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
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.
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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!