Trans-forming Conversation

By Teagan Rabuano and Alixandra Rutnik on Mar 27, 2020

Three trans creatives talk to us about their journey in life and advertising


March 31st is the International Transgender Day of Visibility– it was founded by trans activists in 2009 to celebrate the trans community and highlight their achievements. Specifically in our industry, it is a day to recognize the talent and work of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals in advertising and design. I worked with The One Club’s Inclusion & Diversity Team to identify a few people who are truly transforming the conversation within the creative field. Story-telling is an intrinsic way to bring people together, so we brought the unique stories of three accomplished trans individuals to the forefront: Joon Park, blake desormeaux, and D Jones.


 

Joon Park
Jr. Cultural Strategist, sparks & honey
they/them/their
IG: @joonyoungpark

 

blake desormeaux
Strategy Director, Communications BBH NY
they/them/their
IG: @not.blake.lively

 

D Jones
Freelance
they/them; he/him
IG: @jake.knife

 

There isn’t a kindergartner out there who wanted to grow up to be a copywriter, so what in your early years might’ve led you to a creative career?

Joon: I entered the advertising industry quite circuitously. Throughout college, I was primarily interested in working in government and public policy; I spent most of my internships canvassing and campaigning to elect more Women + POC candidates in Massachusetts. As the only person who had the design skills (I’ve been using Photoshop since I was 9), I kept finding myself in roles where I was designing the brand and visual identities for the candidates and helping to create their campaigns. I found that I actually enjoyed helping these candidates craft their stories through cues like visual intelligence and copy, and I knew that I wanted to keep exploring a creative career.

Conversely, I was also beginning to grapple with the harsh reality that these spaces were often hostile towards LGBTQ+ talent; as a young person who was just starting to grow into their trans identity, I knew that I had to pivot into another industry that would help me preserve and protect my wellbeing. Thus, I stumbled upon advertising after a colleague of mine suggested that I look into MAIP (Multicultural Advertising Intern Program hosted by the 4A’s).

The summer of 2017 was life-changing; I was a MAIP fellow at a women-owned strategy shop called Wolf & Wilhelmine (W&W). Upon hearing that they would have a trans intern entering their walls, the folx over at W&W hosted a series of pronoun/gender-related workshops to prepare for my arrival. The people at W&W made me feel centered and empowered throughout my time there– the goodwill and compassion that I felt at W&W was piercing and contagious; it incepted in me the faith that the rest of the industry would and should empower trans talent like me.

All it took was a group of incredible leaders to ensure that I felt accommodated and respected at my most impressionable time. Their impact continues to be a driving force behind the power and self-efficacy that I am able to channel today. Currently, my priorities are to keep showing up as my most powerful, authentic, and vulnerable self– with the lofty hope that my existence will incept a similar seed of power and self-efficacy in another young trans person. We are powerful, not despite the complexities of our identities, but because of them.

blake: I wanted to be a doctor for most of my life! I’m lucky I found this field when I did– junior year of college.

It wasn’t until last year that I started reflecting on things — big and small — that young blake did, said, and thought, and connecting it all together to help me make sense of how I got here. The biggest driver has always been my love for and relationship with the internet and online gathering spaces.

From the day we got our family Dell desktop, set it up in the basement, and hooked it up to AOL broadband– I was hooked. It started with chat rooms and AIM; I couldn’t keep myself away. I was 13 at the time, so I was dealing with a beautiful combination of teen angst, a life-changing medical diagnosis, clinical depression, and living in a very deep closet. I spent my time using the internet to figure out who I was, looking for the words to describe my feelings, and most importantly to connect with people like me.

I would spend hours in multiple chatrooms at a time adopting a different identity per room just to play around, get a feel for those spaces, and get a feel for what my own space was in the world. Yeah, I was a catfish (laughs).

I also have a neverending drive to tell stories– mine and those of others. I remember feeling like I had nowhere to safely express myself, and let’s be real– it’s not that much safer these days, but I was able to start carving out the tiniest little pockets of black, trans, first-gen heaven over the years. At first, that was just through short fiction that I’d write on the side; there was also the occasional poem or two.

