You just got a new job. Great work Jane. There’s just one problem. Your legal name is still Jim. What happens when they ask you for your social security number? Then they’ll know the truth: that you’re a transitioning transsexual. And that opens up a whole new can of worms.

What to do? Unfortunately, our social security number is a de facto universal ID number. Everybody asks for it and once you give it to them they can find out pretty much everything there is to know about you.

I’ve had many a background check done on me over the course of my career. And with little more than an address, birth date and social security number they can find: education, employment history, credit history, even the speeding ticket I once got on the Pennsylvania Turnpike complete with date, time of day, how fast I was going, the mile marker where it happened, the fact that I didn’t contest it and the date I paid the fine.

It’s one of the realities of being us. No matter who we’ve always known we are the rest of the world has always known us as somebody else. All the rest of the world cares about is who we are legally. If you present yourself as anything other as your legal self in a job, applying for a bank account, credit card or loan, they’re going to find you out. (And you probably broke a couple of laws along the way.)

Yeah, it’s a bummer. Being a transsexual can be difficult, challenging and unfair beyond words. Some times it can feel like the whole world is out to get us.

Don’t feel that way.

You can get through it. You can win.

Accept that, before you legally change your name (and gender) you are to the world the person you were born. (In my case, that was a biological male named Craig.)

Deal with it. (I know that’s saying a lot, but you can do it!)

Actually, I never had to deal with this particular part of being us. My transition on the job took a very different track. (And that major league debacle is worth a post all its own. Stay tuned for more on that.) But I can tell you how a friend of mine successfully handled it.

About two years ago my good friend, a female to male, landed a new job as an accounting supervisor for a firm that manages the parking garages at a string of upscale hotels. He applied and interviewed for the job as his true self (we’ll call him Ben). He hadn’t yet changed his name. Legally, he was still Jane.

On the first day of work he went to the Human Resources Director and asked for a private meeting. In the meeting he took a deep breath and told him the truth.

I know it’s taking a big chance. I know, our first instinct and greatest fear is that we will be treated badly (horribly, unfairly) and it will hurt beyond words. And do not do this without a lot of thought and research on the company. In this case, however, it worked.

The Human Resources Director handled the situation very well and responsibly. He arranged for Ben to have a photo ID in the name of Ben Jacobs. He restricted access to Ben’s personnel file. And (this is the one that really impressed me) he arranged for Ben’s paycheck to be hand delivered to him in a windowless envelope. (Of course, his paycheck was in his legal name of Jane.)

Eventually, Ben told his co-workers that he was transgendered and, with a little work on their part, they accepted him as his true self.

I have to admit, after my own abysmal experience coming out on the job, I was, and am, really impressed by Ben’s experience. I think sometimes we get so beaten down that we come to always expect the worst from our fellow human beings. It can actually shock us when someone treats us fairly and compassionately.

An experience such as this more than makes up for all the rest.

My point is this: you can’t lie about legal identity. It will get you into enormous amounts of trouble financially (and possibly legally).

That said I also understand how careful we have to be, especially in the realm of work. (The work dimension is, I think, one of the most difficult parts of the transition.)

Ben had one experience. I had another. I would very much like to hear from all of you about your experiences transitioning in the work place. I think this would be very educational and helpful for all of us.

Let’s share our experience with one another. What worked? What didn’t?

Photo credit: stock.xchng.