Coming Out as Trans to My Professional Network
At the end of April, 2017, I was a little over 2 months on hormone replacement therapy and experiencing changes faster than I anticipated. My facial features had changed, I was getting facial hair on my chin, and my voice was dropping. When I first took the plunge to start taking hormones and really start this portion of my transition journey, I wasn't clear on what my timeline would be for anything. When would I change my name to those around me? When would I change it legally? When would I get top surgery? When would I start passing? When would I start using only the Men's restroom? There were so many unknowns. One of the biggest unknowns to me is when I would tell my clients that I was transitioning, changing my name, and what they should expect as a result. The task terrified me. As a business owner, my clients are my sole source of income. I worried that I would lose clients and it would effect my income. More so though, I worried that I would make people uncomfortable. I struggled with the fear of how I would be perceived and that my very presence would cause people discomfort.
Going through my gender transition has made me face many of my fears on a daily basis. There are uncomfortable situations that I encounter and have to just breath through them. I try to stay present and remember that I can't let fear win. I need to only face a fear when it is actually happening.... not just fear that it might happen. This has been a valuable lesson for me and I really try to stick to it.
At that 2 month point, I was starting to feel like I needed to come out. I was using the name "River" online and with friends. That was me and using my old name felt false. During the work day, I sent a lot of emails. Every one of those emails I end with my name. Typing that old name over and over again made me feel hollow inside, like I was clinging to something only out of fear. It also was starting to make me slightly dissociative, like I wasn't really me but just someone going through the motions. Each time I used that name, I went a little out of body and had to calm myself back to the grounded reality. This sensation and emotion coupled with my voice dropping pushed me to the point of needing to do it... I had to come out.
I had searched online for examples of how people came out as trans to their professional networks and the findings were next to none. There were plenty of examples of how to come out "at work", "to your colleagues", "to HR", or "to your boss" but there were none that talked about being a business owner and how to talk to clients. I thought long and hard about how much I needed to say. I knew they needed to know my new name and my preferred pronouns, which would result in them needing to know why. I debated how much to tell them and ultimately decided that I only wanted to have to send out something like this twice. The first letter would be my coming out letter and the second would eventually be informing them of the legal name change. That was important because of my LLC and my billing. Everyone would need to update their tax records and payment information.
Below is the actual email that I used to come out to my clients. I want to have this public and available as a resource to anyone who is trying to come out in a similar situation. This letter worked very well for me and answered people's questions. It also has a positive and open tone that invites any questions or concerns to be voiced.
This email is to inform my clients to please update my contact information.
I have put off writing this for quite some time, but I would now like to come out professionally to my clients and let them know that I am a transgender individual (transman). I have been transitioning since February 2017 and feel that it is now time to ask my contacts to please update my information.
I would like to be referred to by River Eastwood and my preferred pronouns are he/him. Please know that I understand that this can be a tricky switch for some people and I am not overly sensitive to it. Any slip ups are completely understood and I will not take offense to it. It is important for me to start fully living my identity out in the open and part of that is being called by the correct terms.
My name will not legally change in the near future since it is a long process I am just getting started. So, for any tax forms or billing into please do not update at this time. For payment and checks, all information will currently stay the same.
Below is my new contact information:
I currently have this new email and my old email running at the same time. There will be no issues with easily reaching me. I have quite a few things to update, so you may see both names for awhile until I get caught up on everything.
I appreciate your patience through the switch to this new name and pronouns. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
I sent this email out to 40+ people individually, I did not want a blind copy email out there. This kept all responses individual. I sent all the emails out and it was nerve wracking. My legs were literally numb after sending them all out, I was nervous and anxious. These emotions were all due to the fear of the unknowns... how people would react and/or respond.
Within a few minutes I heard back from people. Overall the the response was very positive. I received words of encouragement and care. I also got back very business like, straight to the point "will do" responses. I even had some clients say that they've had to come out in some sort of way to their network before. These types of honest responses reminded me that what I put out into the world comes back, some way or another. I want to provide an honest and open dialogue so that what might be seen as "uncommon" or "different" becomes less scary and unknown. These types of interactions help differences become normal and accepted. They become humanized and personal.
In the aftermath of coming out, I did experience quite a bit of dysphoria. I started to overanalyze my appearance and voice. I started to worry that I came out too soon and that I didn't look "male" enough. It took some soothing and calming, but eventually it passed and I'm so glad that I went with my gut and came out when I did.
As some last words of encouragement, there is no one right way to come out. Each person needs to find their own voice and time to do so. If you are looking to come out to your family, friends, coworkers, clients, partner, or whoever... take your time and face the fears involved. Think about what you all want to make known about your experience. Your message can be deeply personal, quick and to the point, short, long, over a period of weeks, all at once, etc. It's your choice. The most important thing is to follow the pull of your heart and do what you need to in order to stay living the most authentic version of yourself possible. We need each other to be unique, to be ourselves, to have diversity. We are all human and we can love each other though these differences instead of living in fear of them.