Finding Support from Higher Up

I’ve come out to 4 different managers in my career. It’s never easy to do but I want to talk about what to expect. I rather mistakenly assumed, maybe because I was young and naive enough to believe the corporate line that inclusion matters. That support with my transition was a conversation away. The first two managers I told were when I worked for a major financial institution, the kind that somehow wins diversity and inclusion awards and has programs somewhere to help employees deal with this stuff. Both were polite, both offered their personal support, though without knowing what that means it’s a pretty easy thing to give, harder to act on, and a commitment to find out more.

That last step, usually fell flat. Now, I’ll set some more context in that neither of these mangers was supportive of me before finding out I was Trans. No support for further education, they were generally annoyed by my need to question and understand. They didn’t appreciate that I didn’t always agree with the status quo. I have authority issues, its not my fault.

So the incredible leap of logic I made was, this would be the thing that would start the support. It wasn’t. If you’re thinking its time to move forward with your transition and its time to talk to your boss. Ask yourself one question. Have they supported me on anything else? If they don’t care about your career they’re definitely not going to help with your transition.

Now, why does support matter? Transition takes time, especially medical transition. There’s a frightening amount of people you have to bare your soul to, and they all also work Monday to Friday 9-5.

As someone considering transition its important to know you ahve the resources to see things through, partial progress can feel worse then no progress at all.

So if you find yourself with an already unsupportive boss, don’t despair just make sure your plan doesn’t involve their support find the resources as you can. It will make things harder, but if a transition wasn’t hard it wouldn’t be so satisfying every step you actually take.

If you’re lucky to have finally found a manager who generally cares and wants to see your career suceed. The support for transition isn’t usually that big of a stretch. They’re not goign to understand what you need or why you need it. They’re just going to help you get it. Transitions are personal, you have to walk all ofthe steps yourself. You’re not asking your boss to hold your hand, you just need time to get those steps in and move along that journey.

Considering Transitioning?

I don’t want to start at the beginning because that was a long time ago. instead I’m going to start at the beginning of when I seriously started to consider what a transition would look like. To give you some context, I work in finance, I’m an investment advisor, the old fashioned term for that was stock broker, but that’s not really a good title, most of what I do is financial planning. Anyways, what’s important is that the average wealthy client (the people I work with to get paid) are not necessarily the type of person one thinks of when they think of the forefront of a social revolution. They generally think, older, conservative, and most importantly, conservative.

So back to the point of this story, how was I, someone who was already significantly younger then my peers (10 years younger then the youngest people in my profession) going to make this happen. Spoiler warning, that parts not written yet.

What I can do then is discuss how I started figuring this out. The first thing that’s important to consider is that worrying about other people is a great way to delay your transition. I began my journey to transition while I was in college, I was legitimately terrified that I would be un-hireable if I was visibly Trans. That was only 4 years ago.

What I didn’t realise was that by focussing on my job I would enter down a path with a company that would delay my transition a further 3 years. The biggest consideration after, will they fire/constructively dismiss me from this job if they find out I’m Trans, is whether or not the company you work for will be supportive enough to see that parade, circus even, of professionals it takes to begin medical transition. While also keeping you sane and in a healthy enviornment the whole way. A company can be inclusive and accepting like a fake smile on a salesman. However just like getting a good discount true acceptance and support will never quite be attainable. unless you can transition on well wishes and awkward silence alone. If you can please let me in on our secret.

The next consideration is whether or not the environment is transition friendly. one of my first jobs with a major financial institution introduced me to the absolute terror and misunderstanding these organisations have with Trans people. I was warned on one of my first days about this terror of a person. This ‘woman’ who I needed to handle so gently lest I set off a lawsuit because this special snowflake of a person was so apt to flip their lid. A few weeks later said person came in, not perfectly stealth but very close and I must say she looked pretty good. I had the honour to serve her when she got to the front of the line, was she mean and ready to jump down everyone’s throat, of course not, was she terrified and worried that I was going to out her… again… at that bank, damn Skippy she was. Were all of my co-workers whispering and sending me messages making sure I didn’t mess this up because of the drama that would ensue, of course. Did I treat her like a normal person, yes, was she visibly relieved after dealing with me, yes. Did I have the courage to interact and set the record straight with my co-workers as I should have. No. Myself a Transwoman, myself fully knowing what was going on. Of course not I was too busy finding new and more elaborate ways to hide what I’d slowly been unwinding in myself the past year. I let it slide, I endured many more comments about that five minute exchange. Scaring me further into the closet when after so long I have made the first steps towards the door. Be careful who you work with, even well meaning and open minded people can prevent you from pursuing your truth and happiness.

We are not yet in a world that is fully supportive of Trans people. Big companies with big inclusion policies are not always what they say they are. If you’re caught in the middle of your career and future, and your transition and future, be careful to consider how both parts of that will work. Just a couple considerations.

A guidebook for Trans Professionals

Is not something that exists. Yet at least, maybe someone will write one. Maybe that someone is writing on this blog right now…

When I came out to the partners at my firm, one of the partners being the practical man that he is, after the support was offered and the awkwardness had settled said two things: The first was that this was going to be another path they were going to have to forge the first time, and the second was if there was a guidebook.

I tell that story because he knew there was no guidebook and little did he know he’d inspire me to start telling my story in the attempts at putting something together. Transgender people in the media are often portrayed with more, bohemian sensibilities. The artists and free spirits. So where does that leave the average professional woman or man who is less then thrilled with the outcome of their genitalia? In an awkward position to say the least. A few miles up shits creek without a paddle to be blunt. Throw on top of it the long ladder to general legitimacy in their chosen field, and you’ve got a long road ahead indeed.

Do I have all the answers? Absolutely not, will I figure more out as I go along. I hope to hell because if I’m this confused even a year from now I’m going to be pissed.