I came to realize that I’m transgender later in life, after being married for over 20 years, having kids and establishing my career. While I could never put into words exactly what I was feeling, I always felt different. I learned from a very young age that boys can’t be girls, and boys can’t even have certain things in common with girls, but that didn’t stop me from feeling what I was feeling. Because of this, I spent most of my youth, and then my adult life, feeling an underlying sense of shame and embarrassment. Scientific and medical evidence states that being transgender has a biological basis — mounting research shows that it can be an inherited trait, passed from generation to generation. But even with that knowledge, I still felt shame growing up, as though my being transgender were some kind of personal failing — as if I were somehow not strong enough to overcome it.
It has taken a long time, a lot of hard work and help from a variety of places for me to finally see that being transgender is not a source of shame. In fact, it’s the opposite. Pride is a word many people use as an antonym of shame, but, for me, that doesn’t quite fit. “Pride” can very easily become something negative, especially when it leads to feelings of superiority or “being better than,” and I don’t identify with that. Instead, I have come to recognize being transgender as an honor.
As a transgender person, I get to experience something truly unique in the range of human experiences. While I now know that I was never a boy growing up, I was perceived and treated as one. I had formative experiences that many men have, but I was processing them with a female brain. I’ve been granted male privilege, but I had a feminine perspective. Growing up, when many of my male peers were focused on competition, I was also learning to collaborate. I was able to forge friendships with many of my female peers in situations where my male peers couldn’t (and were sometimes envious of). I walked a path between both sides, finding traits and skills from each that I could combine in ways that many others couldn’t.
Unfortunately, the things that made me unique also made me different, and separated me from others. I couldn’t figure out what exactly was making me so different, but I knew it was something specific to me, and I felt embarrassed. The times that my femininity was revealed in socially unacceptable ways, I felt a particularly strong sense of shame in not being strong enough to overcome and hide those traits. I lived a strange existence where I had good relationships, but still felt isolated, where I both loved and hated the very things that made me different.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand that every single human being has their own struggles, and there’s no way to compare one person’s experiences against another’s. But being transgender has given me the opportunity to see a little more deeply into some of the struggles that are common for both men and women, and has given me some tools to work to heal my pain. Though I have male privilege, I am also aware of the inequity women face, so I have used my privilege to ensure that the women in my life are also lifted up. And, because I have a feminine brain (with masculine experiences), I have the unique opportunity of seeing both sides of the gender gap, and understand both perspectives.
But where I’ve really come to understand being transgender as an honor is in the way I have come to understand myself. In order to accept myself, I’ve had to examine every aspect of my life, from my earliest memories, to my biases and prejudices, to the ways I’m most comfortable interacting with the world around me. I have the opportunity to consider how and why I respond to things the way I do, and to change the parts of me that I’ve found I can improve upon. By doing so, I feel more alive, more aware, more present, more complete and more at peace with myself than I’ve ever felt before. While I don’t think I was a bad person as a man, I know I’m a better person as a woman. It was making the transition from man to woman that really gave me an understanding and appreciation for my life. I wouldn’t have known this if I were not transgender.
Coming to terms with being transgender helped me discover an inner strength and voice that I never knew I had. It has also given me a sense of community as I’ve connected with others who identify as LGBTQ+. One group in particular had a large impact on my life – the LGBTQ+ Employee Impact Group (EIG) here at Conduent. Around the middle of 2017, I reached the point in my transition where I knew I needed to share my truth at work. While I was preparing for this, I found the LGBTQ+ EIG, and reached out to join. At the very first meeting I attended, I introduced myself to the group as “Megan” – it was the very first meeting at work where I’d used my new name. The acceptance and use of my name felt amazing! It was this experience that showed me it was time to share my true self with everyone at Conduent, and I was again met with acceptance and support.
Conduent’s support of LGBTQ+ employees is important for the company’s success. By making it safe for me to be myself, I’m empowered to bring all of my experiences to work, which gives me a much bigger toolkit for doing my job. When a company values and supports diversity in the workplace, it empowers every employee.