In recognition of International Transgender Day of Visibility, Indeedian Astra Jones (They, Them), a Software Engineer based in Austin, Texas, shares their story of transitioning in the workplace and the incredible power that comes with feeling seen.
Astra is a music composer and artist in their spare time, and likes cute video games. They live in Austin with Amy, their partner of 18 years, who’s stayed with and loved them through all of this.
I’m pretty shy, so being visible is a big step. Before I told anyone, I felt like I was carrying around a heavy secret for a year and a half (the time since I realized I was trans), and every day was becoming a bit more difficult. And, whether I was working or not, transition was happening.
Transitioning, which can mean changes in name, pronouns, appearance, or other things, are just not optional at this point in my life. As for me personally, I’m a non-binary trans person. Use they/them pronouns for me, because I don’t feel “he” or “she” describes me.
The gender I was assigned at birth was just far too uncomfortable.
Indeed’s non-discrimination statement meant a lot to me, and ensured that my gender status would be protected and respected. Still though, there are no state or federal protections for trans people where I am, and I had to know that there was a risk that I could lose my job, or be pressured to leave, or someone could make my work existence unpleasant.
I had no idea what support would be like.
Not knowing at all what to do, I reached out to the HR team and they shared Indeed’s Gender Identity and Transition Guidelines with me. The fact that so much of what I would need to do was spelled out was HUGE, and the Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging team were open to adding to the guidelines if there was anything I felt was missing. That was amazingly comforting, because I’m used to guidelines that center binary trans folks.
What’s in a name?
Choosing my own name was a hard process. Beyond the struggle of choosing one (or several – my local coffee shop has been with me throughout this process), legally changing your name in Texas is a complicated ordeal that includes substantial fees, lots of time spent gathering the required documents, and visits to the courthouse.
At Indeed, the process started when – after a particularly rough day where I just couldn’t bear to hear my given name anymore – I changed my preferred name in our internal company database.
The next day, Laura Brady on the Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging team, reached out to me to talk about what next steps could happen.
Even though I hadn’t completed the legal name change process, Indeed was ready to update my display name immediately, and even change my username to reflect it.
A couple of days after I updated my name on the database, I arrived at work to find that I was “Astra” everywhere I could see. It was amazing.
Seeing my name out in the world being used by people around me made it real for me.
The biggest thing that has meant the most to me at Indeed during my transition has been being able to be who I am, without question, without criticism.
I thought I’d stay hidden forever, and that my identity would have to take a back seat to having a job and being “acceptable” to the world. But the euphoria that comes from being free from binary gender, its roles and assumptions, can’t be separate from the rest of my life.
Indeed has been amazingly accepting, and whether I explained a little about myself (just my name and pronouns, for instance) or a lot (the Full Powerpoint Presentation on Gender and Everything – OK I know we don’t use powerpoint), I’ve been met with acceptance and care.
A more inclusive workplace
A few simple ways people can demonstrate inclusive behavior in the workplace include always using the name and pronouns that someone prefers!
It can be the difference between feeling welcomed and feeling alienated. Sometimes we may take a while to figure it all out – so keep in mind that names and pronouns can change. Just be open to it.
Indeed’s Gender Identity and Transition Guidelines are a good read for allies just to get an idea of all the things we can go through. It’s A LOT, and that only covers our working life!
And, if you feel comfortable doing so, leave your pronouns in your email signature, your user information, honestly – wherever you can. Not only does it normalize communicating this, but I feel like I can trust someone when they display their pronouns.
I think it’s important that people know that non-binary people exist, that gender isn’t binary, and that I’m not just an abstract idea.
We don’t have a single look (and it isn’t something you can tell by looking at someone anyway). In fact, no gender has any set way to be, and I think the world would be better if every one, cis or trans or otherwise, were empowered to express themselves freely.
Simply put: The best thing to do is believe people when they tell you who they are.
Inclusion and Belonging are among our core values at Indeed. In order to foster a truly inclusive workplace, it is necessary that we recognize and affirm our transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming coworkers, as well as deepen our commitment to inclusive behaviors and systems of support.
To learn more about Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging at Indeed, read their blog.