Transitioning in the Workplace

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 21 Sep 2018

Member Reviews

The first thing to be clear about is this book is written by an american and therefore many of the included resources and discussions of healthcare providers may not be relevant for anyone outside of the USA, although there are occasional nods to the UK. That aside I really enjoyed reading this book, it is easy to engage with and understand and provides an interesting insights into the experience of transitioning. The focus of the book is mostly on how to transition at work but there are also useful chapters on preparing to transition and when it all comes together which provide an overview of transitioning. 
The book's format is like a 'how to' guide and I really liked the way that this book outlines questions to think about for all areas of the process, from preparing to transition including whether you wish to have surgery or not, to telling employers/colleagues and how to manage difficult people. The format works well and would be helpful for anyone that wishes to think more about their own transition or for friends and partners to help them understand better.
Thanks to NetGalley.co.uk for a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.
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As someone who came out as nonbinary at my own job in December – and who is still navigating what is, at the moment, a strictly social transition in the workplace – I read this book with great interest.

However, I ultimately felt that the subtitle of “A Guidebook” was misleading. I was expecting more of a walk-through approach, with clear steps outlined for the best way to handle a transition at work, what to expect at each step, and how to deal with potential issues, perhaps illustrated with examples from the author’s own transition.

Instead, I felt this book was almost more of a memoir than a guide. There is a lot of information about Pizzuti’s transition outside of the workplace, such as discussing the divorce that was the impetus for an examination of her suppressed feelings of femininity, coming out to her children, and even a lengthy section about attending her college’s 40th reunion.

The best indication that this is not only about navigating a workplace transition is perhaps that the section on “Bringing Your Transition to Work” does not start until 42% of the way through the e-book. Up to that point, it was about “the necessary groundwork for a successful transition”, namely “knowing who is on your support team, understanding your medical choices, and knowing your legal protections” in order to help “you decide if you are ready for a transition”. While all of that is certainly important, I thought there was too much focus on coming out to spouses and children in a book that was nominally about coming out at work.

Pizzuti’s medical background – she is an MD and was working at a major pharmaceutical corporation at the time of her transition – led to a great focus on medical transitioning. While aspects of that experience, such as planning leave from work for procedures and navigating insurance coverage for trans-related healthcare, are widely relevant, I was hoping for more of a general walk-through with brief examples from Pizzuti’s transition; instead, it seemed to gloss over the generalities to focus more on Pizzuti’s specific experiences, experiences that she acknowledged as atypical.

Pizzuti focuses on the experiences of trans women, as that is what she is most familiar with, but that lead to some questionable statements such as “I have found that transgender males sometimes have an easier time, because many have adopted a more neutral or androgynous gender expression well before they announce their intention to transition”, which seems something of a non-sequitur. For one thing, adopting a neutral gender expression does not in any way prevent harassment or discrimination, as I can attest to from personal experience! Furthermore, even if someone is accepted as androgynous, they can lose that acceptance if they later come out as a trans man.

There were some word choices and turns of phrase that raised questions for me as well, such as the use of the terms “biological woman” or “genetic woman” instead of the more widely accepted “cis woman”; the repeated use of the word “persona” to discuss post-transition identities also rubbed me the wrong way, since it carries the connotation of a role or act rather than an authentic identity.

My final complaint is that this book focuses nearly exclusively on transitioning in the corporate world. I would have liked more guidance on transitioning in customer-service fields (since Pizutti acknowledges that “variation in acceptance of trans employees … may be tied more to the type of work you do, and less to where you do it”) as well as in small companies, particularly those without HR departments.

To sum it all up: I felt this book was caught between being the guidebook the subtitle promised and being a personal memoir of one person’s experiences in transition. Read from the latter perspective, it has quite a few strengths; read from the former perspective, I found it interesting but incomplete.
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4* An informative, educational and at times saddening read - there is so much with the US healthcare system that could be improved. 

I read this after a MfT friend detransitioned as her body wasn't responding to her hormone treatment in the same way any more, and she was starting to take on a more masculine appearance again. At the time, I was entirely a layperson, though I did all I could to support her before, during and after her detransition, and I have to say that he is now happy and healthy (and says that gender is irrelevant). 

This book covers much of what my friend went through, as like Dana, she (he) was the first person to transition in our organisation and she (he) ended up writing our Transgender policies with HR. However, it does seem that our organisation and its staff were more open minded than Dana's, but not much of what Dana offered in terms of advice came as a surprise to me, though the information may well be invaluable to more than one American about to commence their transition. 

A lot of it is common sense, and yes, at times I did think that Dana was rushing into her physical transition because of her medical background and because she had the funds to support her treatments, so this part of the tale needs to be taken with caution and a lot of research needs to be done by the individual. 

I think, too, that she's not covered enough of the medical side of things: having seen episodes of T-roid rage from a friend who's transitioned, I know that there's more to deal with than just the physical, and yes, she mentioned seeing a counsellor and people to help her on an on-going basis, a lot of this felt glossed over to me. I think people reading this book need to bear in mind Dana's age and medical experience at transitioning, and her background and contacts. She skipped waiting lists for surgery as she was able to call in favours from fellow professionals. Being married to a psych nurse, I truly think that there should have been more of an emphasis on pre-and-post counselling, on 'passing', etc. These were mentioned, but because of facial surgery Dana was able to pass a lot sooner than a lot of MtF trans persons, and passing is a huge issue, whatever way you transition. 

This is a good book if you're more interested in the HR side of things, protecting yourself in the workplace, taking a stand and forging a new life for yourself, but it has to be seen and ack'd that Dana had unfair advantages. Still, it's an engrossing and worthwhile read. 

#45 has seen fit to criticise the UK's NHS, but reading this book makes me want to give praise that we have this free system that flawed or not, doesn't discriminate depending on which part of the country you live in. Yes, there are waiting lists, but this country is being educated at primary school level in all issues LGBTQIA and yes, there are the ignorant, prejudiced and downright nasty and 'gender-ist' amongst us, but people will be listened to, their mental health will be a huge consideration, and they will be seen and helped, and in most cases, once they've lived as their perceived gender, they'll get NHS-funded treatment, slow as that may be. To read about how medical care differs from state to state, how company rules and regs can differ so much, how rights are more in some states and barely exist in others, was shocking and horrifying and once again, made me glad to be British. 

ARC courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley, for my reading pleasure.
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