Transitioning at Work, Lannie's Story


Here's how it went when I came out at work. Presumably you already know that I am a male-to-female transsexual named Elaine Rose. [Personal identifying information like my last name and my company's name are omitted from my web publications because of all the nut jobs out there!] Elsewhere on this web site you can read more about my life and my thoughts and experiences as a crossdresser and transsexual. This essay just recounts how I went about announcing my transition at work, and how it went. This is not a typical story, from what I hear, because it went fabulously well! I am writing this not as a blueprint for others to follow, but just for anyone who may be interested, and to show my grandchildren, and to re-read when I am old woman whose memory is shot!


I did not spend the year 2001 on the TWA Space Station, as I had been led to believe I would when I was a kid. But maybe my year was even more interesting than that would have been, because my personal journey took me further than I had ever imagined possible.

2001 marked my second year working for a small Silicon Valley start-up company making System-On-Chip integrated circuits (chips, you know?) for Internet Appliances. Unfortunately for us, it turned out that there was no Internet Appliance market, and therefore no business. We were running out of cash. I survived two rounds of layoffs in the second half of the year. It seemed likely to me that I would be riffed in the next layoff, or else the company would simply fold.

While my company suffered hard times, and the world economy cratered, and the War On Terrorism got underway, I was enjoying the most wonderful time in my personal life that I had ever experienced. I had been a closeted crossdresser for many years. At the beginning of 2001, through a combination of one thing and another, I suddenly discovered the TG community. I began making friends and getting involved in activities, and my femme side flourished. I made my first male-to-female transsexual friend, and I started to learn about transsexuality. Immediately I began to suspect it might have particular significance for me. (I had the panic attack, you know?)

I spent the last half of 2001 as a "128-girl", working 40 hours a week as a man and spending the other 128 hours as a girl. (Credit: Jamie Faye Fenton for the imaginative phrase.) By then end of the year I knew I was transsexual, and I was ready to transition to living full time as a woman. I had even started filling out a wardrobe of "real-life" clothes and taken lessons in poise and feminization from the delightful Denae Doyle. But the job situation was a problem. I looked at what my budget and lifestyle would be as a cocktail waitress at Peppermill (my fantasy job!) and compared it to my current financial situation as a fabulously overpaid engineer. It was bad. I decided that the wise thing to do was to remain a 128-girl and keep milking the job for all it was worth, until the layoff or whatever fate we would surely shortly encounter should befall. I resolved that the day I was laid off would be the last day I wore boy clothes.

Fate intervenes

In early December, management gathered the 25 of us together for an "All Company" meeting. But surprise! The news was good, not bad. The company had been acquired by a slightly larger (100 person) company operating in the same business area. Everyone would receive offers to join the new company. Our projects would be continued and our products would be marketed by the new company. Our company's investors even made something of a return, albeit just barely enough to bump it into the "Win" column.

The news got even better. The employment offers were generous. New management seemed to be smart and progressive. The deal would close very quickly. Our office would be closed, and we would be moved into the new company's building just a half mile away.

Goddess! This surely meant something to me, but was it good or bad? It didn't take me long to realize that, with a little bit of luck, this could be my ideal opportunity. In the three weeks before Christmas break, if all the timing came together just right, I could come out to management and the company, and start the New Year as a woman, full-time. All the employees I would be meeting at the new company would never even meet my boy-self, they would meet Elaine from the start. (I decided to use "Elaine" at work, because it seems a bit more mature and professional than "Lannie".)

I was still nervous about losing my job. I suspected that the companies (old and new) would be open to accepting me as a transsexual employee, but I had to acknowledge to myself that there was a distinct possibility that they would not. I worried particularly because both companies have a high percentage of Asian and Indian employees, including executive management, and I had heard conflicting reports of how transsexuality tended to be treated in their native cultures. I thought the merger could perhaps play in my favor: that management would have so many problems on their hands, they would be relieved that they could deal with this one simply by saying "Fine!" and moving on. But it would also be very easy for them to make me go away if they were so inclined, just shaking me out in the merger. I decided not to let these worries influence my decision. If the organization was not open to my transsexuality, I would prefer to go elsewhere anyway. I felt I was ready and willing to do a job search as a woman if I had to. (I even swore I would apply at Peppermill, because who knows?) I was NOT ready to go on being a 128-girl.

