Month: June 2016

OMG! OMG! OMG!

OMG! OMG! OMG! The meeting with HR to kick off my workplace transition plan went better than anything I could’ve possibly imagined.

Short version:

  • They see it as an occasion for celebration.
  • They want me to be in charge of the process.
  • If anyone has a problem with it, they’ll tell that person that there’s plenty of jobs elsewhere, and either they get onboard or get out.

Trying my best not to cry at my desk.

Still trying to process the meeting — although I’ll definitely cop to being in a pink glow.

Our VP of HR, was blunt about the company’s support, i.e. anyone who has a problem with it will be told they can take a job somewhere else.

Apparently it’s already come up and been dealt with a lesser extent. There were bathroom complaints about trans people in two of our manufacturing plants. They were seasonal temps, so it wasn’t transition-in-place situation. But HR made it very clear that trans people were free to use the bathroom that they felt was appropriate for them, and after that there was no static. Steve also had seen the all-gender “half man/half woman” sign somewhere, and liked it, so he had them install them on all the single-stall bathrooms.

Tomorrow he’s is going to talk to Legal to see if my time off can be covered by the American Family Leave act — meaning it would be “protected” leave. Sounds like more of a “I want this to happen, give me a legal opinion that lets me do it” situation, since he’d mentioned the company has been very generous about defining “family” for the AMLA. essentially if you say someone is family they’ll honor that, regardless of whether it’s a legal or blood relative.

This is where diversity matters. Our VP of HR is a femmy gay man (kind of like Mr. Rodgers with a fabulous sense of style), and I’m sure that’s the reason we’ve got a permissive policy.

Likewise…. I’d given Steve a draft of the sample announcement letter (in case they’d wanted me to do an email). I’d based it on a several examples, all of which have a bit about how my doctors had diagnosed me with gender dysphoria, and that I’d made the decision to live full-time after working with a therapist.

Which I really hated to include. Originally, I’d just said I’d been living as a woman outside of work and had decided it was time to live full time as a woman.

I also had another passage saying that I understand some people might not understand and that was their right, but I expected to be treated with respect.

He red-penned both passages, and said it sounded like I was apologizing for something, when it should be something that should celebrated. Out and proud.

So I’ll make it a few tweaks to give it a more unambiguously “I’m so happy to sure this news with you” tone, and HR handle the “you will respect her authoritah, I mean, gender.”

As far as private disclosures to the chain of command, interestingly, he strongly recommended disclosing first to our chief product officer, rather than my immediate managers. CPO has also been with the company 10 years and was my original manager, before he got promoted several times. So it sounds like it’ll stroke his ego, to let him know that while I’ll talk to my immediate manager shortly, I wanted to tell him first since we’ve known each other a really long time.

So when I set up the meeting with him, I’ll probably say something like I wanted to talk with him privately about an upcoming personal transition — which I’m sure he’ll interpret that means I’m planning to give notice.

In the meantime, by chance, HR was actually already in the process of updating the employee handbook. Steve said he will make sure gender and identity and expression are added to the anti-discrimination and he’ll also be putting together workplace transition guidelines based on the various examples I gave — and he wants me to review it and offer suggestions before it’s finalized.

However, the guidelines don’t need to be completed for me to move forward. He said that if I wanted to transition tomorrow, he’d make it happen, and he truly meant it. (In fact his biggest question was why I wanted to wait until the end of the year— although he got it when I mentioned one of the reasons is that I wanted to be sure I finished with electrolysis, since I need to grow my beard during the week for treatment.) He said he appreciated the advanced notice, but even though we’ve gotten much larger over the years, we’re still a Silicon Valley company and it we need to move fast, we can and will.

He wants me to set the pace as far as time, and how I want to handle the public announcements. Interestingly, he compared it to coming out as LGB — talk to the relevant people, but there wasn’t a need to do a major company-wide announcement, word would spread organically.

Which I think is fine. Admittedly, there’s a possibility of losing control of the narrative, but it does fit well with the “hey this is really cool, but not really a big deal” approach. Kind of akin to someone disclosing that they’re getting married, or that they’re pregnant and planning to take maternity leave. Given that he’s clear that he’ll bring the hammer down if problems do arise, I’m less concerned about the grapevine.

Anyway, I’m just incredibly thankful things are going so smoothly. I’m both so privileged and so lucky in that regard.

Thank You All

Thank you everyone, I’m so touched by your support.

People often ask whether I’m excited. Excited, terrified, something like that…. Mostly it’s been exhausting.

A friend of mine said that transitioning was like simultaneously planning her wedding and planning for the arrival of her first-born child —and running a marathon everyday to boot. She was only half-joking.

So having you all help celebrate a major milestone with me means a lot.

