International Transgender Day of Visibility: Duke’s Story
“We’re at a tipping point,” he said. “People are more than just aware, they are willing to educate themselves or at least not voice their displeasure that there is a transgender person in the workplace. We ask that you respect and honor us so we don’t have to fight anymore. We’ve done enough fighting with ourselves about being the wrong gender. You may not like it, but leave that at the door when you come in to work. Respect me as an individual.”
For employees like Duke, this special day triggers a range of emotions, from pride to relief to reluctance to publicly reveal their stories. While International Transgender Day of Visibility is helping to shape an increasingly accepting workplace, it’s clear more needs to be done in order for transgender individuals to live openly and authentically.
Duke, who uses a pseudonym to protect his identity, said he wanted to remain anonymous, despite a day of “visibility,” because some members of his extended family are “prejudiced.”
“I don’t need to stand on a soapbox and say ‘I’m transgender,’ but I feel a need and a calling to support people because I’ve been through the process,” said Duke, who describes himself as “the epitome of a tomboy growing up – a girl who did boys’ stuff and hated dresses.”
Today, he offers support to others when appropriate, including a trans woman working the same shift at the same plant. Sometimes that includes sharing what Duke calls his “aha moment.” That moment for trans folks is the realization their gender identity is different from the sex they were assigned at birth, such as the sex listed on their birth certificates.
“My ‘aha moment’ came when I had a crush on the female goalie on my hockey team,” he said. “She was having issues in her marriage, and I became her sounding board, without letting her know my attraction. We went for a walk and I thought, ‘I almost hope she gets a divorce, so I can be the next man in her life.’ That changed everything. I spent the next week or two looking back on my life. I realized I should have been born a boy.”
Unlike many trans people, Duke said he has not experienced job discrimination, homelessness, violence, or even privacy violations linked to restrooms or locker facilities on the job. He is grateful for the colleagues and allies at Magna who are standing in support and solidarity with the transgender community.
As we honor and celebrate the courage, achievements and resiliency of transgender individuals like Duke, we must also recognize they still face systemic barriers to freedom and equality.
At Magna, our trailblazing Employee Resource Community called Pride strives to empower, develop and recognize LGBTQ+ employees and attract new talent to Magna. We are dedicated to supporting and encouraging employees like Duke as they share their stories – not just on one special day, but every day. As their visibility and acceptance in the workplace increases, there may not even be the need to use a pseudonym.
Magna Senior Legal Counsel
Chair of Magna Pride, LBGTQ+ Employee Resource Community