Gender Bias in the Workplace

I came across this interesting article in the New York Times: Before That Sex Change, Think About Your Next Paycheck.

You might expect that anybody who has had a sex change, or even just cross-dresses on occasion, would suffer a wage cut because of social stigmatization. Wrong, or at least partly wrong. Turns out it depends on the direction of the change: the study found that earnings for male-to-female transgender workers fell by nearly one-third after their gender transitions, but earnings for female-to-male transgender workers increased slightly.

As a cisgendered female who has always worked in traditionally male jobs, I find this interesting, but not surprising.

I was also amused (but not surprised) by the last two paragraphs:

Ben Barres, a female-to-male transgender neuroscientist at Stanford, found that his work was more highly valued after his gender transition. “Ben Barres gave a great seminar today,” a colleague of his reportedly said, “but then his work is much better than his sister’s.”

Dr. Barres, of course, doesn’t have a sister in academia.

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Transition at work, the dilemma

I know that most of the readers here have their own issues with transition at work, one of the more tricky parts of transition.  My particular situation is a bit complicated.  As most of you know, I came out to my boss around the middle of June, and he was supportive of my issues.  I told him at that time that I would eventually tell everyone else that works there, the other 5 employees.  And, as you know, I did tell them toward the end of July.   Now, everyone at work knows about me and I’ve been relaxing a lot more and not trying to hide the transition developments at work, they all seem to be OK with it so far, but they haven’t actually seen Amber fully yet.  After my appearance at the theater and the resulting fallout, I’ve been a bit more cautious about pushing my transition at work.  The problem is that our customers don’t know about me, and if the reaction from one of the workers at the theater is any indication, some of them would not want me to come to their place of business as Amber.  The other problem is that our business depends on the relationship with our accounts, they can go to another company like ours any time the want to, there’s plenty of competition for the business.   So, if I cost us an account because of my transition freaking out the owner of the business, the company I work for loses money.  Not good for my job.  The boss says that he’s supportive of me and my transition, but if it affects his business, the bottom line becomes more important than my transition, or my job, probably.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

If I transition at a natural pace, as my body changes, people see it and deal with it.   Of course, that takes just short of forever.   If I just start showing up at the accounts presenting as I would choose to do, I risk damaging the company’s income, and thus, my job.   I think about this a lot when I’m working at a place that I go to enough that they recognize me, how am I going to deal with things like going to the ladies room at the place, when they knew me from before the change?  That may be the biggest issue, even if my new appearance doesn’t freak them out.  I haven’t come up with a workable solution to all this yet, short of getting a different job where I can start as Amber, and that’s really impractical and unlikely at this point in time!  What’s a middle aged girl to do?

Ma’am or sir?

Getting “ma’am”ed or “sir”ed can really make a difference in the mood of a day of a trans person!  Yesterday, I went to a service call to replace light bulbs on a juke box and as I was opening my tool box to get my work keys, the cute young (female) bartender came around the bar and said to me, “hey juke box guy,….”  Ouch!  I wasn’t presenting as female at the time (still working on that issue, I present as close to it as I can without augmentation or makeup) but it still bugged the crap out of me!  What an ego killer!

Now today, I went to a campground that we provide games to, to work on the plush animal crane.  There was a group of girls there, and a boy, all about 8-13 years old, that age group.  Anyway, as I was working on the crane, the kids were watching me, and I kept hearing “she” in relation to what I was doing.  Now, that was really weird!   Again, I wasn’t presenting as female in particular, but I wear a ball cap to cover my receding hairline, I have no visible beard shadow, and I have dark red hair now, to match my wig.   Also, I try to practice my voice in public to get used to the sound of it in my own ears.   My mini-boobs may have been showing a bit also.   I guess, for them, it added up to female.   I was interacting with them, I even traded them a couple animals that they had won for other animals that they wanted from inside the crane.   All the while, when the kids talked to each other, it was always “she” this or “she” that.  I left there feeling kinda weird, it’s the first time that’s happened to me.  It was nice, but really weird!  And, of course, it really pushed up my desire to properly look the part!  I think it’s going to be harder to be patient as I work my way toward full time at work.

