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  • Transcriber: TED Translators Admin Reviewer: Ivana Korom

  • Coming out.

  • Typically we think of this

  • as being an experience specific to the queer community.

  • But we all have things that we're keeping in our closets.

  • It could be something about our home and family life,

  • about our mental or physical health.

  • Maybe you're not allergic to cats, you just don't like them.

  • I feel you on that one.

  • Whatever it is that you're keeping in your closet,

  • it shapes the way you navigate the world.

  • That can include your work life.

  • So how do we go about disclosing these important,

  • but sometimes difficult to talk about aspects of who we are?

  • And when someone comes out to us,

  • what can we best do to listen and support them?

  • [The Way We Work]

  • [Made possible with the support of Dropbox]

  • Hi, my name's Micah.

  • But it hasn't always been.

  • After a year at my current place of work,

  • I started the process of coming out as trans.

  • When I sat down with human resources to talk

  • about how to reintroduce myself to everybody,

  • neither of us had answers.

  • Nobody at my place of work had come out as trans before,

  • but that's what I'm here to offer you.

  • Three tips on how to talk

  • about things that are hard to talk about.

  • And for those of you on the other side of the conversation,

  • I have some advice for you too, on how you can best listen,

  • respond and be an active ally for your colleague.

  • I can't give you the exact words to say,

  • because they should be your own.

  • After all I don't know what you're keeping in your closet.

  • But whatever it might be,

  • I hope these tips will provide you with a framework

  • that's going to help you decide exactly what you want to say

  • and how you want to say it.

  • Know what you want and don't want out of the conversation.

  • To know this, ask yourself questions like,

  • do I need anything

  • from the person that I'm disclosing this to?

  • Where do I want the conversation to go from here,

  • if anywhere at all?

  • And how do I want this person

  • to understand my own relationship with this aspect of who I am?

  • So, in my case, I knew I wanted people to call me

  • by my new name and pronouns.

  • But I also didn't want them to avoid me

  • out of fear of messing them up.

  • This was going to take time.

  • And I wanted this to feel like any other ordinary fact

  • about who I am.

  • So now we know what we want to communicate.

  • Let's talk about how we're going to say it.

  • By setting the tone.

  • You're going to want to present the information

  • in the same way you want people to respond to it.

  • They're going to be looking and listening for cues

  • on what the appropriate response is.

  • Is this something that you want to be celebrated?

  • I'm trans!

  • Or do you want to just address it and move on with your life?

  • Oh, by the way, I'm trans.

  • There's no one right way to say it for everybody.

  • What's most important here is what's right for you.

  • Another note,

  • we're not going to be able to control the way

  • in which everybody responds to this.

  • But what we do have control over

  • is how they understand our own relationship

  • with this part of who we are.

  • So now that we know what we want to say

  • and how we want to say it,

  • where do we want the conversation to go from here?

  • Well, my advice is to give an action item.

  • This will help you keep control of the conversation

  • by giving people direction

  • on what they're supposed to do or say next.

  • I knew I wanted this to feel like any other ordinary fact about who I am.

  • So I decided I was going to use my coming out

  • to solve an ordinary problem.

  • And I sent the following email.

  • "Hello all, I need your help.

  • I am in the market for a moisturizer to help with my dry skin.

  • I'm also in the process of out as trans.

  • I'm changing my name to Micah

  • and my pronouns are he, him, his.

  • If you have any questions about my change in pronouns

  • or my skin care needs,

  • feel free to send an email

  • to my updated contact information.

  • And I'd also like to note that while my skin is dry,

  • it is not too sensitive.

  • We're all going to mess up my name and my pronouns,

  • myself included.

  • So when this happens, don't panic or cringe!

  • Please be kind to yourself

  • as we stumble through these growing pains together.

  • I'm fortunate and grateful to work in a place

  • where I feel embraced in any form,

  • be it as a transgender man or a person with dry skin

  • or in this case, both."

  • Now, I'm going to be honest,

  • I haven't made many changes to my skin-care routine

  • since sending this email.

  • But I will say that I am feeling much more comfortable

  • in my own skin.

  • And that's what thanks to responses like these.

  • [You have all the love and support, Micah!

  • And please know that I highly rec Clinique products.]

  • [You are the best.

  • You are and will always be one of my favorite people (at work).

  • Even if you do have terribly dry skin.]

  • [Thank you for being you,

  • however much or little you want to talk about dry skin, genders, bodies, etc.

  • I will be here for you.]

  • [Thank you for giving us permission to mess up ...]

  • Now you might be wondering,

  • if I'm the listener in this conversation,

  • what can I best do to support my colleague

  • other than maybe referring them to my dermatologist?

  • Well, for starters, listen

  • with an open heart and an empathetic ear.

  • You're especially going to want to listen here

  • for the specific language the person is using

  • to describe themself and their experience

  • because that's the same language

  • you're going to want to use back to them.

  • You might be tempted to ask your coworkers some questions

  • about their identity.

  • Before you ask them a question,

  • ask yourself,

  • can I find the answer to this in a search engine?

  • Chances are the answer is yes.

  • And if the answer is no, ask yourself,

  • is this too personal of a question

  • for me to be asking my colleague.

  • One question that is okay to ask though,

  • is there anything I can do to support you at this time?

  • This is a note for if you're responding in the moment and in person.

  • But if you want to be an active ally,

  • the conversation doesn't end here,

  • it picks up again with your colleagues and human resources

  • on how you can make your workplace more inclusive

  • of this person's identity.

  • Chances are it's not just going to help them

  • but maybe someone else down the line.

  • Now, in my case,

  • it would be adding pronouns to your email signature

  • and asking your coworkers to do the same

  • in order to help normalize it across the org.

  • It could also be talking to HR

  • about having more trans-inclusive health care policies.

  • And my last piece of advice is for both the listener

  • and the leader in the conversation.

  • Remember that they're the same person

  • you've always known them to be.

  • It's the weight of stereotypes and stigmas

  • that often keep our closet doors shut.

  • We're afraid people are now going to see us as this thing

  • instead of seeing this thing as an aspect of who we are,

  • of we've always been.

  • I know that was the case for me too,

  • but it got easier for me to say, my name is Micah

  • because of the way I saw it not only accepted,

  • but enthusiastically embraced by all of my coworkers.

  • So whatever it is you're keeping in your closet,

  • I hope these tips empower you

  • to bring your authentic self into your workplace

  • and hopefully feel more comfortable in your own skin.

Transcriber: TED Translators Admin Reviewer: Ivana Korom

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How to come out at work, about anything | The Way We Work, a TED series

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/11/30
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