My Anonymous Transition

My name, as well as many others have been removed to protect the innocent. However I can say that my name means Butterfly Grace. I started at my job on February 12, 1996. I’ve been there 23 years and have great rapport with many colleagues. During that time one thing I’ve seen more than anything has been transition. I’m in IT so change is built in. From mainframes and vax to servers, from servers to virtual servers, from virtual servers to cloud. All while moving from local IT, to central IT… Follow the Sun.. Global IT… etc. These are just two small infrastructure based examples of changes that all IT folks will have familiarity with. I didn’t mention the people that join in and jump around in different careers. It’s genuinely hard to keep track of who is where doing what. Bottom line, if you’re in IT then transitioning isn’t a problem…or is it?

My name is decidedly, intentionally, female but, it wasn’t always.
I am transgender.

When I was born I was assigned male gender and I lived 99% of my life with a male name and of the male gender. Most of that time I knew that part of the life I was living didn’t quite match up with who I am. Where I was raised there were no transgender people. Gays to be sure, but I typically don’t find guys attractive so I knew that wasn’t me. I just didn’t seem to completely fit with myself or with any group. I dealt with it as best I could. Though the real me did show through sometimes. In school I played flute, where I was first-string, first-seat for a while. I dressed as a girl for Halloween for three different years. One year I even enlisted the help of a female friend who was really into the makeup/hair/nail/beauty thing (ok yeah, I really liked her too). So that year I looked gooood.

I was already working at my job for quite a while when I heard some people talking about “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” I was intrigued so I rented it. It was my first exposure to the concept of the “transsexual.” To be honest, I hate the movie. Guys in lingerie acting solicitous, perverted, and lewd. So not me! Don’t get me wrong, I like sex as much any other girl, but compared to that movie, I’m a prude. This movie had a real negative impact on me and I think actually discouraged me from exploring transsexuality. (I still hadn’t heard the term transgender yet.)

It wasn’t until around 2014, when reading an article in a magazine (I think “Readers Digest?”) about a transgender woman. That’s when I realized who I really was. Every point this woman spoke of I had experienced except for the points surrounding transitioning. At this point I was hetero married for nine years with a child. I didn’t see that as an option for me.

Fast forward to 2016. After several years of a really overly stressful and nerve wracking marriage, I began to feel really, really, alone in the world and I looked for ways to comfort myself. I finally hit upon nail polish. I don’t know why, but it made me feel good. I began painting my toenails on a regular basis. My wife never noticed (to be honest she barely looked at me ever). In September 2017 she finally left for Texas. So there I was, just me and my child. I began to move into a nesting mode of sorts. I found for a while that I didn’t like jeans anymore and needed something more comfortable. I only owned two pairs of sweatpants and they were both old and wearing out. I looked everywhere but I couldn’t find sweatpants I liked at the store. I happened upon a pair of tights and they were perfect! However, they brought forth all the suppressed feelings of femininity so, I bought three more pairs. Voila une femme! I began expanding my wardrobe and allowing myself to be female in the confines of my own room.

My wife came back to spend time with the family from Thanksgiving to Christmas. During that time, we found out my child had a new friend.

“Cool,” I thought.

Who is Turkish.

And I’m like “Very cool.”

And is transgender.

And I’m like “Really cool… wait what?? So you’re cool with the whole transgender thing?”

And from then on the femme was out of the bedroom. But not out of the house.

After getting through the holidays and my birthday, I decided it was time to come out. I remember seeing a flyer and I reached out to our LGBT+ group global leadership at my company who put me in contact with the leader of the Pittsburgh chapter. At the time, I had no clear goal and only knew that I wanted community, and I wanted to contribute to that community in a positive way. So, I met with the leader of the Pittsburgh chapter and even though she was a very warm and welcoming person, I have a very shy side so I didn’t really allow for the fullness of my self to show through. In other words I talked, somewhat uncomfortably, about being LGBT+, but didn’t mention transitioning.

On February 10th, I came out to close friends on Facebook. Four days later I came out to everyone on Facebook. The reaction was very small. I did it via message so it didn’t get a lot of notice. If I could go back and do it again, I think I would use a bright flashy meme. That way everybody would notice!

I also began getting more and more involved with the LGBT+ scene. I volunteered to help my company’s LGBT+ Employee Resource Group as they prepared for Pittsburgh Pride.

