update: my boss from before my gender transition is now my colleague

Remember the letter-writer whose new coworker was their boss from before their gender transition? Here’s the update.

Thanks again for running the letter. While I had to eventually nope out of the comments (I found the assumptions some commenters made that I was utterly panicking about the situation a little strange), I gained a lot from the discussion overall. That, plus talking to my friends and my therapist about it, made me realize that I would be better off disclosing in some way. For a variety of reasons, I have never been one to be secretive about much in my life, so I am not used to living with the idea that someone might have something on me, especially if it’s something I don’t think of as shameful.

Thankfully, I had the perfect opportunity to say I was trans to a decent chunk of colleagues in a supportive setting: My workplace hosted its first-ever Pride panel in June, and I was a participant. While my former boss didn’t attend the event, that just under 100 of my colleagues now know I am trans is incredibly reassuring. The reception I got was positive, with people reaching out to me afterwards in a really kind way.

As for lunch, I decided to go back to the patio. I ran into my former boss just once out of the several times I’ve been back there, and she was busy chatting it up with other people. If all this went down because she truly wanted to have people to talk to at lunch, I am genuinely happy that she got what she wanted with people who are not me.

Also, this letter-writer included this to me in their original letter: “In looking for trans-related content on AAM, I ran across an interview with a trans woman about the differences in the workplace as a woman vs. a man. In my going-on three years of being a man in the workplace, I’ve noticed a ridiculous difference myself in the other direction, to the point where I’ve been taking notes and sometimes fuming. If you ever wanted to chat about that, I’m down.” I asked to hear more and here’s their response:

I tell people that transition has only made me more of a feminist, which I already very much was.

The bar for certain things is so much lower for men than for women. It’s really astonishing. I went from being seen as off-putting, unapproachable, and unsociable to approachable, easygoing, and friendly. That’s not just an assumption, that’s based on my actual performance reviews and colleague feedback. On the appearance and grooming front, I went from being seen as, at best, a relatively low-maintenance woman, to being a very sharp and put-together man. I wouldn’t say that I’ve changed all that much as far as how much I socially engage with colleagues, and I spend way less time/money on things like clothes and hair. I feel like so much time and energy has been freed up for other things. I wish everyone could have that kind of choice in the matter without facing so much judgment.

I get questioned on my authority far less, even by people who know little to nothing about my experience and credentials. They assume that because I have a job that I have successfully performed for going on three years now, I must know what I’m talking about. Initially, that backfired. Whenever I made a point, I’d front-load justifications and arguments since that was what I was used to doing to be heard, and people reacted with surprise and confusion. Additionally, I had to learn to stop pushing so hard for space to speak in any given discussion, since everyone in the conversation automatically made room for me. I had to learn to more mildly state my opinion and offer the rest only if asked.

I do try to use my powers for good by signal-boosting my more timid and/or non-male colleagues’ voices. If they’re spoken over or ignored, I’ll say “Hey everyone, did you catch what Colleague said? Pretty good point, Colleague” and turn to them, offering them the opening in the discussion that I just made.

One completely unexpected consequence of the whole dude-authority thing is becoming the organizer for the office book club. The other members (almost all women) decided that I’d be the one to run it, and that was that. I did outright refuse any title. Plus, I have focused on dealing with all the annoying logistics so that everyone else can enjoy reading and discussing, which I think is the type of thing that’s usually foisted on women anyway.

{ 159 comments… read them below }

  1. learnedthehardway*

    I’m so glad that your transition at work has been smooth, OP. Dismayed that gender stereotypes persist, but thanks for being an ally to women. Hopefully your female colleagues will be an ally to you as well.

  2. ThatGirl*

    Glad to hear this update! It is true of nearly every advice-related comment section on the internet that people tend to project their own experiences/fears/anxieties etc onto others and that was certainly the case for the initial letter. But I’m glad the comments were overall fairly helpful.

  3. Nameyname*

    wow! what a fascinating perspective on transition. really interesting to see the existence of sexism validated in this way.

    1. Jennifer*

      I both knew all these things, but this feels really validating. Sometimes I think “well maybe I am argumentative” because it’s hard to *prove* that it’s gendered. But I’m fairly confident that I am supposed to have opinions and advocate for them if I believe them in my particular field, so I do think it’s gendered! Posts like this really help me un-gaslight myself

      1. Frickityfrack*

        Same – I *know* when men ignore 50-100% of what I say that it’s gendered, but it’s infuriating to have them do it and then be mad when the thing I told them would happen actually happens. That said, ignoring me in my current job does actually have consequences, so I can only hope that maybe they learn a little bit from it. Like if a woman gets paid to do something, maybe it’s not just because her employer likes throwing money in the toilet. MAYBE she actually knows what she’s talking about.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        I think a lot of things with sexism (and many of the other -isms) is that a lot of it is patterns, rather than specific events. I’m sure there are some men who are told that their communications are too rude, there are some white people who get followed around in stores, etc. Sort of like how some really bad storms happened before global warming became such a problem, they just happen so much more often now.

        If you try to push back on any specific instance, it’s always “But Bob sometimes speaks over men too, so just put up with it like the men do.”

        1. Chirpy*

          This, I am trying to get my boss to understand that it’s not one specific incident that I should just “handle politely”, it’s that I’ve been using his suggestions since I was a child and they don’t fix the larger pattern (or the specific incident) because I’m implicitly seen as “making a big deal out of nothing” as a woman, instead of “men should work harder on seeing women as equals”.

        2. Ray B Purchase*

          In a lot of cases, particularly in smaller workplaces, it can also be explained away with a different ‘ism and because sex is so much more protected, I find that people (men) reallllllllly want to find a different reason that you’re not taken seriously, even when it’s obvious that you are being treated much differently than all of the men.

          I had a coworker whose work I occasionally managed that, when he started we were at the same level but I had seniority and was promoted shortly after he joined our team. I wasn’t a manager at that time but still had the authority to ask him to do projects and review his work. I was also about 10 years younger than him and the only non-manager in our team who had these responsibilities. I could never be 100% certain that the reason he pushed back on everything I asked him to do was gendered and not ageism or just someone weirdly rigid about only doing work if it came from management (although similar stories from a manager who was also a woman, and later our female boss, indicated it was most likely sexism).

