Sitting in the room, I shift in my seat, trying to find the chair’s sweet spot. I fidget with the side knobs, identical to the configuration on my own desk’s chair. Why did I get here so early?, I ask myself. Co-workers walk past the door, grabbing momentary glances at me, sitting here alone. Increasingly anxious, I began to sweat through my compression-sports bra and baggy men’s dress shirt.
I look down at my phone. “3:02.” The meeting was at 3, right? How sure am I? And this is the room, I think. Panicked, thinking that maybe I was the one late to this meeting as it went on without me in an adjacent conference room, I punched in my credentials on my phone, pulling up my calendar’s “Day at a Glance” function.
Looks like this is the time & place, I thought with a sigh of relief.
At that moment, Steve and Darcy, two of my supervisors, walked into the room, sitting across from me at the glossed maple conference table.
Steve hands me a paper. “This is your performance review through the end of 2012. As you can see here at the top, you’ve gotten a score of ‘excels’, making you one of the top performing individuals at the associate level.”
For the next few minutes, I skim the review, getting clarification from the managers on individual items as we went along.
“We really think highly of you here, and hopefully as we start to see some expected shifts in positions over the next 6 months, we’ll be able to find you a place as a supervisor,” Darcy said, smiling.
“I’m really proud of the work you put in this year, man,” Steve said with a hint of congratulations in his voice.
The two of them seemed to gather their things, ready to move on to their next review.
“Actually!,” I interrupted. “There was one more thing I wanted to talk about if you have a minute or two.”
The two of them stopped, a bit of concern across their faces.
I hadn’t prepared what I was about to say, but it was necessary. “I’m transgender.” I paused, looking back and forth between my two supervisors, waiting for some sort of reaction.
The two looked at me with blank faces. They’d been told something completely unexpected by one of their team’s top performers.
“And by ‘transgender,’ I mean that basically, I’m really a girl. I’m in the process of transitioning from male to female. Over the next few months, I’ll begin presenting as the ‘real me’ at work.”
“Congratulations,” squeaked Steve, clearly unsure of what the right response to having one of your subordinates divulge their trans status to you was.
I confirmed with them that none of this would interfere with the trajectory of my career, and that I could still count on significant advancement within the next six months or so. “Of course! Nothing will change,” Darcy assured me.
The meeting closed. I had finally told someone at work about the real me. I couldn’t help but wonder what truth there would be to the reassurance that I was on track for a performance in the following 6 months. I suppose this was just one of those things that I just needed to trust them on.
6 months later
Stumbling out of my department VP’s office, I rushed to my desk. Pressing myself into one of the more hidden corners of my cubicle, I began to cry. My mascara ran down my cheeks, my heart raged.
Things had changed since I transitioned at work. Things got so much worse. It felt like a completely different place of employment than what I had once been a part of.
What little belief I had in the idea that I’d have an opportunity to advance in the company was dashed. Months of watching others around me climb the corporate ladder, I found myself back where I’d started, but worse: in the days to follow, I’d be given an official plan sanctioned by our Human Resources department.
Whatever hoops they have me jump through, which are to be determined by the same people who left me back as they promoted those around me, I fear these will be set so that I am unable to achieve them.
Once I fail, once this HR-approved plan of goals goes unreached, I’ll be let go.
These may be my final days hanging on to the dream of success within my field. The game was rigged, but it doesn’t matter. A loss is a loss, whether justified or not.