In an interview conducted by the website The Heroines of My Life, LGBT advocate Stephanie Battaglino shared her story of coming out as transgender at her workplace. In the interview, Stephanie spoke about the concerns she had as she prepared to come out as transgender. She discussed the many positive changes she has been able to bring about since her coming out, as well as the opportunities to continue working towards transgender awareness and the need for LGBT equality.
Monika: What are the other current issues on the transgender advocacy agenda?
Stephanie: Since I focus my activism in the workplace, the big issue in the U.S. involves the passing of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, commonly referred to as ENDA, which puts in place workplace protections for LGBT employees – including, thank goodness, transgender and gender non-conforming employees. In a historic vote last November, ENDA was passed by the United States Senate, 64-32, but has yet to be taken up by the U.S. House of Representatives, which is discouraging, but the fight continues! The tragic fact of the matter, Monika, is that in 33 states a transgender person can still be fired on the spot for coming out. That simply must change!
The other issue, and one that I am currently involved in at my company, is getting transgender-inclusive health benefits instituted. At its core it would provide coverage within employer-provided healthcare plans and short-term disability coverage for medically necessary treatments and procedures, such as those defined by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health's (WPATH) Standards of Care. While many companies have adopted these benefits – and some that I have worked with do not even have any “out” trans employees that they know of – to keep pace with the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) criteria, there are still many that are struggling with this issue and need to be educated about projected cost and utilization rates (both are much lower than they think).
Monika: What do you think about transgender stories which have been featured in media, films, books etc. so far?
Stephanie: In my opinion, it can vary widely. In motion pictures, for example, I think some have been terrific, while others have been just awful. For me, it’s all about portraying a transgender person honestly, humanly. Ones that stand out for me are Felicity Huffman as Bree in Transamerica, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Lola in Kinky Boots and Terence Stamp as Bernadette in The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Although I have yet to see the film, Jared Leto has gotten wonderful reviews (and an Oscar nomination) for his portrayal of Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Stephanie: Without a doubt it was coming out to my son, who was 10 at the time. That, and when you make the very personal decision to embrace your authentic self and transition EVERYONE transitions with you. Your children, your family, your friends and neighbors, your co-workers. As I like to characterize it, there’s a lot of plates spinning in the air at the same time and it can be very mentally, physically and emotionally draining to keep them all from falling on the ground. I made sure to place my son’s needs above my own – which I will admit was very difficult to do – so that he could be brought around to the whole concept of changing genders in his own time and on terms that he could understand for a child his age. I had some professional help with that as well. Thankfully, all of that work has paid dividends as he is a wonderfully caring and sensitive young man now off at university who, next to Mari and my sister is my biggest supporter.
In the interview, Stephanie opened up about the hardships she has had to face as well as the joys. She named Maggie Stummp (Senior Vice President of Prudential Financial, Inc.) as her role model, but emphasized that the LGBT movement is not made up of just one leader or hero, it is a group of people.
The Heroines of My Life has the full interview.