      3. WillowSunstar*

        So many things are gendered that people don’t realize. For example: Going through perimenopause now. Getting nitpicked on a lot of things I was not previously. Brain fog is not a laughing matter and supplements don’t always work. Have also had feedback like “be less direct.” Yeah, I have tried pussy-footing around in communication and still gotten the feedback. I have no doubt my life would be much easier had I been born male. Ugh.

        1. Petty Betty*

          I tell people that I am dealing with similar amounts of testosterone as men and if they don’t like my tone, directness, attitude, words, whatever, then obviously they don’t like how they talk to each other, unless the problem just happens to be that they don’t like women talking to them as men would (because that type of guy only sees binary genders).
          It usually leaves them stuttering or silent.

    2. Khatul Madame*

      I agree that the LW’s observations are fascinating, and sadly, not surprising at all.

      1. Random Dice*

        For some reason most of my trans friends are FTM (female to male), and this LW’s observations line up with theirs.

        Going from being treated as female to being treated as male is enraging and exposes what an utter sexist system this is.

        One friend said that his male presentation automatically made his jokes 50% funnier compared to joking when female, and his intelligence was assumed as a given rather than a hard-earned surprise from a female.

        1. Petty Betty*

          Yep. This has been a common finding for my FTM friends as well. My MTF friends are obviously finding the opposite issues (and others).
          My nb or otherwise gender non-conforming friends tend to find that their treatment lines up with how much they “pass”, or whether they present more masculine or feminine, etc.

          1. The Leanansidhe*

            NB here. One consequence of dressing/presenting in a way that doesn’t line up with expectations of gender is that people think I’m MUCH younger. People openly assume I’m 15/16 years old when I’m dressed ambiguously and early twenties when I’m especially masculine or feminine-leaning that day. People who don’t see “man/woman” often assume “child” instead, in a way that I don’t think is detrimental in my interactions with people who know me well but is a really stark difference among strangers.

    3. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      My wife spends time in parts of Reddit that I do not, and she has told me about seeing postings from young trans women complaining about transphobia, but when they go into detail it’s pretty clear that they are just experiencing vanilla-flavored sexism, but they did not know to expect that.

        1. Fishsticks*

          I think the commenter isn’t saying trans women don’t receive seeeeeerious transphobia, just that sometimes the specific examples of something they are reading as transphobic are more sexism starting to intrude into their experience, and it’s just something they haven’t dealt with before so they don’t know it’s garden-variety sexism off the bat.

        2. boxfish*

          yeah I think when having this conversation it’s REALLY important for cis people to not assume or imply that trans women & trans femme people automatically have it easy until/unless they are read as cis women. that is Extremely not the case, and trans women as a group are at such risk (in general and especially at the moment). obviously individual people’s experiences will vary widely, but yeah. Worth being cautious of how we’re framing this.

        3. NeedRain47*

          no, it is. A trans woman I know was talking about why don’t women just go to the dr and ask for XYZ medication/treatment. And I’m like…. holy cow honey women can’t do that, doctors don’t listen to women, it’s a known fact. I know they are sometimes terrible to trans people too, but sometimes you get the old fashioned straight up sexism that’s common to all women.

          1. AnotherOne*

            yeah, i’m lucky i’ve rarely had this issue. but i’m currently recovering from an ear infection.

            the RN at the walk in clinic was sorta- “of course you’re in pain. you are an ear infection.”

            right? but should it be this painful?

            the answer was no. no, it shouldn’t be this painful.

      1. DataSci*

        As a cis woman I can say with some confidence that they’re seeing both sexism AND transphobia ( as well as whatever else may be relevant for them – racism, ageism, whatever). They aren’t mutually exclusive.

        1. stratospherica*

          You’re very right – the term transmisogyny is really helpful to describe the ways in which transphobia and sexism intersect and double up on trans women. Misogynists see women in general as dim, vain and vapid, and transmisogynists see trans women as even more/deliberately dim, vain and vapid, and then also insinuate that for that reason, trans women are holding all women back.

          Trans women, as a subset of women, experience issues both common and unique to the broader female experience.

    4. just some guy*

      There have been a couple of cases of researchers who transitioned and had similar experiences. Ben Barres had a story about how, after giving a seminar post-transition, he heard one of the audience members talking about how “Ben Barres’ work is much better than his sister’s” [the “sister” in fact being his pre-transition self].

  4. Potato Potato*

    +1 for everything that you said about being seen as a man in the workplace. It’s kind of ridiculous how much knowledge people assume I have, just with some facial hair and a deeper voice. It’s been a few years for me since I’ve started passing, and I’m still low-key amazed.

    1. Pippa K*

      This was such a great update, and that part reminded me strongly of something from the Bujold novel “A Civil Campaign.” A character who has had what was then called a sex change describes experiencing the world as a man: “the personal space people gave me had approximately doubled, and their response time to me had been cut in half…Somehow, I don’t think I got all that result just from my exercise program.” This account is somewhat dated now, I’m sure, and anyway takes place on alien planets, but that part struck me so strongly as capturing how women and men experience social interaction differently. Trans men and women are such powerful witnesses for this that I guess it’s no surprise that anti-trans forces want to claim they’re not “real” men or women, and otherwise silence them in various ways. I’m so interested to read OP’s update here and glad things are going well for him.

        1. Writer Claire*

          I once had the privilege of sitting on a panel next to Lois at an SF convention. Before the panel started, I said, I’m sorry, but I really need to fangirl you right now. Is that okay? She smiled and said, Sure. No one does that at home.

          (The subject of Lord Dono came up during the panel itself, which was enormous fun.)

            1. Writer Claire*

              I’ve only read her Vorkosigan books, and I do have some reservations about how she handles queer characters, but I’ve heard good things about her different fantasy series.

