MY LIFE AS A TRANSGENDER CEO
By Natalie Egan
To me, the International Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV) is about representation. When I was growing up, there were no role models – so effectively, there was no representation. There were no media stars. There were no politicians or business leaders. There was no one in the local coffee shop. There was no hope. At least not for me.
To make matters worse, I didn’t even understand what I was feeling. With no internet in the mid-eighties, I remember staring at the little pamphlets on the wall at the doctor’s office (this was how self diagnosed worked before WebMD) looking for mine. I imagined what it would say in big bold letters: “Do you feel differently than everyone else?”
My introduction to the idea of a transgender person was of course in a boys locker room at age 11, where I learned that “trannys” are these gross men who dress as women, live under bridges in NYC, have HIV and perform sex work. Fueled by my youthful ignorance, it was a horrific visual. All it made me do was bury my truth deeper while making an even deeper commitment to conformity. And I was actually quite good at it! To the world, I looked like a white heteronormative alpha-male with access, privilege, and resources. I had the right friends, went to the right schools, and I worked hard too. Eventually I became the CEO of a 50 person company that I started in my basement. I had 3 beautiful kids and an amazing wife. I was a member of “the club”.
In reality, I was just living in a bubble I couldn’t see. Needless to say, the bubble popped when I came out as a transgender woman in 2015. The simplest way to explain it is this: I experienced bias, discrimination, and hatred for the first time in my life. You see, until that point I had never had to think about my identity, not once.
Becoming an instant minority has a very steep learning curve tied to it and many of us don’t even make it that far. We take our own lives. I almost did. The fear of coming out and being visible is truly terrifying, and without role models showing us what is possible, things look a lot darker.
So here are three things I’m doing to make things better:
First and foremost, I get up everyday. I walk out the door and I show up – for whatever it is. Big or small. Sometimes I show up as CEO. Sometimes I show up as a parent. Sometimes I am just grocery shopping or working out at the gym… it all helps. If you remember anything about TDOV, remember this: #RepresentationSavesLives
Second, I have committed the rest of my life, my experience, and my privilege to building software designed to help spread empathy and equality at scale. To set people free from the artificial constructs that imprisons us in each other’s expectations. At Translator we like to call it #EqualityTech. Our plan is to use technology to save the human race from itself. Stay tuned for more including our new website, which is about to drop any day now.
Third, I am grateful. I am grateful for everything and everyone everyday. Every breath and every moment. Moreover, I am especially grateful to everyone out there in the trans and gender non-conforming community. You are our allies, and I thank you for your fearless representation. Every. Single. Day.
Love you all,