The mask is off.
I was not prepared for the many positive reactions I got.
It took me 15 years to come to terms with myself, to accept that I am a woman. When I was 29, I told myself that I had do something with this. I set myself a deadline: turning 30.
Even after I contacted the gender clinic in Amsterdam and had my first intake appointment, I still had doubts. But one night, after I had ordered some dresses online and stood in front of the mirror wearing one, something just clicked: I knew that this is correct, this is how it was meant to be, and that I needed to go ahead with it.
After I informed the hospital of my decision, things moved rapidly. I took my first physical steps to womanhood in the fall of 2017. But the hospital had only one demand: that I inform my social surroundings, my work and family, within three months after starting the hormone treatment.
My parents reacted as if a missing piece of a puzzle had been put in place: they were surprised, but in hindsight they said it made sense.
When I informed my then direct manager and afterwards the entire management in my department, I had their full support too. A month later, I announced it to my colleagues at the end of a team meeting. I asked them to keep it to themselves for the time being. That Friday, I sent an email to everyone I knew outside my team. I was not prepared for the many positive reactions I got, even from people I didn’t know. That really lifted my spirits.
The following Monday was the first day I went to work in a more feminine outfit. It felt like everyone was looking at me. I needed a lot of willpower not to cry. That took a lot of energy out of me. The second day was already much better.
Slowly but surely my new name started popping up in various places. Or course, my colleagues started to address me by my new name. But it took a bit more time to get it changed in ING’s HR, printer and email systems.
The new me
At work, I rarely experience awkward situations anymore because everyone has gotten used to the new me. On occasion, I will hear people referring to me as ‘he’. If they do it repeatedly, I will correct them.
Of course, my voice is a constant reminder of the old me, especially nowadays with everyone working from home. The hormone treatment, which is for life, can’t change my voice, so transgender women have no other choice but to work with the voice they have. I take speech therapy to make my voice sound more feminine, but the techniques you learn are really hard to put into practice.
‘You’re a brave person’. I hear that a lot. But I don’t see it that way, and I think most transgender people would tell you the same.
Being transgender is not a choice. You’re not happy in the situation you’re in, but you’re faced with it every day. At some point you’ve had enough and you have to act. Doing nothing and continuing as is are no longer an option.
Free and safe
Another error many people make is to confuse transgender with sexuality. Transgender is about identity; it’s about who you are. Being straight or gay is about who you want to be with. Transgender is about how you feel about yourself, how you want to express yourself.
Before I came out in 2017, I had perfected hiding this part of me altogether. By removing the mask, I can move more freely and be who I am. Now I can bring my whole self to work.
Your whole self is welcome here
This article is part of a series in which ING colleagues tell their personal stories. At ING we celebrate inclusion and value a diverse workforce, as we know people are most motivated when they are free to be their whole selves.