At Intuit, proud maker of TurboTax, QuickBooks, and Mint, we believe that innovation thrives in a workforce that includes employees with a wide range of life experiences and a supportive culture that lets great ideas rise to the top. We want to share stories that showcase our commitment to diversity and support our mission to helping power prosperity because we believe that when we come together, we prosper.
When people think about “coming out,” what they usually mean is revealing their sexual orientation to friends and family. But coming out with your true gender identity is another matter entirely, especially in the workplace.
My journey to accepting and revealing my status as a trans man began more than 15 years ago. At work, I presented as a masculine female and identified as lesbian. I didn’t hide my sexual orientation, but I rarely discussed at work. Then I learned that my company had a group for LGBT employees. By talking with other employees and attending conferences, over time, I began to understand that I identified as male. Despite this growing realization, applying it to my own life felt daunting. You didn’t hear as much conversation about female-to-male transitions when I was a young adult. I also had a young child. All these factors made my own transition feel impossible.
A work email changed everything. A software engineer showed me a note that had been distributed about his own transition. I was floored – we worked together and I had no idea that he was going through this. Almost immediately I forwarded the note to my manager and told him, “Hang onto this. You’re going to need it once I’m ready.”
Soon after, I began hormone replacement therapy and came out to friends, family, and my job. My family was supportive, and my father even insisted on giving me my new male name. Work, however, was more complex and required careful coordination with HR, managers and colleagues. If you’re considering transitioning at work, here’s what I’ve learned.
Find a Supportive Workplace – Even if it Requires a Job or Career Change
Unfortunately, gay and trans rights are still under attack in courts, but there are a lot of companies, big and small, that welcome and champion transgender employees. It may seem like you can’t switch jobs or even career paths, but it is possible. Even if takes extra effort to learn new skills, or you have to take a short-term pay cut, the ability to show up fully at work is well worth the investment and will pay off over time. Out & Equal Workplace Advocates is a great place to start when looking for supportive companies.
Find Your People
I was lucky enough to work at Intuit, which has employee resource groups for diverse employees. Without the LGBTQ group, I’m not sure that I would have acquired the confidence or even the basic knowledge to transition. Because others in the company have also transitioned, I was able to speak with them about their experiences, which provided a roadmap for my journey. Not every workplace has organized groups to support trans employees, but there are likely people within your organization that can be supportive allies.
Planning is Essential
Coming out as trans is never a linear process, and is different for everyone. This makes close coordination with your company’s HR team critical. Ask if there is an HR partner who has had experience working with trans employees. They can help you determine in advance how your insurance policy will support medical treatment, including hormone replacement therapy and other procedures. They can also coordinate how your transition gets announced internally.
Expect Bumps in the Road
Even though my company was supportive, and we anticipated as much as we could, there were still snafus. Some of my colleagues didn’t read the transition email from my manager, because we all get so many emails. Others inadvertently misgendered me. And some software systems and logins could only be updated once I had legally changed my name, which took a bit of time. Instead of getting angry, I became determined. I leaned into what I knew were good intentions from everyone. Speak up, work on a solution, and then try to make the process better for the next person. But never ever give up. Focus on making things better…for yourself and others.
Be Patient with Yourself
Now that I’m fully transitioned in the workplace, I am still working through what this means for me. For example, I am still apprehensive about using the men’s room at work. Not because anyone has confronted me (they haven’t), but due to my own inner struggle to unlearn some of the gender norms that were ingrained in me as someone assigned female at birth (AFAB). Also, some have noted that they perceive I have become more aggressive in my personal style. I am still grappling with this – is it true? Or am I being labeled with stereotypical gender assumptions because I am finally comfortable in my own skin? I struggle daily with my self-image, with how I “show up” at work for myself and others like me, and with being my own advocate in a way that educates those around me. I’ve come a long way, but it’s still early in this journey and I am still wading through.