Coming Out to My Employer

Asheville, 24 January 2013

Dear S____,

Please allow me to share an important, personal and special part of myself with you. I have not shared it before now because I was not ready, and I felt it would unnecessarily complicate our professional relationship. However, because I am now ready, and since my legal name will soon change I felt it is time to share this with you. S___, I am a transgender person. Through gradual changes, and under medical supervision, I have come to live as a woman over the last five years.

The part of the transgender spectrum to which I belong is that of a pre-operative male-to-female transsexual. This is something I have struggled with since I was a small child; I began to understand it and work on it in my late thirties. Then in agony, I repressed it again for nearly the next decade. Finally in the last five years, the status quo of repression became unbearable and I had to start dealing with my transsexuality again. This led to my very gradual, gentle transition from a male to female gender expression…

…In an historic move, after decades of clinical research, the American Psychological Association recently asserted that being transgender, transsexual or gender variant is not a mental disorder. Being transgender makes such people different, not sick. And for people whose sex and gender are profoundly not aligned, medical assistance to alter the body to fit the mind and social assistance to help the (gender) expression fit the (gender) identity, are now recognized to be the most effective ways to help ease or eliminate the painful incongruity they generally endure.

I do not expect this to be disruptive to the people who work with me, even those who have known me as a man, beyond a bit of initial surprise. I do not express myself in a confronting or disturbing way. On the contrary, from nearly all indications, I seem to blend-in with other women my age, both socially and in appearance: people rarely give me a second glance; toddlers and teen girls –the acid test– ignore me; I’ve received the Idiot-Woman treatment a number of times from boorish men who would likely have hurt me if they realized I am trans; I make small-talk with other women in lavatories and change rooms, and I swim as myself: a woman. My feminine presence, self-assurance (that I am a woman), and the way I move, speak and behave, all work together, seeming to gloss-over my remaining visible masculine cues.

Because I have not wanted to be disruptive, I have (generally) not been fussy about pronouns & masculine references as I have gradually feminized, instead I have simply allowed people to regard me as they will. Sometime early last year, the balance decidedly tipped, and people who watched me change finally concluded that she must be a woman, and they began to regard and refer to me as such. To new acquaintances who have never known me as a man, I am just another woman; as well, I am a woman to most who know that I once was a man. (Notably, my family still uses masculine references for me (and might always do so), but that is part of our shared history and my role as husband and father: all of which I continue to honor to the degree that is possible.)

Being transgender has never been a secret for me to keep; rather it has been an impetus for me to live more authentically. At the same time, I do not usually call special attention to it. Yet, if it seems like it will bless others to know, I answer whatever questions are posed, gently, reverently, with a touch of humor, and without defensiveness or a “victim mentality.” So, of course, I am happy to help others understand all this: no question is taboo to me!

As I have worked through all this spiritually, emotionally and now physically and expressively, my self-description has evolved. Here is one way I currently describe myself:

I am a transgender woman: for me, this means that parts of my body are male, and parts are female; the rest is in the overlap between the sexes. My sense of who I am as a person (my gender identity), is as it always was: essentially female. I once lived as a special sort of man, and now by God’s grace, I live as a special sort of woman.

I say “currently” because I am still in transition, and will know when it is done when I “arrive.” In one sense all transsexuals are forever in “transition,” but after the “Big Changes,” major growing and adjusting, we settle back into our lives just like everyone else. By this time, I have already gone through most these changes and adjustments: “coming-out” to you and the company marks the last of the most socially-disruptive aspects of my transitional experience.

As part of my transition, I felt it was important that my name affirm my gender, and so the courts will soon change Brett Lance Blatchley, to Brettany Renée Blatchley. Brettany is a feminine variation of Brett. I chose it (in part) to help people over the bump of my transition: the shorter Brette is not unreasonable for people already used to Brett (and sounds the same). Renée, I chose because it means “reborn,” and it was also my father’s middle name (René). I am leaning toward Renée as the name I will use most often, as it seems to “fit” me well, it is easily understood when I speak it to others on the phone, and it more firmly (but gently) asserts my gender than Brette does, while sounding a bit less “girly” than Brettany (I am a bit of tomboy, after all!).

As well, I will be changing my official identification: I now qualify for and will obtain a female passport, and I will also try to change the gender marker on my driver’s license. I intend to leave my marriage and birth certificates unchanged for the foreseeable future.

Gender reassignment surgery is something I very much want, but this is less certain: I had given Judi my “right” to surgery over a dozen years ago, and we are currently renegotiating this, discussing what it could mean for our spousal relationship. At least part of this surgery seems very likely at this time. I am proceeding with extra care for Judi’s sake. Though I am a woman whether I have surgery or not, surgery would make my body endurable in a way that female hormones alone have been unable to achieve.

My body has and will continue to change as hormones reshape it. It is accurate to say that I am nearly a year into my second puberty: a female one. I have female breasts, a figure, and an increasingly feminine face, all of which I expect to develop further in the year to come. (In a swimsuit, I look like a tall, lithe and graceful, athletic female…especially after losing 16 more pounds recently!) Meanwhile, I am also experiencing some of the awkwardness of a teen-aged girl becoming a woman (though I find that puberty is more amusing the second time around!).

S____, I do not intend for this letter to initiate an official change with L3/DPA, rather it is to give you a “heads up” and seek your advice (and maybe support?). Because my name and gender will officially change soon, I will need to advise HR (and eventually my co-workers). I do want to do this in a way that is best for the company and our team; perhaps you have some suggestions? (I recently confided this to J____, who had already guessed it anyway.)

With respect to security, our government already knows I am transsexual, since I disclosed this to explain my self-medication with female hormones back in ’99 as part of the security clearance process (the male investigator said he was teary after he read my affidavit).

Overall, I think the changes between me, my colleagues and the company may be more social in nature than anything else. Since our relationships are professional (and casual), and I am not the least bit “freakish,” I have every reason to expect the impact of my transition thus far will be slight. Surgery, if and when it comes, will be like any other surgical event in impact and will not alter my social status any further.

Possibly most important is the fact that I am still the same person you have come to know through the years, but I appear and express myself somewhat differently now: those parts of me that transcend gender are still part of me: Brett is Brette is Brettany

…I say that I once lived as a “special sort of man” because I was actually a woman driving a male body in ways that were what society expected, due to the appearance of that body. Now, I am still a woman, but I am free to drive and change this body in/into ways that are typical of other women. And because of my makeup and history, I am a “special sort of woman,” as I am “becoming” along a path that is somewhat different than that of my natal sisters.

Well, this has been quite a disclosure! If and when you feel like talking about this, please don’t hesitate to call or write: I am very open and approachable about it all. Personally I don’t regard anything I have written here to be confidential – I trust your judgment about sharing this information (including this letter) with others – but HR may have ideas about how my change in name and gender should be made widely known in the company.

Sincerely, Gratefully & Joyfully,

Brette/Brettany/Renée

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