top surgery right now, that other gender-related issues are on the back burner. This might be the case. Again, time will tell.
Above all, when following any transition path, whether it’s laid out in stories in mass media, or the WPATH-SOC, or a therapist, or within each of us, it’s essential to listen to that heart/gut combination voice. Not the voice inside your head. Not the voice of peers transitioning. Not the voice of medical professionals.
That voice that says, “this feels right,” or “this does not feel right,” or “I’m not sure about this yet so I’m going to slow down and/or try a different path for a while.” This voice always has a simple message, and it’s always there, even if it seems buried by other, less important voices. Sometimes it’s a complex process to try and figure out what you want to do with that voice’s message, but the message itself is always simple and straightforward.
My voice unexpectedly told me that it’s not time to come out to everyone at work right now, if ever. At a time when I was sure my voice was going to say, “full speed ahead! You’re almost there!” it actually did a 180. And, although a part of me wants to just complete a task that has been on my mind for years, it is much more satisfying to listen to this voice than to check off one more thing on my transition to-do list.
Speaking of to-do lists, here’s one version of my transition to-do list, from almost 2 years ago: Gender identity related “to-do list”
There have been many, many versions of this, with lots of revisions. That’s part of what it means to be on a path…