I mean, I won't be leaving a cake with a vagina on it in the break room…
January 29, 2016 10:02 AM   Subscribe

Is it crazy to tell my immediate coworkers that the "surgery" I'm taking leave for is indeed SRS? I know I don't have to disclose — but (for snowflake reasons within) I'd honestly really like to. I'd especially love advice from trans people who have dealt with this themselves, or cis coworkers of trans people who have dealt with it well and gracefully.

I'm a gay trans woman working on a fairly close-knit team with seven straight cis women at a large tech company in Boston. The company is liberal, but not especially young or start-up-y — at 34 I am the youngest member of the team.

One of my coworkers has other trans friends and is totally comfortable discussing transition-related stuff with me. The rest seem to be following The Usual HR-Dictated Best Practices for dealing with a transitioning coworker — namely, mind your own business and never bring it up — but also seem both curious and frankly relieved when I do talk about it. We aren't close outside work, but we do keep up quite closely with events in each other's lives, ask after each other's partners and families regularly, and so on.

In August I'll be taking a month of medical leave to have bottom surgery. All my boss or my co-workers know is that I'm having "surgery" of some unspecified sort, and that it isn't an emergency. So far they have followed The Usual HR-Dictated Best Practices and neither assumed nor asked if it was trans-related.

If it were up to me, I would absolutely tell them why I was taking leave. This is a major, long-awaited, happy life event for me — of the same caliber as a wedding, a wanted pregnancy or a college graduation — and also something of a rite of passage. (Not all trans women see bottom surgery as a rite of passage; but I'm old-fashioned about this and I very much do. This is a huge turning point in my life, and one I have been working towards for many years.) Hiding my excitement from people who I see every day, and who kvell to me regularly about their kids' and grandkids' and partners' life events, seems odd.

And I feel very strongly that sharing this news shouldn't count as oversharing, any more than sharing the news of a pregnancy would. If my cis coworker can describe in detail her cis daughter's struggles with IVF and her eventual pregnancy and labor, it should hardly be "too personal" for me to briefly mention that I'm having SRS.

But of course, my feelings aren't the only ones that matter. If my coworkers feel like I'm being unprofessional and icky, then I've already lost. What to do?
posted by nebulawindphone to Human Relations (46 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (I should add that there's one more reason I'm tempted to tell them: I perceive that some of my coworkers have been worried about my health since I announced my plan to take medical leave. I recently took a day off for a bad cold, and when I came back I got a lot more solicitous concern and "make sure you're taking care of yourself" from coworkers than I ever would have gotten before the announcement. Obviously nobody's losing sleep; but I do feel like it would be kind to reassure them that this surgery is good news and nothing to worry about.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:04 AM on January 29, 2016

Well, I am of the general opinion that bits are private matters, and private matters like that shouldn't be discussed at work. With that said, is there any reason that saying simply "No, it is nothing horrible, it's planned and I am very much looking forward to it" (and nothing more specific than that) wouldn't satisfy? Most people could read between the lines there. And those that feel as I do would have nothing to be offended about.
posted by epanalepsis at 10:21 AM on January 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

Your coworkers already accept you as you are. For all they know, you've already had this surgery. I think your coworker over-shared about her daughter's IVF, fwiw.

Do you have a support network outside of your work life? That's who this info should be shared with.

In general, my rule is if you wouldn't share your bathroom habits with your coworkers, same goes for what's under your clothes or in your underwear. We wear clothes for privacy. Telling folks what's going on under your clothes makes them think about it, and this detracts from work and a shared sense of professionalism. Again, your coworker was wrong to over share about her daughter's IVF. Likewise, you should celebrate this personal AWESOME milestone with your personal friends. Your coworkers already accept you as you are. For all they know, you've already had this surgery.

All this said, I'm old and don't understand the need folks have to over share everything on FB, Twitter, Instagram, and the like. I am not a label, but if we're going there, then I have and have had trans people as friends and romantic partners. Which is to say, I understand what a giant humongous awesome thing this is for you!! I'm just old, and think work is work, and I don't want to hear about anyone's sex life, plumbing, bathroom habits, or gory details of their medical issues at work. If you're my friend, haha, that's where I want to hear that stuff!!

