Monday, October 4, 2010

Full Circles

I'm in the Washington DC area this week doing trainings at a government agency for a friend who is transitioning there.  The training is required for ALL managers, and the organization has been amazingly supportive.  This is an entire government agency, mind you, and to demonstrate support in a tangible way the CEO of the organization added gender identity and expression to the EEO policy.  Those of us who have pushed and pushed internally in our own organizations to get this done know the many roadblocks that can get thrown in our way.  This demonstrates what can be done when you have that kind of awareness and support at the highest levels.

As I sat there today looking around the room at all the senior staff in the packed boardroom, from the CEO to the CFO all the way down, I couldn't help but think back to the earliest days of my own transition.

BTW, here's a self-portrait I took with my iPhone inside the State Capitol Building in Harrisburg.  Nothing special - just something fun...

Perhaps not coincidentally, one of my own life milestones occurred on this date 11 years ago.  Oct. 4 1999 was my first day at work as Donna.  Day 1.  I wish I could say that I remember it like it was yesterday but in reality if feels like a lifetime ago.  I remember being terrified.  I remember sitting in my car taking deep breaths in the parking lot before getting out to go up the stairs, and how a co-worker greeted me and walked up with me.  I remember watching people stroll by my office to get a peek at me.

My management just wanted to get it over with.  They were as uncomfortable with it as my co-workers were.  Fast forward to today - 11 years later - and see how far we've come as a movement and how far I've come as a person.  It's just amazing.

I do have a few seemingly related items to share:

One is that the new HRC Corporate Equality Index was released today.  There was a time when I provided an in-depth review of the numbers and what they meant.  Those days are over, both because I no longer have anything to do with the organization and I just generally feel disconnected with their workplace efforts.  So, if you want to get an overview of the results or want to see the entire thing feel free to go to their website (see it here).  Or, there's a database of specific employers and their policies you can check (here's the link).  That's not to say that the efforts of the Workplace Project aren't important.  It's just that this won't be the place to get in-depth information on it.

What I will say, though, is that it's nice to see that many of the things that Jamison and I and others set into motion several years ago are just now finally becoming reality.  That includes mandatory wellness coverage, removal of transgender exclusions, and other things that affect the lives of transpeople each and every day.  Does this address the challenges many of us face getting hired?  No.  Does it address the epidemic of unemployment and under-employment in our community?  No.  We've got a long way to go in those regards.  But events like this training I'm doing in DC and the story that the CEI tells indicate just how far we've come.

In that same vein, the 2010 Out and Equal Workplace Summit opens tomorrow in Los Angeles.  This is the first conference I'll miss since 2002.  I've met some wonderful people at these conferences through the years and will miss re-connecting with them there.

At the same time, though, I've got some criticisms of the organization that I mentioned at a focus group session they asked me to attend several weeks ago.  For example, recognition for workplace excellence that they provide in their "Outies" awards is based upon a flawed process of nomination that (a) implies that major champions work for a corporation or have the clout to even be be nominated and (b) seems based as much on sponsorship as achievement.  That's not to belittle any of the winners of these awards.  But any workplace excellence award that doesn't have a mechanism for a champion like Jamison Green to be nominated and recognized is inherently flawed and needs to be changed.  That's all there is to it.

Anyway - the Summit is an awesome thing to attend.  I admire Selisse and others on the staff for all they've accomplished.  But I hope that the organization takes active steps to address some of the issues that we highlighted in the coming months.

Continuing in the "impact" vein,  The National Center for Lesbian Rights issues a press release today announcing publication of an effort that they've been working on for quite a while (read it here).  From the Press Release:
The report, “On the Team: Equal Opportunities for Transgender Student Athletes,” released on October 4, 2010, is the first ever to thoroughly address the complete integration of transgender student athletes within high school and collegiate athletic programs. The report is also the first to provide comprehensive model policies and a framework for athletic leaders to ensure equal access to school athletics for transgender students.

I was honored to be able to provide a quote that they used.  Athletics are a big deal in my world, and as more and more of us become self-aware at younger ages taking part in sports at a high school or college level is a natural outgrowth so having these kinds of guides is critical to provide guidance and raise awareness.  Anyway, kudos to the gang at NCLR for this excellent work.

