(This is the story of me coming out at work - this was the culmination of planning with my management/HR since last November, and also I owe lots to my wonderful wife and a ton of good friends who were with me thru this whole thing)
The morning meeting was at 9, it was our department meeting. We had pretty low attendance this time, maybe only a dozen folks out of 30.
They always start with congrats and kudos that folks have achieved over the last 2 months. And Martha, the department head, starts off and calls my name!! (my guy name, but, since the news isn’t out yet, that’s cool) I get a Special Achievement award (nicely framed, and does come with a small $$) I’ve been doing a lot more stuff around the department the last few months (mothering instinct?) And Sheila, my group lead, gets one too! So, that was a really a great start. (and see the ***edit*** at the bottom of this entry)
(and see the ***edit*** at the bottom of this entry)
So, we have a couple of other folks talking technical stuff, and I sneak out to meet my wife Susan and our friend Denise, who is actually also the consultant the company has hired, since Denise is Executive Director of IFGE (www.ifge.org). Along with the division head (Martha’s boss) and Cheryl from HR that I’ve been working with for 7 months.
So, Martha introduces me, and I nervously introduce Susan, our friend Denise (“from an organization to be named later”), and of course the VP and Cheryl. Then I start. “Normally, we keep our personal lives separate from work, however, this is one time when they overlap” and dove right in from there. I’m transsexual, I’m changing in August/September, what the new name will be. A bit more discussion, which I realize I can’t remember at all right now, and we move to Denise, who does a great presentation on the differences between sex, gender and orientation, and the issues involved with trans folk in the workplace.
There were a few questions, like, how did I settle on the name “Judith/Jude”, but very respectful, although a lot of folks were either puzzled or confused. Several folks complemented me on honesty and courage. Many asked whether I wanted to be called Jude immediately – I really hadn’t thought about that part. If they want to, fine, or they can wait till I get back in September.
Right after the meeting, I had an email all set up with my letter. I thought I had it set up to send it to the department folks and friends first, with a second letter set up for the project team I’m supporting (who aren’t in my department). Well, I went up and sent that first letter. Cheryl (HR) was waiting for that, and then did a Reply All and included the letter from the Division Head stating the company’s support and expectations on how I’m to be treated, which was cool.
Several of us then went to lunch – me, Susan, Denise, Cheryl, and about 4 others from the department. It was pretty cool. One fellow had stories of other trans folks he’s known, so all was cool.
We hung out for a bit, then we had the meeting schedule with the project team to tell them. The meeting started, pretty much the younger members of the team, and we covered a lot of technical points and things we as a team have to do, which was cool. I had told them I wanted to talk about some other issues after the technical part. So, time came, I brought the other folks in (Susan, Denise, Cheryl, and another HR person), and broke my news, and they all said “yeah, we know, you sent us the email earlier”. Dar. I had apparently merged the address lists of my 1st and 2nd email lists, so had outed myself a couple of hours early. Nobody cared, they took it in stride, all done.
Back to my office with Susan, I checked my email, and had gotten about 12 congrats messages, which I appreciated. One good friend from down the hall (my department) did come by and expressed the sentiment that he did feel like he was losing a friend, and wasn’t sure he could handle it in his own head. I hope we can talk and get him around this, cause he’s a neat guy.
We took off, ended up going out to dinner and hunting for a place to get my other (right side) ear pierced. I’ve had only the left one pierced for quite a while now (3 years? we’ve been working on this longer than that). Finally ended up at Claire’s at Tysons mall, and we were home by 9 pm.
I sent out emails then from the home account to other friends, some neighbors, and my private chef clients. There’s one friend, and I was worried about his reaction. We worked together very closely for about 6, 7 years in the mid 90s and have stayed in touch since then. He’s younger than me, and recently lost his wife to lung cancer, leaving him with the 2 young boys.
[Story number two: A very good friend, who's on the same path, is in the middle of this whole mess, and came out to her parents yesterday. She'd been very, very worried about it, and Susan and I had recommended she come out to them. She did, they were very accepting, Mom even gave her some of her clothes that didn't fit Mom anymore. I am so glad they accepted her, otherwise, Susan and I sure would've had egg on our faces... ;-)
I talked to our friend that nite, and she officially declared July 16 as "Out Day". So shall it be. ]
Got some responses this morning, including my friend who lost his wife. All good, willing to roll with things, including the private chef clients, which is cool.
Now, to get on with life. Kitchen needs to be cleaned up, and I need to do some cooking. Talk to you all later.
It’s a Beautiful Day!
*** edit ***
this was actually the cool part. So, at the start of the meeting, I get this certificate of Special Achievement or something, and it's made out to "Mike Bienvenu". Thanks, nice to be appreciated and all that. Then I do my part, we talk about all the trans stuff, and then Martha speaks up and says "and actually, I have this other copy of the award with your real name on it", and she hands me a copy of the award and this time it says "Judith Bienvenu".
How cool is that. Frickin' awesome. ;-)
I want to emphasize how much credit is owed to my lovely supportive wife, who has been with me through all of this, helped me maintain sanity and a steady course, and not rush and ruin things. I wish we all had such a coach. And someone who will stay with us and make life really worthwhile. Thanks my love.