Your workplace may be different. I guess it sucks they already know you are taking a month off for surgery. You know, surgery of any kind is serious, even if it's elective (and I argue yours is medically necessary!) so any concern your coworkers show you will definitely be from that angle. Surgery is serious! And for all you know, your coworkers already think you've had SRS.

Finally, you state more than once your coworkers strictly adhere to hr practices. I think you should respect this boundary.

Congratulations! Good luck with the procedure! Please do celebrate with your friends and family!! Leave work for work stuff. (YMMV. I might be old, heh.)
posted by jbenben at 10:26 AM on January 29, 2016 [16 favorites]

Congratulations, first of all.

I think this would be over-sharing. (Cis woman here, with plenty of trans co-workers). If you are already out to folks as a trans person, they might just assume automatically that you are having gender alignment surgery, or they might not. I think you can reiterate that you aren't sick and they'll get the memo.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:28 AM on January 29, 2016

[but I also think sharing IVF stuff, especially when it isn't even your own medical information, is way oversharing]
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:30 AM on January 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

About 15 years ago, a trans woman colleague of mine did bring treats to the office a few days before her medical leave commenced in order to get everyone into the conference room simultaneously and lend her announcement a celebratory vibe. She structured it as a "thank you in advance" for taking over her duties during her absence. We all knew that she was trans, so that wasn't part of it.

Like you she'd intuited that people were concerned that she was facing some sort of life-threatening health crisis. Unlike you, her medical leave was also going to include FFS and related recovery time, so there was a real possibility people would notice a change upon her return. That said, she did not discuss any of the specifics of either her SRS or FFS beyond saying that the upcoming surgery would help "make my outsides match my insides better" and that if anyone noticed a change when she returned that it would likely be because she would be feeling happier. People immediately volunteered help in the form of casseroles, etc., which she waived off (I believe she went overseas for her surgery), but promised to let us know how she was doing. And we received a few emails on the order of "doing fine!" When she came back it was smooth sailing.

Hooray for you!
posted by carmicha at 10:32 AM on January 29, 2016 [20 favorites]

I'm trans and I'm not sure I'd want to know because I don't want to think about my coworkers' genitalia at all. I'm sure some will be able to read between the lines anyway but I think explicitly saying it could be awkward.

I think your happiness can be expressed like you're going to feel a lot better after the surgery, it's a relief to resolve this medical problem*, etc. Celebrate the actual event with your friends.

*sorry if "problem" does not capture your feeling about it, I'm sure you know I have good intentions
posted by desjardins at 10:32 AM on January 29, 2016 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm just old, and think work is work, and I don't want to hear about anyone's sex life, plumbing, bathroom habits, or gory details of their medical issues at work. If you're my friend, haha, that's where I want to hear that stuff!!

Not going to threadsit, just want to clarify that I don't intend to give any gory details, or say anything explicit about my genitals or bathroom habits. Just "I'm having sex reassignment surgery and I'm excited," the same way someone might say "I'm pregnant and I'm excited" (which is also a piece of information about their plumbing, after all).
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:33 AM on January 29, 2016 [15 favorites]

I'm a 40-ish cis woman; for whatever it's worth, I would be happy to hear your good news. Just as with pregnant coworkers or whatnot I wouldn't want any of the details (sometimes people do vastly overshare), but especially if I were already worried about you taking medical leave for a month, I would be glad to know it was for something you were excited and happy about. Just a low-key mention, no big "announcement," would be enough.

I'm pretty sure I would be able to keep my mind off your genitalia, just as I don't think too much about just how my coworkers ended up pregnant.

Good luck and go, you!
posted by DingoMutt at 10:34 AM on January 29, 2016 [25 favorites]

If they know you're trans I see no reason not to share. Its not like you're intended to go into details. I have a trans friend/aquaintance (not co-worker) and she shared on facebook that she'd got a date for her surgery - it was a happy time and we were happy for her. It didn't seem like an over-share at all. It didn't make me think about her genitals, it made me feel happy for a friend that something important to her was progressing in a positive direction. It was absolutely just like a friend who really wanted a baby announcing her pregnancy or being accepted for IVF.

