In this Centric Commemorates, Jo Karnes shares her experience and perspectives about Trans Awareness Week.
Admittedly, I was a bit apprehensive about writing a Centric Commemorates article for Trans Awareness Week. My own experience coming out as trans was difficult as I lost family, friends and a spouse.
However, one of the few bright spots during that time was my experience at Centric Consulting. Everyone was very accepting, and this was one of the few places where people respected me for my decision and even supported me during that extremely difficult time.
Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I feel there was no way I could have come out safely. I could have been institutionalized or simply thrown out of my home. Honestly, until the past 10 or so years, there was little acceptance of transgender people, and it wasn’t until around 2015 that I even thought transition would be possible for me.
I wish I could say we’ve been progressing in the right direction around LGBTQIA+ acceptance in this country but, after I came out in 2016, things began to take a very sharp turn downwards. In the past few years, 29 states in the U.S., including where I live, have passed laws banning transgender kids from certain healthcare, using gender-specific bathrooms and participating in specific organized sports. In 2021 and 2022, we saw more anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation introduced into statehouses than ever before – 290 in fact. Some of these laws single out a small number of individuals. Can you imagine growing up and having a law written that directly targets only you?
Trans people in America just want the same basic things every other American wants. The ability to go to work, go to the doctor and walk down the street without getting harassed. For me, while I’ve experienced my share of difficulties, I’m also extremely lucky to be in the position I’m currently in. Many other LGBTQIA+ Americans are in a far more precarious place, with little access to housing, food security and even local shelters, some of which may turn away someone for being transgender. The healthcare required when you are trans – while necessary and life-sustaining – is often denied, dehumanizing trans people for just simply wanting to be on the outside who we are on the inside.
While I live in fear and want the world to accept and embrace the trans population, I do feel hope as a member of the Centric community. I think the world could learn from our company’s focus on “being human” as well as our commitment to creating an inclusive environment where every person – cisgendered or transgendered, LGBTQIA+ or straight – has an opportunity to enjoy an unmatched experience at work.
My ask to everyone reading this is that you open your hearts and your minds just a bit wider to trans people. Educate yourselves. Read up, listen to people’s stories and look for opportunities to support individuals you may know and the broader trans community. If you are so inclined, become active in the fight for trans and LGBTQIA+ rights. At a minimum, challenge yourselves to push through the fear of the unknown and approach the trans community with compassion, openness and love. The world will be a better place for it.
Through these stories, we’ll seek to learn, understand, and empathize. We’ll celebrate our differences and realize that though we have varied backgrounds and perspectives, we are one team.