In my teen and college years, I tried and failed to run a YouTube vlog– two collab channels and one solo– if you dig you can probably find my horrible videos. While I had to accept vlogging wasn’t for me, I was able to not only meet new people who shared commonalities with me (anything from race to shared loves of fanfiction), but also figure out how I wanted to tell my own story.

Using the internet to connect with others and present my true self to the world of my creation, changed everything for me. Everyone has a story, and I love being a part of shaping that story and sharing it with the people who need to hear it. Yeah, sometimes that story is about yet one more direct-to-consumer brand trying to challenge a category, but sometimes that story is about me.

"I would spend hours in multiple chatrooms at a time adopting a different identity per room just to play around, get a feel for those spaces, and get a feel for what my own space was in the world. Yeah, I was a catfish!"

D: The truth is, I used to hate advertising. I was this upstart teenager with dyed hair and a picket in my hand, always telling anyone who would listen about why factory farms were evil and how Bush was destroying environmental sanctions; so, advertising for me was just a tool for the corporate grooming of society.

Then, something extraordinary happened; someone knocked me from my soapbox. They weren’t even directing it at me, but they said “sometimes the best people need to be in the worst places.” I was generalizing that “all advertising is bad for society,” so I decided to turn my self-righteousness into action. Instead of yelling about things and hoping “adults” would do something about it, I decided to integrate. I figured if I could work to create healthy messaging from the “inside,” I could use other people’s money to inject my own message into society on a broad-scale. Of course, you would have to be clever enough to make it work not only for society, but also for the brand as well. What could be better than to get paid to be given 30 seconds during the Super Bowl to have a shot at influencing 115 million people to think a little differently? It seemed like a pretty sweet deal to me.

Before I came out, I felt like a snail trapped in its small house, all two antennae retracted and eyes tentatively poking out. For a long time, I felt like since we are mainly just beings of energy, the human body was only a vehicle for the manifestation of creative energy.

"After coming to terms with my gender identity, there’s a lot more energy to throw toward my work. If one has more brain-space that isn’t wrapped up in anxiety, it allows room for more productive thoughts, which leads to more light bulb moments and more silence to hear the whispers of your muse."

It didn’t matter that it didn’t feel right to have the parts that I have, because why would it feel right for intangible energy to be trapped inside a sweaty, squishy meatsack? I daresay being Buddhist neglected to help the excogitation of this seemingly splendid conclusion. It was a long time until I confronted the startling revelation that I was not indeed transcendent, but that I was severely dissociating from my body. Now that I have finally begun to own the fact that I feel most comfortable presenting as and being seen as male, I no longer feel like one hand is tied behind my back. I can focus on how my creative force manifests in my work as opposed to exhausting myself over how to fit the mold of what others expect. After coming to terms with my gender identity, there’s a lot more energy to throw toward my work. If one has more brain-space that isn’t wrapped up in anxiety, it allows room for more productive thoughts, which leads to more light bulb moments and more silence to hear the whispers of your muse. Being trans also gives one a varied, colorful life experience. Interestingly, I find that having the background of growing up and living as both genders gives me multiple hats I can wear as I write and create for brands.

How do you feel about the state of trans inclusivity in the ad and design world?

Joon: The great thing about our industry is that the people within it generally mean well and are trying their best to not be shitty humans. Relative to other industries, being gay seldom presents challenges in the workplace. The tricky part is that people often conflate LGB (lesbian, gay, bi) experiences with the trans experience, so that there is a misconception that the ad industry is a mecca for ALL LGBTQ+ talent. But, as it pertains to trans and gender-expansive identities, we still have a long way to go.

“We respect trans talent from afar. We love trans talent from afar. We want trans talent from afar. But when trans talent shows up, people don’t know what to do.”