Execution begins--the therapy session

I put a transition plan together in my head and started executing it. The first step would be to schedule an appointment with my therapist, Cynthia, to get an independent and educated judgement of my readiness for this big step. Immediately there was a problem. She was not available the following week. The earliest she could see me was the week after that. My schedule would be compressed even more, but it could still work. I made the appointment.

It turned out to be a good thing that I had a week before my therapy session, because I had plenty of time to think about what I was doing. By the time the session arrived, there were no doubt in mind that I was ready to transition, and determined to do so. I would listen to any objections my therapist might have, particularly if she brought up things I hadn't thought of, but I didn't expect that to happen.

When the therapy session finally arrived, Cynthia was appalled! "You're doing this much too quickly!" she exclaimed. "You haven't gone through the preparation!" "It sounds like you're letting your decision be dictated by the calendar!" Oh dear, I had not anticipated this reaction at all.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I hadn't realized that there were transition classes I was supposed to attend." (I said it nicely, but yes, I am a bit of a smart-ass.) We had a good talk, and decided we had different ideas on a few main points. Regarding "transitioning classes" and whether I was ready, I maintained and she agreed that all through my therapy, which had run from July through October, I had been running ahead and she had been playing catch up. This made sense, because I had been crossdressing and thinking about its place in my life for quite a long time before I started seeing her. So my judgement that I knew what I was doing might be correct. And Cynthia said she was aware that there were some success stories of girls who had transitioned "winging it", without a lot of preparation.

As to the time schedule, Cynthia explained that this process usually takes a company weeks or months to go through. There would probably be series of meetings between managers and various departments and workgroups. Corporate policy would have to be reviewed and possible revised. It was a BAD idea to do this during the merger, because the company would resent the extra workload at this time. Surely they would find it easiest to just arrange for my position to be a casualty of the merger. Why don't I just wait a few weeks or months?

I had not considered it like that, from the company's point of view. Come to think of it, I had read about these sorts of things from the books and other transition stories. Certainly it was wrong for me to present management a deadline to operate under, as my "Dear Boss" transition letter seemed to do when we reviewed it. But I told Cynthia that I understood how all this would be true if I were working at IBM or another big company, but did she realize how things worked at very small companies? I could personally talk to every person in the company in a single day! She granted that things might go more quickly in a small company, and I agreed that I would re-write my letter to emphasize that I was willing to be extremely flexible in my time schedule and other accommodations that would be made.

Was I being pig-headed? Why did I bother with the therapy session? Would I listen to anything Cynthia had to say? I asked myself these questions, and Cynthia asked me as well, in a nice way. I thought about it. I could not construct a rational argument in my head. But my heart told me I was right, that delaying my transition would be a bad thing for me at this point. Then I realized that maybe we were spending our time on the wrong issues. Cynthia didn't know my employers as well as I did, and she didn't have my experience working in these types of companies. I could figure that part out. So I told her, "Cynthia, I really didn't come here to talk about the logistics of coming out at work. I really appreciate your input, because I know you've seen a lot of these situations. And truly, some of what we've talked about today are things I hadn't considered before, and they will change the way I go about this to some extent. But what I came here today to hear from you is this: Do you agree that I am personally ready to transition, in terms of my emotional and personal growth and strength? I believe I am ready. I believe I am ready to handle the situation even if it all goes wrong at work, and I wind up out of a job. I would just like to hear that you agree with that."

I could see Cynthia gulp and take a deep breath. I think she felt inclined to continue to push on the riskiness of my logistical plan. But she understood my point, and answered in kind. (That is why I love her!) "Oh yes," she said, "I think you're ready. I'd just like to see you do it in a more controlled fashion. But you know what? It can go either way, no matter how well or ill you are prepared. So I will just wish you the best of luck. And remember I am here whenever you need me!" And that was that. My hour was up.