              But yes, that scene where Lord Dono describes the difference in how he’s treated as a man vs. a woman is very good. Especially since his audience is all male, in a society where men have all the privilege. The shock of realization is well done.

            2. Reluctant Mezzo*

              Yes, you do! Start with Shards of Honor. (Falling Free will just give you nightmares about dysfunctional workplaces, that can wait for later).

    2. Spicy Tuna*

      I read an article years ago about a woman who had passed as a man for a period of time for a book she was writing. I wish I could remember where I read it so I could link to it, but alas, the passage of time!

      She actually needed therapy afterwards. She echoed what the OP said – that she automatically got more respect and space as a man, but she said that it was incredibly isolating as men don’t seem to want or be able to access close friendships with other men. She said the level of competitiveness was grating and anxiety producing.

      I think there are upsides and downsides to being either gender.

      1. Potato Potato*

        I think the book is Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent. For me as a trans man, that book was validating at parts but also frustrating. Because at some level, her feelings were complicated by gender dysphoria, because she’s not a man. (It’s heavily suggested that this is the reason for therapy, not the social environment state of manhood.) She also gives zero page space to trans men who have navigated this stuff before, instead trying to reinvent gender stuff from scratch.

        1. trans and tired*

          That reflects how I felt about the book. When I was reading it, I relayed some of the highlights to my partner at the time, who was a trans woman (she still is, but she was, too). She said “oh, so it’s a cis woman discovering what every trans woman knows about gender dysphoria.”

        2. MigraineMonth*

          When I was younger I read Black Like Me and thought it was so groundbreaking to have this white man explain to me what it was like to be treated like a black person. I thought that Nickel and Dimed was similarly fascinating for its glimpse into a world I wasn’t a part of.

          It took an embarrassingly long time to figure out that I could just read books by people in those groups if I wanted to understand what life was like for them. *facepalm* I guess that isn’t surprising; I used to believe in objectivity too.

          1. My Cabbages!*

            I think there is still some value in books like those, in that reading about it from a privileged position (when the reader is similarly privileged) can point out blind spots that might otherwise be missed.

            It’s similar to a man reading the accounts above; a cis man might never realize how much (for example) women are required to front-load their arguments because honestly, it’s so common for us that if I were writing about sexism I might not even think to mention it.

            I wouldn’t *stop* with these accounts, but I don’t think they’re a terrible starting place.

            1. amoeba*

              Yeah, the “outsider’s look” can be a powerful tool to discover things that people otherwise take for granted or have gotten used to! As you can see in this account as well, I’m sure a cis man would never notice the way he’s treated because that’s just what he’s used to and he probably assumes everybody has exactly the same experience. That’s the problem with privilege – most of the time you’re not even aware you have it. And I’m sure for a lot of discrimination it’s the same way, you don’t actually notice a lot of it anymore…

              1. SarahKay*

                I (female) together with two men was interviewing candidates for anew member of our team. One man said he was looking for a new job as he’d been out-promoted by a woman due to political correctness. He said it slightly more subtly than that (but not much!) and I admit I just internally rolled my eyes and thought ‘oh, yes, one more mediocre white man whining about how unfair life is’ and forgot about it.
                We got out of the interview and my male colleagues were outraged that this bloke would say such a thing (not to mention ‘how stupid must he be to say it in an interview’) but then more horrified to learn that I’d barely noticed it because, you know, same sh!t, different day.
                It was eye-opening for all of us; them seeing the sort of nonsense that is so prevalent I don’t even notice it any more, and me realising how much I do just ignore because life is too short to fight every battle.

                1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

                  I had a similar experience when talking to a client with a junior male colleague, who walked out of the meeting and said, “He talked to me every time her answered your questions!”

                  I had to think back on it to realize that yeah, I guess he did. I was just so used to the men in the room being talked to, even when I was senior (and clearly training said man).

                2. Reluctant Mezzo*

                  There’s a comment from a guy in BARBIE that explains to the main Ken that ‘sure, we’re supposed to not lean towards hiring men, but wink wink we get around it somehow’.

        3. badger*

          That’s kind of how I feel every time some dude writes a blog post or news article or whatever about “I masqueraded as a woman on the internet and here’s what I learned!” You could…just ask. And *listen.* Maybe there are some things that can only be experienced to be understood, but this sense, over and over, that we cannot be trusted to relay our own experiences accurately is incredibly frustrating.

          Great that she experienced this. But she also could have just asked someone who has lived it to tell their own story.

          1. Boof*

            I mean it’s nice to have “external” validation, but nicer still if they cite the fact that this has been clearly stated before by the groups experiencing it and ideally some references that are good examples of that

          2. MissElizaTudor*

            I don’t fully agree. I don’t see it as distrusting women to relay experiences accurately so much as it is someone who has experienced the internet as a man also then experiencing it as a woman while being the same person as they were before with their original writing style, background, knowledge, etc.

            It provides additional evidence that it isn’t something that happens because women are behaving in any way that results in being ignored/talked over/treated like they don’t know anything. It’s because of their gender. It’s something you can’t get just by listening to lived experience. I find it a different kind of validating than listening to someone share what’s happened in their life as a woman.

    3. 404_FoxNotFound*

      Agreed 100%. I’ve had to redirect multiple individuals who had assumed I was in charge of a project and kept trying to address me first, or just address me exclusively, over to my senior coworker while she was standing right next to me, and that is literally only the tip of the sexim-in-the-workplace iceberg.

      And to Pippa K’s point, most unfamiliar folks balk at discussing gender at least in part because breaking some of these things down requires discussing how present and insidious sexism is everywhere.

      1. Oui oui oui all the way home*

        Ah, I remember attending a trade show as a business executive for a publishing company. Our team had a large booth and I had brought a junior male co-worker along on the trip whose role primarily involved helping with lifting heavy items such as boxes of books. While he was in our booth, multiple men and women approached him to talk about the company while completely ignoring me.

    4. Summer Bummer*

      I’ve transitioned at a university hospital over the past couple years—it’s a busy, high-traffic place. When I looked like a woman, it was sometimes difficult to get around—the hallways are full of groups of nurses having high-volume conversations, visitors and patients Really Going Through It, Important Doctors who perpetually need you to be Out Of Their Way.

