I haven’t written an article for a while. I’ve been occupied by my job and my surgeries. However, I was listening to the Nancy podcast, and they had a prompt for what it’s like being out of the closet at work. I’ve been thinking about this anyways, but I thought I would write down a bit of it.
Being an out transgender man, in a super gay marriage at work means people self select on if they want to have anything to do with me before I even get to the word, “Hello.” People who have a problem with queer folks will automatically avoid me. This isn’t necessarily bad. However, it has led to some awkward interactions where I can’t tell if they avoided me because of that, or they somehow failed out of being human beings when it comes to polite work interactions.
Being out at work means that the folks that don’t have a problem with LGBT folks make it a point to have my back clearly. I’ve never in my life seen so many straight folks make a point to be clear about supporting queer folks. It’s awe inspiring sometimes.
Especially in this crazy Trump/Pence inspired attack on transgender people having basic rights. When the Trump ban on transgender people serving in military came down, a large number of my coworkers were furious about it. They wanted my husband and I to know they felt it was a total injustice. It felt nice to walk into a place where I knew so many amazing allies. If I wasn’t out at work, I would have never known.
Being out at work as a transgender man, means I use the bathroom farther from the office, so I don’t make people uncomfortable, and they don’t get weird and awkward to me when I am in there. I try to stay as predictable as possible in my bathroom habits to avoid that frozen deer in the headlights thing that happens when some dude is forced to share bathroom space with a known trans guy, and is obviously uncomfortable about it.
Being openly transgender in the office means I think about this bathroom issue every single time I have to pee. Bigots are sometimes like a Jack-in-the-Box. It’s all nice pleasantries until they spring out. In my experience, sometimes I am complete shocked by the people that suddenly freak out about my being transgender. It’s like they had to think about it, talk to their friends, get some courage from some church somewhere, before they feel they have enough backing to spring. So yeah, I think about this every single time I have to pee.
Being out at work means having to listen to a coworker spend a year telling my husband and I how he supports bathroom bills, banning trans folks from the military, and general anti trans fuckery disguised as “debate.” As if not being allowed to pee in the appropriate bathroom, or kicking transgender soldiers out of the military is a debate. Sneering at the loss of my medical because “Is that all?” as if getting testosterone, or surgery is somehow an affront. Oh yeah, and nothing says you are a dick, like loudly discussing how you are pissed your tax dollars might go to a transgender person’s health care, two seats down from a real live transgender person.
Being out at work, and getting bottom surgery that I am are not hiding, means I get asked a lot of questions. I am cool with the questions, until the person that is super anti-trans uses this openness to attempt to affirm their erroneous backwards anti-transgender biases. In a lot of ways, this was a cool experience, and I got to see so many supportive gestures, and I got to do some actual education on the topic. It was totally cool.
Being out at work means sometimes allies are shocked and disappointed to realize you are a normal guy, with normal foibles. I think allies sometimes want to swoop in and protect LGBT folks, and it’s sometimes shocking that we aren’t “Will and Grace” gay. We are grumpy in the morning, stressed about deadlines, and not agreeable all the time. Sometimes I can see the exact moment I fall off the rainbow pedestal.
Being out at work means, I sometimes see a flood of people digging into my LinkedIn. I see this in waves, usually when folks find out I am transgender. I work for the Department of Defense, and I know when the contractors find out, because I get a flood of them looking at my LinkedIn. Otherwise I’m not in a noteworthy enough position for it to warrant that kind of thing. Plus, nobody else around me ever gets these little floods.
Being out at work means I get to see folks evolve on the issue of LGBT people. Sometimes I see folks go from not thinking or being outright against our existence, to being shockingly supportive. This one makes it worth while to talk to people openly about their questions, for me. It’s nice to have someone come back a year later, and tell me how they really changed their views because before they had never known anyone like me.
I have tried being closeted about being transgender on the job, and it was one of the worst experiences in my adult life. Being closeted was more about attempting to be careful about what I said, or referred to. It meant that if folks suspected, they dug into my life online, to prove I “wasn’t a man”.
While being out at work is definitely a mixed bag, I am not sure I want to go back in the closet, though. It’s definitely something every transgender person has to consider when entering a new work position.
If I wasn’t out at work, I would not have seen the amazing folks step up in this current political climate. I would not have been able to see how amazing day to day work is when you don’t have to hide your identity. It’s not without it’s frustrations, as an out transgender man, but my only option is to hide, or be out. I prefer out.