SPLENDID SPOTLIGHT: BEING LGBT IN THE WORKPLACE
The ‘official’ Pride Month may be almost over, but the Pride celebrations are only just beginning, with London Pride taking place on July 6th followed by a day of Pride festivities. And Splendid is certainly getting into the Pride spirit!
Since beginning my internship with the Splendid social team in March, I’ve quickly learned that diversity and acceptance is a big focus here. The office is a wonderful mix of genders, races, and sexualities, all made to feel welcome and like they belong. This acceptance also applied to me when I joined, even though there was a part of myself that I didn’t share right away – I’m a transgender man.
Coming out as transgender is not something that gets easier with time. Most instances are scary and anxiety-inducing, and sometimes tainted with the risk of backlash. We are currently living in a time where it is risky for trans people to live openly as themselves in many places, and this negativity can bleed into all aspects of life, including work environments.
However, this certainly isn’t the case when it comes to working at Splendid! This is an undeniably safe environment where I can be myself without any fear of transphobia, and is in fact the first professional space in which I’ve been able to choose how and when I come out to people rather than having that decision made for me by others.
Coming out at work was something that didn’t happen until I was a month or so into my internship; not because I felt like I couldn’t come out before then, but because I felt comfortable enough simply being Stephan without having to explain every single aspect of myself and my past. Fortunately for me, testosterone has worked its magic and now enables me to pass as male, taking away the obligation to immediately disclose my trans identity when meeting new people. Before medically transitioning, I had to tell people I was trans or else risk being misgendered by people assuming I was female. Now, I have the ability to walk into a room full of strangers and be seen for the man I truly am, and this is exactly what happened when I came to work at Splendid.
I’ve told a few close work friends about my transition since joining Splendid, and I’ve been met with nothing but support and compassion. And it’s been nice having a few people know the truth, especially since I recently took a month off to recover from top surgery*, which is a tough thing to explain when you’re not out!
*Top surgery is a procedure that many transgender men choose to undergo, in which the chest tissue is removed and the chest itself is flattened and reshaped to look more masculine.
Initially I was extremely anxious about leaving for surgery – how do you tell people that you’re having an operation but not tell them what the operation is for?
Luckily for me, no one pried or asked invasive questions. Those who knew about my trans identity were (and are) purely excited for me, and those who didn’t know simply wished me luck and warmly welcomed me back a month later.
It’s incredibly uplifting to be in a place that not only respects my identity, but goes above and beyond to ensure that I’m comfortable and happy; especially as we’re still living in a time where transgender people are discriminated against in the workplace.
When I left for surgery, my colleagues weren’t focused on the fact that I couldn’t go into work for a month or that they might struggle with one less team member. Their worry was solely focused on me and making sure I was okay once I returned to the office, which they’ve certainly done.
Coming out is less of a necessity for me now, and it happens quite rarely since I pass as male – but that doesn’t make it any less nerve-wracking. This kind of professional treatment and acceptance is something I’ve wanted for a long time, and to experience it during Pride Month is just the cherry on top of a beautiful rainbow cake.
I’m so grateful to be in a position where I love the place I’m working in as well as the work itself, and to be in an environment where I can unapologetically be myself.
As Oscar Wilde once said: “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
Splendid is showing support for the LGBT+ community by collecting funds and donating them to the Mosaic LGBT Youth Centre; an organisation that supports, educates and inspires the young LGBT+ community of London.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with being LGBT+ in the workplace, here are some resources you can look to for advice and support:
ALEX BERTIE – TRANSGENDER AT WORK
LGBT FOUNDATION – TRANS INCLUSION, EMPLOYMENT, AND LEGAL
If you are an employer who wants to better support your LGBT+ employees, head to these links: