I joined the Salesforce family as a Technical Support Engineer just over six years ago, and there isn't a day that goes by that I'm not grateful for our relationship.
A little over a year ago I decided it was time to make a major change in my life, a change I had always wanted to make, but didn't have the resources or guidance at the time to take the leap. I was ready to transition from female to male identifying. This doesn't change who I am inside. I have always been and continue to be me. The perception of who I am to the world is what I wanted to change. I wanted the world to see me as I have always seen myself. I was lucky enough to have always known who I am, but didn't realize until much later in my life that there was a path I could take where I could show the world my true self.
I dove in and read every article and piece of documentation I could get my hands on. I worked with my partner to understand how the change would impact her and our relationship. I met other trans men that had already transitioned to get their thoughts on the experience. I confided in friends to gauge their reaction so I could ready myself. I was lucky enough to feel my friends and family would be accepting. I was fortunate to live somewhere where my transition isn’t completely alien to people. The San Francisco Bay Area provides many safe and inclusive spaces for LGBTQ to find support and encouragement.
My workplace was the only area in my life where I felt trepidation. How would this impact the relationships I had spent years building? How would my manager react? Would he treat me differently? What would my VPs and executives say? What if I ran into a customer who I had worked with as "Christine" who wouldn’t understand that now I am Charles and use he/him pronouns? Would someone challenge me? How would I handle that? Would my name be able to get updated in our internal systems? A million questions raced through my mind.
I knew that for me, the first place to start was with my manager. I nervously told him my intentions and concerns, and he handled this entirely new situation beautifully. We talked about the team and how to communicate about my transformation. We researched and found guidance for the process and worked with our Employee Success team to make a plan. He was incredibly supportive and it reassured me.
I felt the best way to announce this news was to post to my profile on Chatter, our internal social network. I felt it was important to create a safe forum for conversation. I welcomed questions, but made sure to discern the difference between appropriate and inappropriate questions. I offered insight into how important this change was to me, hoping to instill that importance in others. My goal was to foster an opportunity for awareness and education, and I feel I was successful.
I was met with excitement, congratulations, support and encouragement. People had questions, but no one ever crossed the line of professionalism. Of course, people would slip up and say "Christine" or "she", but would immediately apologize and correct themselves. It's not only an adjustment for me, but an adjustment for everyone in my world. Knowing this and setting the right expectation from the get-go allowed me to take the transition in stride, day by day.
I then submitted my internal ticket to get my name changed in all of our systems. My ticket ended up in the hands of a wonderful woman who had recently transitioned herself. Because of the sensitivity of these requests, she took exceptional care of me and saw everything through to completion. I didn't have to re-tell my transition story to different ticket owners who might not necessarily relate to my experience, which made the experience go as smoothly as I could hope for.
It was everyone's unwavering support and care that made my experience completely positive.
There were no difficult conversations, no alienation, no negativity. I know this is not everyone's experience, but it should be. Each company needs to have an understanding of how to support someone who is transitioning in the workplace. I have heard stories from friends whose transitions were not met with warmth and love, but were instead isolated and eventually decided to start their transition at a new company, where they don't have to "out” themselves. We should care for one another, in all aspects of our relationships, whether it's with family, friends, coworkers, and employees. Allowing ourselves and each other to be our true selves grants us the ability to be our best selves.
Post-transition, I have found that I am more confident and comfortable in myself and in my role. I feel I finally have the voice I’ve been seeking because I feel secure in who I am and what I have to contribute. I consider myself extremely fortunate to work for a company that is so inclusive and has such a strong stance on equality.
No matter where you work, if you are going through something similar, I encourage you to challenge your company to do the right thing. Know your rights, and know that you’re not alone – if you need support and resources, don’t be afraid to ask or check out resources like the Transgender Law Center.
Learn more about how Salesforce is working to create #EqualityForAll at salesforce.com/equality.