The article accounts experiences four transgender women have had while transitioning on the Job. These women were each asked a series of questions ranging from coming out as transgender, the obstacles they faced to support, if any, from peers or colleagues.
Nazaria : Works in a Government Bank
Aanya : Works at a call centre
Shahista : Works in the BPO sector
Lakshmi: Works as a social media expert in a marketing firm.
Are you open about your transition at your workplace?
Nazaria : Yes.
Aanya : Yes, I am open to some. However, I haven’t been open about the fact that I am a trans woman after I got my gender marker changed to female on all my legal documents. Some of my more recent colleagues don’t know about it.
Shahista : Yes, and everyone calls me by my chosen name including my manager and others, even when I go by my old name and gender marker on all my documents.
Lakshmi : Not to the senior management, but most of my colleagues know about me.
How do you explain the changes that are happening to your body, to colleagues and peers who ask?
Nazaria : I told them about me before I joined my workplace, so most of them knew that I was going through and didn’t ask me anything. No one at work has ever asked me to explain anything.
Aanya : I generally explain how hormones works on bodies, they understand the rest.
Shahista : I joined this company as female though there were not many visibly feminine changes at that time (I had just started transitioning then) However, I did not have a pleasant experience as many of my colleagues made fun of my appearance and made hurtful jokes at my expense.
After I took the time to explain to them what I was going through, most of them, especially the women were very nice to me and accepted me for who I was.
Lakshmi : I started to medically transition only recently, meaning I started on hormones not very long ago. Meanwhile, I grew my hair out and got my ears pierced, and with having very little facial hair, my appearance was quite feminine. This led to a lot of awkward stares coming my way.
Although, most people were polite, there have been some colleagues who have been curious about the way I look and behave. Initially I told them I was gay and that I like looking feminine. However, now that I am on hormones and will look different very soon, I probably will have to come out more people than I earlier did.
Have you faced any adverse impact of coming out while at work/ or as your identity as a trans person? [e.g.: skipped for promotion, lesser pay, impact on role, gossip and hostile behavior, ridicule etc?]
Nazaria : Not in my case. This is probably because I work in a government organization; I haven’t faced any discrimination.
Aanya : No. I never faced anything adverse. I work in a MNC and there are policies in place to ensure that one doesn’t get discriminated for who they are.
In my opinion, these companies need only the work you can do and don’t necessarily bother with anything else. I’ve also realized that to some extent, it’s your attitude that matters and how you take things. For me, things have been normal just like other people in my team.
Shahista : I still vividly remember my first day at work when all the girls pulled me to the washroom, which incidentally was my first time in a female washroom. I remember crying when I entered bathroom. Also, I remember this time one time when I was asked to speak in front of my colleagues. I told them about all my struggles and after which, all the people, including the ones who made fun of me, came forward and lent their support.
I also faced some problems, where cab drivers addressed me as ‘sir’ and would refuse to drop me near my house, which was a facility, accorded to women employees.
Lakshmi : I have faced a lot of awkward questions like “Oh so you like men or women?” or “what will happen when you take those medicines (hormones), will your breasts grow?” etc. I usually tell them very politely that such questions are inappropriate and move on.
Also, I manage a team and I have found that I have had to really assert my authority in order for my team members to take me seriously. As a really feminine person who is also transgender, I have to make a lot of extra effort so people take me seriously.
4. What are the moments at work that have kept you hopeful and strong about the future? [eg helpful colleagues, solidarity etc]
Nazaria : Self Confidence. You don’t need anyone to support you, unless you don’t support yourself.
Aanya : Yes my colleagues have been extremely helpful, sensitive and caring. I was just another person for them. My trans identity did not matter to them.
Shahista : I was lucky to have a very understanding and sweet manager, who came to become more of a sister for me. She fought hard for me and changed all my documents to female even when I hadn’t legally done so. This helped me avail all the benefits my company was offering to its female employees.
Lakshmi : My team at work gave me an ornate hair pin and a beautiful hand mirror for Christmas, subtly telling me that they accepted me for who I was. That was a very happy moment at work for me.
If you could repeat your transition process, and do it differently, what would you change in your approach to transitioning while working?
Nazaria : Nothing.
Aanya : I don’t think there is anything to change. I have followed the right way.
Shahista : I would definitely have transitioned much earlier and also would have spoken up to all the colleagues who made hurtful comments at me. I would really make them understand how making fun of others is really hurting.
Lakshmi : I would have transitioned much earlier.
**Names have been changed to protect the identity and privacy of the participants.