If these are the kind of co-workers that you'd share personal, happy news with, this doesn't seem inappropriate.
posted by missmagenta at 10:36 AM on January 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Perhaps I work in a different type of work place than others here, but I wouldn't find this to be oversharing. To me, as long as my coworker was comfortable with sharing, I would be happy to learn that one of my work colleagues was undertaking something that was so important to her.
posted by Betelgeuse at 10:36 AM on January 29, 2016 [10 favorites]

My gut instinct was to say "sure, go ahead, they probably would really like a chance to congratulate you on a big milestone that's personally important to you", but I get that may come from my delightful abundance of trans friends at various points in transition, and may not be the standard Thing that is Done. (Also, I work in a mostly-female office and while I don't know about the state of anyone's bits, I do know a lot about people's hot flashes, and a few things about people's childbirth experiences, so I may have a different frame of reference for what most workplaces talk about.)

So I'll just pop in to suggest that if you decide not to share the details, then I think you could at least, should people be getting fluttery and concerned about your health, volunteer that your upcoming surgery is an elective thing and not a health problem, and that they don't need to be worried for your health. Probably relieve some stress both for you and for them not to be worrying that you are going to collapse at any moment or whatever they're imagining.
posted by Stacey at 10:37 AM on January 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Personally, I think anything to do with sexual function is not necessarily work appropriate and may make people feel uncomfortable, even if they generally are open-minded and supportive. I don't know if this particular phrasing would be offensive to you, but maybe you could say it's an elective surgery you've been planning for a long time and no one needs to worry about it. If they are aware of your trans identity, they should be able to figure it out and you can avoid talking about your private parts.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:40 AM on January 29, 2016

Just "I'm having sex reassignment surgery and I'm excited," the same way someone might say "I'm pregnant and I'm excited" (which is also a piece of information about their plumbing, after all).

I think this is quite reasonable. Also, I'm happy for you that you work with people with whom you feel safe and comfortable enough to tell this good news.
posted by Dolley at 10:40 AM on January 29, 2016 [26 favorites]

My first thought as a 50+ yo hetero man was, "Glad to hear you are doing something positive, good luck." I also thought, if she says that, there are people that might ask for more details. I don't know your co-workers, but there are some pretty nosy or curious people out there. I would be prepared with an answer or a "rather not get into the details" or whatever your response is if you do make the announcement.
posted by AugustWest at 10:41 AM on January 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

44 cis woman here and add me to the " I'd be happy to hear the news" crowd. You know the relationship you have with your coworkers best... Share if you feel safe. I think your team will appreciate the trust you have in them. Best of luck!!
posted by pearlybob at 10:51 AM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

They know you're trans right? If you worry about delicate ears, maybe say "it's related to my transition and I'm excited to reach this new milestone!" If they press further, you can open up about the surgery, but in the event they don't want to hear more they at least know it's something you're happy about and not cancer or something.
posted by cecic at 10:54 AM on January 29, 2016 [11 favorites]

I'm younger than jbenben but I agree completely: work is work. Just because your co-worker did share way too many personal details about her daughter's struggles with fertility doesn't mean she should have. I would have found this grossly unprofessional and it would have impacted my view of her as a trusted team member, really, but that's entirely because she's talking about her daughter, not herself - she crossed two boundaries in my book! You should never share someone else's health information!

But, I'm a stick in the mud a bit, especially when it comes to work/life boundaries. And if a coworker told me this in the low-key way you intend to describe it I'd be like, "that's cool," and then I would completely forget about it, because I really don't care what's happening below my co-worker's belts. But again, YMMV - you say your workplace is tight-knit, so if you feel more comfortable telling people in a low key, factual way, you should definitely do it.

It sounds like you've thought about why you want to do this, and that's good: you want to do this so your co-workers don't worry about you and your health. But they're going to worry: surgery is surgery. Them knowing the type of surgery you're having is not really going to change their worry at all, it will just make it more specific.

