I have worked my ass off to get where I am today. I’ve worked in the professional marketing field since college and am currently the Web Director at 834 Design & Marketing. For a 27-year-old trans guy, I consider myself relatively successful
But it hasn’t come easy. Working fifty-five hours a week at any job, on top of numerous volunteer engagements, is no walk in the park
How do I dress for this event? What role do I play in this meeting? Who’s hand do I need to shake? Is swearing appropriate in this situation? How do I ask my boss for a raise? Who do I invite out for lunch?
When you add all of that on top of coming out as a trans man, starting HRT, working through name/gender marker changes, and trying to enjoy all the pleasures of living your authentic truth, life can quickly become overwhelming.
Here are some of the biggest hurdles that I have experienced while navigating the white-collar world as a trans man, and what has worked for me in terms of managing them.
Being a trans man is so much more than t-shots and physical transition. The emotional implications of coming out and starting HRT is often overlooked, and in my opinion, is the toughest thing to manage in the professional environment. This has been my biggest struggle by far – more so than bathrooms, name changes, insurance issues, and doctors appointments.
There are so many hurdles to overcome while managing both your job and your physical/legal transition, and doing all of this while completely reconfiguring your hormone levels throws a huge monkey wrench into just about every single situation during the first few months. You react differently to simple questions. Your opinion of situations changes. Your drives and motivations are amplified. You turn into a raging t-monster at the most trivial annoyances.
The only solution I personally have for this one is to hit the gym and spend plenty of time with friends.
Who in the office do you tell? When do you tell them? How much do you reveal?
There are so many factors that come into play here; company culture, size, your relationships with colleagues, policies, etc. I have always been passionate about the work I do and have made a point to build personal relationships with my colleagues. Spending time with them over the weekend has always been a thing, and I am pretty open about sharing the intimate details of my transition.
I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by open-minded and supportive individuals, and that is not the case for everyone. That being said, if you’re working in an unsupportive environment (and this goes for anyone), my suggestion would be to immediately get the hell out. Your transition is such a major and defining element of your life and who you are. If you can’t share these experiences with the people you spend 40-60 hours with each week, it’s going to be rough.
The professional world is full of stereotypical, bullshit gender roles. In a typical binary work atmosphere, guys dress a very specific way and girls dress another. Guys will give you a nice firm handshake while girls feel the need to hug you whenever they leave the building. In meetings, the men are typically more powerful and direct while women tell personal stories and focus on building relationships.
These gender roles are very prevalent in most office environments, and in many instances there isn’t anything you can do about it without a full-fledged, all-consuming effort. In my experience, the sooner I embraced the role of a professional male, shaking hands, drinking whiskey with the guys, and mimicking their wardrobes, the sooner they embraced me as one of the guys.
You may not agree with certain gender roles in the office, but just like office politics, they typically are not going anywhere. Instead of fighting them, use them to your advantage.
You’ll need to build a relationship with your main HR contact as you work through this journey. He/She is the one who will be assisting you through name/gender marker changes, insurance policies, and can help you explore your options in the event that you experience any level of discrimination. In my experience, HR professionals have always been very open and supportive (It’s kind of in the job description), so I haven’t had any problems being completely open and transparent with them.
In the end, it all comes down to confidence. Hold your head high and speak firmly. If you need to, employ a fake-it-till-you-make-it tactic. It’s amazing what your brain can do; if you tell yourself you’re sick, you will be. If you tell yourself you’re a kick ass, proud, successful trans man, you’ll believe it in no time, and others will see that and believe it too.