During MAIP, in which we were required to attend a plethora of agency tours, I was astounded by how few agencies had gender-neutral bathrooms. Then, in most of my interview processes, I discovered that most recruiters were not equipped to accommodate prospective trans talent. They meant well– they just weren’t quite there yet. And unfortunately, I think this trend continues to paint the rest of the industry. We respect trans talent from afar. We love trans talent from afar. We want trans talent from afar. But when trans talent shows up, people don’t know what to do.

blake: My first job out of school was at a woman-owned agency. Those two women were married to each other and that was my first true taste of the industry. It was game-changing for me and for the trans space at the time. The office had single-stall, gender-neutral restrooms, and I was asked about my pronouns on my first day. I remember being dressed in my colorful, dapper outfit and thinking, “Woah this industry is the shit.”

Then I got my second job, third, fourth… I honestly can’t name a single job that made me feel as safe as I did at my first one. I didn’t even bother telling those companies my pronouns; I let my coworkers misgender me because that type of degradation that I was “other” felt safer than the alternative.

I started applying to medicine programs, thinking it was the only option I had left and that this industry wasn’t for me. Thank you, Victor Pinero, for giving me a shot to join the team at Big Spaceship (BSS) in 2015. I’d decided my first agency was a fluke and that the industry was never going to get even close to “better” during my career span. The ambitious advertiser in me though, knew that working for Victor would be worth it. They knew my pronouns from day one.

While I was settling into BSS I noticed that the greater conversation was shifting. Industry leaders and trans workers started speaking out– most of the conversation was about pronouns and bathrooms. I suspect the conversation focused on these two topics so much because they are entry-level. Cis people don’t have to work too hard to understand pronouns and bathrooms. It helped me (and the one other gender-nonconforming advertiser I knew) feel confident to speak my truth and reaffirm my identity– from making sure the CEO heard me when I said we needed gender-neutral bathrooms in our new office to correcting pronouns publicly without fear of retribution. It was great, but it was entry-level.

I was being misgendered 15% of the time, I didn’t feel safe enough to give clients any guidance on how to address me, and I was trying to save $15k in cash so that I could pay for life-saving, gender-affirming surgery. On the first anniversary of Blake Brockington’s suicide, I couldn’t get out of bed because I was in mourning. I didn’t feel safe enough to explain that I was mourning a young man I didn’t know.

Today, I think the industry is doing what it can with the resources it has, and I give it a 5 out of 10. I’m not changing my score until we start accepting that we don’t have all the resources we need and we start getting a holistic commitment from the bulk of industry leadership.

The few of us queer, trans, black and brown people who’ve actually been able to break into the industry are doing the additional labor of educating our teams and managing the consequences of constant dehumanization and demoralization.

Clients are asking for more representation in their agency teams and it’s being treated as business, but not even a high priority business concern. Companies are doing what’s easiest because that’s what they know. Most of them are doing it with the resources they have rather than redistributing the resources from top-down. The work itself is siloed rather than being addressed on a holistic level. We can make advertising the safest industry out there for trans people, but it will never truly be safe if it's not just as protective of black people, Jewish people, low-income people, and all other marginalized groups.

We need to be willing to cut and reallocate the funds, time, and other resources needed to do this inclusivity thing the right way. What if agencies use their 2021 alcohol budgets to pay for mandatory, in-depth diversity and sensitivity training for all staff?

Until I see a trans, black woman leading a creative department because she’s really fucking good at what she does, we’re not breaking 8. Maybe I’m a tough grader… or maybe ad shops and practitioners need to be better.

I appreciate having a gender-neutral bathroom to use at work, but I don’t appreciate having to wait 15 minutes to use that bathroom because 10 cis people are too nervous to do their business in a multi-stall bathroom. Getting asked about my pronouns is nice; a lot of companies have incorporated it into their onboarding forms, but having to correct people’s pronoun usage over and over for months is not good. Good is people knowing that I’m trans and trying to better their language usage and allyship actions. Not good is not having gender-affirming medical treatments covered in insurance plans across the board. Good is being able to share my voice and story with you in this forum. Not good is having the fear that it will come back to bite me when I least expect it.

