This was my first full week being out and presenting as a woman at work and I don’t think it could have gone much better. In general, everyone was fairly accepting and used my new name and pronouns without issue. There was some unavoidable awkwardness and just plain weirdness but it went well. However, while my first week being out went well, it took a pretty heavy toll on my mental and emotional health.
I was pretty surprised by how accepting everyone in my office was and how quickly everyone knew. I was aware that it had spread pretty far when I left work on Friday, but by Monday morning everyone knew. I got a lot of weird looks and a lot of strangers peeking at my desk, but everyone was already using my new names and pronouns. No one was openly antagonistic or transphobic, and the people I was concerned about expressed their distaste by avoiding me. I only encountered one person who did not use my new name that entire day and it was just because nobody had told him. At one point he walked past my office, saw the new nameplate, and then congratulated me on getting a new office mate which gave away that he didn’t know.
The rest of the week was pretty similar. People were fairly good about using my name and pronouns with only occasional slip-ups. For the first couple of days, I would have people drop by my office wanting to discuss my transition but that slowly went away after a few days. Most of the people who wanted to discuss my transition were pretty honest about their ignorance regarding trans people, several told me that I was the only trans person they had ever met. It felt odd and a little uncomfortable to have so many people tell me that. Despite their self-admitted ignorance, everyone was very supportive of my transition and offered support if I needed it.
While it went well overall, there were a few hiccups this week. First, I completely lost my voice about halfway through the week. Around Wednesday evening, I suddenly lost all feeling in my throat. I could not speak for the entire night and it wasn’t any better the next day. I couldn’t raise my larynx, I had almost no vocal control, and I could barely raise my voice above a whisper. I am assuming that I overexerted my voice and larynx, but I am not sure. Because of work and life in general, I had to keep speaking, and as a result it didn’t get better until today. I am nearly 5 days out from losing my voice it still is not back at 100%, which I find very concerning. I am a little worried that I may have done some serious damage to my voice.
The other issue is that I feel like everyone is suddenly babying me and it makes me a tad uncomfortable. The offices that I work in are adjoined to the factory floor. As part of my job, I would regularly go into these areas and interact with people working there, however since coming out I have been strongly discouraged from doing so. Both management and just random coworkers have encouraged that I stay in the offices and my assignments suddenly shifted to encourage the same. When tasks arose that required me to leave the offices and go down to the factory, I had people volunteer to do them in my place or had management telling someone else to do so. While I appreciate their concern, it felt uncomfortable to be treated so lightly. Frankly, it made me a little irritated. I am trans, not made of glass. I am just as capable of doing my job post-transition as I was before.
Despite how well my first week being out at work went, I feel awful. This week wasn’t easy for me to begin with. Although it went well, I felt exposed, embarrassed, and incredibly self-conscious the entire time. Despite this stress, I managed to stay somewhat emotionally stable the entire work week. However, on Friday night is all just kinda shattered. All at once, I felt every stare and smirk, every sudden silence when I entered a room. I felt disgusting, I felt gross, and worst of all I felt guilty. Guilty for burdening my coworkers with my transition. Guilty for forcing them to learn and use a new name and pronouns. Guilty for demanding respect. I curled up into a ball and sobbed on the floor for 45 minutes straight. I still feel awful emotionally and it has been over two days. I still feel guilty.
In hindsight, I should have anticipated the effect being out and visible would have on my mental health. I am an anxious person and I absolutely despise being the center of attention but coming out required attracting that attention. I wasn’t prepared for all the feelings and thoughts that being so visible would bring out in me. Feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and fear that were always there but were more pronounced now that I was out. The fact that my first week being out at work went so well is actually harmful here, it makes these emotions feel unjustified and gratuitous. I suspect that some of these feelings will fade with time, but right now I am struggling.