      When I became a man, people started getting out of MY way. Only, I didn’t expect that to happen? So I had multiple collisions with strangers. When, as a man, I tried to behave in crowds the same way I had as a woman—being polite, generally giving way—it caused actual traffic jams where people bumped into each other.

      It’s not like I didn’t know going into that men get to take up more public space than women, but the granular truth of it was still dramatic and frustrating.

  5. Thistle Pie*

    I really love this update. I know its tangential but I appreciate that LW highlighted the strange specific dynamics people misconstrue from letters where they ascribe the LW feelings or actions they did not include in their submission (see the letter posted earlier today about someone wanting to put up a film noir poster which included a gun and people have been going off about how the LW must be a misogynist because they included James Bond as an example and it morphed into LW wanting to hang up a poster of a gun pointed at people).

    1. Drago Cucina*

      Or even the letter using golf clubs as an “example”. The discussion of golf gear quickly took over.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I wonder if it would be better to report those threads as derailing, rather than just responding with a correction. I assume it’s an honest mistake by someone skimming the letter, but it does use up a lot of the commenting space.

    2. Elle*

      This has been a huge frustration of mine re: the commentariat here! You put this super well.

      Regarding this specific LW’s note on that, I’ve often felt that LWs who are queer or trans and are in a situation where they are trying to prevent future trouble or harassment but where there has been no (or only subtle, difficult to pin down) trouble YET get kind of treated like unnecessarily anxious or like they’re borrowing trouble.

      Should we think about things deeply? Yes. But sometimes, it ain’t that deep.

    3. Kanga*

      YES. It seems to me to be especially common that readers interpret letters as more emotional or higher stakes than what the LW outright says, as this letter notes.

      I’ve personally had one letter published, in which I specified that my problem was a minor annoyance and not really a big deal, but I wanted better go-to language to use when it inevitably came up again. Even then, there were comments suggesting I was seriously unhappy (?) and that if I was that bothered I should re-examine my priorities (?!)

      Since then I’ve noticed it a fair amount in the comments, this trend from some commenters toward assuming LWs are deeply dissatisfied in some way that they haven’t actually stated. I don’t know what can be done about it but it was quite off putting as a letter writer!

      1. Random Dice*

        That sucks, I’m sorry. I’ll try to keep this experience in mind when interpreting letters.

      2. Hot Flash Gordon*

        I think a lot of it is projection, TBH. Your “no big deal” situation could be a major thing for some and people go a little overboard trying to relate.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I think it can also sort of build just from the length of the comment section where one person says something like “if the LW finds it very upsetting, this resource is good” and then people go on from there and it becomes a discussion about that.

          Like an LW mentions an intern who is not following instructions and somebody makes the valid suggestion that the LW should be clear with them about expectations because interns are there to learn and there can be a number of reasons, such as coming from a different field or a different country or upbringing that can affect how aware they are of the norms of a field and then people weigh in, giving their experiences of being expected to know norms of fields or whatever that they weren’t familiar with and then somebody points out that actually painting llama blue when told to brush their coats is not a norm of any particular field or country and maybe the intern just is clueless and actually, it’s not very inclusive to assume people from different backgrounds are that clueless and then we’re in a discussion about how to balance recognising that people come from different backgrounds and have different levels of familiarity with corporate norms with not assuming people from some backgrounds are less competent, educated, supported by family. When there isn’t even anything to suggest the intern is from a different background to the LW.

          And sometimes LWs do add more information in the comments so I think sometimes people who join the discussion later on just assume that the other commenters have additional information rather than that the conversation has just gone off on a tangent.

      3. Le Sigh*

        That was my experience, too, in one of the open threads. I asked for help with phrasing a request and was told that I needed to adjust my thinking because venting may feel good but it won’t get me what I want.

        And… yes?

        I had added color to explain my frustration, and I knew I needed to be careful how I phrased my request at work, which is why I wrote to the commentariat asking for help.

        And instead of helping with phrasing (as I’d asked), a few people took me to task for being frustrated.


        1. Siege*

          Yep. I asked for advice on a problem in an open thread and was careful to lay out all the preexisting conditions I needed the solution to work with and basically got told that Solution A, which I’d already ruled out for three unalterable reasons, was the only way I could possibly succeed, with a surprising level of hostility around the fact I can’t use that solution. I’ve also been more than once attacked for neutrally reporting factual statements that other commenters don’t have direct experience with but DEFINITELY have opinions on anyway. (My favorite was the person who told me I got fired because I hadn’t met the conditions of a PIP, with real hostility, when … we don’t know each other.) It’s made engaging with the comments (other than as an often-silly trainwreck) pointless, and I’m always surprised by LWs who do.

          But I am happy to report that I resolved my problem without using Solution A at all.

  6. Simon (he/him)*

    It’s true, the bar for men is so, so low. Am also trans and the way I get treated now that I’m seen as a man is bafflingly different. (For any Barbie movie fans, the “You respect me??” Ken scene comes to mind).

    Glad your original question went well, OP!!

    1. Storm in a teacup*

      As I was reading the update this scene came to mind!
      I find it fascinating hearing from people who are trans about their experiences of the differences in treatment for both genders.

    2. Sociology Rocks!*

      So so much of why I loved the Barbie movie was because of the ways Ken’s experiences can overlap with those of trans men. The movie provides an excellent mechanism for really exploring and dissecting masculinity in interesting ways, especially with the choices about what parts of masculinity Ken grabbed on to.

      1. Potato Potato*

        Welp, that’s putting some of my early transition into perspective. Thank you.

        Flashback to the time I got in a “manspreading” competition with another early transition dude, trying to see which of us could take up the most space (and therefore respect). He won when he flopped sideways over a whole couch of friends’ laps

      2. Simon (he/him)*

        Oh absolutely!! That was my first thought while watching it in theaters, and it’s been a useful way to explain my new experience of male privilege to people without having to get into a whole Gender 101 discussion.
        Barbie was just so good, lol.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I think everyone on the planet should see it, but especially all men. Ryan Gosling just going from “you respect me??” to “I Am Doctor Now” and horses was perfection.

