Secondly, the culture of the company is quite conservative and male-dominated, so I was very concerned that, as is the case with so many transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, I would lose my job the moment I came out.
Second, since I was the “trailblazer” of sorts, I took the opportunity to work closely with our Human Resources executives to create workplace transition guidelines for those that would follow me. Lastly, I was one of a small group of co-founding members of the company’s first-ever LGBT employee resource group, or “ERG’s” as they are commonly referred to.
What some people do not understand, Monika, is how energy-sapping it is when one has to hide their true self in the workplace day in and day out.
The other important point is that a company, in an effort to positively position itself and remain competitive against its peer companies amongst an increasingly diverse talent pool, must clearly demonstrate its commitment to a workplace that fully embraces diversity and inclusiveness. LGBT people, especially transgender and gender non-conforming individuals by definition, must be included via appropriate workplace protections – and now, transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits as well.
In a historic vote last November, ENDA was passed by the United States Senate, 64-32, but has yet to be taken up by the U.S. House of Representatives, which is discouraging, but the fight continues! The tragic fact of the matter, Monika, is that in 33 states a transgender person can still be fired on the spot for coming out. That simply must change!
While many companies have adopted these benefits – and some that I have worked with do not even have any “out” trans employees that they know of – to keep pace with the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) criteria, there are still many that are struggling with this issue and need to be educated about projected cost and utilization rates (both are much lower than they think).
|Stephanie and Mari just before the New York City|
Pride March kicks off, in June of last year.
I will also say that as perhaps the most diverse community within a diverse community we do not help ourselves, in my opinion. A significant part of our community is either not full-time or they choose for very personal reasons to not be seen, leaving the advocacy work to a much smaller segment of our community.
Believe me, I do my best to empathize with their individual situations, as there was a time in my life when I was very much not full time as my true self. But that said, it is difficult to advocate on behalf of a population that is invisible. And then there’s friction between the various sub-groups within our community.
My mantra has always been one of unity– we do our community a disservice by not presenting a unified front. It is our uniqueness–across the entire transgender spectrum- that sets us apart from the L, G and B communities. We need to rally around that concept as a community for our collective voice to be heard. Honestly Monika, I could go on, but I’ll stop here. This topic can actually be the sole topic of one of your interviews!
As I like to characterize it, there’s a lot of plates spinning in the air at the same time and it can be very mentally, physically and emotionally draining to keep them all from falling on the ground. I made sure to place my son’s needs above my own – which I will admit was very difficult to do – so that he could be brought around to the whole concept of changing genders in his own time and on terms that he could understand for a child his age. I had some professional help with that as well.
Thankfully, all of that work has paid dividends as he is a wonderfully caring and sensitive young man now off at university who, next to Mari and my sister is my biggest supporter.
My time in Trinidad will always be thought of fondly, the care I received from the nurses at Mount San Rafael Hospital was just wonderful, and I was one of the few patients that stayed at the now-defunct recovery house, “Morning Glow” – a magical, but all-too-short-lived, place.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?