If you know any other trans folks who are transitioning, let them know you’ve got their back. It’s inherently a bit of lonely road, one spends a fair amount of time locked up with your thoughts and feelings.

If you know any other trans folks who are post-transition, let them know you’ve got their back. They’ve made it through the fire, but they often face a whole new set of challenges.

If you know any other trans folks who aren’t transitioning, let them know you’ve got their back. In some ways they have the most difficult path. I should know. For a number of years, I lived the middle path. Not because I was repressed, but because at that time I was truly and bi-gendered. And being bi-gendered or gender queer, or even an plain ol’ crossdresser is fucking hard. Maybe it’s a kiddie-coaster in terms of ups and downs compared to what transitioners go through, but there’s a big difference: at some point I get to get off the road. They don’t. It’s a ride they’ll be riding the rest of their lives.

If you know any partners of trans people — regardless of whether the trans person is transitioning, or post-transition or non-transitioning — let them know you’ve got their back. Of all the people, they’re the ones who are the most overlooked, the least respected and the least supported.

In the Wake of the Pulse Massacre

Dear cis/straight people who’ve remained silent,

Among those few who’ve spoken up, I’ve often heard that they felt like they didn’t know what to say, I get that. When someone’s parent, someone’s child, someone’s sibling or even their dog dies, we often don’t know what to say.

That’s why there’s ritual phrases: “My condolences.” “I’m sorry for your loss.” “I’m there for you.” Phrases that we say without thinking, without hesitation in the aftermath of other losses.

Imagine someone murders your parent, or your child, or your sibling, or even your dog. And no one says anything. Imagine the place you go to feel safe being violated. And no one says anything. Imagine knowing that it’s all too possible that someone you love, or you yourself, might well be murdered, in your refuge of safety. And no one says anything.

Yeah, it’s like that. And the silence has been deafening.

I get it, everyone processes tragedy in their own way. Some folks try to distract themselves, some folks withdraw. I get that you might need to get off Facebook for a bit.

I get that you might not have the energy to reach out individually to the LGBT people you know — I know I haven’t. I get that offering your condolences to an LGBT person might trigger emotions you rather not deal with right now — I know it has for me.

But honestly, how hard is it to take a moment to offer your condolences. Even getting on Facebook for a minute and making a quick post that you don’t what what else to say, but that you share our grief, that you’re with us.

Because a lot of us need to hear this right now. To know that someone else shares our pain. To know that we’ve not been abandoned. To know that we’re not alone.

P.S. I’m sure some of you are pissed off and defensive after reading this. If you are, ask yourself why are you so upset about being asked to do for us, what you routinely do for others. Just think about that.

Mourning Pulse in Solitude

Being both bi and trans, I feel very similarly:

“But the horrible thing about “passing privilege” is the closeting, the erasure. And never have I felt that so keenly as I feel it today while I mourn Orlando….

….It means I feel alone a lot.

I feel alone today in this household of straight people. Sympathetic straight people, yes, allies, yes, but straight people nonetheless.

I feel alone when the queer community talks about fighting back against homophobia with kiss-ins. Kissing my partner produces no hateful response from society (a privilege). So…where is my resistance? I must be doing this wrong.

That’s where the guilt enters in. The deep, deep isolating guilt that comes from internalized bi-phobia.

Am I allowed to feel this devastated, this full of rage?

Am I gay enough to be this upset?

Am I appropriating the grief of real gay people?

It hurts. On top of the pain and grief of loss, on top of the “that could’ve been me, that could’ve been my friends”, on top of the psychological terror, there’s also the sinking feeling of self-doubt.

Thank God for the radical queer community, the people who helped me heal from some of my guilt about not being “gay enough”. They came through for me in the past, and they are coming through again, reminding me of who I am. Reminding me that I count. Reminding me that I am enough, that my emotions are valid, that my existence is resistance, that I deserve to be here.”

– Biphobia and the Pulse Massacre

And the Band Played On

What a contrast at work today.

Shiny happy cis/straight people talking about what great weekends they had.

Me feeling hurt and angry, and most of all just tired. Just fucking tired of this shit.

And no one bothering to say anything. Very few people at work know (yet) that I’m trans. But a lot of people know that I do drag. Disappointing….

Know how you felt after 9/11? That’s the way a lot of us are feeling today after the Pulse massacre. Except this is the latest in a lifetime of low-level terrorism that we live with every fucking day.

Cis/straight people, I know that you may not feel like you know what to say. But a simple “I’m so sorry, how are you doing?” would be a good start.

