Starting Fresh

There’s one experience that I’ve always dreamed of and that’s starting fresh. One of the things that prevented me from coming out sooner is that very dream. It’d be so much easier if I could just start fresh, and have no predefined expectations of who or what I was. Unfortunately for me, by the time I was ready to come out of the closet and realized it was even a possibility I was out of school and well into my career.

To me, there’s a big difference between being known as the transgender woman formally know as Matt, and the transgender woman known as Mattie. Which is a strange sentence to write considering even in this blog I’ve always insisted that those two people are one and the same. There is a weird dichotomy between those two beliefs about myself, that I am both the same and different. To clarify that statement, at least to me, the things that people should love about me are still the same, but despite the similarities how I am perceived by others is vastly different.

It’s been over two years since I came out as transgender, and there’s not a single person that I interact with on a daily basis that knows me as solely the transgender woman, Mattie. Everyone. My family, my friends, my coworkers, and my acquaintances. Everyone I interact with knew me before my transition. That brings a certain perspective alongside their perceptions of who I am as a person. People knew me in boy mode, many intimately, and all of these people also know me in girl mode. This has been true for everyone I’ve done anything with for the past two and a half years. My past self was inescapable, and with that comes a level of dysphoria that is hard to ignore.

That is all going to change on Monday, when I start my new job.

I’ve already talked about the experience of looking for a new job in my previous post. I waited to put that up until I had an official job offer, and I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be starting in a new position with a new company with people who don’t know who I was two years ago.

When I first came out, I thought my previous job would be as good as it could get in central Illinois in regards to gender inclusiveness. They tried, but ultimately failed, to understand my needs as a transgender employee. I’m not even sure that they really even cared beyond the fear of getting sued for discrimination, which ultimately turned out to not be a great position to be in as an employee.

This new company, however, is such a refreshing change in so many small but important ways. Everything, from the interview process to the onboarding process, has been amazing. I can’t tell you how eager I am to start with how nice, accomidating, and welcoming everyone has been.

The initial interview process was relatively uneventful as far as my gender and being transgender was concerned. At one point pronouns were asked, but it never felt like being transgender was a subject of converstation until I personally brought it up during the final interview.

The final interview was in person at the office I’ll be working at. The HR representative showed me around the office, and pointed out the women’s bathrooms. There was no hesitation that I could notice about what bathrooms I might want to use, or apologies that there weren’t gender neutral bathrooms. I was treated like any other woman, and I appreciated that so much. After the interview was mostly over, she discussed the company benefits package, which was the first time I directly brought up my being transgender. I wanted to know what expectations I could have for health care should they give me an actual offer. Unfortunately she didn’t know off hand, but she was quick to give me all the information I’d need to find out for myself, and offered to call the health care provider herself to get more of the specifics as well.

Also unfortunately, it seems that health care still has exclusions for transgender care. So far that’s the only downside for this new position.

During the onboarding process, the subject of my being transgender has come up a couple of times. Mostly in regards to how to breach the subject of being transgender with my future coworkers. She said that they could do as much or as little as I would like, and wanted my opinion on the subject. I sent a decently long email after a week or so of contemplation.

I’ve been thinking about what you asked regarding coming out at work. As long as management and human resources have my back as far as who I am is concerned, I don’t think any formal training or meetings are necessary. While I would normally argue that training regarding gender and sexual discrimination in the workplace is a good thing, I would like to avoid the possibility of resentment of it happening simply because a transgender woman was hired. I’d be happy to answer questions or talk about my experiences should the subject come up, but overall I think I’d prefer simply just letting things be and seeing how it goes.

I can’t tell you how refreshing and exciting it is going to be without the baggage of who I was and how I presented before I transitioned, and starting fresh is going to be a wonderful experience. As long as I’m introduced with the proper pronouns (she/her), I will be happy.

Ultimately, we agreed on a simple diversity training session for my immediate team. I reiterated my fears of there being resentment because of the training only happening because of them hiring a transgender person, but they assuaged my fears and insured me that everyone has been extremely positive about the whole thing so far. Part of me wishes that I could have been in on the training, to experience it for myself, but they are doing it before I start, which is probably a good idea.

You might be wondering why if I want to start fresh, why I might be coming out as transgender and being so open about it during the hiring process. To me, the fact that I am transgender is inescapable. While I applaud the ability of many trangender people to go stealth, I’m not convinced I am capable of that, and only partially because of my fear of not being able to pass.

Being transgender is a part of who I am, and I like being able to talk about my experiences. Of course not every transgender person has to be as open as I am, but I personally feel that some of us being open is a good thing. Having the privilege to do so might help other transgender people who are in the closet, and, at least in my opinion can, make those around me more comfortable and not afraid to ask questions that I am generally happy to answer.

On top of it being such an important part of my identity, I want to work for a company that is progressive in regards to the political climate. It is unfortunate that my being transgender is so ingrained into the political at this point in history, but it is. I’ve already worked for companies that are much further right on the political spectrum, and really wanted to see what the other side felt like. As my job hunt progressed into my sixth month I was getting less and less confident that I’d get an experience like that, but here I am.

So Monday is my fresh start. I walk into a new company and meet new people and coworkers, and hopefully make new friends and acquaintances, for the first time since coming out over two years ago. I’m both anxious and excited.

For the first time I’ll just be me. Me with no preconceived notions of who I am based on an ill-fitting gender expression of the previous 33 years of my life.

Given that today is my 35th birthday, I couldn’t ask for a better birthday present.

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