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Opinion

Bathrooms and background checks: Being outed at work

When I began my transition to male, I was an independent sex worker, so I had no colleagues to come out to.

Initially, I kept shaving my legs and face and putting on makeup to work as a woman, and clients were none the wiser.

When my voice and body changed more and I had chest surgery, I switched to working as a guy.

Some of my clients stayed after I came out, and others decided I was no longer their cup of tea.

As business slowed, I finally had to accept that I couldn’t sustain full-time sex work.

I found a part-time call centre job, where I just presented myself as male and wasn’t out as trans.

Background check

Organising references to get the job was an anxious experience.

All my past employers knew me as a woman, so I had to make some calls explaining myself and imploring them to use the right pronouns for me.

Luckily, they were all okay with it – one even (wrongly) commented that I’d obviously been transitioning when I worked for her.

The first two weeks at the office were fine.

My fellow trainees accepted me as a guy and there were no weird comments.

My only fear was that my background check would reveal my old name, which I hadn’t disclosed when I applied for the job, but I never heard anything about that.

At the end of the training period I joined my new team.

On the first day, I heard colleagues calling me a she, which I corrected.

One apologised and didn’t do it again.

The other asked me if I was transitioning and made a big deal of it.

“I just want to understand so I don’t sound like a dickhead,” he said.

“Mate, you already do,” said the first guy.

I still didn’t confirm that I was trans, I just told them I was a guy and a he and left it at that.

I had to hide in the bathroom until I stopped shaking.

Stalking

The rest of my time at that job was more of the same.

I was called she by someone every day.

After a week or two of it, I sent an email to the team saying that I would address it one time: I’m a guy, I have the male name Jesse, and I’m a he.

It didn’t resolve anything.

Another colleague Facebook stalked me and found some of my pre-transition photos.

She asked me a bunch of questions about my history one morning, and I asked her quietly to keep it to herself.

The misgendering and the comments continued.

After I’d had no problems with my training group, I couldn’t understand why this team was so invasive and so slow to understand the situation.

I mean, my facial hair wasn’t much to look at, but it was there, right?

A couple of times, I almost autopiloted into the women’s bathroom but managed to remember in time.

I had to bite my tongue in a meeting when the guy who’d made a big deal of asking about transition (he had lots of trans friends, so it was okay, honestly) made an off-colour joke about a trans woman (and he didn’t use that term).

I started thinking every morning about not going into work.

I managed about six weeks before I quit.

No more fighting

Now, writing for Pink Advocate and working in community health, being out as trans is no big deal.

It feels a hell of a lot better than fighting every day to try and keep it a secret.

I had worried about what future workplaces would be like, and I still have no real intention of being out in any office that isn’t mostly queer people.

I just want to be treated like anyone else and not as an oddity.

I’m lucky to have found the roles that I have, where I’m accepted and supported for who I am.

And these days, my beard is a bit more convincing.

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