By Anne Vitale Ph.D, Editor.
Return to Guest Speaker IndexEditor's Note (Aug 2011): Much has changed for the better in the 15 years since Victoria worte this piece. In many states and the US Federal Government, it is now illegal to discriminate against individuals transitioning on the job. Your HR department should be very aware of the local laws so make sure you start your inquiries with them.
November 10, 1996
My transition on the job in the aerospace community has been referred to as one of the most successful to date. This article is intended to be a guide for future transitions. The case described here is quite involved and covers each aspect of information propagation, rumor control, and last but not least, damage control.
We formed a team to handle all aspects of this transition. Represented were Human Resources, Management, and Medical personnel. Our company is a major player in the aerospace community. When this topic came up, we were involved in the effort to win a major contract which had the population increased and caused a lot of concern.
I first contacted my manager who happened to be a medic in the Korean War. He listened and understood. I often referred to him as my own 'Mr. Miagi' (as in the Karate Kid). We planned the whole thing paying infinite attention to each detail and developed contingency plans for each and every situation we could. Plan A was ready to go and plans B and C were also in the works.
Meetings were set up with HR and Corporate Medical personnel to include them into our plans. As I am considered a 'male-to-female' it was a benefit that these folks were understanding and compassionate females. We formed a team that we called ourselves ìThe A Teamî that met weekly to plan and make decisions. Rumors were contained and some of my co-workers were brought in to inform them as to what was going on. One of my female co-workers had noticed that I was developing breasts. She became an immediate ally once clued in as to what was going on. Our 'little secret' was safe for the time being.
DISASTER! While on a company trip, I was hit on the freeway. Due to the Harry Benjemin treatment requirements, I had already changed my name and obtained a new driver's license. Some of the people that helped pull me from under a car were company employees! They saw and knew all. Plan B was there and we proceeded per plan. My co-workers were all called to a meeting without my presence and told the whole story. We had all kinds of planned responses for each suspected problem person. We were totally surprised with the rally and support that was exhibited. One person that we suspected as a problem said ìas big as this company is, I am surprised at how they support her. Her GUTS to do what she needs to do should be an example to the rest of us.
Things then progressed rather rapidly from the big disclosure. Some folks that had a hard time dealing with this tried to spread rumors with no foundation. The A Team including co-workers took care of the no-life people that probably had their own hidden horrors.
The first item under Plan B was to establish turf. As a human being, I need to use the restroom occasionally. The facility I worked at had three of them. One was a Handicapped Uni-sex facility. The plan was for me to use that one for the time being. This was acceptable and worked fine for all parties concerned. After a few months, I moved to one of our production sites. By this time, the stupid rumors were long since gone and it was old news. I had grown into my new role both figurative and literally. My biggest concern at work was at last now my work!
Having ridded myself of my lifes biggest controversy, I once again started to provide computer magic. I seem to have a gift of vision in computer applications. My department supports the computer applications for the whole division. We are constantly releasing new applications that are on the cutting edge. This year, I was promoted when many are laid off. I am very content with my position and my gender. The icing on the cake is that management is also very happy.