Trans Nonbinary Person Thrives After Being Welcomed Back to Work with New Identity, Name, & Pronouns.

by Shellby Forbes

I am Shellby Forbes. I am from Brooklyn, New York. So in early 2000s, I started in the finance industry working in retail banking. And during that timeframe, I started off as a teller. One instance I remember was I decided to put highlights in my hair for the first time. Nothing crazy, they were light blonde highlights in my hair. I thought I was cute. I felt that way.

I was excited to go into work. And when I got to work, I started my shift regular day. And then midday, my manager actually called me into his office to have a conversation with me, and I thought maybe I was getting an award, maybe something of that nature. But he sat me down and he asked me how serious am I about my career with the company? And I said, “Very serious. I’ve been doing this for a little while now and I’m ready to move up.” And he says, “Well, it’s been brought to my attention that your hair color is not in line with our professional attire at work.” He told me to change my hair back and I complied because at that time I was really looking to move my career where I wanted to go within that field. But it was disheartening and it was really sad.

Fast forward to some years later, another institution that I worked for, same retail banking, and at that time, I started to wear shirts that were colored, yellows, oranges, pinks, under my suit, of course. Same situation. Here we go again. Another manager’s calling me into an office to have a conversation about my dress code. And this conversation was more so based on the colors of the shirts that I was wearing at the time. And I questioned it. I was just like, “Well, I’m wearing a shirt and tie and suit. I’m dressed professionally according to the standards of the guidelines for the handbook, employee handbook.” And they said, “Well, you know most professional men wear blue and white shirts only and ties.” It was another stab to the heart again for me trying to just show myself, my personality at work, but I complied. It was really tough. Tough time trying to still be an out gay man at work, but still not able to show who I really was inside.

I did a lot of self-reflecting and I was able to self-identify as well as to allow myself, my inner Shellby, to come alive.

So COVID happens, and during that timeframe I had the opportunity to work from home remote. And during this timeframe, I did a lot of self-reflecting and I was able to self-identify as well as to allow myself, my inner Shellby, to come alive. That’s when I realized to myself that I’m not a Black gay man. I’m non-binary, transgender individual. And with that, once I said it out loud to myself and I started to let people around me know that’s how I’ve identified, I realized it was simple for me to deal with people that I knew and trusted, I should be able to bring this to work.

At that timeframe, I did a little research to see what the dress code was warranted, and that’s where I went online and I skimmed through the employee handbook as far as dress code goes. Everything is online. You should always check it up that way as well. And when I went through it, I realized it’s not black and white. It’s not a male dress code and a female dress code. They’ve definitely updated the system to include everyone. So if you meet somewhere in between, they have a dress code for you. And that’s when I realized, okay, this is my aha moment where I said, ‘“Wow, okay, this is my time. I can do this now.” Let me see because I’m coming back. I took some time off and now I’m coming back.

So I reached out to someone in human resources to ask them for guidance, and I explained to her my pronouns and my preferred name, which is Shellby. And she said to me, “Shellby, that’s awesome.” I let them know that I braid my hair, I do my nails, I don’t wear button up shirts and ties of that nature anymore. I don’t identify with the standard dress code that they have for the males at work. And that’s when she let me know, “You can wear blouses. However you want as long as it’s a professional dress, you can wear it at work. You have your blazer on.” And she made me feel comfortable. And that’s when I knew I could come back into work. That right there was removing that slight dagger that was in my heart during that timeframe where it was healing, a healing moment. And when I came back, I was welcomed with open arms.

And the manager that was there, someone totally different, the first thing that he said, “Shellby, welcome back. We’re so gracious to have you back with the company.” And I was like, wow. And from there on, he asked me my pronouns and that was it. They changed my name on my business cards, on my email address, how I’m showed on the computers at work. Even my name that appears on the door as one of the managers now reflects my preferred name, which is Shellby.

So after maybe about a month or so being back with the company, I was fortunate enough to meet a customer that came in and she was really shy, very meek, and I made it my business to go up and introduce myself to her and give her my business card. And we sparked up a conversation when she asked me my pronouns and I asked her the same. And from then, her whole personality changed. She was like, “Shellby, oh my goodness, it’s a pleasure to meet you and have someone that looks like me and understands me that’s working here, that’s going to make me feel completely comfortable in coming into the bank.” That slight reward in making that connection with someone is what makes what I do rewarding and makes me feel how I feel inside, showing it on the outside, makes me feel like it’s my time. This is my time to actually be Shellby and show the world who Shellby really is.

As someone that identifies as non-binary transgender, it was super important to know that the company that I work for updated their handbook, or as you would say, their bible for their dress code and how would they deem as professional in this environment. And if the customers don’t see the people that look like themselves working in the bank, they probably won’t bank there. You should always be true to your true, authentic self in and out and be comfortable and know that you can portray that individual and be that individual wherever you go, and be comfortable.

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