It wasn’t very long after that when I met someone. A transwoman with similar interests to my own. We attended some drag shows and eventually we’d been together to places frequently enough, that we became kind of known in some small circles. So I wasn’t surprised when I received a request from a local LGBT+ blog to participate in a project about my experience that would become part of a collection. I thought what a great way to help inspire others without singling myself out. I filled out the form and submitted it. Other than being asked for a photo, I didn’t think about it again. Until I awoke on Saturday morning, fired up Facebook to see what everybody was up to last week, and saw my photo staring back at me. Apparently, the blogger had shared my experience and photo onto four western PA Lesbian and LGBT+ groups. And it was two days before I even knew about it. I began hyperventilating because not all of my family knew yet. Some members of my family have lesbian friends who only knew my old self, and I didn’t want them finding out from the internet. It just seemed wrong. So in something of a panic I began calling my siblings starting with my oldest, very conservative, brother.

Once all the calls were completed I realized I was out everywhere except work. With Pride coming up I thought it would be great to be 100% out so I had my goal! I had already spoken with the leader of our LGBT+ group about my desire to be at work wearing nail polish. She accepted that challenge and got me acquainted with the company’s transgender policy. The irony of the timing of the blog post is that I had already scheduled a meeting with HR and my manager to discuss my coming out. I just upped my original timeline a little in order to be 100% out before Pride. Our company’s guideline are based heavily upon the Out and Equal Transitioning in the workplace guideline which can be found at OutandEqual.org/transitionguidelines.

With the company guideline, the help of HR, my manager, and support from the LGBT+ group leader, the experience was mostly wonderful. They helped keep me on top of things and kept me on track for the target date, and handled all the little details well. The policy itself is pretty thorough and considerate to both the transitioning employee as well as the company. I did notice that my manager seemed no longer be comfortable sitting beside me in the meeting rooms and, if seated beside me would actually move his chair to the end of the table. This continues today. I’ve confronted him about it. He denies it, but…

The plan involved first my making the announcement to a small group of folks. My manager originally had planned that it would be announced at the end of a workshop we were having but, there were too many people I didn’t know and it was in an open area where anyone could walk through. I was not comfortable with that so we postponed it until the next day and had a smaller, impromptu meeting with my old team and my current team. At nearly the same time an e mailed announcement went out to the Pittsburgh site. For the next day and a half I had a hard time keeping up with the congratulations and well-wishes. Some from people I didn’t know. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all easy and there are some folks that now pretend I’m invisible, and a few that called me by the old name for a while. The really bothersome part was after the first two days I noticed the increase in foot traffic walking past my cube. That may sound paranoid because there are always people walking around in just about any office setting. But this was different. People were coming past just to get a look. Some of them were people that would’ve had no dealings with my group. I swear there were one or two who weren’t even from the same building. This lasted about 2 to 3 weeks during which time I did my best to ignore it but I couldn’t help but feel like I was some spectacle in a zoo. By the third week the parade began to ebb and I was able to resume a more normal work environment. Well, normal with a couple new exceptions.

There were a few folks who still called me by my deadname but they were all quick to correct themselves so that was an appreciated plus. There are some folks that now pretend I’m invisible, even today. There’s one in particular who mostly pretends I’m invisible except for when there’s really bad news. There used to be people who would stop by my cube to chat from time to time. That ended almost immediately. With the exception of three women who I’ve been friends with since way back when I first started this job, the people that stop by my cube to chat are mostly bosses.

There a few hiccups, like changing e-mail, my badge, my profile name, the profile name on the company web, etc. Most of that went smoothly except I haven’t changed my name legally so payroll, benefits, and HR (in some places) still use my deadname. The frustrating part is when automated systems send me e-mails deadnaming me. It’s totally not necessary and it’s a battle that has worn me down. It’s upsetting to the point of desiring to make the name change legal. Though the real push for that came from a doctor who didn’t know me even though I was his patient.

It’s mostly been positive experience. It’s a wonderful feeling being here at my desk typing this up… free to be the woman I always was inside. In nail polish? ABSOLUTELY!

I’m blessed to be at a company that has a policy that supported me. I know there are so many out there that are not so lucky. I intend to pay it forward if at all possible. I truly hope that this article will help to give courage to others that want to come out.

QBurgh is your source for LGBTQ news and community resources in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. Be sure to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Want to write for us?