Work transition letter

Part of the larger section on employment issues.

A reader sent this well-written letter to employers. Her company is based in an English-speaking country, and her office is in the Middle East.

Dear Sirs,

As my initial approach to Mr. _____ and subsequent conversations have revealed, I am a transsexual.

The aim of this letter is to clarify what that means and how it affects both my self and the company.

With that understanding we should be able to avoid some of the pit falls that commonly occur in this situation, and the unpleasantness that will inevitable come from those less well informed.

I am making the assumption here that I will still have a job after December, if not; the rest of this letter is superfluous.

Transsexuality is a recognized, treatable medical condition. There is no ‘cure’ as such, but it can be managed so that the clients’ personal well-being and quality of life are significantly improved.

It is not; a mental illness, some sexual perversion, a debilitating disease, contagious or infectious, homosexuality or a whimsical choice. 

There are a number of clinical definitions which describe the condition, but the most widely used and understood is that contained in ‘The Harry Benjamin Standards of Care’.

In really simple terms a transsexual person believes that they were born in the wrong body.

It used to be thought until quite recently that a persons gender and sexuality ( very different concepts) were determined by social conditioning, ie. How, and in what social structure they were growing up in. The more widely held view in the medical profession now is that gender dysphoria and specifically transsexuality is more neurological and biological in nature.

 Nurture VS Nature.

In-utero the fetus is exposed to a number of chemical and hormonal doses throughout its development, the correct dosage and timing of these chemical washes is critical the childs’ ‘normal’ development.

In male to female transsexual people it is believed that the ostensibly male fetus received a ‘wrong dose’ of female hormones at a critical stage in its development.

I believe this is what happened to me.

(I have made only the most cursory study of female to male transsexual people, they face an entirely different set of problems but the issue of gender identity remains essentially the same)

To say that this has affected me profoundly would be an understatement. My transsexuality  has influenced every part of my life for as long as I can remember.

A big problem that I had was that I ‘knew something was wrong” but didn’t know what that ‘something” was. I simply had no frame of reference.

It was only in my 20’s that I became aware of trans-gender issues. Even then it took some years to develop a self definition that felt comfortable with.

By then I had married and had children, and so choose to still do nothing until my daughter became a self sufficient adult.

Then, as children do, she upset the apple cart even further. After many years of living with her mother, she blithely announced that; ‘she had 2 more years of school and thought it was about time she spent some time with me’. And so she did.

From the moment she arrived in _______, I was very open and honest with her; rather ruthlessly at times, telling her about what was happening to me, how I felt and what changes would occur in the future.

Please be aware that this was very much an exploratory period for me, I was not sure where things would lead, so it must have been far more difficult for Faith to deal with.

A credit to my daughter is that in only a few years she has gone from complete bewilderment to acceptance and active support. I cannot stress enough how important this is to me.

All of which leads to the present. The chance to come to _____ was a golden opportunity for me. A chance to live and work in a rather exotic country and at the same time clear my main financial obligations and pay for intended surgery. It meant that I would have to delay some things but I would have more flexibility. Eventually progressing slightly quicker that I would have had I stayed in _____.

As things stand I intend to have facial surgery later this year and gender re-assignment surgery (GRS) late next year

A stumbling block at the moment is my passport and residency visa. I have been in contact with the _____ Consulate here in _____ and have been given verbal re-assurance that I can be issued with a passport showing my name and gender change. This passport would be valid for 1 year, but is renewable.

The next obstacle is the _____ Immigration Department. Would a passport with only one years’ validity be acceptable for the issue of a residency visa?  And perhaps more importantly, what would the immigration departments’ reaction be if they discover that the holder of a passport in the name of ___ ___ ___ has the same retina pattern as ___ ___ ___?

The _____ Consulate is making enquiries for me and hopefully I should have some positive answers in a week or so.

And this means what for [the company]?

A unique opportunity to retain the services of a very experienced service engineer, a well balanced individual who has the ability to communicate effectively with people with diverse technical abilities and from differing racial and cultural backgrounds. (as my recent visit to [a foreign country] shows).

