Being the first to step forward

I am 42, married with two daughters. I am openly transgendered with the tolerance / support of my wife. It is not easy for her or me, but we have been able to make this work for the past eight years. We have a balance – a bit wobbly – but a balance nonetheless. I am openly TG all the time and this includes at work. I basically follow the woman’s dress code (sans skirts and dresses: just not really my thing) and I do this with the blessing of HR. Yes, I went to them as asked if I could do this and they said yes.

I work in IT for a major investment bank. Over the past four years, the firm has established several ‘networks’ to address traditionally ‘minority’ groups: Asians, Hispanics, African-Americans, woman and the LGBT communities. While ostensibly established for the LGBT employees, our network is heavy on the G, lighter on the L, and the B & T are, not surprisingly, non-existent. A scan of the groups internal website shows nothing T* related.

So, I sent off an email to them asking if they do any T* oriented events, and if not, is it due to a lack of interest or need. I fully expected the reply to be one of ‘sorry, no interest in that area.’ and that would be that. It seems I was wrong. Lisa, the membership outreach chair, replied that while she could not answer the question, she was sure that it was not due to a lack of need or interest and wanted to forward my query onto the chairs of the network. About a week later, she asked me to come in and meet with her to have a chat.

My meeting with her went well. I told her about myself and about my experiences at the firm. We discussed how others reacted to me, what motivated me to do this, etc. She then told me something quite interesting. When the network chairs heard about my mail, they were quite excited, trying to look me up in the corporate directory, wanting to know just who I was. It seems that in the four years the network has been in existence, I am the first transgender employee to stand up and say, “I’m here.” They know that there are others out there, but no one had ever stepped forward.

At this point, I’m not sure whether I’m brave or just stupid. Lisa assures me that it was brave of me to step forward.

My meeting with Lisa prompts the network chairs: managing directors of the firm (who are both openly gay) – people with whom I would never have any reason to interact – to ask for a meeting with me: that is if it was alright with me. Ok, put up or shut up time: I accept the invitation.

So, Monday was my meeting. I did my best to look ‘corporate’: nice slacks, knit top, Dana Buchman jacket and sensible shoes. A girlfriend at work told me I looked good and wished me luck.

It was a good meeting. I felt a bit awkward at first – that ‘you are the show’ feeling – but it passed quickly. They filled me in on how the network started and some of their goals. I filled them in on me, my time at the firm and some initial thought on reaching the ‘community’ of T* employees: a group, I explained, who have traditionally kept a low-profile. All in all, it was a successful first meeting.

Afterwards, I asked Lisa if I did well and did I make a good impression (I’m not good meeting people, IMO). She said it went very well and that they were impressed with me. She also told me that the network chairs had asked her my impression of them. She said that we all needed to chill and stop worrying. 🙂

As an initial take-away, I’m to come up with a list of links to Transgender resources (recommendations welcome). I’ll probably be doing a monthly article on what ‘Transgender’ is – to help educate others at the firm.

Oh, and they want to put my picture up on the website. I told Lisa, if they can manage to take one where I actually look good, that it’s fine with me. So much for keeping a low profile.

So, while it wasn’t exactly my intention, I now find myself the de facto representative of the transgender ‘community’ at work: to help in reaching out to others and setting standards for the firm as a whole. I was out before, I’ll be even more so now.

Someone had to stand up and step forward – I just never thought it would be me.

How cool is that… 😎


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