Transitioning at work: Thinking it through


Transitioning openly at work is a choice. Some choose to do it and others choose not to. Even though it might feel daunting to work out what to do, breaking it down into manageable chunks may help you identify the process that’s right for you. In this post, Pink Families helps you think through some of the factors to consider in relation to transitioning at work.

Factors to consider

Safety first

First, assess what feels safe. Assessing your options in terms of what feels safe and what doesn’t feel safe can help you work out how best to proceed. Even though it’s impossible to know what will happen before it does, thinking through what you think might happen may help. It might be helpful to ask the following questions:

  • What might happen if I choose not to transition publicly?
  • What might happen if I choose to not tell anyone about my transition?
  • How will people react if I tell them?
  • Will I have the support of my organization?
  • What is the culture at my work like?
  • Will my workplace be able to journey through this with me?

Asking these questions and thinking through these factors may help you work out what to do when situations arise. For example, if you think people may react badly, what might you do to help minimize this reaction? If you think people are going to respond positively what might you do to help optimize their support?

Relationships at work

Second, consider the impact that transitioning at work will have on your relationships with your colleagues. Relationships at work are important. Understanding how best to share this information with your colleagues may help you maintain your work relationships throughout the process.

Anti-trans bigotry and job security

Taking the time to consider what anti-trans bigotry you might experience and how transitioning might impact on your job security might help.

  • If you think that you probably will be subjected to anti-trans bigotry then what support can you access to help avoid this?
  • And, how can you and your allies quickly stop it in its tracks?
  • Is there any chance that you may lose your job?

Thinking through all of these scenarios is important, especially in light of the recent findings from the study in Massachusetts (US) that showed that 20% of trans individuals lost their job due to discrimination.

In relation to job security, it’s helpful to know your rights. These vary around the world. For example, in the US, at least 108 cities and counties have laws that outlaw gender identity discrimination. This includes Atlanta, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Dallas, El Paso, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Louisville, Nashville, New Orleans and Pittsburgh. There are also a number of transgender law institutes that may be able to assist you if you experience difficulties.

Work out your options, obligations and entitlements

You may choose to transition away from work. If this is the case then you may wish to consider what transitioning away from your work will mean for your career prospects, for your relationships with your colleagues, and for your relationships with other work stakeholders. Your stakeholders might include your share-holders, your patients or your customers, for example.

Take time to think about how it may feel to come back to your work environment after you have transitioned. Also, understanding your obligations to return to work will help you with your planning. Getting the right information can help you make the decision that’s right for you and at the time that is right for you.

If possible, you may wish to explore the option of taking a break from your current employer or organization and return at a later date either in your same role or in another one. It might also mean that you terminate your current contract in order to commence employment elsewhere.

Line-manager and the human resource (HR) department

Speaking with your line-manager, in confidence, and speaking with HR staff may help you understand your options.

When liaising with the HR department it might be useful to find one HR staff member to work with you. Working with one HR staff member may help save you time and help avoid having to re-explain your situation every time you need advice from HR.

Having one person to liaise with may also help you to feel safer and secure in the knowledge that your information is being treated confidentially.

But make sure that the person you liaise with is competent. It’s probably better to avoid having to deal with just one person if the person you are dealing with isn’t competent.

Equal opportunities and diversity officers

Some organizations have equal opportunities and diversity officers. If this is the case at your workplace, then it might help to speak with them in order to work out what support and information they can provide to you.

Sick leave, financial entitlements and counseling

Also, it’s important that you understand your sick leave entitlements, your financial entitlements and any access that you may have to counseling through your work. Investigate what financial assistance that you and or your carer (or partner) may be able to access during the time of your treatment and recovery. Some organizations may provide free counseling to you and your partner. Your HR department should be able to provide you with information about your entitlements.

Independent advice

It’s sometimes useful to seek out independent guidance regarding what your entitlements are. For example, social workers who are working with your specialist may be able to help direct you to the right sources of information so that you receive accurate and useful information.

Being pointed in the right direction may help you avoid wasting time. Plus, getting accurate information will help you avoid the stress and confusion that can sometimes result from being given inaccurate information.

It might also mean that you get in contact with people that are knowledgeable about trans issues more quickly as compared to trying find these sources of information by yourself. It’s important to remember that you are not alone and there are resources to help you successfully negotiate this important milestone.

Find out more about how people are achieving equality and diversity in the workplace through watching this video launched by Out & Equal Workplace Advocates (US).

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