"Good is being able to share my voice and story with you in this forum. Not good is having the fear that it will come back to bite me when I least expect it."

D: As with all things, it will backfire on the brand if a social issue seems contrived. If it remains a cohesive message that supports the brand, then it will serve both brand and issue. If a brand slaps a flashy rainbow label on their existing branded identity without letting the issue support the brand, then it just brings the issue exposure and makes the brand look phony.

Advertising speeds up the pace of social progress. If we continually bring the world together with representation and allow other humans to see a connection with one another, it is for the better. This isn’t new; it happened when the first black person was featured in an ad, and when biracial couples were featured in ads (oh no!). This happened with gays, with people who have tattoos, with anyone who has ever been marginalized, ostracized, and outcast. It will continue to happen, and it should. It will offend, yes, but even seemingly small things like using the bathroom of the gender one associates with will just be another thing we nervously laugh at in secondhand embarrassment, like the bizarre practice of having different bathrooms determined by the level of melanin in one's skin.

So it comes down to this — use a good helping of cautioned cleverness when utilizing social issues to elevate brands. Advertising, and any art form that brings awareness to the human experience, will predictably lead to social progress– that much will remain true. However, brands are more vulnerable to the repercussions of poorly-positioned, socially-driven creative than the inevitable flow of history.

Everyone is capitalizing on their identity these days; people are literally branding themselves all over social media (hello Instagram) and it's a fire phenomenon. How has social media increased LGBTQ+ visibility?

Joon: This is literally something I’ve been grappling with for some time– I am finding myself becoming branded in the industry as a Gen Z non-binary/transgender expert, and this recognition has honestly catapulted my career. From being Mx. ADCOLOR to being a Cannes Can: Diversity Collective Fellow to being offered speaking engagements at national stages like SXSW, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that allow me to insert my voice into industry-wide discussions about workplace diversity. That being said, I still recognize that my voice is one in a sea of experiences that I cannot claim; it’s unfair that I singlehandedly represent a galaxy of transgender stories that need to be told.

By increasing visibility for trans talent within the ad industry, I hope to invite and encourage more junior trans talent to enter these conversations as their unapologetic, excellent selves. Ultimately, I want to create a frontier of trans talent to be reckoned with.

@joonyoungpark

blake: Oh my god, social media is the only reason I’m alive. Tumblr is the only reason I have the words to describe who I am; Tumblr is where I learned about intersectionality, identity, and me. Social gives me the chance to be who I am and find others like me. That’s something that so many people (especially people like us) need; luckily, the internet makes distance, time, walls, and barriers disappear. You can find anyone on the internet and on social– including yourself. It’s incredible.

The ultimate pro is the sheer degree of information and knowledge sharing we can get done on social. From tips on “how to pass” to trans-person-penned essays about why passing can be a violent and oppressive concept.

“Just like with anything on social media– we’re only afforded so much real and so much truth. Sometimes that dissonance between what we see on social and what is actually happening offline is what breaks things in the end.”

Just like with anything on social media– we’re only afforded so much real and so much truth. Sometimes that dissonance between what we see on social and what is actually happening offline is what breaks things in the end.

@not.blake.lively

D: People have been using social media to present their “true selves.” In the past, sometimes the only way to reinvent was to move to a new city, but now, you can create a username and present the way you’ve always wanted.

"It felt like the universe was saying, 'It’s okay to disappoint some people if it means you’re making yourself proud of being you.'"

I originally used social media as a place to connect with like-minded people. I had been inundating my friends with makeup pictures through Facebook Messenger, and although they were supportive, it wasn’t a community. So, I turned to Instagram. I started posting some makeup tests and almost instantly found my home. I was baffled by the overwhelmingly positive response. When opening up to close friends and family about my online creative pursuits, I was met with awkward silence and disapproval but online, people welcomed me with open arms, commenting and sharing my posts– even making fan pages about me. Within six months I was at 10k followers. For someone with such low self-confidence, this was absolutely the best thing that could have happened to me. It felt like the universe was saying, “It’s okay to disappoint some people if it means you’re making yourself proud of being you.”