I’m Actually Doing This…

The VP of HR sent me a quick reply today, congratulating me and saying he looked forward to talking to me about it — actually his words were “I would LOVE to talk to you about this.” (FWIW, he’s a femmy gay man and a bit on the emotionally expressive side. Kind of a reminds me of Mr. Rodgers with an adventurous wardrobe.)

He asked me to set up an hour-long meeting for when he’s back, as well as to bring to bring a sample transition plan.

Had a quick cry — both happy and freaking out that it’s actually happening.

Obviously we’ll see how it goes once we get into the actual transition planning, not to mention the actual Avalanche Day itself. But I’m heartened by this part of our employee handbook:

We do not discriminate in employment opportunities or practices on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, physical or mental disability, legally protected medical condition, family care status, marital status, sexual orientation or any other characteristic protected by law. Repeat: We do not discriminate. Ever. We have zero tolerance for any kind of discrimination. This policy governs all aspects of your employment, including selection, job assignment, compensation, performance management, how you treat your fellow employees and termination. We have no tolerance for discrimination. None. For us, this is the only way to do business. Do you think we made it clear that We don’t discriminate and don’t tolerate others discriminating?

Any employee found to be engaging in any type of discrimination will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and possibly including termination of employment (yes, this one is really, really serious, too)

If you have questions about this policy or about behaviors that might violate this policy, bring your questions or comments to the attention of your supervisor or to HR. You know that you can ask questions, raise concerns or make reports in good faith without fear of reprisal or retaliation.

People managers are required to report anything that might be understood or misunderstood as discriminatory conduct – even if they don’t think it’s discriminatory. Always.

Now we’ll see how well they walk the talk.

Build Up to a Let Down

Well that was a bit of an emotional let down…

Emailed our VP of HR to set up a meeting to discuss workplace transition — and it turns out he’s on vacation this week and next week, with very limited access to email (although his out-of-office message said he’ll reply when he can).

It’s gonna be a long two weeks…

Better Living Through Biochemistry

On a happier note, I’m at the salon for my mani/pedi and the owner is working today because the woman I normally see is on vacation. I haven’t seen the owner in a while because she doesn’t work Sundays, and she commented that I looked different.

Probably a combination of the electrolysis — pores in the cleared areas are smaller because the hair no longer holds the pore open — plus the hormones may starting to cause skin changes. She thinks my skin is looking really good.

Milestones and Random Musings

So a couple milestones this week:

Hour 65 of electrolysis and I’ve now got my face cleared down to the jawline. Still under-jaw and neck to do, as well as regrowth — I swear the upper lip will still be regrowing when everything else is clear.

Did my first session with the gender therapist, it was pretty much “intake,” i.e. me telling my life story and where things are at now, and I assume the next couple sessions will likely be mostly that too. So willing to give some time, but part of me feel like I’m paying to tell someone stuff I already know about (she did comment that I seem pretty self-knowledgable). Though the question of what to I want to get out of it, and how will I (and she) know we’ve accomplished that is an interesting one. As far as the gender stuff, it was more “this probably wouldn’t be a bad idea” to have someone to talk to get perspective, and provide support during what’s going to be a stress 12-18 months of my left. So it’s hard to boil that down into a specific goal(s).

There are other things that are more concrete, like figuring out how to build a social life with people who aren’t online or 30 miles away.

It has put me into a ruminative mood, which isn’t a great thing given all the things on my plate at the moment, but identifying the things I’m not happy with in my life. Like the fact that, in one way or another, I’ve spent of time and energy taking care of others — but who takes care of me? Plus dealing burn out from years spent doing a job with overtime, plus volunteer work, plus a performing career.

Plus I’m anxious about talking HR about an on-the-job transition, which is something I’m aiming to do in the next 2-3 weeks. Interestingly, I talked briefly about it, she didn’t really follow-up about that, other to say that giving them six months lead time was definitely desirable.

Doesn’t help that tonight is the tribute show to Nikki, which is stirring a lot of complicated feelings. In part I’m not looking forward to the spectacle of lots of people who never bothered to visit her in the years she was invalided go on about how much the love and miss her.

On the brighter side, one my co-workers reached out after seeing me post about the electrolysis on Facebook. She’s got PCOS and is quite hirsute, and is about to try laser again (she tried it 15 years ago and it was too painful for her). We both bonded a bit about our respective body dysphorias.

Also, when I was talking to the salon owner on Sunday she said that she really ought to start calling me Marlena now.*

She did say it might take her awhile, because she’s known me so long by my boy-name. We’ll see how she does. If needed, then I’ll get firmer about it, but it wasn’t the right time to press the issue.

* I asked my regular nail to do so awhile back, and to make sure I’m in the appointment book as Marlena, which she’s done. But as mentioned, I haven’t seen the owner in awhile because she doesn’t usually work Sundays.