Coming out at work
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.