I was living a double life in many ways. As a student at the Art Center College of Design, I was a goofy tomboyish copywriter. Online, I was a chiseled man with charm smoother than velvet. Then, someone called me out. Someone at school found my account and remarked that they thought it was “cool” that I did something so different outside of advertising. I was blown away. Was it numbers that gave me the ability to be seen with respect– maybe even admiration? Or was it the fact I was living life unabashedly, without apologies when in “real life” I hid behind a hoodie and eyes that stayed locked on the floor? I don’t think this experience is limited to LGBTQA people. Many people from all walks of life have a side of themselves they’re terrified to show to others, and social media is just another outlet to get in front of a completely new audience to test how to present that new side of yourself.

@jake.knife

Tell me a story about a happening in the workplace or online that made you feel really good about yourself and your identity.

Joon: As aforementioned, I have been grappling for some time with being one of the few Gen-Z-non-binary spokespeople in the industry. There have been moments when I’ve been paralyzed by Impostor’s Syndrome, often informed by my lived experiences as a trans immigrant of color. Many times, I feel like a caricature of trans identity that no one takes seriously. This is exacerbated by how young I am, which causes me to gaslight myself into having thoughts like, “What can you possibly know at such a young age?”

“Many times, I feel like a caricature of trans identity that no one takes seriously."

However, there are some incredible leaders who continue to remind me of my worth and the value I bring as a young trans person to the industry. Tiffany R. Warren, Kendra Clarke, and Heidi Hackemer are my heroes who consistently affirm and champion my existence.

Last year, Tiffany inducted me into the role of Mx. ADCOLOR because she wanted the advertising industry to “Take A Stand” for non-binary/transgender identities. In December, sparks & honey hosted a special briefing on non-binary identities and the value we bring to culture and business practices that I shaped with Kendra. A few months ago, Soon Mee Kim (EVP, D&I at Porter Novelli) deferred her speaking engagement at SXSW on a panel about Gender at the Workplace to me, stating that I would bring an important voice that needs to be heard.

It's wins like these that help me realize that there is strength and power in my voice, and that there are certain experiences that only I can surface as a young trans person of color.

blake: A few weeks ago, someone new to advertising walked up to me in a bar. They saw me moderating a panel at last years “Here Are All The Black People” event, thanked me and asked me for advice.

My first thought: “Wow, I revealed myself and someone was so affected by it that they threw caution to the wind and walked up to me on a Friday night in a bar in Williamsburg.” That’s incredible to me– doing something I love and being thanked for it.

Once or twice a year I do a “Trans 101” presentation for my agency at no cost. I do this unpaid labor to create a safer work environment for myself and the next me to come along. The act of educating and researching, and the emotionally taxing questions I get asked the months following– all of that is triggering, but it’s also freeing.

I bristle when I read “you've impacted the culture” in performance reviews. I hate saying goodbye on my last day and getting more “thanks for teaching me”s than “it was good working with you”s. I know it’s well-intentioned, but it feels “otherizing.”

D: In the workplace, it’s the little things that make me feel acknowledged as who I really am. For the people who know my preferred pronouns and respect my identity, small reinforcement is helpful. Not insisting on opening doors for me, or saying, “Hey, what’s good, man,” go a long way. It might take people some time to acclimate to seeing a trans person as a different gender than how they may initially appear, but the effort doesn’t go unnoticed. My heart is warmed every day when a casual “sir” is thrown my direction.

What is something you hope to see change for trans inclusivity in 2020?

Joon: Gender neutral bathrooms and the normalization of adding pronouns in introductions and email signatures.

There are so many talented young trans people who are scared to bring their complete selves to work. Institutionalizing these simple practices signals to trans talent that they are welcomed in our walls.