And congrats!
posted by sockermom at 10:55 AM on January 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Here's another reason that I think you wanting to say something is fine: If my coworker took a month of medical leave for "surgery," I'd be pretty worried about them no matter how many times I was told it wasn't emergency surgery. I would immediately think that even non-emergency surgery is for something bad (my mind would immediately go to some form of less-aggressive cancer or something).

Is it my business? No. Do I feel like my co-worker should feel some obligation to put my mind at ease? Hell no. However, if it's something my co-worker wants to share, I'd be happy to hear it.
posted by Betelgeuse at 11:06 AM on January 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'd be happy for you and like the idea of a little party. Hearing you're having SRS, doesn't make me instantly think about your genitals. I don't envision other parts of coworkers who've had other types of surgery. For heart surgery, I don't think, "Wow. She has a heart in there, I wonder what it looks like."
posted by parakeetdog at 11:13 AM on January 29, 2016 [9 favorites]

Mazel tov, nwp! I kind of waver between the "go ahead and tell them outright" and "hint with a sideways cliché" camps, depending on your personal relationship with your co-workers. If I were in their shoes, though, at the very least I'd want to be assured that you're not sick, and that your surgery is entirely elective and will improve your life. Knowing you're trans, I could connect the dots myself.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:15 AM on January 29, 2016

I have no idea/no opinion on whether or not it is okay to tell coworkers this. But I can give you a "best practice" for sharing potentially train wreck info:

Tell people one-on-one under circumstances where it comes up naturally.

In this case, one example might be if someone is fussing over your health, you could assure them the upcoming surgery is not for a health issue. In fact, it is SRS and you are happy about it.

Telling people individually does two things: First, it makes it much easier to effectively address any strong emotional reactions of specific individuals. Second, if it does come out publicly and some people already know, it prevents everyone from being shocked or surprised at the same time, which prevents it from getting really, really crazy.

posted by Michele in California at 11:17 AM on January 29, 2016 [11 favorites]

To me, this is not oversharing at all. Maybe I'm weird but even when I did IVF I told my boss and close coworkers. And in general I consider myself a relatively private person!

Also - congratulations!
posted by barnoley at 11:18 AM on January 29, 2016

I skipped to the bottom but just wanted to say that if I were a coworker, I'd appreciate the information because it would help me support you. But I'd have no right whatever to know any more than you wanted to share. And mazel tov!
posted by bearwife at 11:23 AM on January 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

to my (uk) sensibility this isn't oversharing in the kind of context michele describes just above. but it would be a bit odd as, say, an email to everyone (i work with americans remotely and i guess i overshare regularly - this thread has me wondering if it's as entertaining as i thought).
posted by andrewcooke at 11:24 AM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Something that might give a little pause: is this surgery covered by an insurance plan from your workplace? If it is, since you work for such a small company, it may affect your co-workers' insurance rates. My trans spouse had the lovely experience of having her employer's Big Boss announce at a large meeting that insurance costs were going up because of one person's surgery. There are people who--even if they claim to be OK with the general concept of trans folk--still consider this kind of surgery as not medically necessary (I disagree, of course) and might harbor some resentment at you for availing yourself of it (in a way that they wouldn't, say, for cancer or heart surgery). I certainly couldn't say if any of your co-workers would be that kind of person. It's hard to tell who is. But if there's a chance, you may just want to leave it unspoken--sad, but true.
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:34 AM on January 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

For the record, if my transitioning co-worker was going to be gone for surgery, I'd probably (unfairly in some cases I realize) assume it was SRS-related until told otherwise. You'd probably just be confirming their assumptions, so I'd go ahead and give them the nod in that direction if it came up.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:35 AM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think sharing this is no big deal in the sort of workplaces I work in. My only caveat would be that, like a pregnancy announcement, it might open the door to "Talking to me about this is to be expected" and you might find yourself in some weird conversations with people about the specifics of surgery that you might or might not want to engage in.

