Bringing Transgender Equality And Benefits To The Workplace With Mary Ann Horton

Deciding to come out or transition can be tough. It takes a lot of courage to finally become who you really are. If you are thinking of taking this significant step in your life, this episode might just offer you the inspiration you need! Join Rosie Zilinskas as she talks to transgender activist, author, internet pioneer, and computer architect Mary Ann Horton. Listen to Mary’s story of how she discovered that she was transgender and how coming out changed her life for the better at work and in her personal life. Bringing to light the issues the community is facing today, she also imparts how she is bringing transgender equality and its benefits to the workplace. Plus, learn more about Mary’s book, Trailblazer: Lighting the Path for Transgender Equality in Corporate America. Start being true to yourself today!

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Bringing Transgender Equality And Benefits To The Workplace With Mary Ann Horton

I am extremely excited to bring you a transgender activist. Mary Ann Horton is a PhD who made a name for herself as a transgender activist in business and social circles. Her efforts to bring transgender equality and benefits to the workplace earned her the Trailblazer Outie Award. Mary Ann spent a storied career as a computer systems architect, internet pioneer, and entrepreneur. She is an author and speaker and in theory, retired.

 

I can’t wait for you to know Mary Ann’s story. It is incredibly interesting. She goes through many trials and tribulations in her journey. I will let her tell you her story and where she is. Mary Ann was an integral catalyst for transgender equality and benefits in Corporate America. The reason why I invited Mary Ann to the show is that she can be an advocate for those people thinking about coming out or even transitioning. With that, stay tuned for Mary Ann’s story.

Mary Ann, thank you so much for being here on the show. I am going to start by asking you, what does transgender mean?

 

Rosie, thanks for having me on the show. This is fun. Transgender is an umbrella term. It can refer to a lot of different types of folks but in general, it refers to people whose gender identity doesn’t match their sex assigned at birth. For example, we have transsexuals who are people that feel so strongly about their gender identity mismatch that they want to live full-time as the opposite gender than their birth-assigned. Those can be born male going to female or female to male going in the other direction.

We also have non-binary people. Sometimes they’ll use they-them pronouns and this might include crossdressers, gender-fluid people, or men that spend part of their time dressed as women for comfort or enjoyment. This could also include people who don’t identify as either gender and look visibly different than either men or women. There are drag queens and drag kings, which are performers in gay bars that are out for effect. They say drag is something you do but trans is something you are.

Being transgender says nothing about a person’s sexual orientation. People don’t transition to not be gay. It’s much easier to be gay than it is to be a trans person. I started being attracted to women and I’ve always been attracted to women. I identify as lesbian. One thing your readers might want to try is crossing their arms as they usually do, switching it around the other way so that it’s backward, leaving it there for a little while, and keeping them that way while I talk for a second.

Transsexual, someone who wants to live full-time with the opposite gender, are going to go through various steps. First, it’ll start with counseling to get a diagnosis and spend some time to make sure they are who they say they are. They may start hormones which are estrogen, possibly progesterone for people going from male to female. Cisgender is people who are not transgender. They identify with the gender they were born with. Those are the same hormones that cisgender women take for menopause.

Transmen are going to take testosterone and those hormones will take effect within a few months to a few years. Transwomen that are going from male to female will have electrolysis or laser done on their face to get rid of the fur. There will be legal steps such as changing your name and gender marker, from the birth gender marker to the other one on your driver’s license and passport. Eventually, you may do one or more surgeries. That’s the crowning touch. Now that I’ve said all this, think about your arms. Has there been a distraction from your arms? Is it hard to comprehend what I had to say? You can let go now. It’s hard.

Not only that but I was getting tired. I can tell that my arms were starting to lower as you were saying. That was a lot of information that you provided to us. I want to say one thing and this is important to be said. This is a conversation about transgender people. If I say anything incorrect or out of turn, I want you to stop me and correct me, Mary Ann, because I’m learning. One of the reasons why I asked you and invited you on to the show is because people close to me have come out and I have started to learn and educate myself. This is also in line with the work that I’m doing helping women advance in the corporate world.

When I met you, I knew that I had to jump on the opportunity to ask you to come and be a guest on the show. A topic speaking about the queer community and transgender women in the corporate world is not something that is commonplace or you hear about all the time. I jumped on the opportunity to invite you to the show. I wanted to preface this with the conversation so if I say anything wrong, please go ahead and correct me.

You’ll be fine, Rosie. You’re great.

First of all, you live in San Diego, which is beautiful out there. You are a computer nerd. Is that correct?

 

That’s right.

You won the Trailblazer Outie Award. When was that?

 

2001.

How did you earn that award? That leads us to a little bit of your story. Can we spend a little bit of time with you sharing your story? I might interrupt you if I find something interesting.

 

I was a late bloomer. I didn’t know that anything was different about me until I was in the fourth grade. I started getting interested in women’s clothes. I thought skirts and twirling were pretty neat. I felt a strong need to wear those great clothes. I snuck into my mom’s room and borrowed some of her clothes. It was a big secret. I was secretly crossdressing, wearing a few articles of women’s clothes for years and years.

