Most don’t understand the privilege they have waking up every day with their inner and outer image aligned. To most cisgenders (people whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth), it’s unnoticeable, but as a transgender woman, every day I woke up trapped in a complete struggle with my identity.
One of the biggest misconceptions about being transgender is that this is a choice.
I didn’t choose my gender identity.
I didn’t choose the body I was born with.
The one choice I had was coming out as a transgender woman, because I couldn’t carry on without being myself. I chose life.
But, making that choice was crippling. I would break down daily knowing the journey I was about to take and terrified about everything I was going to lose. I was afraid I would lose my partner, my marriage, the house we’d worked so hard to build, my career, and being able to see my kids everyday.
And in some ways, I did lose those things.
My marriage ended, we sold our house, I left my employer, and I now have shared custody of our children. I also had to leave my previous employer while going through Hormone Replacement Therapy, because I was going through an emotional rollercoaster and it made my day-to-day at work difficult to deal with. But, once I was certain of who I was, I knew I needed to pursue happiness.
Even though I felt like I was taking such a positive step in the right direction, I felt like my career had been knocked down a few notches. I knew I needed to get back into a work environment, so I applied for a position at Gravity Payments. Once getting the job, I was nervous about how my co-workers would accept me. Turns out, I didn’t have much to worry about. I can honestly say that I’ve never felt more love from an open group of people.
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In fact, there is one particular moment at Gravity that has stood out to me. I arrived at one of our quarterly meetings pretty swollen and bruised from Facial Feminization Surgery. I was feeling horrific and down. That’s when our CEO, Dan Price, approached me and welcomed me back with a hug and a few kind words. I was taken aback by his sympathy and understanding of what I had just gone through.
It was one of many instances that reassured me that I was safe at Gravity.
However, I know my situation is the exception, not the rule. Many transgender men and women aren’t as lucky to work in such an open and welcoming environment. Often the transgender community has been portrayed almost solely as sex workers, drug addicts, and lesser beings.
But, I think things are beginning to get better for the transgender community. Some of that is in thanks to shows like Transparent and the publicized coming out of Caitlyn Jenner. Although, it’s difficult for most people to relate to millionaire residents of Malibu, the exposure people are getting to our community is growing thanks to modern media, sparking much needed discussion and education of the masses. The downside of this is we now have a bigger target on our back and are being attacked physically and politically. My hope is that the B and T of the LGBT community will become as equally embraced in mainstream culture as the lesbian and gay communities.
My advice to other transgender people is to keep your chin up. Interact with friends, family, co-workers, and strangers. While many may be uncomfortable with you at first, it’s critical that you keep having these discussions. Show them you are just like them and dispel the myths and misconceptions of transgender folks that are all too common in the media of old. If they aren’t allies already, this will slowly make them the allies they can be.
Denni is on the Risk Team at Gravity Payments. For more on diversity at Gravity, check out our “Embracing Diversity” series.