I would at least initially prefer to stay in this role, however, should for whatever reason this prove impractical, I do have other talents which at present are not being fully utilized.

I have had experience with drafting, estimating, technical evaluation and support, sales, customer liaison, financial control and marketing. Being self employed can be a very abrupt learning experience.

In addition to practical engineering experience, my time as a teacher/ technical instructor consulting to The ___ Navy developed my communication, interpersonal and presentational skills.

I am at present in the process of enrolling for a Bachelor of science in Psychology with ____ University.

As my transition progresses, I may look and act a little differently but my professionalism and work ethic will remain the same.

Unfortunately, I expect many people will change their perception of me; please be aware though that just because I have chosen to change my gender, it does not mean that I will automatically lose all my experience and expertise, if any thing they will probably be enhanced.

A possible spin off that could be of benefit to ___ is being able to demonstrate the effectiveness of their equity and diversity programme by; employing, and supporting a trans-gender person. Whilst I am not adverse to that exposure, it is a little daunting at the moment.

The main problem I foresee is harassment and discrimination, whether that be intentional or inadvertent.

At this point is absolutely essential that I have the backing and support of senior management and key members of staff, inherent with that is management actively demonstrate that backing and support to other employees quickly and visibly when necessary. Should that support not be forthcoming I expect my time at ___ ’s will be short indeed. 

Everyone is entitled to dignity and respect in the workplace and I am no exception. I do not seek special attention or consideration (except when absolutely necessary), rather I expect to be treated just the same as anyone else of my gender.

My attitude and behavior will have a large bearing on how others see me, treat me, and interact with me. I will continue to be polite, courteous and professional at all times. I do have sense of humour and I am not quite as ‘touchy’ about my gender as you might expect. I will not advertise or openly flaunt my gender, but neither will I hide it or be ashamed of it.

It is a sad fact of life that discrimination of any sort is usually more prevalent in people from lower socio-economic backgrounds and those from less developed, strictly religious or conservative societies, although educated, privileged people can also be bigoted in the extreme.

[this company's office in the country] has a very cosmopolitan workforce and I will be aware of and sensitive to that when dealing with the inevitable harassment and discrimination issues.

Dress at work is not an issue for me. I will continue to wear what is appropriate for the job: overalls and safety boots in the workshop. Similarly my dress traveling to and from work will remain the same. I do not feel cosmetics have a place in my present job.

Where I feel my dress and presentation may become an issue is out of hours, work related social functions or a possible a change of position within the company where industrial clothing is not appropriate.

Where I do see problems’ arising is changing, washing and toilet facilities. At present I, along with the other service engineers use the engineers’ office to change. Whilst I do not have a problem with this, some of the other engineers may.

I do not think my continuing to use the workshop bath room is an option. My passport other documents and general presentation will by then all indicate my gender as female and therefore I  should use those facilities. Some of the present female employees may see this as a ‘fait acompli’, but realistically I do not see another way around this potential problem.

Having changing, washing and toilet facilities dedicated for only my use (if that were possible) would be embarrassing on my part and could be seen by others as special treatment for me, both of which I would like to avoid.

Another area in which I see little potential difficulty is accommodation. My present housemate is aware of my transition and whilst not fully appreciative of the situation, is understanding and sensitive. We get on well together and respect each others privacy. The only problem I can see is if another employee who is less accepting moves in (there is at present a spare bedroom).

As I am sure you can appreciate my transition is a stressful event for me. I wish to limit as far as possible the impact, both for myself and the company. It would be unreasonable of me to expect you not to ask questions and consult other people, if you didn’t I would be asking why. All I do ask is that you that your make enquiries discretely, treat this information as strictly confidential and if anyone at ___ is to become involved please consult with me first.

I am more than willing to answer your questions and provide additional information if I can, however in some instances that may not be appropriate. All the medical professionals mentioned in my ‘Time Line’ are contactable and able to explain, confirm or expand on my diagnosis and treatment.

Thank you for your understanding and support.