I mean, I am pretty sure you've already thought about this, but the main reason I am sometimes circumspect about my personal life in various workplaces is because while I want people to know MY good news, I am not as excited about maybe having any old conversations about the same topic (so like people who might be all "Oh I had a friend who was trying to get pregnant and you'll never BELIEVE this totally terrible thing that happened to them, bnlbalbvlbllalblabla") so I'd figure that into the equation as well.

Congrats on your good news and your generally supportive workplace.
posted by jessamyn at 11:36 AM on January 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

First off, congratulations!

I feel like one of the deciding factors is, how much energy do you have right now to deal with questions and reactions? Do you expect your coworkers will--even in a friendly and accepting way--kind of bombard you with exhausting queries about it? I don't think this is oversharing in the least (I work with hospitals and we talk about each other's conditions and procedures and meds like 24/7, curious little monkeys that we are), it's more a matter of whether having to make repeated explanations to people will wear on you at all. But otherwise, why not tell people? If nothing else, seeing how happy you are about it, would be a good and positive thing for the atmosphere in general!
posted by mittens at 11:37 AM on January 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

First off, congratulations!

Second, I would not interpret the fact that your coworkers are currently cleaving to "The Usual HR-Dictated Best Practices" as an indication that they don't want to know or would feel imposed upon by hearing about your surgery. I think this just means that they're being appropriately respectful of your privacy.

I think the pregnancy comparison is pretty germane here: while it's perfectly appropriate to announce one's own pregnancy to coworkers, it is really not okay to make unprompted, unsolicited inquiries about another person's pregnancy or lack thereof (e.g. "are you currently pregnant/are you planning to get pregnant/you'd better hurry up and get pregnant").

Similarly, I'd be happy to hear about this from a coworker, but I would never be like "so, this medical leave, are you getting a vagina?"

Also, for what it's worth, the last time I was at a party celebrating someone's SRS with a cake, the cake was a penis. Maybe because it gets cut up and eaten? It's also possible that the person making the cake happened to have a penis cake pan and not a vagina cake pan.
posted by pullayup at 11:39 AM on January 29, 2016 [6 favorites]

FWIW, this is absolutely news that would be shared in my workplace. We'd make sure you had a driver for day of surgery and pass a hat if we were concerned that you were going to have out of pocket expenses that might cause you hardship and arrange to bring meals to you (because we're Southern and dammit, we feed people) and ask what else you needed. [We just had an intern break an arm this week. We've passed the hat, we've got ride schedules arranged for next week...] But I work for a liberal research center at a moderately liberal university with a pile of interns and that's us. :) You know your workplace, and in the end, only the culture of your workplace can tell you what to share.

(And yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
posted by joycehealy at 11:41 AM on January 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

Cis-woman here, and I'm mentally going back through all the places that I've worked in, and there are places where sharing would be greeted with the same happiness as a pregnancy announcement (probably followed with a debate out of your earshot as to whether or not we should bake a cake and get you a present), and places where there would be the most uncomfortable silences. So I think that the variety of responses upthread does reflect that there are such differences in workplaces to mean that there isn't really a universal answer.

I am prone to worry about friends and coworkers, and even though announcing surgery this far in advance means that it's unlikely to be for something like cancer, I think that worriers might still worry. I know you've told them it's not an emergency, but that still leaves scope for worry, so if you decide not to tell them some extra reassurance that this is not for something life-threatening wouldn't go amiss.

(And of course, congratulations, and I would totally be baking you a celebratory cake if we shared a workplace!)
posted by Vortisaur at 12:01 PM on January 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

A Facebook acquaintance was recently posting quite a bit about an "elective surgery" and I will admit that while she is certainly entitled to her privacy I couldn't help but wonder what kind of elective surgery.

Not saying that you cannot make any decision you wish but if you share something vague people may be more curious , whether it's right of them or not.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:56 PM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

If there's anyone you've felt particularly comfortable discussing trans stuff with, you could always let them know, tell them that you're excited about it and fine with people acknowledging it, and allow that information to disseminate through the office grapevine. As your colleague, that's the kind of thing I would want to know, because, out of respect for my co-workers' privacy, the degree of interest/concern/support I express about personal and/or medical issues is generally directly proportional to how much information they feel comfortable disclosing.