I grew up and got married. I told my wife about it. She didn’t like it or approve. She said it was not acceptable so I tried to stop but I couldn’t stop. It was a part of who I was. Eventually, she caught me and divorced me. That was a painful time in my life. I met another woman that I started dating and she didn’t have any problem with me processing. She said it was fine and close. She was wonderful. I had gone into a purge during my divorce, which means I threw away all my clothes and decided I was never going to crossdress again. I’ve done that three times and I’ll tell you, it was expensive.

I told her, “I have this need to crossdress but I’m not cross-dressing now. I’m in the middle of this divorce.” She says, “That’s fine. No worries.” About six months later, the need was coming back. I was over at her apartment and I mentioned to her, “I’m starting to feel that need to come back.” She didn’t say a word. She got up, went into a room, came back with a manila envelope, and handed it to me. This was in 1988. Phil Donahue had crossdressers on their show at the time. She’d written away to the address, gotten their literature, and held onto it for whenever I was ready, which was a loving thing for her to do and I was very touched.

I made contact with this organization. It’s called Tri-Ess, Society for the Second Self. It’s a group of crossdressers that get together, dress as women, talk, and socialize. This helped me develop my fem side. We call it Being On Fem when we were dressed as a woman. I grew and grew. Beth was there supporting me. She was great. We eventually got married. I developed so that I had two wives. I had a wife as a man and this closeted life as a woman where nobody knew that I was a crossdresser and I was afraid to come out.

NWB 31 | Transgender Equality
Transgender Equality: The Society for the Second Self (Tri-Ess) is a group for crossdressers to get together, dress as women, and socialize. They help crossdressers develop their feminine side.

When you were afraid to come out, were you living your life within your home and weren’t cross-dressing anywhere outside of your home?

 

My wife and I would go out to dinner at the times when my kids were with their mom. Sometimes we’d go up to the Tri-Ess meetings. I was living in Columbus, Ohio at the time and the Tri-Ess meetings were in Cleveland, which is a two-hour drive. We started a group in Columbus. I was one of the Founders of The Crystal Club. That was a lot more convenient. It was maybe half an hour’s drive but being an organizer of the meeting, there was a lot of work to do. We’d go to the support group meetings. We’d go out to dinner or in the house but mostly, it was going out through dinner or something like that.

A few years later, I was with Bell Labs, which became AT&T. In 1996, AT&T spun off Lucent Technologies, which was the technology and manufacturing part of AT&T. Lucent had a post drop in the hallway that got my attention. They had an employee diversity group called Equal, whose mission was to support gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees. I had never seen transgender in that context before. It got my attention.

I joined Equal and they were great. They were supportive but I was the only transgender person there. They taught me about gays and lesbians. I taught them about transgender. I should caution you that I was not a typical transgender person. Every journey is different. Don’t assume that all trans people were like me. I got a lot of crap from my friends who were transsexuals saying, “Why are you as a crossdresser going out and telling people that all trans people are like you? They assumed they’re like you.” I said, “I’ll be clear about that.” I didn’t realize I was transsexual at the time but I identified as a crossdresser.

Don't assume that every transperson is the same. Everyone has a different journey. – Mary Ann Horton Click To Tweet

I went to a conference and learned how important it was to have sexual orientation in the non-discrimination policy for the company. Equal was very proud that Lucent had added sexual orientation to its non-discrimination policy so all the gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals could be out in the workplace and they didn’t have to spend energy hiding who they were. Like we spent energy folding our arms the wrong way, people were spending energy hiding who they were and that affected their productivity at work. Being able to come out of the closet was important.

I thought about that. I thought, “I would like this too. I would love to be able to come out of the closet but I’m not protected because there’s nothing in that EO policy that says anything about transgender people.” I’d learned from the people at Equal how to do an ask. I did an ask. I asked through channels if there was any possible way to have language added to Lucent’s EO policy that said that transgender people wouldn’t be discriminated against.

This was unheard of in 1997. Nobody did this. No company had this language and policy but I asked. A few months later, the message came back through the channels that said, “If we were to add language, what language should we add that would be as inclusive as possible?” What a wonderful question to hear. I thought about that. I didn’t know the answer but I had contacts and I asked the contacts.

After a little bit of work, we came up with the language, Gender Identity Characteristics or Expression, where gender identity protects transsexuals and gender characteristics protect intersex people, those who are born with biological differences. Their bodies are not entirely male or female. Gender expression protects pretty much everybody who’s not Barbie or Bubba. I asked for that language and didn’t hear anything for months. Finally, word came back in October of 1997 that Lucent had a new EO and non-discrimination policy. I looked at it and there was my language, Gender Identity Characteristics or Expression. That was Rich McGinn, the CEO of Lucent who signed out on October 28th of 1997.

Back to my question, is this how you got the Trailblazer Outie Award?

 

That was part of it. That was the first thing. There’s the second thing that happened a few years later. Mind you, I still hadn’t transitioned. I wasn’t on hormones and contemplating surgery but I had friends and colleagues at Lucent who were trans. They were having a tough time. There was one trans woman at Lucent who was ready for her surgery. There was no coverage on the health plan for the surgery, hormones, or any of the benefits.

