Coming Out for Equality at Work
By Ann M.
I knew that if I didn’t take this opportunity, I would regret it for a long time.
I was in a training session with about 30 diversity and equal opportunity practitioners representing agencies from across the Federal government. I knew I had a unique opportunity to influence a key group to consider transgender people as they learn how to make their organizations more inclusive. After talking it over with the course developer, I decided to share my story as a transgender woman.
I am not yet out in most areas of my life, including at work. I knew that coming out would pose a risk of being outed before I am ready, however, I knew it would be worth the risk. The second to last day of the class, the instructor lead into my talk with a video and introduced me. I told the class a little about my struggles with gender dysphoria and the impact it has had on my life and on the lives of others and their families. Because of the focus of the class, I described some of the ways that I had held back in my career for fear of being outed, and the toxic effects of shame over my condition and fear of rejection and ridicule.
I received a standing ovation, and then hugs from literally everyone in the class. I knew I had reached them. The last day of class, I had announced, I would show up as Ann.
Since I might well be the first trans person some of the participants have met (at least knowingly), it was extremely important to me to make the best impression possible. I wanted to put everyone at ease that I am just another professional. Plus, we were going to be conducting some briefs to OPM executives, so I wanted to look sharp for that.
Fortunately, earlier in the week I had attended one of Beth’s makeup parties. She helped me find great colors for me, and I learned a lot of techniques and tips. She had a lot of products I needed in stock, and some I would need to order. She gave me a slip with everything marked off for easy ordering. Oh, and I had a lot of fun at the party and at one point was laughing so hard I thought I might sprain something.
I wasn’t going to be able to receive the products I had ordered online in time for my class, so I put in a frantic call to Beth. She happily provided me enough eye shadow, blush and bronzer to tide me over, and enthusiastically encouraged me to be fabulous.
I did my nails the night before, picked out a nice pink/purple tweed suit with a skirt, and selected my jewelry and accessories. As I began to get ready, I could hear Beth’s voice in my head guiding me through my makeup application. It was such a pleasure to be using high quality Younique products. Everything went on easily and looked great. It was so much faster than the cheap make up I had been using, because I didn’t have to spend a lot of time getting it to look right. The 3D mascara was amazing as I watched thick, full lashes materialize seemingly by magic. The Younique cream foundation evened everything out nicely without looking cakey and a finish with matching pressed powder gave my face a nice matte look.
After getting dressed and gathering everything I would need for my class, I drove into the city.
My classmates were stunned by my appearance. I received a multitude of compliments on how I looked, and one woman had even crocheted a scarf for me! I received several compliments specifically on my eye shadow and lipstick. I owe that to Beth’s expertise, as I would not have thought to choose the colors without her guidance.
Our briefing went well, and many people told me that my example inspired them. I received comments about how I seemed much more alive, happy and seemed like I had better energy, now that I was not hiding who I really am. I reveled in just being me and felt like I was floating on a cloud.
After the class concluded, I received many emails expressing appreciation for trusting the group and taking the risk of coming out to them. I have offered to serve as a resource for members of the class who might have questions regarding transgender inclusiveness, and I’m confident they will go back to their agencies with a much deeper appreciation of the strength of transgender people and some of the challenges we face.
Thank you Beth, for giving me the confidence boost I needed to take the risk.