Congratulations, and here's to your recovery going smoothly and well! If I were your co-worker, I'd be baking you a sparkly cake (besides, an excuse for office cake, yay!) and maybe a casserole or two.
posted by tully_monster at 1:42 PM on January 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Do you have a trusted, non-manager friend at work who wouldn't mind a little bit of responsibility?

I had a coworker undergo surgery, and I wasn't aware of it until they were already out of the office. However, they left an email message saying something to the effect of "I'll be checking in with coworker X in case you're wondering how I'm doing." If coworker X was approached, they'd say "oh yeah, they are out of the office because they're having this procedure done"

That alleviated the need to directly email everyone to say what was going on, allowed curious people to find out what's up without directly questioning the person having the surgery, and kept things out of HIPAA regulations since no manager was divulging private medical info. Any coworkers who are really into keeping their distance from personal matters while at work simply could never ask.
posted by mikeh at 2:11 PM on January 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

"Gender affirming medical care" is a lot more euphemistic than SRS - given the month of recovery time, I think they could figure it out from there.

Congratulations, my dear!
posted by Juliet Banana at 3:18 PM on January 29, 2016 [9 favorites]

I just re-read the question. It's a casual techy workplace, and you're not planning a general announcement, just considering talking to your immediate group of friendly, supportive, congenial women? Obviously I don't know your team, but they sound like the kind of people who'd be relieved and happy if you told them.
posted by tangerine at 3:36 PM on January 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Congratulations! I'm so excited for you, and from what you say about your co-workers, I bet they would be too.

In terms of disclosure, I think you should do whatever makes you comfortable and happy. In my workplace, it would not be over sharing, and I personally would be happy you were comfortable enough with me to tell me. I agree that it is the same sort of personal information as a pregnancy, and a lot of people share that info before it becomes physically so obvious that they are forced to.

I think the most natural way to share it would be one-to-one if and when people mention your surgery. I imagine as it gets closer people will say that they hope it goes well, or similar and then you can bring it up. If they are not such close co-workers that they wish you well for upcoming surgery, they are maybe not so close that you'd want to share it with them.

If you do tell people one on one, you might want to be explicit about whether it's okay for them to tell others or not. Otherwise they might worry that it was some big secret you wanted them to keep from the other coworkers, which I would assume is not the case. Of course, you might want to say that you are looking forward to telling other people yourself, and they shouldn't share the information for that reason.
posted by lollusc at 4:31 PM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Given that it's a small office, that you trust them, and that you want to tell them, I would! I'd do it one on one like Michelle suggested. I'm a private, middle aged cis person with pretty strict work life boundaries, and I don't want to hear about people's private parts, but (just as a co-worker can tell me she gave birth to a baby boy without me picturing either the moment of birth or the naked infant), I'd be very comfortable hearing about your excitement over this surgery.

I might (might) be a bit awkward around what to say after "congratulations!" because I wouldn't know what kind of follow up would be appropriate. With pregnancy, I might ask, "do you have any family coming to town to help?" Or with shoulder surgery, I might ask, "what do you expect for the recovery? I hope it won't be painful. Do you have to do physical therapy?" But I'd wonder if those were too prying. I'd be trying to respect your privacy and keep things well within comfortable office chit chat boundaries while also following up on your evident desire to talk about it. I'd be trying to follow your lead in where the conversation should go next. Being ready with a few next sentences to show where the conversation should go would be helpful.

