I was summoned to the Managers office this week … and asked to shut the door … Gulp!
My mind was in turmoil as to what I had done wrong, was I being moved to another platform, had there been a complaint about my care, … all this flashed through my mind in a nanosecond as I slipped in to the office … my anxiety crept up another notch when I was asked to sit down and pull the chair up to the side of the desk …
As you may know, I work on an offshore oil production platform in the North Sea as a nurse (platform medic) and have been on this particular platform for over 13 years. We have recently had a change in the platform management team, with a new platform manager joining the company and assigned to the work with us.
I have been out and proud on the platform since I arrived here and tend to take my Transgender status for granted, it’s just ‘normal’ for me and I get on well with the platform core crew as well as the vendors and visitors.
However, even though I am out and everyone knows I am Transgender, I tend to dress in a somewhat androgynous style with unisex green overalls and pastel coloured tee shirts, along with my dyed shoulder long red hair and thin shaped eyebrows; so I’m not exactly a shrinking violet then! Heels and skirts are just not done on an oil platform and not appropriate for my situation.
Back to the office … my anxiety and paranoia were working overtime and I was sitting rather uncomfortably on the edge of the chair waiting for whatever came next…The new manger was a large, macho, rugby fan who had a commanding aura about him that encouraged you not to question his decisions.
‘I understand that you are Transgender’ he says … with me taking a breath worrying what is coming next … ‘…and would like to know how you would prefer to be addressed …’ asked my manager… He continued with ‘I have never worked with someone who is openly Transgender before and know very little about it … so I don’t want to upset you in any way.’
Needless to say the wind was knocked out of my sails and I took a few seconds to recover my composure and explain my relaxed tolerance to how I was addressed as I presented mostly male due to my name being that on my contract etc.. with a strong feminine lean.
I was asked how I balanced my life between male and female time, about my partner and how they dealt with things, and my own preferences and how that fitted in with my work and leisure time.
What followed was a 15 minute discussion about how he perceived my conduct to be extemporary and professional, giving declarations of full support from the manager in however I wished to present myself.
He used words like ‘pioneer’, ‘ground-breaking’ ‘complete person’ and ‘role model’, complementing me on my work ethics and my managing the balance of being transgender and professional in my conduct on the platform, which he sees as one of the most macho work areas possible, where very few Transgender people work. I was told to let him know if I had any issues with transphobic comments or bullying as he would not tolerate these in any form.
Happily, I was able to explain that I had phenomenal support from the core crew team who often defended me when new people made uneducated comments about my gender status, and that they were all comfortable enough around me to have some light hearted banter without meaning anything detrimental.
So, what was perceived as a potentially worrying interview by my paranoia, turned into an amazing offer of support in all areas of my work and private life, and a request for more information on the subject, to help him give better informed support in the future.
I was a little emotional after and had to take a minute to absorb what had just happened and reflect on the issues I had in the past where I was subject to a ‘constructive’ removal from a post due to an unsupportive (transphobic) manager, and how I was being offered support without asking or prompted.
This event just goes to show that you never know where support will come from, or when, or how. It was an amazing but humbling boost to my personal and professional life from a source that I had least expected, in an area not known for its sensitivity but truly welcomed.
I hope this gives some hope for others who are not in such a good position as myself, and shows that there are great managers out there and you never know where support may come from when you need it most .
Thanks for taking time to read my article and please feel free to take the time respond to any questions I’ve noted below.
Have you ever had an uncomfortable situation at work because of you being transgender?
Have you ever been in an area as a transgender or open cross dresser and been accepted where you least expected to be accepted?
Have you been accepted by anyone who you least expected to accept you as being transgender such as what happened to me in this article?