  7. LadyProg*

    it’s fascinating to read the experiences of people who transitioned mid career, thanks for sharing!

  8. Observer*

    This is a great update.

    I think that essentially de-fanging ex-boss by finding a natural way to just make it public knowledge was a pretty brilliant move.

  9. BellyButton*

    Thank you for the update! I have had discussions with trans-men about how different their life is now. It is so fascinating. What is it like to walk into a space and not have to justify your right to be there?!

    1. Sloanicota*

      I can’t even imagine what it might feel like to walk into a room and *not* assume people are evaluating my clothes, hair, body. That I’m doing something offensive if I’m not appealing/attractive to them. I realize it must happen somewhat to men also but presumably not at the same level. OPs original post also mentioned their size and that is definitely a huuuge factor, as larger people, particularly women, seem to have even more burden of appearance placed on them :(

      1. ceiswyn*

        Yeah, as an ex-morbidly-obese woman my life is so much better now – because I don’t live my life getting sideways disgusted looks from strangers, or chased by mobs of children. And I can get healthcare. And clothes that fit and are made of decent materials.

        The idea that this easy life full of respect is still less good than I’d have of I presented as male blows my mind.

  10. Verthandi*

    Thanks for the update! It’s great to see happy endings, and I especially find your thoughts on the differences in the way you’ve been treated to be enlightening. Same for the previous article.

  11. Falling Diphthong*

    I’d front-load justifications and arguments since that was what I was used to doing to be heard, and people reacted with surprise and confusion.
    This is so interesting about how changing the speaker changes the expected norms; thank you for sharing your experience.

  12. Lydia*

    Thank you so much for sharing your perspective! This is something I’ve been really curious about and it’s incredibly helpful to hear it directly from someone who can speak from experience. I feel like this is a part of the overall conversation we should have around transitioning, but considering we can’t even let athletes compete in their gender group, I don’t know if we’re ready for the larger discussions, yet.

    1. NeedRain47*

      This ends up being less of a conversation about transitioning, and more of a conversation about sexism…. and people don’t want to talk about it b/c it requires them to believe it’s really happing every day all around them, much less change their behavior. It’s eye opening for those of us who are willing to listen, tho!

    2. Potato Potato*

      I think it depends on who “we” is. These kinds of conversations are happening, just in environments that are semi-private or unpublicized and therefore safer for trans folks to speak up in.

  13. NeedRain47*

    I’m very glad that LW got to come out in a safe fashion! but now I’m all upset about the sexism again. I have a more blunt communication style that just isn’t allowed for women and it’s been a problem for me my whole life.

    A few years ago, I (cis woman) was telling a story about being told to “calm down” at work (after speaking up about unsafe covid work conditions in May 2020) and said that I felt it was a bit sexist. Turns out it was even more sexist than I thought. Two trans friends told me that as men/masculine presenting people, they have never again been told to calm down.

    1. DameB*

      One time I was getting shouted at by some coworker dude and I said “Stop being so emotional! Calm down!” and I swear I’ve rarely been that close to getting hit by a coworker.

    1. tiny*

      I read an interview he did with Newsweek when I was in high school 15-20 years ago, in which he shared that same anecdote. It has lived rent free in my brain as a female scientist ever since, and I’ve thought about it many times when I wondered if I was imagining things.

    2. city deer*

      The economist Deirdre McCloskey has a similar anecdote (the other way around) in her memoir Crossing.

  14. Sage*

    Thankyou for the update and for sharing your experience as a man. I am no trans, but when I cut my hair short, people started percieving me as more self-confident. I swear that the very only thing that changed was the lenght of my hair.

    1. Ali*

      I worked for a Catholic institution for five years (never again) and my hair got shorter and shorter during my time there as I tried to combat the insane levels of workplace sexism. And that was a place that definitely considered itself on the liberal side. I’m not sure that the length of my hair actually helped matters though; thankfully I now work somewhere else.

  15. WeirdChemist*

    Great update!

    For anyone looking for other stories about differing treatment after transitioning, I would encourage you to look up Ben Barres, who was a trans neurobiologist/professor at Stanford. He spoke frequently about the difference in treatment he experienced after transitioning, including a colleague who noted that “his work is much better than his sister’s”, not realizing it was the same person (and obviously the same work)

  16. Abogado Avocado.*

    OP, thanks for this update. I’m glad you’re doing well. Additionally, it’s fascinating to hear your experiences in men being treated differently as women. It’s clear you’ve got a lot of wisdom.

  17. Sociology Rocks!*

    As a fellow trans man, and also just being in my first job, having only started transitioning at the end of college, people just assuming my suggestions or ideas are valid is indeed quite pleasantly baffling. Everything you’ve been taught gets flipped on its head when people just by default assume you have worth, in a way that’s so hard to fully express to others that haven’t experienced it.

    To everyone who finds the way this intersects with sexism especially interesting, I haven’t finished reading it yet, but: Just One of the Guys, by the sociologist Kristen Schilt basically is a whole book exploring what can be learned from this unique perspective and experiences trans men have. It’s from the early 2010’s so a bit outdated possibly, but it is focused on experiences in the working world!


    Also something about the LW being in charge of of the book club logistics is wonderfully on the nose, because many of us trans men are used to taking on that kind of women’s work previously, and I’ve often found that doing the same as a man feels good because it’s choosing to be competent and an exception to the rule of what’s expected of us.

    1. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

      Seconding all the thanks for men (cis and trans) who step into “office housework” roles such as this (other examples include circulating a get-well-soon card, replacing copier paper when the tray is empty, etc etc). Freeing up mental load space for your non-male colleagues is a basic yet vital part of professional teamwork.

      Thanks for this update, OP, the whole this was both helpful and interesting!