Keeping it to yourself is also fine, but what I'd avoid is the guessing game that could be created by sharing a bunch of clues -- that it's elective, it's something you're excited about, it's a big milestone. I mean, if you did that as part of downplaying things ("no big deal, just something elective I've been needing to do for awhile"), then that'd be great. Anyone professional would just file it under "none of my business" and move on. But since you're bursting to tell anyway, I feel like it could come across like you're dropping hints and want them to guess.
posted by salvia at 4:33 PM on January 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'm a bit surprised that so many people think this is private because it involves genitals! I mean, childbirth also involves genitals and people go crazy with baby showers at work. Or what if someone had colon cancer surgery, or breast cancer? If you want to tell you should. People will probably mirror your excitement, but if they don't, who cares. The only pitfall might be getting intrustive questions.
posted by yarly at 6:24 PM on January 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Cis straight lady here who's been friends/work-friends with a few trans people. I suspect the reason they're not asking questions about your upcoming surgery is because they're following the general trans ally rule--heck, the general decent person rule--of assuming generally that no one's else's private parts are my business, just as my private parts are generally no one else's business. That said, if one of my friends came to me and said "By the way, I'm having SRS next month and I'm so excited about it," I wouldn't feel like that was oversharing. I'd want to know if I could do anything to help (send food, etc.), and I'd be happy to celebrate with them!

I would suggest telling your closest trans ally at work--the person you already talk to about transition-related things--that you're having SRS surgery. Let her know it's not a secret, but you aren't sure whether it's TMI for the rest of the team, and see what she says. That might help you decide whether to tell the others.
posted by Owlcat at 6:53 AM on January 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

From my very UK perspective, it doesn't seem like oversharing at all. But then I let everyone in my life know by telling them I was taking time out of my life to get my downstairs rearranged. By a surgeon. Most of them clocked it after just a few seconds (those few seconds were the most fun ever). So I may not be the best person to take advice from!

(Also congratulations!)
posted by Dysk at 7:54 AM on January 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

Jessamyn has a point. Bringing it up one-on-one in a real low key fashion can help reduce the odds that "SRS blabblbablbah..." Becomes standard water cooler chit chat to the point of making you feel aggravated with being treated like a spectacle. It is okay if they know. It is not okay if now you are The Token Trans person and our curiosity trumps your right to privacy and dignity. (People mostly do not do crap like that with malicious intent. Nonetheless, it can go bad places.)
posted by Michele in California at 12:19 PM on January 30, 2016

If my cis coworker can describe in detail her cis daughter's struggles with IVF and her eventual pregnancy and labor, it should hardly be "too personal" for me to briefly mention that I'm having SRS.

Just reading about your coworker makes me cringe in horror. I think that is way too personal to hear at work, I would be horrified if someone at work started telling me the details of their own or anyone else's labor. That is absolutely not a topic to force people at work to hear about. Incredibly rude.

I think if you want to mention to people that your surgery is related to your transition, and that you are very excited and happy about it, but without the specific "they are gonna cut here and then do this" parts (not because it's SRS, for any surgery, that's not something I want to hear at work), that's fine in the workplace you've described.

they have followed The Usual HR-Dictated Best Practices and neither assumed nor asked if it was trans-related...If it were up to me

Wait, what? If HR is telling you what you are and aren't allowed to tell people about your leave you might want to explain it a bit more. Why isn't it up to you what to tell people?

Obviously if you will get fired for telling, don't -- but you can probably carefully "not tell" so that people will have a good guess. If HR is saying you can't tell, you could probably say something like "Don't worry, it's not surgery for anything bad! It's actually something really wonderful that I've wanted forever -- I am so excited to finally be getting all my surgery completed and it's really something to celebrate!" Note how that doesn't ACTUALLY say what the surgery is for at all, but it should be really really obvious what's up.

But there's a difference between it being improper for people to ask personal questions, and you volunteering the information. If the first on is what HR has an issue with it might be fine for you to say what you like about it.
posted by yohko at 7:55 PM on January 30, 2016

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I think this would be oversharing. I think the woman talking about her daughter's IVF was also oversharing. I understand the need to talk about big news with people, but I would talk to your friends about it and leave work out of it.
posted by colfax at 2:13 AM on January 31, 2016

My plan has always been to only tell people if they ask, but blast it on facebook (where I'm friends with many of my coworkers). By doing that I can assume those who care will know and those who don't care won't.

But I feel you. Ever since I schedule my surgery I've been trying to think of ways where I could tell everybody in the world. I just seriously can't find a single good way to tell anyone I work with, unless they ask. It's too personal, even if it is an exciting and milestone thing.
posted by motioncityshakespeare at 9:23 PM on February 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

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