C-Day, Coming Out

Talk about a tight time-line! This was my plan at this point:
Monday 12/17 - Merger finalized (this happened on schedule, a miracle!)
Tuesday 12/18 - My therapy session
Wednesday 12/19 - "C-Day" Come out to current management
Thursday 12/20 - Come out to management of new company
Friday 12/21 - Come out to rest of current company
--- Christmas Break ---
Wednesday 1/2 - Elaine starts working at the new company

Finally, C-Day arrived. I made sure to get into work early. I was all prepared with my carefully prepared "Dear Boss" letter, and ready to see him first thing in the morning. I decided I would first go to the Indian gentleman who was a company founder and primarily responsible for the merger. My impression of him was that of a serious, thoughtful, and kindly gentleman, a very rational engineering type. I wanted to make sure it was clear to him that if he thought this would in any way endanger the merger, I was willing to put it off.

I got into the office, somewhat nervous but not vomit-ly so. But.. no boss! Oh no! He was always in early, wasn't he coming in today? What to do, what to do? Finally, around 9:30 he came in. I went directly into his office and asked if he had a few minutes to discuss a personal matter. He said, "Of course." I came in and closed the door. We sat at his little round conference table and he asked me what was up. I said I had a personal matter that I would like to discuss, and would he please read this letter. I presented the "Dear Boss" letter to him. Follow this link to read it yourself. [Credit: I happily plagarized some of my letter from a letter written by Gina Venolia. Thanks Gina, if you ever happen to stumble across this!]

He slowly read the entire letter, start to finish, with a very serious look on his face, not blinking. Finally he raised his head from the page, looked me sincerely in the eyes, and said, "I think that's wonderful. If that's what makes you happy, I'm glad that you're doing it. I don't see why it should be any problem for the company. What do you need from me?" And that was about it! I couldn't believe it could be that easy, after all the worries and preparation. "Uh, thank you!" I stammered. "I really, really appreciate your support." I asked him if he had ever worked with a transgender person before that he knew of. He replied that in fact, he had worked at an English company where a VP of Engineering was a transsexual woman. He added that she was the smartest computer architect he ever knew, and he was delighted to work with her. Wow! We chatted a little more, and went over the next logistical steps, but that was about all it took. It was almost as if I had come to him with a dress code question.

Next I repeated the scene with the other company founder, a smart, hard-charging Taiwanese marketing type. The scene played out almost the same (no wonder these two were such great business partners), except that as he read the letter, this boss grinned, chuckled, grunted, and glanced up at me. But at the end he gave a friendly laugh and said, "Congratulations, I'm happy for you!" I told him I was very grateful that he and his partner were so open and supportive. But I asked if he thought any of the other employees might have a problem with it, especially given the cultural considerations. He thought about it a minute and said, no, there shouldn't be any problems. "We expect this kind of thing in California!" Later, having thought about it some more and having discussed it with other foreign-born colleagues, I realized that actually, we have something of a common bond. These people also made difficult decisions about their personal lives, to uproot themselves and their families to pursue a better life in California, often over strong objections of family and friends. Perhaps this makes them singularly sympathetic to my need to change my life!

Finally, I played the scene one more time (call this Act 3) with the Vice President of Human Resources of the new company. He gave a bravura, Tony-calibre perfromance. He read the first paragraph of the letter and his head bobbed up. "I don't need to read any further," he said. "I can tell you right now, there shouldn't be any problems with this whatsoever. I was afraid this was going to be something serious, like you have cancer or something!"

"What about company policy?" I asked.

"I'll check the policy manual," he replied, "But if I don't like what it says, I'll re-write it!" Could I ask for any better support?

There was one slight speed bump. I asked him about the restroom issue, and he didn't know what I was referring to. Kudos to him for tolerance, but.. After I explained, he still opined that there should be no problem. In this, he was wrong. But the Bathroom Battles will the topic of a separate essay!

So C-Day could not have gone any better. I was "out" to management of the old and new companies, and they were fully supportive. I still had job. And they loved me!

That evening I left a message on my therapist's answering machine, telling her about how well it went, and thanking her for all her help. I told her I had to go now and have a good cry, because I was so happy and overwhelmed by so much love. I also sent an e-mail to 17 close friends in the transgender community, telling them about my day and thanking them for their support. You can read it by following this link. I received many lovely responses congratulating and sending love.

