Com­ing out at work

Working Mother - - Inclusion Index -

For Bai­ley Pope, once the de­ci­sion was made to be her au­then­tic self, hid­ing wasn’t an op­tion.

In 2015, Bai­ley, who is a tal­ent stylist for Unilever’s TIGI Hair­care Di­vi­sion in New Jer­sey, stood up in front of about 120 co-work­ers to an­nounce her de­ci­sion to tran­si­tion from male to fe­male.

Her de­ci­sion to be open had not been easy. Bai­ley, who has a 12-year-old daugh­ter, Lola, had known since child­hood that she re­ally was fe­male. But her con­ser­va­tive fam­ily didn’t ac­cept her when she told them in 2012, and she back­tracked and in­stead said she was hav­ing a ner­vous break­down. By the end of 2014, how­ever, she couldn’t pre­tend any longer, and she con­fronted her fam­ily.

And then came work. She was pleas­antly sur­prised by the re­ac­tion. At a meet­ing with HR be­fore her an­nounce­ment, Unilever worked up a plan about ad­dress­ing co-work­ers and cus­tomers, and what would make her most com­fort­able. “They had a whole sys­tem in place. I deal with hun­dreds of dif­fer­ent peo­ple on my job, and I was ea­ger to get it done.”

The speech she gave fol­lowed a talk by trans ac­tivist Janet Mock. The re­ac­tion then, and sub­se­quently, from co-work­ers was very sup­port­ive. “Val­i­dat­ing who you are in the work­place is big­ger than any­body could re­ally know. When your em­ployer is there for you, it makes you feel safe— and loyal. I have a lot of friends who have tran­si­tioned in pro­fes­sional set­tings and have had many more chal­lenges. I know trans peo­ple who have changed their careers and moved so they could get away from co-work­ers who weren’t ac­cept­ing of them,” she says.

Bai­ley Pope

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