OPINION: Transitioning was hard. Coming out at work was easy

by Tanner Arnold | Intuit
Tuesday, 28 July 2020 08:10 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: A person holds up a flag during rally to protest the Trump administration's reported transgender proposal to narrow the definition of gender to male or female at birth, at City Hall in New York City, U.S., October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

It took me years of self-discovery to transition, but coming out in a supportive workplace enabled me to be comfortable in my own skin

Tanner Arnold is a customer experience leader at Intuit, a business and financial software company

For more than a decade, my colleagues didn't know the real me. It wasn’t their fault; I was still getting to know the real me.

I used “she” and “her” pronouns. I was an out lesbian. I wore masculine clothing but used the women’s restroom. I learned to greet women in the bathroom with a high-pitched voice to help them feel safe, and to protect myself from scrutiny. I got used to this status quo, but I never felt truly comfortable.

At work, I became the leader of the company’s Pride Network to surround myself with community. Through several work-organized conferences, I learned more about what it meant to transition and how to be an ally to the trans community.

I soon met a friend at work who was transitioning. When he spoke about his childhood, I could see myself in his stories. At that point, I began considering that perhaps I was a transgender man.

The decision to transition was not taken lightly.

I was nearing 40, in a happy marriage, and set in my career. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, the statistics for trans people’s career trajectories are pretty dire: more than one in four transgender people have lost a job due to bias, and more than three-fourths have experienced workplace discrimination, from harassment to refusal to hire and worse.

My company prides itself as a place where everyone can bring their whole selves to work, but I worried that individuals might treat me differently if I transitioned to male. These concerns, and the gender dysphoria I was experiencing, weighed heavily on me.

I went through periods of depression and it was difficult to admit to myself that I needed to talk to someone.

Therapy didn’t start as a discussion about being transgender. It landed there after years of self-discovery.

But the actual coming out was easy. My manager wrote an email that said I would be known as Tanner, use male pronouns and whatever bathroom I chose. Even coming out to my family and friends was met with only love and support, once I got past the initial anxiety of the conversations.

What was not easy was getting my name changed across multiple systems and seeing guilt on my coworkers’ faces when they misspoke my name or pronouns. Seeing or hearing my old name was jarring.

It was a reminder that I was different, when I wanted so badly to finally be me and forget that I was ever known as this other person.

After connecting with other trans colleagues and sharing stories of how we each felt alone until meeting each other, I decided that I didn’t want to forget about my journey, I wanted others to know they weren’t alone in theirs.

For the first time in my life, I feel comfortable in my skin. I was recently promoted at work, and I’m proud of my accomplishments. I have the privilege of passing as a white male in society and I want to do all I can to elevate the voices who don’t have that privilege. While it is tough to see the almost daily attacks on the trans community, I make a point to only surround myself with people who seek to build each other up.

My wife and I are learning to navigate a relationship through transition together. We are happy and still very much in love, and will celebrate 12 years of marriage this year. My adult son told a story the other day where he referred to me as his “Dad,” and it melted my heart. I am a lucky man.

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