I generally don’t blog about personal experiences, and I don’t intend to make a habit of it, but I think my store and the company I work for deserve recognition for what I’m about to relate.
My name is Katherine, and I am a Target team member. I am not being paid by my employer to make this statement, and in fact to my knowledge my employer is not at all aware that I am making this statement. When I began my employment relationship with Target, my name was not Katherine. It was Kevin.
I found acceptance as “Kevin,” a (mostly) gay male (actually, I was actively questioning my gender identity at the time), when I began working at Target. My coworkers were enthusiastic and excited to meet my boyfriend, just like they would’ve been to meet my girlfriend if I had had one instead. I was not treated any differently than any other team member, and I felt valued. At my old store in Illinois, I was considered a very important team member and saw my role expand considerably throughout my approximately year-long period of employment.
Shortly after I moved to Massachusetts, I had a series of personal revelations that I’m not going to relate here, the upshot of which was that I was neither a gay male nor “Kevin.” At first, I saw little reason to be out at work. After all, it’s not like I was going to be able to get sex-reassignment surgery tomorrow. So quite a while passed during which I inwardly squirmed every time I was misgendered by team members or guests. But it’s not like I could insist on being called a girl with a nametag on my chest that said “Kevin,” right?
My job satisfaction sunk to an all-time low. Unsurprising, because when I was with friends I could insist on being called (and considered) a girl. At work? Not so much. But then, there was a slim possibility that I’d be able to go on hormones, at which point it would obviously be very difficult for me to not be out at work. So I talked to my Human Resources Executive Team Lead.
Now… I expected the conversation to go well, because of Target’s incredibly supportive policies about diversity, and the fact that it was Human Resources (the department most likely to be familiar with those policies.) What I didn’t expect was to be told that I could change my nametag whenever I wanted, regardless of the progress (or lack thereof) with hormones. I could also insist on being called “she” and being open about being trans whenever I felt comfortable doing so. She did suggest talking to my team leads and the team members I worked with most closely first, but it was entirely up to me.
She also pledged the support of the entire executive team, and entreated me to let her (or them) know if I had any problems with team members or guests. When I told her I generally preferred to talk to people individually about that kind of thing if I could avoid involving HR or team leads, she said she thought that was the best approach and people would respect it.
Boy was she ever right!
Because of the smashing success that conversation was, I suddenly realized that coming out at work was a very realistic possibility. I had previously thought work would be the hardest/most awkward part about transitioning, but it was pretty clear to me that that was not the case. Even though getting the hormones didn’t end up working out (for now), I decided to go ahead and transition at work anyway. Frankly, I was chafing at being misgendered all the time, and seeing the realistic chance to change that was something that I immediately became very impatient for.
I first told my two direct team leaders, and both of them were wonderfully supportive and in one case actually actively excited. I promised both to be patient while people got used to it, and to answer any questions they (or others) had.
After a few weeks (mostly so she could order my new nametags and I could tell people), she called me into her office and surprised me with my new nametags. “Kat,” the diminutive form of my new name as I had requested. Although I didn’t put one of them on right away (I wanted to start a day of work as Katherine, to avoid more confusion than necessary), I felt like I was floating the rest of the day, I was so happy.
Last Monday was my first day at work as Katherine. A few people were thrown off at first, but when I explained it everyone was very positive about it. The HR executive actually pulled me aside and said that people had specifically come up to her and said, “I had a great conversation with Kat, I really appreciated how she handled telling me, she handled it very well.” I felt like I was glowing the whole rest of the day.
I’ve had to correct and remind a few people about my name/gender, but I’ve always been very careful to tell them that I’m not mad at them, and that I’m being completely patient and realistic in my expectations about how long this will take. And my patience has been returned by gratitude and genuine commitment on their part.
I mean, honestly, what would I have to gain by acting differently? By being combative and burning bridges instead of building them? This entire process has completely changed how I feel about being at work. I feel comfortable in my own skin, and that’s honestly the most important thing in the world.
Are there other stores I think I might’ve had a similar experience at? Perhaps. Especially a few that specifically have been in the news lately for being very friendly to queer issues. But there are also a lot (a lot) of stores where I imagine I wouldn’t have nearly as good of a time of it as I have at Target. And that’s the kind of environment that exists when a company is radically committed to diversity issues like Target is.
Again, I am not being paid to say what I’m saying, and in fact as far as I know no one at work knows I’m saying what I’m saying, but my personal experience has just been so overwhelming that I felt like I really, really needed to share it.
Thanks for reading.