My advice to trans talent: Hang in there. Find your champions. I’ll be one if you need one.

My advice to allies: Do the work behind the scenes. My lovely colleagues Hannah Hickman and Chelsea St. Claire at sparks & honey made sure to speak to the building manager to prop a gender-neutral bathroom in our building before my arrival. I never found out until later.

blake: I’m doing what I can to make it easier for the next non-cis, white man who will be in my position. I’m at a point in my career where I have the ability to guide someone, so I go out of my way to mentor people that share identities with me. That kind of concentrated effort and care is what I’m best at and is the least taxing for me. If I can make work-life better for a handful of women, trans and black people, that would feel good to me and I hope I’d be at peace.

To the young, trans creatives out there hoping to break in– the time is coming and I can’t wait to see you. In the meantime, focus on your craft and don’t be afraid to put your voice out there. Reach out to people like me, the worst they can say is “no.” Go to industry and agency events so you know people and they know you. Take what you deserve, because the chances anyone will give it to you are small. When you get here, don’t doubt yourself.

Allies, stop calling yourself that because you're actually not an ally. You're a person who wants to be an ally to a group or groups of people. Start your day with the following question: “What will I do today to equitably and restoratively contribute to the lives of marginalized people?”

Tips for Allies:

1. Normalize pronoun disclosure! Put your pronouns in your signature and make including them a natural part of the chemistry and introduction process with clients. When you normalize a behavior like this you’re taking one step closer to normalizing trans inclusion.

2. Please try not to hog the gender-neutral bathrooms. Choosing to jump into one of the limited gender-neutral restrooms rather than wait, you’re saying that your comfort and time matter more to you than mine.

3. Put your money where your mouth is. Time is money. Give to local organizations who are publicly committed to this work. Give mentorship to that non-ad school trained junior strategist of color instead of letting people write him off as “not good” at the work. Give grace to that young person who says “umm” a few times too many in the meeting. Most importantly, give yourself education– Google should get you there, it got me there.

4. Challenge yourself. Recognize that people rarely start on equal footing and then ask yourself questions that make you uncomfortable. Be restorative in your decision making and honest with yourself. Ask yourself– am I speaking up because it’s the right thing to do or because it makes me feel good to do it? Am I defending this group because it’s at no cost to me? Why does everyone in my building/neighborhood look the same? Do I only approve creative that I would make?

D: I hope to see more employers support their employees’ preferred names and pronouns. A friend of mine is forced to go to work and his computer screen with his dead name on the login is visible to all and gets questions daily about why his name doesn’t match the name he is called by others in the office. Even though he has a beard, some people will refer to him as she, and management doesn’t correct them. They flat-out told him that he has to change his name legally for them to change what appears to the clients he is assigned to by appointments. Albeit, we are working in Arizona at the moment, so the cost to change one’s name is a little steep and the working conditions aren’t the most inclusive, but I didn’t think it’d be this unhealthy. Many tell me to move back to California to make the process of transitioning less awkward, but I hope that eventually, I can see the same kinds of social strides nationwide that we currently only see in pockets.

As far as advice to other young, trans creatives, I want to emphasize confidence. You don’t have to always feel it– sometimes the energy just isn’t there that day, but we must present confidence anyways. You walk into a meeting, a networking event, a summer internship feeling less than? Who cares. You tell yourself, “I am a fucking champion,” and you strut in with no apologies. This isn’t only for your benefit, either. In a way, you have a responsibility to the transgender rights movement to enforce the view that we are sure of ourselves so the world can take us all a little more seriously.

"You walk into a meeting, a networking event, a summer internship feeling less than? Who cares. You tell yourself, 'I am a fucking champion,' and you strut in with no apologies."

I would love for you to share a piece of your coming out story– whatever that means to you.

blake: The biggest inspirations to my gender identity journey have been the hundreds of trans people I met on Tumblr in the early 2010s; the power of community is real. I’m not in contact with them anymore, but I hope they’re all okay and started to find their way like I did.