      1. Tired of this*

        Our dishwasher was filled to the brim and stinking earlier this week because we ran out of dishwasher tablets. I wash my dishes by hand because I was unofficially assigned ‘kitchen girl’ duties at my last job, and I didn’t want all the chores to ‘accidentally’ fall on me again here. Yesterday it got so bad that one of the men poured a heap of dishwashing liquid over all the dishes and ran the machine (no idea how they didn’t end up with a flood of bubbles). We still have no tablets. I think they’re under the impression that it’s because I’ve been busy lately? Who knows. Good luck waiting for the dish fairy to come by boys, because I’m not doing it. You all know what a dishwasher tablet is, or you would have run the machine without one; so you’re all capable of walking down to the main office and requesting some more.

        1. Fishsticks*

          Honestly, most men are so used to there being a woman somewhere nearby who will handle the mental load of remembering All The Dates, Times, and Requirements For Life that it’s not so much that they assume YOU will do it specifically. Just that it never occurs to them that Someone Else (ie, Some Woman) isn’t going to step in and handle the thing they’ve never had to think about.

          My own husband is an ardent feminist and we share our household work equally, but all the Remembering the Dates, Times, and Appointments For Living all falls on me by default. It never occurred to him to take over any of that. It’s not that he expected ME to, just that he literally never gave it any thought at all, because someone would just Do It. That someone ended up being me, because Mom = Default Parent.

          When I pointed that out to him, his mind was completely blown. He hadn’t done it on purpose. It was pure thoughtless socialized instinct.

          1. Ticotac*

            The thoughtless socialized instinct… I have a friend whose partner is transitioning from male to femme-presenting-nonbinary, and they’re still operating on “the woman in my life will manage my emotions.” I find it so heartbreaking for my friend, because her mental health is also going to shit but she’s finding herself dealing with her own issues and her partner’s too, making it all worse.

      2. ceiswyn*

        Yeah, our work Christmas party was a late, scrambled mess because sometime in November, myself and the other woman in the team had a short conversation and… just didn’t volunteer to arrange it.

        The managers were very surprised to discover that they couldn’t get a booking at their preferred choices when they tried to book in mid-December.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          This year, one of my male colleagues volunteers to organise the staff Christmas party and it occurred to me that even though our staff is split almost exactly 50/50, that was the first time a man has played any part in it. Two other, female, colleagues volunteered to help him this year and about four other women have organised various parties.

          If it hadn’t been for AAM, I might not even have noticed the discrepancy, but after reading all the stories here about how common it is for women to be the ones to do such things, I did.

        2. Fishsticks*

          My husband decided to plan a birthday party for our girls at the park. It never occurred to him to reserve any of the park shelters. So we ended up having to run back and forth until we found one where they let us take over half of it. I was kind of mortified, but also… it was just so fucking nice not to have to plan the fucking birthday party for once.

          Even so, I ended up being the one who had to go buy the decorations, order the cake, order the snack tray, and buy and wrap all the presents. But hey, I didn’t have to make invitations or anything. So that was cool.

    2. BubbleTea*

      I’ve often reflected on the fact that the reason I don’t have many examples of direct sexism in my career is likely because I’ve always worked in female-dominated fields (which of course means plenty of indirect sexism, like being paid less). I recently became one of three directors of a company; two female and one male. I was pretty pissed off when the Institute of Directors, which appears to be some kind of organisation for company directors that gets details off the incorporation documents and writes to people asking them to join, invited my male colleague, and only my male colleague, to apply. As it happens, I’m the main executive director, and he was only added to the board last minute.

  18. Je ne sais what*

    Love this update. It’s also made me think about how differently I’m treated professionally since I went from unequivocally “fat” to very much an average sized person (I lost just shy of 100 pounds due to a health issue). The way people treat your ideas as more valid and respectable when they come from a thinner body, the way people in the world are generally nicer and more understanding now, and the way things like public transit and air/train travel are more accessible and comfortable for me now… all very reminiscent of this and other trans friends’ accounts of beginning to pass as male.

    It’s definitely not the same, and I don’t mean to imply that! Just commenting on how often our culture chooses what’s “normal” and punishes everything else.

    1. jane's nemesis*

      I experienced the same thing when I lost a ton of weight. People were nicer to me, smiled more, treated me as though I were suddenly more outgoing and friendly (I was not). Surprise surprise, when I gained the weight back (plus more!), people started acting like I’m invisible again (at best), or that I’m a nuisance, annoying, not worth their time… The smile doesn’t quite reach their eyes like it did when I was in a smaller body.

    2. Angstrom*

      In so many fields — design, architecture, medicine, etc. — the standard human being is a 170-pound male. Anything else is an exception.

      1. Chirpy*

        And when women are taken into consideration for design, it’s largely assumed they’re all very tiny, like 120 lbs and flat chested, yet still tall….which is not the average in America.

      2. Me...Just Me*

        Medicine is bad for this – as a female, I definitely get treated worse by colleagues and by patients than my peers. As a late 40’s chubby female, it’s even worse than when I was younger … because I don’t have the attractive factor going for me as much. It’d get me down if I weren’t such a strong personality. But I do get tired of getting talked down to, despite being (relatively speaking) top of the food chain.

        1. Fishsticks*

          Honestly, one incredible benefit for me of entering my late thirties (staring down the barrel at forty, woo) was becoming slowly invisible to most men. No more catcalls, no more awful creepy flirting that refuses to take no for an answer… just being completely disregarded as just another part of the environment. It’s so, so nice.

          1. Distracted Librarian*

            YES. I got catcalled for (what I assume was) the last time at age 40. I love being able to interact with men without worrying they’ll misinterpret my friendliness or try to corner me or do some other creepy thing. Not being a target of random men’s sexual behavior is so dang liberating.

    3. mb*

      There’s an interesting article (I think it’s Newsweek but can’t remember). It talks about how in developed countries – the majority of successful women are thin – but successful men can be either fat or thin. And that women investing in being thin will bring a much larger ROI, than investing in education. The opposite is true in poorer countries – successful women are “fat”. There’s a lot more to the story than that but that’s the essential gist of it.

