Hello, I’m Daniel/Danielle, a mechanical engineer working in the automotive sector, and I’m transgender. I was born a man but identify myself just as strongly as a woman as man (so neither fully one way or the other. Don’t worry if you are confused, I’m never particularly certain myself). I’ve known I was transgender since university and in my everyday life I am very open about it. I wear dresses and skirts, I wear high heels, I wear makeup, and I feel free to do any/all of these in public as much or as little as I want.
My work persona is very different though. Despite being out in my external life, I have not revealed this to my colleagues. My only outward sign is that I wear nail varnish at work, which can still cause a few turned heads but is seen by most as just an eccentricity or minor quirk. The company I work for is a large supplier to the automotive sector, and being automotive, it is very male dominated. At times there is a bit of a lad culture apparent, but luckily the majority of people are nice. Also we are very graduate dominated on our site so have a lot of relatively young people around and on the whole they are a lot more open minded than the more senior members of staff. However, despite being a site of 300+ people, we don’t have anyone openly LGBT (which either means no one wants to come out, or we just have a much much statistically lower percentage than the rest of the country).
So if I work with fairly nice people most of whom would be very accepting, why am I not out? And why aren’t others out? One of my main anxieties stems from the previously mentioned lad culture. It is slightly off-putting, especially for someone who identifies as a woman a lot of the time. And while most colleagues would be very supportive, there are a few who would likely cause a problem and take banter too far. That’s life, some people are just not very nice. However, there is little trust in the company that they would adequately support me if this were to occur. The company does have a non-discrimination policy, but is very passive apart from that (no active encouragement, no support schemes, nothing). There is no obvious management support and a general lack of faith that management would act effectively if needed. The impression given is that very little would be done until the matter escalated to the point where it needed to go to HR (which I see as a bit of a nuclear option).
So what would I say the company could do better? A lot of what I’ve written is about the impression that management gives, rather than what they would actually do. So I would welcome a much stronger outward sign that management support and encourage LGBT, and that this is regularly reinforced and communicated to staff. Especially local management, as they are the ones on the front lines and the primary point of contact for most employees. And do not let the few bad apples ruin it for everyone else. As a company we have so many quirky, quite, loud, introverted, extroverted, and just plain wonderful people (regardless of gender or orientation) that it would be a shame to not let them shine.