Jul. 9th, 2010 02:17 am
A lot has happened to me in the past week, and I've felt like writing for some time. This is basically a lifelog entry dealing with Google orientation and the effect of sickness on my gender presentation.

July 1: Left home, and theoretically ended my dependence on my parents altogether. They're in Australia for a while, which has helped to make the separation cleaner somehow. Moved into my new apartment properly; got a really awesome Tempurpedic mattress, which is one of the most comfortable things ever. Got a library card - the Cambridge public library is really quite something, and has its own cafe and free wifi access. Found an excellent grocery store, and provisioned myself with vegetarian food. Got dinner at Border Cafe in Cambridge with two of my partners; they helped calm me down quite a bit.

July 2: Actually got my bed assembled and stuff. Went out to dinner at Fire and Ice in Cambridge, which is this incredible build-your-own-stirfry restaurant; very highly recommended if ever you're in the area.

July 3: joshua_ took me flying in a little four-seater Piper Warrior. We did a circle around Boston's airspace, although they wouldn't let us fly over the city proper because there was a game going on at Fenway. Still very cool, and the views were unmatched; the photos I took with his camera are lying around somewhere. Unfortunately, just after we landed, I got a call from American Airlines (I bet you can guess how this goes...) informing me that my flight to Mountain View for training had been moved from July 4 11am to July 4 6am, meaning I wouldn't have time to sleep before leaving for Logan Airport. I ended up rushing my packing job and not leaving my apartment as clean as I'd like, which means I will probably find bugs of some kind when I return.

July 4: Got to the airport, etc etc etc. 11 hours in the air. At the beginning of this dance, I noticed that the back of my throat was feeling somewhat raw, but failed to interpret this as a sign of what was actually to come. Fortunately, I also found out on this day that my orientation didn't begin until the 7th, due to the Independence Day celebrations. This was good, because...

July 5 & 6: Completely flattened by the worst case of strep throat I've ever had. An interaction with the doctor: "Well, the rapid test came back negative, so let's get a look at that thr-oh, wow!" I was literally reduced to lying flat on my back in bed, trying to avoid swallowing because it made me nearly double up in pain. Fortunately, ttuttle showed up to be completely and totally helpful; his support, along with a timely delivery of medicine by thebaron, have kept me sane and together through being sick. I also got some fairly strong antibiotics at a clinic near my hotel, which have been helping.

July 7 & 8: Orientation. I'm not actually flattened any more, but the sickness saps my energy and willpower, which are things I need to maintain my expressed femininity (i.e.: if I'm really tired, or don't have the time to put into maintaining my appearance, my externalized femininity takes a nosedive, which is a really unfortunate time to meet people). To make matters worse, my voice was all messed up (specifically, sounded like I was talking through a mouthful of glue), and I couldn't swallow any solid food.

What I find kind of striking is that none of this diminished the awesome. Google is just an incredible place; the entire organization seems to be exceptional from top to bottom. The internal stuff is mostly just as polished as the external stuff, and it's all used so well. I'm really excited about my project, and very much looking forward to starting work proper at Google Cambridge.

Ongoing annoyance: my Google badge has my legal name on it, and people keep reading the name off it to introduce themselves to me. Hopefully less of a problem once I'm out of the orientation phase of my life.

Ongoing annoyance 2: lingering symptoms from this strep attack. Throat still hurts; nose still blocked. At least it's getting better.
Trying to get a job as a transgender person is one of the most difficult things one can do, so I feel like it's important to highlight the exceptions from my own life. These are a few of the places I applied to and the way I (and they) handled my gender identity.

Google: Did a fantastic job. I more or less explicitly outed myself to my Google recruiter partway through the hiring process, and they have been nothing but respectful and helpful. During the orientation process, one visits the mothership (Google Mountain View) for a week to become orientated; during this time, it is apparently traditional to share an apartment with other Google people for a while. The form I got about this was rather upfront about gender, asking me to identify myself as either male or female so I could be housed appropriately. I didn't know what to do, since I didn't want to live with men and didn't think women would be comfortable living with me, so I asked my recruiter for help, and he got approval for me to just have a hotel room during this part. I still haven't asked him what to do about bathrooms at the Google office; I'll wait and see what the situation is first, but I have my fingers crossed for genderless bathrooms.

Microsoft: Also awesome. I didn't out myself explicitly, but word worked its way somehow from the Microsoft employee hosting me during my interviews to a general manager (!) who transitioned in full view at Microsoft. This general manager contacted me personally to ask if I had any questions about being transgendered at Microsoft, which was an amazingly useful personal touch, and very thoughtful of them. From em I found out that their health plan covers the entire transition process, including some absurd amount of cover for cosmetic surgeries involved in transition like FFS, which is completely awesome. (I believe Google's cover is also really good, but not as amazing as Microsoft's.)

Apple: Huh. I showed up at their offices in Cupertino. While I was idling in the lobby, I noticed that their transgender nondiscrimination policy - specifically and only that particular policy - was posted on the wall of their lobby, which was very, very weird and not a little unsettling. At this point I was using resumes with my legal name on them, since my transcript from my university would have that name on them. I had not told HR explicitly that I was transgendered, but I had expressed that I preferred to be addressed as 'Elly' whenever possible. No luck here. I had eight interviews on my first day; every single interviewer decided that "Hey, I notice you introduced yourself as 'Elly', but your resume says '<my legal name>' on it. What's up with that?" would be a fantastic icebreaker, so I got to out myself to every person I interviewed with in succession, which made the ensuing interviews about as awkward as you'd think.

Factset: Outed myself explicitly to the director of HR after interviewing all day. He didn't seem surprised, but didn't know whether they had a nondiscrimination policy or not (!) or whether their health plan had any coverage for transition-related things. In general, they handled it like I'd expect a finance company to, not a software company. I shouldn't have even interviewed here; I was a terrible fit and wouldn't have worked there even if I'd had no other options.

In general, I consider myself phenomenally lucky to be a programmer. The software industry seems to be almost uniquely accepting of weirdness among its practitioners; I have never heard so much as an unkind word from a coworker or recruiter or anyone. When I was undergoing active therapy, one of the things I did was a 'group education' session, during which a bunch of people in or about to be in transition had a bunch of people who had transitioned come in and talk to us about the effect on their careers. I'll always remember, I think, hearing about a thirty-year partner of a law firm who was fired out of hand the day she came out, and I'll always be eternally grateful that I'm not in law or business because of that.

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