Thursday, July 7, 2016
This past spring, I had the opportunity to take part in a photo shoot and video interview project to promote awareness of transgender people in the workplace, sponsored by the Trans Employment Program at the SF LGBT Center. A few dozen of us came dressed in our typical work attire, and told a little bit of our stories of being out at work. The goal was to use all of this material to put together an ad campaign that would both promote transgender visibility, and encourage employers to not shy away from hiring trans people. Everyone involved was wonderful to work with, and I had a lovely afternoon, feeling empowered, confident, beautiful, and above all, visible.
I wish I could go back 20 years and show this video of myself and so many other amazing, successful trans people to 22-year-old me, just to give her a little hope, to make her realize that she’s not a freak or a deviant for being the way that God made her, and to make her believe that this life I’m living today is even possible for her. This is why visibility matters so much to many of us within the trans community; after all, “you can’t be what you can’t see.”
Here’s what I wrote about the campaign when it first started taking off on social media:
I’m fortunate to work for a startup that has always striven for diversity in hiring, and hasn't fallen into the "cultural fit" trap. I'm proud to work with the Trans Employment Program to promote the message that trans people are talented, capable, and valuable members of any team.
I want hiring managers to understand that employing a diverse team isn't about political correctness or tokenism, but can engender a vibrant synergy and productivity that's not likely to arise from a monoculture.
And I want to show young trans and gender-non-conforming kids that software is a welcoming place, where they can be accepted for who they are and where their knowledge and skill are recognized and rewarded.
Since coming out at work in October of last year, I’ve been surprised to find myself becoming a slightly different person at work – a little more open, a little more chatty. I laugh more. I find myself more comfortable taking the lead in engineering efforts.
For many of my co-workers, I’m probably the only trans person they’ve ever had close interactions with, and I’m grateful that I’ve been able to open their minds in many cases to the complexities of trans life.
Overall, I’ve been very fortunate to have had such a positive, affirming coming out experience. People are gracious, they are compassionate, and they are making space for me. It’s been astounding, and wonderful, and makes me want to continue to find ways to pay it forward.