Starting a new job after transitioning can be daunting at the least. Jesse Jones recalls the self-censorship he went through in an effort conceal his trans identity.
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When I made the decision not to be ‘out’ as trans at work, I had no idea how much constant effort it would be to keep the secret under wraps.
I had one job in between gender transition and coming to Star Observer, a short stint in a telemarketing office (how a person with three uni degrees finds themselves telemarketing is a long story for another time—I was decent at the job, though).
I was terrified of what might happen.
I thought if they knew I was trans I might not get the job, and once I started work, I didn’t know how differently I might be treated.
So I didn’t say anything about it, and I did my best to conceal it from everyone.
Everyone in my training group seemed to accept me with no problems. A very short cis guy in the bunch made me feel less obviously different.
One woman even adopted me as her gay best friend from the first day.
But the thing about keeping a fairly big secret about yourself is it involves an exhausting degree of self-censorship.
Having only started transition about a year prior, I had to be mindful all the time of what I said to people about my past.
Once, standing together on the pavement on a cigarette break, a female colleague made a crack about a passerby and their ‘90s-style gothic gown.
I laughed and very nearly said that I dressed the same way as a teenager, which might have earned me a strange look or a couple of questions.
Another time, I unthinkingly said something about my ex-husband, which—pre marriage equality—did get me a raised eyebrow.
It being my first time as a guy in an office environment, I had a few close calls with autopiloting to the women’s bathroom.
The whole thing was more stressful than I could ever have imagined, and took up a lot of my mental energy every day. If I’d stayed at that office I don’t know if I would have tried to keep it up.
It was all moot, though, after a colleague outed me.
I was settling in at my desk one morning when she sidled up and started asking me about transition (scaring the shit out of me, by the way—please don’t just drop on people that you know that kind of thing).
For all my efforts, my secret had been let out by a bit of casual Facebook stalking and my old profile pictures.
I left the telemarketing gig not long after that, and I’ve since been incredibly lucky to be part of Star Observer, where my experiences and voice are valued as part of our diverse team.
Working for an LGBTI organisation is kind of a dream. If I find myself working in a different kind of office again someday, I don’t know yet how I’ll manage being out as trans.
But I will know to sort out my Facebook photos first.