Has anyone else run into these kinds of situations in public?

I must be crazy!

That’s what keeps cycling through my thoughts as I get deeper into the “trans land of no return”. In the last few weeks there’s been a series of small but significant things that I’ve done for, or with, my transition progress that I can’t “take back”. Things like telling my boss about my GID and that I’m taking certain drugs to deal with it, or showing Amber to my daughter (finally), or this morning, telling my boss that I’m going to have to tell my co-workers about me pretty soon because my changes are starting to get more noticable.

Scandalizing the neighbors with my “dual appearance” out in the yard seems to be a non-issue for me now. The first couple times I went outside as Amber had me thinking I was nuts, but, “I got better”

I had some serious “I must be completely crazy!” thoughts after my last laser treatment, it was really painful!

Sometimes, when I look in the mirror at my changing body and face, I can’t help thinking “what the hell am I doing ?” Last weekend, I was looking at Amber in the mirror and I had that ” Oh my God, I’m actually doing this, I gotta be crazy!” moment.

Last Tuesday, I filed the paperwork at the county court house for my official, legal change of name and all the way through the process I just kept thinking “I must be crazy!”

I really knew that I’m crazy when I went to get fingerprinted at the State Police post for the necessary background check required by the state of Michigan for a legal change of name. The officer was built like a linebacker and had an attitude, especially after looking at the copy of the the paperwork and reading where you have to list your reason for wanting to change your name. He was professional about it though, I’ll give him that much. This guy probably has twice as much mass as I have, and none of it was fat, from what I could see. Can you say “intimidating”? Yes, to put myself through that, I must be nuts!

Fear has a strange effect on the mind, especially fear of the unknown mixed with fear of the bad things that you do know about. It tends to make me think I’m completely crazy for starting, and more importantly, continuing transition. And yet, through all this, I keep going down the path of transition. When I get really freaked out by it, I pull myself back to reality (is this really reality?) by reminding myself that I’ve been wanting this for 30 years! Doing it IS different from wanting to do it, much more intense!

To be honest, up to this point, I really haven’t had many of those bad experiences that other people have with their family, friends, and work. My divorce was tied to this, but she had been cheating on me for 4 years. Yes, I must be crazy for putting up with that for so long. I was dumb, I kept hoping things would change. Anyway, up to this point, that’s the worst thing that’s happened because of my transition. I’m sure there’s more to come, I’m not full time yet, and going full time tends to change things, when it becomes real to everyone around you.
Yes, I’m pretty sure I’m completely crazy!

Oh ya, almost forgot, I just HAD to shave my legs this evening before I could go to the grocery store wearing shorts. How crazy is that?

That Landmark Congressional Hearing.

Well, Congress heard from the transgender community directly for the first time ever this week. If you missed it on C-SPAN (I did), Donna Rose has audio of the hearings here. If you’d prefer to read it, NTCE has transcripts here.

It’s all food for thought. Enjoy.

I told the boss!

Hi all,

Today, I told my boss that I have Gender Identity Disorder.  It was kinda scary, but I needed to do it sooner or later, and the right opportunity came up.  I had a laser treatment on Monday and I think the doctor used a bit too much power.  My face and neck has big blochy spots on it and a couple of places blistered a bit.  Anyway, he asked me what happened to my face and I told him “this is what happens when the doctor uses a bit too much power on the laser”  “Laser?  What’s the laser for?” he asked.  I said “facial hair removal, I’m having all my facial hair removed.”  We went on to discuss the service calls for tomorrow and I was thinking, “you dummy, it’s the perfect time to tell him!”, so I went into his office and sat down and proceded to tell him about my GID.  He asked me a few simple questions and I gave him basic answers, no sense in complicating it at this point.  I told him that I hoped this wouldn’t affect my job because I like the job.   He said that he didn’t have a problem with it, he likes the work I do for him.  So, we’ll see how the summer goes now that he’s aware of this aspect of me.  It’s one thing for him to know what’s going on, it’s another thing to see it developing.  I’m hoping that by taking it slow, they’ll be more accepting of me as things change.

Amber