Sunday, April 11, 2010

Email to my coworkers

I thought I'd finally post the email the CEO at my company sent out to my coworkers to let them know about my transition. It has 2 parts. The first is written by the CEO and the second is written by me.

Although we do not usually make formal announcements about our employees’ personal lives, a matter has come up that has the potential to impact the workplace. We believe it is important to inform everyone and openly address any concerns that may arise in conjunction with this change.
As you all know ********* is a Software Engineer and has been with *** for 4 years. ***** has a medical condition known as ‘transgender’. Outside of ***, ***** is Debra; over a period of time Debra has been and will continue to go through the process of gender reassignment. A couple of Debra’s colleagues here at *** have been aware of the ongoing process and we are proud of the support and consideration that has been shown by them.
Debra will be on vacation from February 8th thru the 12th and on the 16th she will come to work to continue the excellent job she has been doing for the past 4 years.
We understand that gender reassignment is not something that many of us have been exposed to and that some people may feel uncertain or curious, which is why we have invited a consultant to speak to the company today. Debra herself expects that some colleagues may be curious and she has expressed a willingness to respond to genuine queries. She has kindly put together some information about her experience, which can be found at the bottom of this email.
We have appreciated how Debra has communicated with us during the process and assisted us to better understand her circumstances and gender reassignment. If you would like to learn more about this medical condition there is a report about recent research on the BBC News website.
This is a significant event for Debra and as a coworker and an employer we want to provide a supportive environment for her and all our employees. Our expectation, of course, is that Debra is treated with the same consideration and respect that we all expect in a professional working environment, this includes using her chosen name and using the appropriate pronouns ‘she’ and ‘her’. While we don’t forsee issues or concerns, I want to remind everyone that *** has policies in place to provide a workplace free from discrimination and harassment.
We welcome Debra back into the team and thank you all for your understanding.
If you still have questions after the presentation during the All Company meeting please feel free to contact myself and/or Sharon.

From Debra:

Dear Trusted Colleagues,

Now that management has sent out an official announcement, I thought I should add a personal touch.

The decision to go through with this difficult and enormous transition was not easy to make. Amongst many people's negative opinions and lack of understanding, I've also endured my own self doubt at times. Years of trying to be someone I'm not, have taken a definite toll on me and I didn't understand what was wrong until more recently in my life.

Growing up, all I knew was being the boy and later, man, everyone around me needed me to be. It was at a young age, about 10 years old, that I started to realize something was different about me. Since then, there have been lots of signs and I not only ignored those signs but also over-masculinized myself to compensate for the differences I found in myself from other boys and men.
A plethora of research has shown that this is most likely genetic. It's theorized that in the womb, different hormones (female, in my case) can flood the brain, compared to ones that act on the rest of the developing baby’s body (male). So it is possible to end up with a brain that’s been arranged for a female, within a body of a baby male.
This condition seems to occur for about 1 in 30,000 births to both male and female babies. This rate increased in the 1950s and 1960s where some mothers were given a drug called DES, which was prescribed to reduce the chances of stillbirth. It was later found it also had the effect of making this condition even more likely to occur.
It wasn't till fairly recently that things were brought to my attention I could no longer ignore. Full awareness of what this change would mean for my life came rushing in like a hurricane and I went from denying the fact there was something wrong to fighting against it with every ounce of my strength. But the more I fought, the more depressed I became. I was no longer ignorant to what was wrong and I knew there was a solution, I was just too scared to follow through with it.

Since October 2009, I've been living as a woman outside of work. I'm not sure if anyone has noticed any differences in those last few months. I've done my best to not introduce big changes until an official date was worked out with management. It's been difficult living a double life, being able to be my true self outside of work, only to come to work with an image that is only a facade. I did this as a way of making sure it was really what was right for me and to make sure I was truly ready for such a life change.

With all of that said, I'm going to be taking a week's vacation next week and I'll be back in the office on Tuesday, February 16th, no longer D***** but Debra. What you see or hear might be very different but I am still mostly the same person that will be accomplishing the same tasks in a professional manner.

Also, I realize that calling me by my new name will be something everyone will have to get used to and in the same way, using female pronouns (she, her, etc) will probably be even more difficult. I understand there will be many slip ups, especially in the first few weeks, so do not worry.

I know that there can arise many questions from a change like this. I hope the All Hands meeting scheduled for today will help you all in understanding and also put you at ease by answering most of your general questions. Note: I will not be present at this meeting so you may feel comfortable to ask anything.

Come next Tuesday, if you have any other questions for me, feel free to ask me. I have been at *** for almost 4 years now and look forward to many more good years to come.

Thank you,


Dana Andra said...

Sometimes life is as it should be, and people respond to challenging situations with kindness and understanding, and to find this is the workplace is truly remarkable.

I've never heard of the effects of DES before, and I was really struck by that part of your letter, because I was born in 1955, right smack in the middle of its heyday. I don't really have any doubts about myself, and the possibility that I might be trans because of a drug given to my mother during her pregnancy makes me even less doubtful. Thanks for that!


Stace said...

They look like very good letters, with good links to information.

BTW Are you aware that the links in the mail point to your companies webmail and not to the location of the artivles themselves?


Jenny said...

I'm glad to see your employer doing this in such a positive way.

Could I ask you to post any details you may have about the DES link? I'd never heard of this one either and Google isn't helping for once. For family reasons this information is of interest to me.

Debra said...

@Dana and @Jenny - I actually used some of the verbiage (including the part about DES) from a friend's letter with their permission. I don't actually know much about it except that it was a drug given to women during that time period and that it seems to have possibly caused problems in the womb that could relate to transsexualism.

@Stace - Thanks! I changed the links to be correct. I copied and pasted the letter out of my company webmail hehe.

VĂ©ronique said...

It might be overreaching at this point to claim either fetal hormone differences (undervirilization of the brain) or DES as causes of transsexualism, but I think it will be established at some point that the causes (and there might well be more than one) are physiological. We don't want to have to hedge when telling others about our condition, but despite the confidence of some, the evidence of causality just isn't there yet.

I do know one thing. Hormone therapy did wonders for how I felt, and SRS finished the job. I certainly don't have gender dysphoria now! And for many, just having the right hormone balance (a physiological thing) is enough.

Leslie Ann said...

Hi, Debra! Great letter. Nice to know that it all went well afterward too.

Firefox seems to like your site more than Explorer, which means I can comment now. You likely saw that my blog went private. Long story. I've gotten a lot of my readers involved again, but some, like you(!), don't list an email address. If you drop me a line at leslie.ann45 at, I can get you past the bouncers and into the club. I'd love to have you back.

Vanessa said...

Thanks so much for all you've done on this blog over the years! I've found all of the information very valuable. I am using your letter to your old workplace as a blueprint for my own workplace transition. *fingers crossed*

Thanks again! :) Vanessa

Blog: "La Dolce Vanessa" (

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