There are many misconceptions about the term transgender but it is essentially the knowledge that you have been born as the wrong gender – a man who feels he should be a woman or a woman who feels she should be a man. Some people realise this at a young age and seek help, some suppress the feelings they have and live their whole life in the body they were born in, whilst others eventually realise what their nagging feelings of difference are and come out later in life.
Donna comes from an Orthodox Jewish family and lived the first part of her life as a man. At school she had a strong sense of wanting to be a girl but pushed the nagging sensations away because of a fear of being teased or bullied. Post puberty she lived as a male with a successful career in the IT industry and was married with a young family. It was at this point in her life she realised she was suppressing her real self and it was with a sense of liberation and release that she came out to her family and close friends. A little later, she became Donna at work as well, so was living her whole life as the gender she believed she should be.
When Donna spoke to her employer she found the response to be very supportive. Initially she spoke to her Line Manager and to the HR Department and although they had no previous experience of a similar situation, they worked through the practical issues of her working life as well as the more theoretical aspects raised by the Equalities Act. She told her close colleagues and found that on the whole she got a better response from younger members of staff but that no one was hostile, they were actually more surprised or excited.
Although Donna has not faced any discrimination in the workplace, this is not the same for everyone. Not everyone will be as understanding or accepting and co-workers may be shocked or confused to such a point that some relationships may permanently change or harassment or discrimination experienced. There is no correct way or time to disclose your identity to a potential employer but one practical consideration is that changes in name or gender can leave unexplained gaps on a CV so, if possible, use both old and new names to ensure a complete workplace history.
Although she led a very successful career as a man, the feeling of authenticity Donna has now is fundamental to her happiness and wellbeing. She is content and at peace with herself but surrounding this has been the chaos of divorce and dealing with the hurt her wife and children felt through losing a husband and father. Other transgender people sometimes reach a point in their lives where it’s too difficult to hide who they are any longer and are compelled to share who they are in order to build stronger and more authentic relationships. Living an authentic and whole life and reducing the stress of hiding a our identity can lead to closer, more genuine relationships and increased self-esteem from being known for who we really are.
Donna feels a strong sense of purpose can help reconnect with who you are and provide the drive to work things out. It doesn’t always solve all the problems but the increase in energy and resilience helps deal with issues as they arise. The most important piece of advice Donna has is to reach out and get support. There are charities and helplines, many operating a 24-hour service, who you can talk to. Some of the ones Donna mentioned in her podcast are listed below:
Tel: 0345 330 3030
Tel: 0800 612 3010
Listen to Donna’s podcast in full here.