Revel in the small victories

I’ve been on estrogen for about six months at this point. and though day to day its hard to notice any particular changes, the overall effect is beginning to become quite pronounced.

That would be good news enough but I took a big step. I bought some new work clothes last week, and I’ve been wearing them all of this week, the kicker being that they’re women’s clothing, not only do they fit better then my old clothes, I haven’t created some huge uproar or destabilized the universe.

A pair of pants might not seem huge but I was pretty concerned the first day I wore them, the pockets look different, they’re a different cut, I could think of a thousand ways people would notice. I just focused on the fact that people generally don’t notice things. and lo and behold, they didn’t.

Now I’m more comfortable at work, I feel like more confident that I can be out at work and most importantly I’ve taken a tangible step toward transitioning at work. Sometimes the victories are small but much like a fresh strawberry, the smallest ones are generally the sweetest.

It’s the little things: Man hands

My firm has offices spread across the country so we use video chatting services to communicate quite often. So as I was walking by our administrator the other day I stuck my hand in front of the camera. I know it’s not a particularly funny joke but it’s my way of saying hi.

“Oh those are just (my) big man hands in the way.” says the woman in my office.

One of the worst parts of coming out is that you expose yourself to being hurt. The little things are what hurt. My hands aren’t even that big, they don’t really bother me. In that moment though it was all consuming.

Like most people I just want to be treated with respect. Which means even a basic amount of dignity and social pleasantries being extended. You don’t point out someones obvious pimple, you don’t stare at the mole, you don’t stare at the only minority in the room, you don’t make fun of a Trans person’s less appreciated characteristics.

It might make you feel like you’re guarding yourself and have to step on egg shells. I’d feel bad if I hadn’t had to walk on egg shells and guard myself at all times for every moment of my life.

Most people know they should be nice to the people around them, they’re just not used to being around Trans people. It only takes some time to think or to ask the question to treat us like you would treat anyone else. It costs you nothing.

On a side note I know I’ve been talking about a lot of negative experiences lately, I will try and start writing some positive posts.

Disrespect as a management tool

I’m going to broaden my audience a bit today and talk about something that affects anyone in any work place. it’s when a manager/owner tries to minimize the efforts of an employee through a lack of appreciation or by disrespecting that employee.

It’s a pretty toxic thing, unfortunately it comes from a very honest place. Which makes it rather insidious. As a manager you think to yourself, I don’t want employee x doing that task, I have employee y for that. Employee x should be focusing on their actual job. See, pretty obvious stuff.

The way of actually dealing with this is to address why employee x is doing something outside of their responsibilities in the first place. The answer isn’t always that they’re trying to get out of their actual job.

A lot of mistakes when you’re managing people comes from an inability to understand the entire situation. Everyone manages based on what they know, a good manager understands that they can never know everything but is constantly working to understand and improve their awareness. A bad manager will never realise that they are working with incomplete information. Most people fall somewhere in between those.

The difficulty is that if your manager was perceptive and understood their role, you wouldn’t need to read this. If your manager has fit the bill for what I’m saying they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong and its incredibly hard to change that opinion.

This puts a caring employee n a pickle. The obvious answer is to stop helping and wait for the problems that you’ve been highlighting to break down to the point that even the most pig headed manager notices. This is pretty tough to do when you have an aversion to watching disasters unfold, like a reasonable person does.

This is a dangerous proposition as you are likely to be involved with any collateral (no matter how minor it might be) because of your proximity to it. The best option before you is to try to understand why your manager is taking the position they are/ The other possibility is that what you’re saving isn’t that big a priority. It doesn’t ultimately matter, or that there’s a bigger plan then you’re aware of.

This brings me to the central point, communication is key. Communication leads to understanding. Understanding is everything,. If you’re frustrated reach out, maybe not to your direct manager, and likely not to their manager. Find someone else who might be privy to more information and seek to understand. Or if you are comfortable with it talk to your manager about the issue and express why you’re tackling it.

At the end of the day everyone situation and structure at work are different, but you do need to come to some understanding. If you constantly feel belittled and disrespected for the effort you put in eventually you’ll end up blowing up.

My first collision: client meets transition

I had a client come in the other day to pick up some work we’d done for him. In going through it all he ended by asking for a card. We were at the front desk where we keep all of our cards so he just looks over himself. Seeing our administrators card first he asks if that’s mine. I say no my card is the one next to it. He responds dismissively with “oh good I thought you were one of those people with gender issues.”

There’s a very petty and malicious part of my soul that just wants to throw things in peoples faces but as usual I didn’t. I awkwardly smiled and he left afterwards. He was none the worse for wear.

Now, years from now I know I will likely find this story funny. But this is the first time I have had a client bring that up, as awkwardly as it was. So unfortunately my first experience is always going to be awkward and weird at best, or a sign of a long, winding, and largely uphill battle.

As is another sign of the toll that being in the closet and transition has brought upon me. I didn’t really think it was that strange until I told other people. I now see why it should have been painful, and am now bothered by it but in the moment I wasn’t. Either i have incredibly low standards for people around me, incredible patience, or I’m just as broken on the inside as I think, maybe even more who knows. My money is it’s a bit of all three, but likely more of the first and last then the second.

So now that I’ve stewed on it for a week, screw you guy!

 

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.