Each year between November 13 – 19, people and organizations around the country participate in Transgender Awareness Week to help raise the visibility about transgender people and address issues members of the trans community face. In today's political environment there are many opinions being expressed publicly about trans rights, but rarely do we hear from trans people themselves in the public domain. Recognizing this we wanted to hear directly from someone who is trans, a fellow UC Davis Health employee, and willing to share their experience, albeit anonymously.
The following was written by a fellow UC Davis Health employee who wishes to remain anonymous:
In June 2022 I marched in my first Pride Parade here in Sacramento. I was terrified, but it was an incredible experience. On that day I dared to venture outside dressed in a way that aligns with who I truly am, in broad daylight, for only the second time in my life. It just so happened that the group I was with was staging in the same area that the UC Davis Health PRIDE ERG was also staging. I was floored at the number of people that I work with daily and their families, who came out to show their support for a cause I have only recently embraced as my own. But I didn’t dare walk over and introduce myself to people I work with. It felt too early.
I’ve only come out as trans to around 25 people at this point. My favorite so far was my teenage daughter, who responded with a shrug of her shoulders and her own shameless admission: “Well I’m bi (bisexual), but don’t tell mom”. My least favorite was a friend of 14 years, someone that had once given me a place to stay when my marriage was struggling, calling me out in front of others in our social circle for being “a cancer”.
The reactions from my family have been incredible and given me hope that I’m not on my own. I am acutely aware of how lucky I am in this regard compared to other trans people, especially trans youth. I can’t imagine going through something like this without the love and support from those who are supposed to teach us about unconditional love.
I think it’s important to explicitly note that my experience in many ways is different than theirs. The reactions from my friends have been better than I expected. A pattern response has emerged of quick disbelief, followed by kind words of support, followed by “I do have a few questions…”. I can handle questions. These are much easier to swallow than the hateful words of two friends (so far) that responded with hateful rhetoric and names. In a way these responses are helpful too. They ensure I no longer spend time and energy trying to be a friend to people that hold ignorant and bigoted beliefs. They remind me that some hold private hate towards trans people in such a way that the reaction is visceral, so now I need to be careful how I share this news.
Knowing all this, I spend a lot of time wondering about how people at work will respond if/when the news does become public. I doubt anyone will be as openly hostile towards me as some of my “friends” have been, but what privately held beliefs and implicit biases of theirs will impact how they treat me going forward?
According to recent studies approximately 0.52% of adults in the US identify as transgender. This means that of the approximately 17,000 employees at UC Davis Health nearly 100 are also transgender. It also deserves pointing out that I don’t pretend to speak on behalf of all trans people or their experiences, wherever they are at UC Davis Health.
I have yet to run into someone that is obviously trans at work…yet. Maybe that’s because I do my best to stay focused on the work right in front of me and doing my best to make sure I do the best job I can. Perhaps someone reading this can relate. Maybe being openly trans is taking on unnecessary risk these days. I can’t control who I am, but I can control how open I am about it, at least for now.
Like most of you, I’d like to think I’m a “goal oriented” person. I once had a mentor tell me a goal is a dream with a deadline. My goal is to gain the courage to be myself at the next Sacramento Pride Parade in June 2023. To march down the street, to acknowledge those who marched before me, to do so side by side with people I work with and my family, and to do so unapologetically, as myself. Perhaps you’ll join us. Consider this an invitation from someone who could use the support.