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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.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Transition Story #4

Continuing the series of case histories of gender transition in the workplace, here is Transition Story #4:

I am a faculty member in a university library. In September, 2004, I came out to a select few of my co-workers, revealing that I planned to transition from male to female at some point in the future.

Although I had planned to wait before telling management, rumors reached my supervisor, who is a member of an evangelical church that does not view transgender issues with great favor. He called me in for a meeting on the subject, and I was pleased to learn that he planned to assist me in accord with the university diversity policy, which includes gender identity. He and I discussed a campaign to make my transition successful for all concerned in the workplace. He has, indeed, been of great assistance in making this a success.

He and I met with the Human Resources department. One of the factors that led to the success of this meeting was the presence of the University's ombudsperson for LGBT issues. Although I, of course, know a lot about transgender issues, it helped tremendously to have someone besides myself, particularly someone so skilled at training people on the issues and bringing people of diverse viewpoints together. Within that short time, she was able to transform the meeting participants into a transition team, committed to making my transition successful for the department. A skilled outside consultant can make a big difference.

The following month, I began full-time life as a woman. No untoward incidents occurred, and everyone was very cordial. Although I had not yet been able to get a court-ordered name change or new identification, and had not yet received permission for sex reassignment surgery, an email from university management went out to the campus community, explaining that for all University purposes I was a woman and to be respected accordingly. The unqualified support of management helped a great deal. In all this time, I had the good fortune to encounter, in person, almost no discrimination. Indeed, my co-workers and managers provided more support for me than my father, who did not talk to me for a year. I did learn later that someone voiced a concern about my use of the women's rest rooms. Management moved swiftly to address their concern, and to this day no one has ever made me feel unwelcome in the ladies' room.

In thinking back on these events, I would say that the most important thing that management did to make my transition a success was to have a transition policy in place before I transitioned. Guidelines were available to all concerned, so that everyone had a defined role to play in making the transition a success.

(If you'd like to see the previous case history in this series, click here for Transition Story #3)

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