      1. TechWorker*

        Is that ‘once your mid career looks/weight matters more than education’ or ‘investing in being thin has more ROI than investing in education’ like.. since childhood? (That would be both horrifically depressing and kinda astonishing)

        1. Coverage Associate*

          There’s a recent book out that looks into the economics of women’s beauty standards in South Korea. The decision to get plastic surgery there can be similar to the decision to get an additional degree or certification in the United States.

          I am familiar with how the economics of a degree don’t carry a ton of certainty, having been to law school and graduated in a recession. I understand that it’s similar with plastic surgery in Korea. There’s a big statistical boost in earnings, but nothing guaranteed.

          And there’s family help and financing plans, just like there is for education in the US.

      2. bamcheeks*

        I think it’s the Economist– it’s called something like It’s A Rational Economic Decision For Women To Be Thin, And That’s A Tragedy? Facebook is determined to get me to read it but I haven’t yet.

  19. What a Drag*

    As a woman who has been punished so much (socially, politically, etc.) at work for decades being forthright, knowledgeable, authoritative, opinionated, expressive, educated beyond my position, gregarious, MYSELF, etc., I have to admit that there is a part of me that is greatly tempted to start my life over somewhere in full male drag. Then maybe I’ll be considered a charming, adroit leader worth $300K instead of an uppity bitch worth $85k.


        1. StellaBella*

          I am sure and while I commented Same just below this letter has just again reaffirmed for me that mediocre men are better off that women who are great at their jobs but considered a threat.

          1. Simon (he/him)*

            Sure, I’m not arguing that men have it easy in a lot of ways, but making jokes about living in “male drag” for the benefits are a bit insensitive to people who are genuinely gender non-conforming, as it’s not easy to live that way 24/7. Going outside your assigned gender makes life more difficult in a thousand little ways that are hard to predict, not to mention big concerns like possibly getting assaulted for trying to use a public bathroom (or just existing).

            Like I said, I understand the impulse, but joking about life in “male drag” being easier is missing the point of the trans people in this thread who are trying to share their stories.

            1. justcommentary*

              Additionally, while the observations of misogyny and sexism from a trans man’s POV are real, there is a lot of real transphobia in the workplace that can and often still happens, even to trans men. After all, this is all very dependent on “passing” (which is is very loaded and not always consistent or reliable) plus your workplace either being actually trans-accepting or a trans person deciding to be stealth.

              Also there’s a lot of transphobic rhetoric that posits that “teen girls” have so much internalized misogyny (and/or that “lesbians” have so much internalized homophobia) and that’s the only reason they’re deciding to transition to be boys/men. So jokes like this comes off as kind of oblivious to not just what being trans is like, but also contemporary transphobia.

              1. Simon (he/him)*

                Exactly, you put it better than me! All of this. I totally understand joking about life as a man being easier, but this is really not the space to imply “male drag” would make your life easier.

                1. StellaBella*

                  good points from both commentors thank you. I appreciate your feedback and apologise for any offence I made.

                2. justcommentary*


                  Thank you, much appreciated. (It’s also hard to talk about this stuff when the other big transphobic stereotype is trans people being abrasively uptight and unable to take a joke.)

                3. Simon (he/him)*

                  No worries, I appreciate you listening!! That’s definitely the kind of dark joke I might make with other trans friends so it’s just a matter of audience & timing for me, lol.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Seriously. I’ve read a series of articles about CEOs and executives who transitioned from male to female and how they were treated and it is bleak. And these are people who are in charge!

  20. Somehow_I_Manage*

    The follow up observations on gender are fascinating, thought provoking, upsetting, validating, and ultimately useful. I would read your blog. Thank you for sharing.

  21. the Viking Diva*

    thanks for sharing this, OP.
    Brings to mind Jennifer Finney Boylan’s memoir ‘She’s Not There’, which recounts some fascinating experiences of how sexism manifested as soon as she started presenting as a woman.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I was thinking about that too. How that creepy guy stalked her after a performance she gave and how she wasn’t used to behaving in the guarded fashion that many women do because of creepers like that. Sigh.

  22. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    This is a brilliant and insightful update! I’m sorry the comment section went a bit OTT.

  23. Eliot Waugh*

    Great update!

    I do hope some here take the bit about the assumptions made to heart, and remember this is why commenters are asked not to make up things that aren’t in the letter.

  24. Option*

    Happy for letter writer about the pride month event! As someone who wants to be an ally without being a burden, I appreciate that in such event settings clearly the person is agreeing to be there, saying in their own words what they want to, and there’s no marginal effort to reach me personally.

    Regarding the second part, I am probably on the receiving end of some of this sexism, but one thing I keep in mind is that even as a women, I might be being sexist towards other women too. So I cannot control how other people treat me, but I can control it I am being sexist to other women and try to put my energies in that direction, to checking and improving my own behavior.

    1. Helewise*

      I really appreciate your last point. This is depressing stuff to me; thinking about what I CAN actually do and control is a relief.

  25. Midwest Problems*

    Another trans man coming in to say the same thing. I was a trainee at my current job years ago (I was still on probation!) and I lost my temper in a meeting and snapped at someone. I was sure I was in big trouble, and then I looked around the table and all the men were nodding in approval. Blew my mind.

  26. La Triviata*

    I remember reading an essay by someone who transitioned from male to female and realized that she couldn’t get hired at the same level she’d been working at for years. The job titles were lower, the pay was significantly lower and the professional autonomy was pretty much nonexistent. There’s also been an article floating around for a while where a man had a woman colleague – same level of experience – but she was being dinged for taking too long to deal with problems clients emailed to the company. At some point, their signatures got changed so he was getting responses as if he were a woman and discovered that he had to spend a significant amount of time getting people to accept that he – with a woman’s name – actually knew what he was talking about. She, on the other hand, used his name and found that she wasn’t spending time getting people to accept her expertise.

  27. All Het Up About It*

    Thanks for the update OP and the additional sexism share!

