April 29, 2014

That Awkward Moment When …

… the President of the college asks you what you’re going to wear to work after you transition.

That is a thing that happened. To be fair, he was trying to make a helpful rhetorical point, not just casually inquiring about my fashion sense. He was trying to suggest that, when I first transition in September, that I stick to pantsuits for awhile to … I guess to not be so girly? I guess? To help “ease” the transition period, for certain, since it would be less jarring to people to not see my stocking-clad legs. I guess.

Yup, this whole work transition thing is going to be a little weird.

To be fair to his point, I am doing something never done before at my campus. And in the larger sense, the collective school experience with workplace transition has been a bit … er, problematic. Without telling stories or disparaging others, let me just say that my transition is not the first at my school and that the last transition left a bad taste in some people’s mouths. Not because of disapproval of transition, but because of flaws in the way both the individual and the school HR department handled it. One of my stated goals with this transition, in fact, is to leave my college with a better transition plan in place for the next person to come along after me.

It’s “so far, so good” in that regard. At this point, the dean (my direct supervisor), the campus VP (her direct supervisor), and now the campus President (theVP’s direct supervisor) are aware and are on board. With the three of them on my side it’s now just a matter of timing: when to make certain changes, when to tell certain people, when to involve HR, etc. I hope to detail our efforts here as we develop them; in fact, I plan to outline the basics we have now in a future post, soon.

As for the pantsuit suggestion, I assured him that I most certainly would not be flipping some switch and turning on an “ultra femme” mode. If I did wear skirts they’d be long skirts; but pants are more than likely the route I was already going to take. Not because it would be better for others; but it’s better forย me, and more in keeping with who I see myself becoming. Will that change once I move further down the path of my new identity? Possibly. But for the near future, no one at work is going to be seeing me in hose and heels.ย It’s just not my style.


  • Ha ha, yeah, the “clothing” question. Usually comes right after the “which bathroom” question.

    When I transitioned at work, I basically went from sweatshirts and jeans to… well, brighter colored sweatshirts and girly jeans. I think some folks were a bit disappointed. ๐Ÿ˜› Of course, I’m in a factory environment, which is quite a bit different from an academic one. I do agree that subtle is best, particularly at first.

    Sounds like it’s all going well for you. I’m a little surprised that your HR isn’t involved though. They were the first people I went to, which turned out to be a good thing since I got “outed” early when someone saw the name change notice in the newspaper. I mean, like, who really reads those things?? :-/

    Anyway, good luck!

    • I know. A lot of people say to go to HR first. But I was in a situation where (1) I am really good friends with my dean, and (2) HR were the ones who mucked it up last time. Nope, we’re making a plan and THEN going to HR with the plan. I have the Prez and the VP on my side; they should be able to push our plan through. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Wishing you all the best with your workplace transition. I transitioned at work nearly three months ago, which was about three months after transitioning socially. Some of my colleagues are friends on Facebook and were aware before I spoke about it at work: I got positive reactions from them. When I decided to inform my employers officially I initially spoke to HR (I have a good relationship with the HR manager), and she left the details of my transition entirely up to me. Shortly before I transitioned I drafted an email to send out company-wide to explain what was happening, including links to information about gender dysphoria as well as my own blog posts on the subject. I asked the HR manager to review the email beforehand, and she gave it the OK; I sent it out the following Monday when I first turned up as female (I wore a long skirt, check shirt and ankle boots). Several colleagues sent me replies offering support, and to date there have been no negative reactions. I hope your transition goes as well as mine did.

    • Thanks for sharing. I’m hoping for no really bumpy moments, but we’re a big school spread across the state, so there’s uncertainty. I will be drafting my own version of your email, I’m sure! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Very organized! I look forward to seeing the “plan” when you post it on here. That would have felt very awkward. It’s really great you’re forging the path for the next person to follow. Maybe they won’t have to deal with as many moments like that ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I’ve always felt fortunate that the work uniforms are the same either way. Though I’m sure plenty of people will be disappointed when I come to work and still wear the same uniform. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • While my circumstances were quite different from yours, I said in my blog from the very beginning that I would not try to pass as female and following that rule of thumb, I bought and wore women’s clothes that made me feel comfortable rather than put an emphasis on making others more comfortable with me. The clothes became far less important than how I walked, talked and interacted with others and as I began to behave more and more like a woman, others began to take me more seriously as being one.

    • I completely agree. While I think there’s something to be said for the way we present ourselves being cues for how we want to be treated/addressed/seen, there’s a definite “don’t judge a book by its cover” point to be made. I don’t want them to treat me “like a woman”; I want to them to treat me like “Alison, who happens to be a woman.”

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