My experience of coming out in the workplace

  • Posted on October 11, 2022
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

For many years, I was not aware I needed to come out – such is the power of repressing one's true identity. Thinking back, I had known since an early age that I was different. My mother recalls there being obvious signs in my behavior going back to when I was about 3 years old, and I don't mean around the stereotypical boys/girl's toys issue – I loved Lego but I also loved teddy bears. I think I had just accepted I was a little different, no big deal. As I got older, I realized that there was more to it than just this.

Media coverage of trans people has always been pretty poor, so it was something I was reluctant to accept as I became increasingly aware of my thoughts and feelings. It was only when, through a merger at my workplace, an older trans woman was suddenly my colleague that I realized "Hey, I can do this too." She was able to live as her genuine self and was successful and respected by colleagues – something I had thought would be impossible based on the general media coverage at the time.

Fast forward a few years and I was increasingly frustrated and upset trying to repress my feelings and identity. One day I finally snapped, and I went to find my trans colleague in her office and said the four words: "I think I'm trans." Her response was one of empathy and joy, and she has given me invaluable advice from somebody who has been there and done it. I was lucky in that the workplace had the relevant policies and HR procedures to cope with a trans person – as my colleague had made sure that nobody following in her footsteps would come up against the same barriers as she had – and formulated a plan for informing the senior management and decided when I would actually come to work as Katy.

Before deciding to join Avanade, I put some time into researching the company and the policies and found a welcoming and inclusive company waiting for me, with an established LGBTQ+ employee network (Prism) which is now entering its tenth year. Prism is one of many employee networks at Avanade, and participation with the employee networks is voluntary but encouraged, and the networks are represented up to a senior level within the company with an executive-level sponsor and a champion on the executive committee. So, there is support from the top of the organization for all our I&D activities. There is a very strong culture of "bring your genuine self to work" and an understanding that happy people are productive people – it was a refreshing change to see gender transition-related healthcare included in our benefits. Since I joined Avanade, I have participated in various initiatives through Prism including raising awareness, providing input from a trans perspective, and being a panelist on a global trans and non-binary discussion.

Coming out as trans is quite different from coming out as a specific sexuality as it will often coincide with transition. Transitioning has been one of the biggest, but also the best, decisions I have made in my life. Since transitioning I have become much happier, much more confident, and much less shy as a person. I have gone from the same job day in, and day out, to stretching myself at Avanade and getting involved in the technical community and being awarded Microsoft MVP last year. And as I turned to my former colleague when I felt ready to come out, I hope anyone at Avanade who is working through the same feelings can see me as a similar resource.

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