All of these things feel like full circles for me.  The workplace transition training event.  The HRC CEI thing.  The Workplace Summit thing.  The Transgender Student Athletes Guide.  I'm proud of the work I've done across a broad spectrum activities and the opportunities I've had to work with some amazing people doing important things.  And, to be honest, I expect that to continue in other ways.

I'll end with my diary entry from my first day at work - 11 years ago today:

October 4, 1999

How long have we talked about this day? I can't believe it's here. I can't believe this is me. It's as if I were just a spectator watching this person do these things, and to realize that it's me is really amazing to me. I have no idea where I have gotten the strength/courage to actually show up here today. It has built itself up over time, because I know it wasn't here too too long ago. It's one thing to want it and talk about it, and another to do it. And still another to feel comfortable about it. How many people actually follow it through? Pretty amazing.

I actually slept pretty well last night (in bed a little after 10), but was up early. Like, at 3 something. I found a lot to do to keep myself occupied. Like iron. And put away clothes. And straighten up my ever- increasing wardrobe in my big closet. I was tired last night, and decided to put off most of this stuff until I had a little time. And I had the time.

I also had to decide what to wear. I ended up choosing a pair of Anne Taylor slacks (kinda grey green....Julie calls it "Sea Foam") and one of my Anne Taylor silk blouses (ivory). I thought about wearing a jacket, but felt I would be more comfortable without, so I passed it up. I originally had on a pair of black Naturalizer shoes with a pretty low heel, but my feet were sore by lunch so I went home to change into a more comfortable flatter pair....They're doing better now....

I didn't expect to see much of a reaction, and that's what I got. They had a big production implementation this weekend, and people have been running around fighting fires. We had three new people start today, so I got introduced to them. I was originally supposed to go over and get my new id badge photo at 8 this morning, but I wanted to be here in my cube for most of the morning, so I rescheduled it for tomorrow. I went down to drop something off at the secretary (we call them "administrative aides") and we had a very nice chat.

I guess that's it for now. I may write more tonight. I can't remember everything right's all like a blur. I made a promise to myself to keep my head up, and look people in the eye, and display on the outside the happiness and satisfaction I feel on the inside. So far, I have done that. And when this day is over, those are the things I will remember. Not necessarily what I wore, or what I did at lunch....but how I felt. I will never forget this day.

If anyone had told me 11 years ago how things would unfold I'd tell them they were crazy.  But here we are.  Life continues to reveal itself with interesting new twists and surprises.  To be honest - I wouldn't have it any other way.

1 comment:

MeghanS said...

Donna, Thanks for mentioning the significant uplift to the CEI that the HRC WP team and I have been working for the last 3years. I'll be writing a few blog posts in the coming days on the CEI significance for trans folks and what this means for us. The additional standards will seek to end benefits discrimination for transgender employees AND dependents!! Yes Dependents - this can include CHILDREN!!!

Top level information that I'd like to share for now...

Equal health coverage for transgender individuals without exclusion for medically necessary care

Baseline Criteria
- Insurance contract explicitly affirms coverage
- Plan documentation is readily available to employees and
clearly communicates inclusive insurance options to employees and their eligible dependents
- Benefits available to other employees must extend to transgender individuals. Where available for employees, the following benefits should all extend to transgender individuals, including for services related to transgender transition (e.g., medically necessary services related to sex reassignment):
- Short term medical leave
- Mental health benefits
- Pharmaceutical coverage (e.g., for hormone replacement therapies)
- Coverage for medical visits or laboratory services
- Coverage for reconstructive surgical procedures related to
sex reassignment
- Coverage of routine, chronic, or urgent non-transition services (e.g., for a transgender individual based on their
sex or gender. For example, prostate exams for women with a transgender history and pelvic/gynecological exams for men with a transgender history must be covered)
- Existing plan features should extend equally to transition related care, e.g., provisions for “adequacy of network,”
access to specialists, travel or expense reimbursement
- Dollar caps on this area of coverage must meet or exceed $75,000 per individual

Full Criteria
- Coverage available for full range of services indicated by World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s (WPATH) Standards of Care, including the Medical Necessity Clarification Statement
- No Lifetime or Annual Dollar caps on this area of coverage
- Benefit administration covers treatment plans that adhere to the WPATH diagnostic and assessment process.
- Eliminates barriers to coverage:
- No separate dollar maximums or deductibles
- Explicit adequacy of network provisions