I mentioned in my last post that I had to approach human resources at my job to discuss my gender transition (Twist and turns in my gender transition). This wasn’t something that I had planned to do yet but circumstances regarding my upcoming move and legal restrictions in my state forced the issue. I was incredibly nervous about talking with HR. This would be my first time coming out to strangers and it would put me in serious trouble if they leaked that I was trans. In spite of this fear, I could not avoid talking to them. I needed to know what my options were and what policies existed at my job for trans employees. Talking to HR and getting this information was not a straightforward process.
The hardest part of the whole experience was figuring out who to speak to. Finding out who my HR rep was felt like pulling teeth, nobody would give me an answer. I started by asking some of the people I worked with, which was a huge mistake. Nobody would tell me and they would get incredibly aggressive when asked, demanding to know why I needed to speak to HR and why I couldn’t resolve whatever issue I was having myself. I gave them all a fake reason, but it wasn’t enough to get an answer for all of them. Eventually, I had to just ask my boss who also interrogated me about my reasons for needing HR. Fortunately, I had come prepared with a bogus explanation which mollified him. He gave me the name and how to contact them, but this had taken an entire week and the whole experience had honestly been a nightmare. I don’t deal well with people getting aggressive or antagonistic with me and it happened multiple times because of my questioning. I had started asking around Monday and only got an answer on Friday after enduring several coworkers getting very rude and aggressive with me.
With the knowledge of who my HR rep is, I went ahead and made an appointment for 3 days later. I wanted to give myself some time to prepare and to work up some courage. No more than 5 minutes after sending the meeting request, the HR representative walks into my office and says “I saw you made an appointment, can you tell me what it is about now so I can prepare?” I told her no, eyeing the wide-open door to my office. She noticed my gaze, closed the door, and then asked if I could tell her now. I apologized but again refused to tell her, at which point she left but was clearly irritated with me. My anxiety was through the roof at this point. A few minutes later I get an IM from the HR rep, telling me that she was with the manager of the HR team and that I should come speak to both of them immediately. And this is how I ended up meeting with HR for the first time.
This first discussion with HR didn’t go very well. Because of how quickly this had occurred, I only had one question prepared, “what are the policies and procedures for employees who are transitioning genders in the workplace?”. The answer was that none existed and that no one had ever transitioned while working at the company. This surprised me, I work for a significant international company and just in terms of statistics, there should have been someone else. The manager then told me that if I transitioned, I would effectively be creating the procedures and policies for the company, which is an uncomfortably heavy burden. I also asked about some of the changes that I would want, a new email address, name tag, and office placard. I was told that those are all linked to the legal name in our HR system and that I could only change them by bringing in a name change order. This was frustrating and questionably legal, but I was way too anxious to push back against this.
While there was a lot that came out of my first discussion with HR, the thing that has stuck with me the most was one of the closing remarks from the HR manager. Towards the end of our incredibly short conversation, the HR manager remarked, “due to the area, you will need to educate a lot of people on this topic.” I was not unaware that there would be considerable ignorance regarding trans people and topics in my workplace (I have heard it), but it was pretty galling to be told that I was responsible for educating everyone. Why does it fall on my shoulders alone to educate people? I shouldn’t have to deal with both the stress of coming out and of educating the company’s workforce. I have no interest in any of that attention, I just want to blend in. However, I also recognize that if I refuse to educate, nobody will pick up that slack. If HR expects me to educate, then they certainly don’t plan to. I either have to shoulder the burden of educating people about trans topics or accept that I will have to deal with ignorance about my identity as long as I work there.
I had a second conversation with the HR team a few days later that went better. I asked about working together to create a plan for coming out in the workplace, which got a mixed response. On one hand, I could tell they didn’t understand why I needed to make a plan for coming out, but they did agree to help with making a plan. They asked for some time so that they could educate themselves since by their own acknowledgment this was completely new to them and they didn’t know anything about these matters. This seems like a positive sign along with the fact that they have not outed me to anyone else (as far as I can tell). I am fairly optimistic that I can work with my HR department moving forward.
All in all, my experience with HR was just kinda middling. I was taken aback by how little they could do until I got a legal name change and this forced me into getting the name change earlier than I would have preferred. But they didn’t out me to anyone as far as I can tell, which was my biggest fear from speaking with them. Nobody has started treating me differently since I spoke to HR (except the HR team, who are all nicer to me). The fact that the HR department is trying to educate itself is also a positive sign, but I am still unnerved by the insinuation that I would be responsible for educating others. I am ultimately left feeling cautiously optimistic. The next couple of weeks will be pivotal in determining how my transition at my job will go.