Lesley's Workplace Transition
Throughout my transition I have truly been blessed, guided by that unseen power, dare I say, the hand of God. I am convinced that it has to be more than luck, for I never felt lucky before. No matter.
My workplace transition actually started when, in 1994, I finally faced the reality of who I am. At that point in my life I was as broke as I have ever been, a car had been repossessed and I struggled on a monthly basis to keep the bank from foreclosing on my house. The thought of transitioning “all the way” seemed to only be a fantasy, but the thought of finishing life in male mode did not appeal to me either. So, I embarked on my little-bit-at-a-time transition. I began to let my hair grow (1st blessing – I still have a full head of hair at age 54) to a moderate length for a guy, still short for a woman. Electrolysis was out of the question financially so, I picked up an epilator at a red tag sale at my hometown Wal-Mart and have been using one ever since. Still have not started electrolysis, a mistake I am told by my t-friends.
In 1997 I found the job I currently have in New York City at a progressive law firm. I had no idea at the time that it would turn out to be the greatest blessing of all. I continued my little-bit-at-a-time transition adding eyebrow grooming to my hair growing. In 2000 I got my first ever perm and, the first round of raised eyebrows from co-workers and family. In 2002 I got my now shoulder length hair colored (too, much salt in my diet!) and the next round of eyebrow raising. Also, in 2002, I began taking hormones (self-medicated – NOT recommended).
Up to this point in my life, I had not been out socially nor met others like me. In 2003, that all changed thanks to Mona and a case of mistaken identity. She wrote me an email and asked if we had met thru a friend of hers. Of course, we had not. We ended up corresponding and she and her friend Jacki took me out for a quiet night in the real world in September. It was an incredibly releasing experience. Mona had a party in November where I met Erica. Erica is the lady that showed me how absolutely wonderful it is to go to restaurants and clubs and billiard parlors - everywhere - with confidence. Thank you Erica.
Once infected, the virus spread very rapidly. Throughout 2004, I was out every weekend and took 2 vacations totally in femme mode. There was no going back and I realized for the first time that transitioning all the way was, not only possible, but necessary. During the summer I decided it was time to do things by the book, The Harry Benjamin Standard. In September I filled my doctor in on what I had been up to for the past two years with my self-medicating. He began administering and monitoring my hormone therapy. He also recommended a therapist who diagnosed me with Gender Identity Disorder (What a surprise, huh?!). We discussed, among other things, a timetable for transition.
Meanwhile the law firm that employs me hired a Director of Global Diversity, an absolute angel. To her credit, she never blinked an eye when I informed her of my intentions. In fact, she grabbed the ball and ran with it, even to the point of calling Donna Rose to help her get up to speed. Our first meeting was in late October where we started making plans for me to come out at work in January 2005. We decided to announce this event in December to give the people I work with a chance to adjust to the idea of a different me. I have included a transcript of the email she sent along with my attached memo. To say I was shocked by the outpouring of support would be an understatement, telephone calls, email, stopping me in the hall and personal visits to my office from a lot of people I never even met or worked with. Incredible! I suppose that I should explain, that, even when my financial world was crumbling around me, I was able to maintain a positive, cheerful disposition (yet another blessing). That disposition has come in handy through the years, but especially during this transitioning period. I truly believe that people have been more willing to accept my transitioning because of my friendly nature. I wish this were the whole story, but, alas, not everyone has been supportive. In fact, I am now under a microscope for everything I do. Still, given the alternative, I would do it all again in the blink of an eye!
Here I am in my 9th month of living full-time, scheduled for SRS on 16 December 2005 and have never been happier. Who knows what the future will bring? Personally, I am ready for whatever comes my way. Life is not perfect but it is good, very good.
If anyone would like to contact me, my email is email@example.com.
Here is a transcript of Director of Global Diversity’s email to the members of the practice group in which I work:
Many of you have had the pleasure of working with Lowell Phillips , a paralegal in the BSL group and valued member of the [ ] family for over 7 years. I am writing to inform you that Lowell has been diagnosed with “gender identity disorder.” Gender identity disorder is a mental and physiological condition characterized by a strong and persistent desire to be a member of another sex, coupled with a continued discomfort with one’s biological sex. As part of his treatment, Lowell has made the decision to transition from male to female. As of January 3, 2005, Lowell will be living full-time as a woman and should be referred to as Lesley Rae Phillips.
The Firm stands behind Lesley in this decision. Of course, there will be a transition period for all of us but we are confident that, in the spirit of [ ]’s unswerving commitment to inclusion in the workplace, Lesley will continue to be treated with respect and dignity by her colleagues during this very challenging and exciting time in her life.
Lesley and I have spoken at length about the transitioning process, as well as her expectations over the next few months. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me, or just stop by my office. You may also contact Lesley. She would be happy to speak with you and answer any questions you may have about the transitioning process. I have attached a copy of Lesley’s personal statement, which may answer some of your questions.
Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.
Here is a copy of my email to other employees:
To: The Attorneys and Staff of [ ]
From: Lowell Phillips
As many of you have observed over the last several years, I have been undergoing some physical changes. Boy, is that an understatement! Lately, I have observed several of you taking closer notice of these changes and feel the time has come to explain what these changes are all about. This email is not the place to discuss the details of the changes, but I welcome the opportunity to talk to any of you who may be interested.
In clinical psychology terminology I have “Gender Identity Disorder.” You can relax; it is not contagious! Fortunately, there is a way for me to deal with it. There are several theories as to why this happens but, all that really matters is that my female soul is in a male body. The medical profession has established a protocol, the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care, that includes evaluations by a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist and a medical doctor, hormone therapy and eventually surgery. There are two wonderful doctors helping me through this very exciting period in my life. I am entering the final phase of the protocol, my “Real Life Experience.”
When I return to work on January 3, 2005, I will already be living full-time as a woman. I will have begun the process preliminary to petitioning the Court of Common Pleas in [ ], Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for a legal name change to Lesley Rae Phillips. It will take about six months for the background check, etc. In the interim I will already be using that name according to common law.
The big question is how will this affect the BSL Group and you individually. I wish I could say that this will have no effect whatsoever, that everyone will take this in stride and treat me the same as always. While changing in appearance, I am still the same person you have known all along. Hopefully, the courteous and professional treatment you have shown me throughout my career here will continue. The most important issue seems to always be which bathroom I will use. In anticipation of this announcement, I have been using the handicap bathroom since October 25th and will continue to do so.
I realize that MY Real Life Experience period is for YOUR transition as well. For your part, I ask that you call me Lesley or by my nickname, Elle (phonetic for my first initial), and use the gender appropriate feminine pronoun. For my part I intend to keep my sense of humor through all of this because it is a lot to ask of you. You probably have never worked with anyone transitioning and, guess what, I have never transitioned before! So, together let’s take this one day at a time.
It is important for you to know that I am totally comfortable with my decision and completely at peace with myself. I hope you will support me during this difficult period.