C+1, Coming Out To The Company

The next day, Thursday, a company lunch had been planned, the last time the old company would come together as one. I thought to use that gathering as an opportunity to announce my transition to all the people I had been working with for the last two years. The previous day and prior to lunch on Thursday, I took several close friends and managers aside and privately shared my news with them. Since things had went so well with the big managers, I didn't bother with the letter approach any more. I just told them, "I have a personal change going on that I need to share with you," and laid it on them. Every single person I talked to said they were happy for me, and would do everything to support me. So I was feeling pretty good by the time lunch came around.

A veritable feast of Indian, Chinese, and Mexican delicacies were brought in for the lunch. There was beer and champagne to celebrate the successful "exit" of the company. They actually sprang for good champagne, and all the employees signed the bottle for posterity. I did not eat very much; for some reason I was not very hungry! Nor did I drink any alcohol, because I don't do that any more (but that's another story.)

As the plates began looking cleaned, it came time for speeches. The CEO and I exchanged nods and he quieted down the room and told them I had a personal announcement to make. My moment had arrived.

A basic tenet of public speaking is that if you're nervous, use props. I had brought a prop along to bolster my courage. It was a book. I held up my copy of Introduction to VLSI Systems, by Carver Mead and Lynn Conway. All of the engineers in the room were familiar with this seminal work in VLSI chip design, which in 1980 launched the methodologies by which we design complex integrated circuits today. I mentioned that author Carver Mead was a professor at Cal Tech, and I had actually taken my first logic design course from him. The other author, Lynn Conway, had always been something of a mystery to me. I told the group a bit of Lynn's remarkable story. It seems Lynn was (and still is) a brilliant computer scientist, and also a transsexual. She was fired from IBM research labs when she underwent her transition in the late 1960's, and had to re-build her career from scratch as a woman. Then I held up a picture of a woman with a long face and short red hair, and I said, "Now I want to show you a another transsexual in the high tech industry. It is someone you all know. This is Elaine Rose ________, and she is me!" I expected--maybe, in an odd way, even hoped for--some shocked looks, but all I saw were smiles breaking out. Everybody seemed genuinely happy for me, and they gave me a big round of applause. All I could think to do was return a delicate curtsey, which I did, eliciting a few chuckles and more applause.

All the women came to me individually and welcomed me. A few men said things like, "I don't really get it, but I'm glad you're doing what makes you happy." I felt--I feel so loved and lucky to be working with such great people. I was so happy that my intuition about them had proven correct, and my transition plan was a spectacular success!

That evening I wrote a note to Lynn Conway telling my little story and thanking her for sharing her story publicly, and pioneering the path for us. Bless her, she took the time to write back, and wished me the best. What a sweetheart!


That's pretty much the story. Before I turned back the floor at lunch, I invited everyone to come and talk to me if that had any questions or feelings to share. Trannies love to talk about themselves! Nobody has taken me up on this offer yet, other than to wish me well. I also mentioned that, although the employees at the new company would never meet the male me, I assume everyone will know about the transsexual employee and so I wasn't asking anyone to keep it a secret. In fact, I like to have it out there, because I think it is important to have visible transsexual role models in the community. After all, if I had met transsexual individuals earlier in my life, maybe I would have figured out about myself much sooner, and started living a fuller and happier life earlier on.

All that was left of the "coming out" process was showing up at work on January 2. I got up extra early and took an hour and a half getting my make-up just so and putting on the outfit I had selected the night before. I wore khaki pants, a tan cable-knit sweater, and dark brown alligator pumps with a matching purse. I decided I would make the men wait a few days before they get to see my legs! Also, having just moved our offices, I knew I would be unpacking boxes and plugging in computers, so I didn't want to wear my best clothes.

I was a little nervous, not terribly, but a little, as I opened the lobby door at 8:45. The receptionist gave me a big smile and introduced herself. I said, "I'm Elaine," and everything was great from there. We chatted a bit and she arranged to get my badge picture taken. Then I went in and started introducing myself around. It went great, everyone was fabulously friendly, and by the end of the day, I had my first femme id, my new company badge!

If you would like to read a little bit more about those first couple of days, follow this link to a note I wrote to the delightful delightful Denae Doyle describing them. But for me, here's where I sign off. This busy girl has things to do, places to go, people to meet. Please say "Hi!" when you see me around town!


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