Transitioning at work and behavior


In an ideal world, we should all just be able to be who we want to be. However, in the world of business this ideal is often not a reality. Within work settings there are usually certain cultural norms, workplace expectations and codes of behavior. Sometimes, it can be tricky to work out what these codes are. Working out how to act in the workplace after you have transitioned can require even more thought. Research shows that after transitioning you may need to modify your behavior. In this post, Pink Families shares some of these research findings and considers the territory of transitioning at work and behavior.

Female-to-male trans

Qualitative research has shown that behavior in the workplace sometimes needs to be altered after you have transitioned. For example, female-to-male trans individuals may notice that different types of behaviors are now out of bounds with female colleagues.

Before transitioning it may have been OK to casually chat about dating with your female colleagues over coffee, for example. However after your transition it may no longer be appropriate to have these conversations with females colleagues in the workplace.

What’s acceptable and what’s not may also be influenced by your sexual identity. Some trans individuals are attracted to people of the same-sex, and so this may be a consideration for some, but not all.

For example, some straight females may be more likely to discuss certain content with males that they perceive as being gay as compared to straight males. This may be because a gay colleague may not be viewed as a potential partner.

Male-to-female trans

Changed norms and behaviors may also be relevant for male-to-female trans individuals in the workplace. Before transitioning it may have been perfectly acceptable to be very expressive with your body language. However, colleagues may have a changed expectation of what’s acceptable in relation to how expressive you can or can’t be after you have transitioned.

Unfortunately whether we like it or not, the level of overt emotional expression for a man in the workplace may be quite different to what is acceptable for a female. Overly expressive body language may be viewed as acceptable if used by a female but not when it is used by a male. When used by a male it might be interpreted by other females, for example, as being aggressive.

Re-negotiating interactions

People often misunderstand what it feels like to transition. For some transitioning does not mean that their gender has changed. The way that they feel about their gender has remained the same even after “gender reassignment”, for example. “Gender reassignment” has simply aligned their gender and sex. Nevertheless, whether we like it or not, our outward appearance does influence the way that others perceive our gender. This means that people’s expectations may change once they assess that someone’s gender has changed. In this respect, carefully assessing the cues within the workplace in order to inform your style of communication and behavior with others may help you succeed in the workplace. Doing this may help you continue to be successful in your work environment.


Schilt K. 2010. Just one of the guys?: Transgender men and the persistence of gender inequality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

In this video below important trans research from The University of Chicago (US) is presented by Assistant Professor in Sociology Kristen Schilt.

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