At tentree, we have the privilege of having a diverse and talented group of individuals that make up our team. We’re constantly inspired and humbled by the unique perspectives that each employee brings to our organization and value the ability to utilize our platforms to amplify voices.
Today, in celebration of Transgender Day of Visibility, we have the opportunity to share our Graphic Designer Emmett’s (he/him) story, and highlight important ways that we can all be better allies in our own communities.
Q: Why is it important for you to share your story?
It’s important for me to share my story because we need more representation in the trans community. We need our stories told by us and not by people who know nothing about our experiences. Representation is so important because it leads to acceptance and understanding.
That being said, not all trans people want to share their stories, and for very valid reasons. Being open about this is scary and can make you a target for violence and discrimination. This is why, being in the privileged position I’m in and having a supportive family, friends, and group of coworkers – I want to use my voice to normalize and bring awareness to the trans experience.
Q: When did you first realize you were transgender?
I was 20 when I came out as trans. I had cut my hair really short, which started my self-discovery. I began to appear more masculine through my style, and people would address me as sir or refer to me as a guy. Every time that happened, I felt excited and more confident in myself. From those experiences, I realized that I was a man and created a plan to come out and start my transition.
Q: What challenges have you faced since transitioning?
I’ve been very privileged in my transition; however, I have still faced numerous challenges. Transitioning is a difficult thing to do, physically and mentally. Coming out was a big concern of mine. I was terrified that I would lose people I loved. So much of this fear was based in self-hate and insecurity.
The day before I came out, I told myself that I would have to accept the fact that I would never find someone who would love me because of my body. I still deal with moments where I have to try to push through my dysphoria and accept that I don’t have the power to change everything I’d like to. Transitioning is a huge journey of self-acceptance that can feel never-ending.
Externally, I’ve experienced discrimination at school and at past jobs. Being intentionally misgendered by my professors or asked inappropriate questions about my body by past coworkers was very discouraging.
Worst of all is the constant transphobia and ignorant comments that are left on any post or article regarding a trans person or trans-related topic. The amount of hate that is directed toward the trans community is heartbreaking.
Q: What has improved in your life since you’ve transitioned?
Life has changed immensely. Now that I’m out, it is unlike anything I could’ve imagined. The support from my family and friends has been outstanding and has led to deeper connections with them. Since transitioning, I finally feel like I’m myself like I don’t have to hide anymore. I can now put effort into having a happy and fulfilling life and share it with my community. Growing closer to family, making new friends, and falling in love is all possible. It is now my purpose to spread love and help those in the trans community who maybe don’t have the opportunities I was lucky to have.
Q: What does your support system look like?
I cannot say how lucky enough I am to have the support system I do. My family, although it was a shock to them, have all come around and have all been there for me throughout difficult moments in my transition. I have made friends who support me and have even found a partner who loves me for who I am. When you first come out it can feel like none of this is possible. This whole experience has really shown me how beautifully kind and understanding people can be.
Q: What can organizations do to support employees who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community?
There are so many things you can do to make your employees and fellow coworkers feel accepted in the workplace. Being a part of my office’s DEI committee has really given me a voice and has taught me so much.
Here are some things your workplace can do…
- Host a QCT(Queer Competency Training) workshop
- Mandate gender awareness training for managers and HR teams
- Respect people’s preferred pronouns and names. Asking that all of your coworkers list their pronouns is a great way to create room for trans or gender non-conforming people to feel comfortable doing the same.
- Create gender-neutral bathrooms
- Create gender-neutral dress codes
- Don’t out your employees or ask them to share personal information about their transition
- Listen and create a safe space for feedback
Q: Why is it important for people to educate themselves? What can people do to support the trans community?
It is important that people are educated on these topics because it leads to greater acceptance and advocacy for the trans community. Ignorance is what leads to hate, and education is what leads to acceptance. Here are some things you can do to support the trans community…
- Respect people’s preferred names and pronouns. If you’re unsure of how someone identifies, politely ask.
- Take a few minutes to educate yourself on trans history and current events. This could be through a book, article, or documentary.
- Support organizations and events. You could volunteer or donate.
- If you know someone who is trans, celebrate their milestones with them.
- Admit when you’re wrong about something and take time to educate yourself on it.
- Always lead with kindness and respect.
Q: What would your advice be to anyone who may be struggling to come out or start their transition?
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a supportive family or supportive friends, but there are people out there who will love you for who you are. I would never tell anyone to come out if they’re not ready, and of course, your safety is the highest priority. Starting out by telling one or two people who you know will support you is a good place to start.
I was terrified to come out, so I decided to write a letter and give it to my family so they had time to read it without me there, and then we had a discussion afterwards. Make sure you’re coming out in the way that makes you feel most comfortable.
As for starting your transition, I started out by talking to other trans people and saw a gender therapist who worked with a lot of trans people to help guide me. It’s so daunting trying to learn everything and realizing how much work is involved in transitioning. You just have to be patient and take it one step at a time.
Remember that everyone has their own unique experience and that you only need to take the steps you want to take. It’s your decision if you want to go on hormones, get surgeries, change your name, or change your style. There isn’t one right way to do it. Just do what makes you most happy and confident. Yes, transitioning is scary, but it’s the most rewarding thing I have ever done.
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