Transitioning at work: What are the options?


People that identify as transgender often experience some type of discrimination within their workplace. This may change as societal awareness and acceptance of trans issues grows. As a result, transitioning at work may become better understood and more information about transitioning in the workplace may become available. Less discrimination may take place once this happens. Until then, it may be useful to carefully consider your options when it comes to transitioning at work. In this post, Pink Families explores some of these options.

How many trans people experience workplace discrimination?

A transgender survey in Massachusetts (US) revealed that 76% of trans people have experienced workplace discrimination at one time in their life. This means that out of the 33,000 people in Massachusetts that identify as transgender, 25,080 of them have experienced discrimination in their place of work. Approximately 0.5% of Massachusetts 6.6 million residents identify as transgender. Sadly, one out of every five (20%) reported they had lost their job.

This information, contained within a Williams Institute report, highlights the negative consequences that this discrimination has for trans-identifying individuals and for society in general.

Workplace discrimination can lead to financial difficulties, stress and housing insecurity. Plus, in the US, a corresponding loss of health insurance can occur when you lose your job. It doesn’t take long for the societal costs of this discrimination to begin to escalate, especially when those that have lost their job start turning to the state, and to their friends and their family for support.

Experiencing discrimination at work as a trans person can be challenging and transitioning at work can be tricky. Transitioning involves a process that is usually quite visible to others, and this can leave you feeling exposed and vulnerable.

So what are the options?

Options for transitioning at work

There are many success stories of people transitioning at work. Admittedly, there are also many stories of people experiencing problems when they go through this process. Working out your options will help you achieve a successful transition. Some of these options include transitioning openly at work, not telling, and finishing up and starting afresh.

Transition openly

Transitioning openly at work is one option. This has been done by people who are relatively newcomers to work. It has also been done by individuals who have held very senior positions within their organizations.

These examples demonstrate that it is possible to transition openly at work, regardless of how much or how little responsibility you hold.

Don’t tell

Another option is to not tell. It might be easier to not reveal that you are going through this process until you absolutely have to. It might even be possible to move away from your  work setting until after you have transitioned. You may choose to “pass” as not being trans until the time is right for you.

Finishing up and starting afresh

Another option is to finish up at your work before you transition. Finishing up at work before you transition can help avoid unwanted responses within the workplace.

At the same time, this option comes with financial challenges that may be hard to accommodate alongside the expenses involved with transitioning. Transitioning usually is a costly and involved process. Starting a new job sometimes brings a level of job insecurity and therefore additional financial stress.

Although the idea of starting afresh in a new job may be appealing, in reality starting a new job can also be very stressful. There are sometimes benefits to be had by staying put and making the most of the support you have around you.

But only you will know whether it might be more advantageous to finish up and start afresh somewhere else.

Pros and cons: It’s your choice

All of these options have pros and cons. All of these choices are legitimate ones. Ultimately, the choice is yours to make.

Businesswoman Dr Margaret Stumpp shares her experiences of transitioning in the workplace and how it helped her business achievements to skyrocket. This video was launched by Out for Undergrad, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping high-potential LGBT undergraduates reach their full potential in their career.

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