Lucent Technologies included transgendered employees in its Equal Opportunity employment policy last year. This year, I have come out to my coworkers as a crossdresser and laid the groundwork for occasional crossdressing at work.
Today, October 9, 1998, I worked as a woman, for the full day, in my normal office with my normal coworkers, for a legitimate business reason, and with the full support of my employer. I went back into work the next week in male mode. And I survived to tell the tale.
In the past, I've worked as Mary Ann. When I telecommute, often I'll work en femme. I've attended off-site EQUAL! events and come in for noon-hour events. I even spent a whole day working with my group at their location in Illinois. But I had never gone to my own office and worked there all day as a woman.
October 11 is National Coming Out Day. EQUAL!, Lucent's Employee Benefit Partner for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered employees, often holds educational events to celebrate. The Columbus, Ohio chapter invited a local gay couple, one of whom is an executive with a regional pizza chain, the other the manager of a gay-themed restaurant they both own. They talked about being successful "out" executives. Pizza from the same chain was served to attendees, who also earned an hour of diversity credit.
It is customary for a member of EQUAL! to introduce our speakers, and since I had done the leg work to arrange for the speakers, I had the honor. For NCOD it was entirely appropriate for me to make the introduction as Mary Ann, even though I usually work as Mark.
I arrived at work about 10 AM, in plenty of time for the 11 AM start to the event. I wanted to go by-the-book, so I made sure I got a legal parking space (a long walk away) and wore my badge. I walked in and said hello to Chuck, my office mate. "Hi, Mary Ann." Chuck kindly took my picture at my desk.
OK, I know you want to know what I wore. I wanted to look professional to introduce the speakers, so I wore a royal blue two piece outfit with top and skirt, nylons and dress flats. My hair was down and I wore my glasses. It was a cool day so I wore a cardigan sweater for the walk to and from the car.
The restroom issue had to be addressed, and it was. When I came out to my coworkers, one of them reported me to corporate security, just in case I ever might want to use a restroom. The local powers that be got together and decided I should use the single occupancy restroom in the Medical department. I'm trying to get a corporate restroom policy established, but for me, for an occasional day, this solution is far better than holding it in all day. I accepted their offer.
Medical is about a five minute walk from my office in flats. Including time to actually use the restroom, bathroom breaks take about 15 minutes. As I walked up there the first time, I was struck not only with the distance of the walk, but the route I had to take to get there. The only path there goes through busy, well-lit hallways. I was very aware that I might meet someone I know whom I hadn't come out to yet. On the way I passed an internal customer I was not yet out to. He didn't give me a second look - clearly he didn't recognize me.
I'd been told to ask permission of the receptionist every time I enter to use the restroom. The first time, nobody was there, so I went on in. Medical in Columbus actually has four single-occupancy restrooms: two pairs of men's and women's rooms. Two restrooms are very small, airplane sized rooms. The other two are as large as fast food restrooms. I used the large women's room. It has a toilet, sink, mirror, and a hard plastic chair, covered with junk such as boxes of seat covers. It obviously doesn't get much use - it's dingy and I never had to wait for it. It's perfectly adequate, but I wish the light were good enough to repair my makeup. On the whole, I was happy to have a place to go. I made the trip to the restroom three times during the day.
The speakers were to telephone me between 11:00 and 11:10, and I would come to the lobby and sign them in. I was concerned about whether I would have a problem signing them in with a badge that did not match my face. When 11:10 came with no call, I went straight to the front lobby.
At the lobby, the speakers had not yet arrived. The receptionist was sweet and asked about my necklace. I sat down to wait for them, and while waiting I visited the single occupancy restroom in the lobby. It was beautiful! Large, private, and well lit.
When our speakers arrived at 11:20, I signed them both in without incident. I used my initials ("M.R.Horton") on the forms. My badge remained clipped to the waistband on my skirt. I don't think she even noticed that anything was different.
We walked up to the Capital Room and found an intimate audience of about 30 people. As I introduced the speakers, it felt really good to be myself. During my introduction I came out as transgendered. The audience spontaneously broke out in applause! The presentation by the speakers was marvelous and well received.
We had leftover pizza and pop, so I signed out the speakers and took some pizza back to my office. On the way down the hallway, a person I didn't know said, in a friendly tone, "Hello, Mary Ann." It sure surprised me, I didn't know anyone knew me as Mary Ann here. It turned out to be someone who had seem me introduce a speaker in June, and said hello last month at King's Island. He was very nice, and it felt good to be recognized for myself.
I went up and down the hall, inviting people I knew to drop by for pizza if they were hungry. Some did come by to chat later on. Somehow the topic of being a woman didn't come up.
One of the people I dropped in was Kathy, our secretary. I had neglected to come out to her when I spoke with the other group members, a mistake I regretted. So when I dropped in to say "hi", she gave me a really strange look, like "who are you?" I introduced myself and came out. She seemed kind of dazed but was polite. I think she didn't know what to say. There are 170,000 Lucent associates and 6,000 in our facility, of whom I know about 200. So far I had come out, one-to-one, to about 15 people outside of EQUAL!
On another trip to the ladies room, I passed Mike in the hallway. I wasn't out to him yet, either. We had passed in the hallway, and the light bulb went off in his head - he turned around and said "Mark". I shook his hand and introduced myself as Mary Ann. He couldn't stop laughing. The whole concept cracked him up. I briefly explained who and what I was, and he said "Well, whatever works for you." Being laughed at made me uncomfortable - I excused myself and continued on to the restroom.
About 4 PM, my phone rang. Instead of my usual baritone "Mark Horton" answer, I just said "hello". My friend Evelyn, from New Jersey, was calling to see how I was. (Evelyn is a member of EQUAL! and knew of my plans for the day, because I'd told some e-mail lists in advance.) I really appreciated the support call. I told her things really were going pretty well. She made me promise to send out a report. (We can all thank Evelyn for reminding me to write this down while it's still fresh in my mind.)
About 5 PM, Chuck was on the phone. My boss and two others on the call in Illinois had an emergency. Some e-mail wasn't working right and people's expense vouchers were not getting through because of it. Chuck told them "Well, Mary Ann's right here. Don't worry, I won't let him get away." (One out of two ain't bad, and this wasn't the time for a pronoun lesson.) Chuck put me on speaker and I joined in the call, trying to help solve the problem.
Before I knew it, the folks on the other end had conferenced in the customer, Karen. I've worked with Karen before as Mark, but I'm not sure if she remembers me. Mike in Illinois introduced the three of them, and then an awkward silence. "There are two other people on the call." Chuck introduced himself, and I had a quick decision to make. I figured I'd better introduce myself as Mark, but I wasn't prepared to change persona and change voice.
We dug into the problem, and before long Mike found the solution. The customer profusely thanked us (with our boss on the call!) and we wished each other a happy weekend. One crisis averted.
After a full day of work, my wife Beth and I went out to dinner. The day was stressful and I needed to unwind and talk. From there I went to our Crystal Club support group meeting. Didn't need to go home to change - I could honestly say I came wearing what I wore to work!
In all, the day went rather well. I was treated respectfully and tolerated well. I wouldn't quite say I was fully accepted outside of EQUAL!, but my first day was a whole lot easier than Rosa Parks' or Jackie Robinson's. We can feel good. We've made history!