12 May 2015

Coming Out In The Company

When I first "came out" at work, some of my colleagues and supervisors were supportive; others were surprised.  A few were hostile.  The hostile ones were invariably cowards:  They expressed their disdain or hatred of--OK, let's call it what it is:  their bigotry--only when there weren't other witnesses to it.  

Whatever I endured, I reminded myself that I was in one of the better lines of work for trans people.  I simply could not have imagined what my experience might have been like had I been, say, on Wall Street or in the military.

Or the CIA.  I didn't think that people would even broach the subject in "The Company".  In 1988, when computer expert Tracey Ballard "came out" as a lesbian, openly gay Americans were not allowed to have security clearances.  Ballard's disclosure led to a lengthy investigation and made her an outcast in an organization in which homophobia was well-entrenched.

I didn't know Ms. Ballard's story at the time I started my transition. But I didn't think the CIA--or, for that matter, most other government agencies--had become much more welcoming than they were in the '80's or earlier.

However, around the time of my transition, things were starting to change.  A few Federal employees made known  the discrimination they endured. One such case resulted in a landmark ruling for a retired Army Special Forces colonel whose offer of a job as a terrorism specialist at the Library of Congress when she revealed her intention of starting the job as a woman.  Now other Federal agencies--including the CIA--have adopted protocols to protect transgender employees.  

One of those employees is someone identified only as "Jenny", a Middle East expert who "came out" to her supervisor three years ago.  Today, according to the account I read, her identity is "an afterthought" to her fellow employees.

Tracey Ballard could not have hoped for such a happy ending--in 1988.  At least some can hope now.  

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