    It reminds me, years ago there was a twitter thread that made the rounds, maybe on here too, where a man who shared a title and email with a female colleague was having unexpected difficulty with a client. He realized that he was accidentally using his female colleague’s email signature. When he said something like “By the way, this is David not Kate” the client’s entire demeanor changed and they stopped fighting his recommendations. So as an experiment, they used each other’s email signatures for a week or two. As you can imagine it was hell for David and Kate was suddenly doing all her work much faster and easier!

    While it didn’t come as a shock, I remember it highlighted something I hadn’t thought of before, where supervisors might see Kate as underperforming, just because the clients are being difficult with her, when she might be just as talented or more so than David. But it takes her twice as long to get her clients to sign off on things! So women might not get passed over for raises and promotions just because they don’t ask for them, but because their job is actually made harder by being a woman, so it looks like they aren’t as good employees as their male counterparts. Ahhhhh!!!

    1. Chirpy*

      As someone with a name whose gender is not obvious, I’ve seen people’s demeanor change when they finally talk to me instead of just seeing it in print and they find out I’m not a man like they assumed.

  28. Hamster Manager*

    I’m an insane over-performer who proactively points out issues and potential solutions, and I just got denied a raise and lectured about my ‘complaining’. Guess my gender!

  29. Laura Cruz*

    Not trans here, but this letter syncs up with what other transmen I know or have read the accounts of have said happened to them once they hit the phase in their transition where they were passing. Also stuff like suddenly getting let in on the sexist gossip that male coworkers do to other women and realizing that *you* used to get talked about like that too.

    1. Wendy Darling*

      I, a cis woman, have a friend who’s going through it the other way and recently had her first “the problem is not that someone wronged you, the problem is you being upset about it” experience. I was like, oh god, welcome and I’m sorry.

  30. Anonymous 123*

    I am a part-time cis female teacher at a public high school who works with a cis male teacher in a joint class. He is the class lead (this is totally fine, it’s not the job I wanted) but we discuss class rules and policies together and enforce them equally. If it helps to know, we are a year apart in age, and I have a higher degree than him. He’s a great partner teacher, I really enjoy working with him.

    Guess which one of us receives constant parent complaints for being “unfair” to students? Every year. EVERY YEAR! Even though I’m not the one creating the class policies, I am accused of being unfair! I’ve been called into the principals office, the counselors office, had meetings with families with the lead teacher. The school is great, the admin is great, they understand the female teachers are picked on and questioned by parents more than their male teachers. (I’ll add-90% of complaints are by mothers who feel their sons are being treated unfairly by being required to follow the same rules as all the other students and I am their target).

    So I recommend all people, do a deep dive to check their bias against women in authority-because we have a wider problem of teaching our kids to resist female authority.

  31. Tired of this*

    I (female-presenting) have been trying to explain the fundamental physics underlying an entire project to two (male) senior colleagues and my (male) boss for months. After a fortnight of particularly frustrating dismissals, I snapped. I created a presentation laying everything out in words of one syllable with photographic evidence. I dressed up in brown shoes, chinos, a collared shirt and a thin cashmere sweater to look like my boss, slicking my hair back into a tight low bun. That morning, I called them all into the meeting room and spelt everything out for them, again. Firmly. I didn’t raise my voice, but they could tell from my expression I was *pissed*. The subtext was clear. ‘If I need to pretend to be one of you men to get you to listen to me, then so be it.’ Luckily for me, I was absolutely, undeniably, unquestionably right and it changed the direction of the project entirely. The three of them were more than a little abashed, and treated me with new respect after that. For about a month. It’s all worn off again now. I don’t know why I bother.

    1. Not Bob*

      “I don’t know why I bother.”
      I know the feeling far too well. On my first job I also was not taken seriously, and the only thing that seemed to matter was my body, so I stopped trying, assuming that my work is not that important.

      And then the deadline came nearer and nearer, and I was suddenly told, how important it is that I finish my part of the project. It was nice to see the project manager getting more and more nervous. Later I learned, that he got in big trouble (because he was in general useless, not only because I did a bit less than the bare minimum).

      The funny thing is, I had warned him previously that things weren’t going good, but he never took me seriously.

  32. Michelle Smith*

    I’m not sure if any of the off-putting comments came from me, but if they did I apologize. I am a trans person (nonbinary) and I personally would have been panicked in that situation, not due to shame so much as social anxiety. Sometimes I forget interactions with others aren’t as fraught for everyone!

    I’m glad you were able to safely and comfortably come out at work. Wishing you all the best moving forward.

  33. Elizabeth West*

    I do try to use my powers for good by signal-boosting my more timid and/or non-male colleagues’ voices. If they’re spoken over or ignored, I’ll say “Hey everyone, did you catch what Colleague said? Pretty good point, Colleague” and turn to them, offering them the opening in the discussion that I just made.

    Thank you. Setting the example for all the other men!
    I’m glad your coworkers have been so welcoming, OP.

  34. KellyWithAWhy*

    My husband and I work together at a medium-sized non-profit organization in a heavily male dominated industry where I am almost always the only woman in the room and I am the only woman I know of who is in a Director role (we are both Directors). I’m arguably at a slightly higher level than he is, though in practice our work is very siloed by design. For one particular aspect of our work, I often answer his emails as him – it’s not a sexist “administrative tasks are women’s work” type of thing, it started out as being a political expediency thing and the vast majority of the questions are related to my side of the work anyway. I do not make any attempt to change my style or tone whether it’s my name or his on the email, and I can say with 100% certainty that the responses are completely different when people think they are talking to him as opposed to me. When people think they are talking to him, they defer or – at worst – respectfully disagree. Emails to him generally start with some version of, “Thanks so much for your hard work, blah, blah, blah.” In contrast, I am often accused of incompetence or inappropriate aggressiveness, and have even been called a b$&*h once or twice. This is why I have continued to masquerade as my husband under some circumstances – it gives me a small break from the hostility of clients and the disrespect of peers. (I will say that I have the respect of all my close colleagues, but people who don’t know me well definitely do not treat me as an equal.). On the bright side, this has allowed me to finally convince my boss that sexism is real, which has caused him to actively expand and support the infinitesimal number of women in our industry.

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