I am still transitioning– so far I have socially transitioned and I have received light cosmetic work. I’m trying to decide what my next steps will be. My social transition happened in college– I went to a liberal, all-female college in Massachusetts. Minus a few bumps, it was a pretty warm environment to start the ephemeral part of my transition. In college, I distanced myself from my family and friends at home and built a new family of loving, queer, black, POC weirdos.

When I went to the Armory Show this year, I stopped to admire a multimedia piece– Monument Push (which was made by queer artists). I was immediately taken by a set of photos– muted colors, bursting with energy. There was a person beating up a chunk of bronze. It was beautiful and I started to tear up. I remember vaguely processing that they were nude, but I didn’t dwell. I stood there for as long as it took me to hum Khalid’s “Talk” from top to end. Then I was pushed out of my world by someone saying, “Can you find the penis?” I looked around and noticed that I was surrounded, no exaggeration, by people peering at the subject in the photos trying to figure out what their genitals looked like. It felt like a bad movie– everyone was trying to clock this person rather than live in the art. I wrote in my journal that night: “For most people, transness is something to be learned about. That's good; it will be good. For some of us though, it's a norm. A norm we'd prefer not to have otherized.”

D: My coming out story happens every day. At the grocery store, at the dry cleaners, at a new job, when a new round of hires come into the workplace. It doesn’t stop, but that’s in part due to the possibility that I’ll need a few more “revisions” to fully achieve a male appearance. I think I’m hiding in Arizona because I’m waiting to finish these revisions so I don’t start work in an agency as an “incomplete” trans man. It’s my own neurosis.

My partner has been a huge inspiration to me to live my life for me. For most of my life, I had lived my life for others by fulfilling what’s expected of me. Many people never free themselves of these shackles, sadly, but I guess all it took was a few dozen casual debates, a jacuzzi in the Phoenix summer, and a healthy amount of bourbon. Maybe the answers were already there, but that I needed to challenge my resolve to endure the incongruity. I’m still in the beginning stages of transitioning, but I already know that anything that comes will be far easier to deal with than the heartbreak of spending a quarter-century of my life thinking that I will never feel fulfilled in my little flesh-vehicle and that I just had to “get used to it.”

Transitioning has changed the path my career is taking, because I don’t necessarily want to be known as “the trans guy in the office.” I just want to be known as me. I want to be known for my work and what I contribute to the world around me, but I don’t want being trans to overshadow what I create. I wish there was a way to work from home while recovering from surgeries and therapies and still “breaking into the industry,” but I can’t call the shots yet. I’ll just have to make the slog to being more and more “passable” and then I’ll feel like I won’t be joining a company as the token trans coworker. I want to be seen as a man without any qualifier to get me there.

"It’s not that the transgender movement is a “trendy” scene to associate with, it’s that the transgender rights movement now brings the possibility to people who would never have considered their opposing beliefs about their gender identity to start to allow themselves to question."

Trans people are seen as being so different and segmented, but our struggle is similar to every other person on the planet. There’s something we all want to change about our appearance, that gives us a negative feeling when we notice in a mirror or a badly-lit photo. Whether it’s our nose, our acne scars, or a little more weight than we’d like, if we don’t change these things we are left with one option– getting used to it. However, in the case of trans people, there’s oftentimes a whole slew of things that need adjustment for it to feel good looking in a mirror. Sometimes those adjustments align directly with the opposite camp of one’s biological sex, but sometimes it’s somewhere in the middle. The startling thing is that many people who think they are cisgender are still trying to “get used to it” like I did for many years. It’s not that the transgender movement is a “trendy” scene to associate with, it’s that the transgender rights movement now brings the possibility to people who would never have considered their opposing beliefs about their gender identity to start to allow themselves to question. I hope transitioning can someday be seen as an act of courage and self-realization in the same way as other transformative life decisions.


To learn more about the transgender community, please check out these resources:

Transgender Day of Visibility

Human Rights Campaign

GLAAD

The Trevor Project

GLSEN

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