Being Forced To Come Out

Amy Walker

Planet Transgender Journalist Amy Walker writes about being outed in February 2014 in the workplace

The following piece is an old article from my blog. The reason I’m sharing it with you is that yesterday was National Coming Out Day and I wanted to share with you dear readers the story of my coming out at work. You see, I was forced to come out. I wasn’t ready to do it, but I had to. I was made to.
Due to the age of the piece you will see references to things that happened a while ago as if they were new. I’m choosing to present the piece to you  as it was originally published rather than changing it to reflect the change in time.

I hope that you find my story interesting.
Thank You For Outing Me

I’ve been put into an unusual position this week at work. A colleague of mine, a fellow supervisor, discovered the fact that I’m transgender. You see, I’m not out at work, I’m not even presenting as Amy yet. It turns out that this fellow supervisor knows someone that knows someone that knows me, and learnt of my situation through this third party.

Rather than try to confirm what he’d heard of come and talk to me about it he instead began to tell everyone and anyone at work who would listen to him. Along with another person who decided that spreading the rumours would be the best thing to do, it was all around the shop before I knew what was happening. I didn’t know who knew and who didn’t, what they’d been told and what exactly they thought was going on.

I was devastated and distraught. There was a plan in place for coming out at work and it was never this. I was in a rage, I was fighting back the tears. My manager and I decided that the best thing to do would be to confront these rumours head on, to address the staff and tell them what was actually happening so as to stop the disinformation and hearsay. So that was decided, I’d write a statement and he’d read it out to everyone and that would be that.

Last night, when speaking to a friend of mine she advised me that I probably shouldn’t be there when it happens, that it’s not my job to educate people. She said that I don’t have to be the voice for the transgender community.

So this morning I wrote my statement for my manager to read out and I thought that was that. Then I did my morning stroll through Facebook. The big news, that I’m sure that you’re all aware of, was Ellen Page coming out as gay.

I watched the video of her speech, her beautifully prepared words and I was amazingly touched by what she said and the bravery of coming out to a room full of people and cameras that mean that thousands, perhaps even millions would see. A lot of celebrities that come out do so in a press release, or they have their agents release the information. This, however, was an amazing way to do it.

I watched that video and thought about what she did and I threw away the statement I had written. Ellen Page didn’t need to put that spotlight on her, she didn’t need to draw that attention in such a public coming out but she did because she hoped that it would do some good.

That’s what I needed to do. Though I respect the friend who advised me a great deal her comment about not needing to be the voice for the transgender community suddenly felt really wrong to me. There’s a good chance that most of the people I work with have never known an openly trans person before, there’s a chance they might never know one again after me. If I’m not going to be that voice then who is?

I’m not saying I speak for every trans person out there, I’m not that arrogant, but until forced to deal with a trans person in their real lives most people’s knowledge of our community is based upon the misinformation and stereotypes pumped out by the media. The place where we are vilified, made fun of and ridiculed. If I didn’t speak out to them then how will they know the real situation?

There was no point in having someone else read a cold and clinical statement, I needed to speak to them more from the heart. They need to see the human side of what is going on and the pain and emotion their. If all I achieve by putting myself in the limelight at work is that a handful of people gain a greater understanding of the struggle that trans people go through than surely it’s worth any kind of pain I might end up going through.

So tomorrow I will be speaking to the staff, a gathering of close to fifty people and reading the following statement out to them;

‘I have prepared this statement to address the various rumours and misinformation that has been told about me over this last week. Some of what you have heard is true, some of it is not. It is time to confront these rumours, to dispel the lies that have been told about me and to set the facts straight.

The truth is, I’m transsexual. What this means, in its simplest form, is that I was born with a female brain in a male body. I have suffered with this condition, this recognised medical condition, for years and am finally now doing something to correct it.

Despite what many of you have been led to believe by these rumours or by popular misconception portrayed by the media this is not a choice, kink or lifestyle option. I was born this way, with no more control over that fact than anyone in this room has over their gender, their height or the colour of their skin. The only thing that I have had a choice about was whether to do something about it or not, to choose to either correct this mistake and try to claim some semblance of a happy life or to continue to live in what can only be described as a living hell. I chose the first option.

As such, over the coming months you will notice physical changes taking place as a result of my treatment. You will see the real me start to develop physically.

All I ask during this period is to be treated with the dignity and respect that I or anyone else deserves.

Though my outward appearance may be changing I will still be the same person that you have come to know over the last weeks and months, though you may get to know the parts of myself that I feel compelled to hide because of the prejudices put upon me by society.

Because of this physical change from male to female I will eventually have a new legal name and title and will require the use of female pronouns. Whilst there are many people in my life who accept and support me and even now use such pronouns and my correct name I will not be asking that if you now as I do not want to make things difficult or confusing for yourselves or the customers.

This was not the way that myself of the management team wanted this situation to unfold. Unfortunately, circumstances have taken this choice, this incredibly personal choice out of my hands. As such I hope that you can appreciate that this has been an unbelievably stressful and deeply upsetting time for me, and whilst I am happy to answer non-overly invasive or personal questions please appreciate that tonight is not the time or the place.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk to you all, to be able to clear up some of these rumours that have been going around and for the wonderful support some of you have already shown me.’

It’s going to be hard to stand in front of all those people and speak from the heart like that, but you know what? It needs to be done. In reality what’s the worst that can come from this? That it becomes so unbearable to work there that I have to leave and find a new job? That I get abuse? That I get attacked or even worse killed?

Even if that does happen, as ridiculously small a chance as it is it won’t necessarily be a bad thing. I’m not saying I want to die, I’m not saying that I’d accept death in any way. What I guess I’m trying to get across is that even if the very worst happens as long as I’ve made even one person more aware of transgender peoples struggles and more open to helping our community than it would have been worth every moment.

There are so many terrible things happening in the world for the LGBT community right now, and none of them are going to get better on their own. People won’t stop taking their right away, wont stop attacking or killing them unless others stop them. Again, I’m not saying I have the power to change the world, I’m only one person after all. But by making even one person change their views it’s doing something, something that can go on to effect even greater changes.

All the world needs for the evil people in it to achieve their goals is for the rest of us to do nothing. So my friend was definitely wrong, I am the voice of the transgender community, and so are you. So is everyone out their. We speak for the trans, the gay, the lesbian, the black, the white, the old, the young, anyone who needs a voice. It is down to all of us to help each other and make the world a better place.

Our silence is the greatest weapon that those who want to oppress us have.

Barely two days ago I didn’t think this. This week has thrown my world around and sent me through an emotional rollercoaster and forced me to re-evaluate how I think of myself and the life I have. So to those that outted me, those that forced me into this position I genuinely and honestly say ‘thank you’. Thank you for making me a better person.


Twitter @Amazing_Amy_W

Amy is a journalist and editor contributing the websites Planet Transgender, Gay News Network, The Bottle Episode, The Retro Box and Claire Channel. Amy is also a published comic book writer and letterer.

In addition to her writing Amy has also worked with the Centre For Hate Crime Studies in Leicester and has worked in the capacity of an advisor to the United Nations Entity For Gender Equality and The Empowerment of Women.

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