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This is not legal advice, which can only be given by an attorney admitted to practice law in your jurisdiction after hearing all of the facts and circumstances in a particular case.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Transition Story #1

I have been out asking people who recently transitioned in large organizations "What was the most helpful thing, in terms of making your transition successful for all concerned, that HR at your company did?" In this case, HR led the company in embracing transgender diversity and worked to create an environment that was open, in a macho, male-dominated company, to learning about the issues.

(I hope to blog more answers to this question in the future. If you know of someone who transitioned in a large organization willing to tell their story anonymously, please direct them to me at jweiss@ramapo.edu)

Here's the full story as told to me:

I first contacted HR in our parent company. I knew they had employees who transitioned on the job in the past. They explained to me that their policy was like the military policy: "don't ask, don't tell." If you transition, just do it. No information given to your co-workers. Go see the company health center, and use a single use bathroom until SRS (sex reassignment surgery) is complete.

They had me contact the HR Dept here at my company. I knew that there were a few GLB employees here, but no T's. I met with the HR director, and explained my situation. Fortunately, her reaction was that of pure acceptance, and she wanted to make sure that they did whatever it took to make things as smooth as possible for me. I explained the parent company's policies. HR thought that they were frankly unacceptable.

Over the next few months, I met with my HR contact and we worked on my timeline. We planned a schedule for telling my direct supervisor, followed by other management, and then eventually the staff. I had already begun hormone therapy, and changes soon became more and more visible. HR decided it was time to tell my boss.

We are a small but visible department in a company of 3500+ staff at this location. My department then consisted of 12 men and 2 women. I was very concerned about their reaction. After HR brought my boss up to date on the situation, he called me to meet. He was nothing less than respectful of my decision to transition on the job. He offered his complete support. He also wanted to be informed if ANYONE gave me any problems, and he would personally take care of them. This, more than anything up to this point, gave me a great deal of confidence and a happy, warm feeling. It's a terrible thing to feel completely exposed and unprotected.

Although HR told me not to disclose my situation to co-workers yet, I felt very strongly that I needed some allies. I felt that the two women in my department were the type of people I could trust, and came out to them. I was completely accepted by them. In fact, one of them is now one of my closest friends.

When HR finally suggested we begin the process of telling the staff, meetings were set with upper management, then with my department, and finally with a few other departments that I interact with on a daily basis. I had written a letter to my co-workers which was read to each group. I did not attend the meetings. In fact, I took the day off. Both HR and I felt this would be best. From what I was told by different people, there was no negative feedback from anyone. A few of the alpha-male employees seemed a bit disturbed, but that was not important. They were told that the company supports me 100%, up to and including the CEO (who personally told them that). In addition to that, they said that they consider me female, and that I would be able to use any of the women's restrooms on campus. (Interestingly, the restroom issue wasn't even part of my discussions with HR, as they took this initiative upon themselves.)

That was about two years ago. Since then, I have had no unpleasant situations here at work. They were extremely supportive of the time that I needed off over the past year and a half for surgeries. They even let me use my short term disability benefits for the time off. I'm now blending in with the rest of the crowd. While there are some who knew me before transition, many are unaware of it.

1 comment:

Jill Bailey said...

When I started my transistion I knew I would have to leave my current job at a high end country club in MA. I took the winter lay- off and hoped I could find a new job before I was asked to return.I had already changed my name and my drivers license already had an F even though I had not had my surgery yet.
I applied at many stores and other companies not thinking that Jill had no work history when they would call my former employers. I applied at this large retailer and got an interview. I was hired after a criminal back ground check and a drug test as I was going to be a cashier.
About 6 months later the new HR came to me and asked I stopped in to see her before I left for the day.
When I sat down with her she started to explain that SS sends out a list of SS numbers, names, ages and gender. She said she didn't know what happened, but mine came....I said before you go any further let me explain. I told her I was born a male and I will be having my GRS in June to make me complete. That is the reason for the "M".
She came over to me and gave me a big hug and said how she admired my courage. I told her I would like this kept between us and she assured me it would be.
Well in June of 04 I had my surgery and I was told my co-workers thought I was out having a hysterectomy. I got my SS info straightened out shortly after.
I recently got promoted and I love my co-workes as we have alot of fun through the day along with the work. I enjoy working with so many customers and overall, I enjoy my job. I am just Jill to all there and thats all I ever wanted to be.
I wish all those that go through this the best of luck in all their endevors.
Jill Bailey