In 2000, she had to save up $15,000, which was the cost of a new car. She had to pay cash in advance for her surgery. All the trans surgeons knew that they needed cash in advance or they wouldn’t get paid because insurance would cover it. I didn’t think this was fair. I saw how hard it was for her to save up that money. I did another ask and I asked if it would be possible for Lucent to add coverage for the trans health benefits to their policy.

Some months later, she got her check. Lucent made the statement, “We cover that now.” I was elated and she was made whole. I felt good about that. Those two things happened. I got nominated for the Trailblazer Award for Out & Equal. Equal was Lucent’s LGBT workforce group. A lot of big companies have these employee resource groups. Most Fortune 500 companies have them for LGBT people, women, African-Americans, Hispanic people, and whatever groups the company decides to have workers that want to get together and work on their issues.

Out & Equal is the mothership for these LGBT employee workforce groups. They’re a who’s who of Fortune 500 companies, their LGBT workers, and HR people. They all get together, give workshops, do best practices, and give out awards. One of the awards they give out is the Trailblazer Award, which is for the LGBT person who’s made the biggest difference in the workplace. I was nominated for that award and I was delighted to win that award. That was a big honor in Cincinnati in 2001. My wife came to that event with me. My feet didn’t touch the floor all night. It was wonderful.

With all of the work that you had done, you have been a transgender activist for many years.

 

I was for a number of years after that. Eventually, I retired in 2007 but I was going around in the early 2000s waving the flag saying, “Lucent did this. Maybe some other companies should do this too.” I was networking with other people with Out & Equal. We got Apple to do it in 1998 and a couple of other companies in a year. Avaya did it in 2000 when they spun off from Lucent. Pretty quickly, Xerox, Chase Bank, and IBM were on board. This was starting to be a thing.

There was a dot-com bubble burst in 2001. I was with Avaya at that time and they had to downsize drastically. I took a severance package. I figured I’d have no trouble finding another good job but there were tens of thousands of capable technical workers looking for jobs in 2001. It was hard. I couldn’t find a job for quite a while. While I was looking, the need was getting stronger. I wanted to work as a woman. I wanted to be a woman all the time.

There was no job reason not to anymore. I was out to my kids. The main reason I didn’t transition was that my wife wanted time with her husband. After the Trailblazer Award, she and I were sitting out on the patio the next night. We’re talking while having a glass of wine. I told her, “I’m thinking of looking for work as a woman.” She said, “If you were a woman all the time, I’d have more respect for you than if you were just a woman when it’s convenient for you.” What I heard was that it’s okay to transition to full-time. She said, “But I never signed up to be married to a woman.” What I heard was that it’s okay to transition.

That was the death of our marriage because she’s a straight woman and she didn’t want to be married to a woman. We wound up with an amicable divorce. I wound up looking for a job. It was a difficult time to be looking for a job but I was hunting for a job as a woman. I was taking whatever crummy jobs I could get to get experience working as a woman.

I went to Kelly Services and they sent me to a convention to check people in at the registration desk and an arena center to do filing. I wound up teaching a class on how to build websites and I got paid every 3rd week for 30 hours that I was in front of a class. These were all hard jobs but I found that I liked working as a woman. I just wanted a good job with a steady paycheck. Eventually, I got a call from Bank One, which was a big regional bank. It’s now part of Chase. I’d applied with them for an IT job and they’d finally gotten around to my resume.

They called me in for an interview and I aced the interview. I’m talking with the HR person as part of the interview process. She tells me about all the benefits and everything, also all the routine stuff. I say to her, “I want to share with you that I’m transgender. If there are any concerns about that, we have an LGBT employee resource group in Bank One. I know the people. We can help with any issues that might come up but I assure you there won’t be any problem with that.” She said, “I’m glad you opened the door because I’m not allowed to ask about that.”

Let me tell you what happened. I was sitting in with the hiring director in his office. He was reading your resume and his smile is getting bigger. He gets to the part of your publications and sees your book. He says, “Wait a minute. I have that book. That book is by Mark Horton.” They looked at each other and said, “Oh.” Joel looks at Tina and says, “What do we do?” She asked him, “Can she do the job?” He says, “Yes. What should matter is she can do the job so there’s no problem.” They hired me.

After working those crummy jobs for 11 months, I was getting a steady paycheck every 2 weeks, whether I deserved it or not. It was wonderful. The words came back to me from a boss that I’d had at Lucent who’d been outsourced to IBM, which is a terrible thing to happen to anybody. He’d gone from being a department head to being a contractor, which was a low for all the people that got outsourced. He said, “Every morning, I come into work and ask, ‘What do you need me to do? Do you want me to solve the businesses’ problems? Do you want me to sweep the parking lot? Whatever we need, I’ll do it.’ I do it. I then go home and laugh my way to the bank.”

I thought about that. I’m thinking, “I’m getting a steady paycheck. This is good and the work is good. I’m working as a woman.” My attitude became good. All those little annoyances that happened in the workplace from time to time that everybody was complaining about didn’t bother me because life was good. My attitude became good and I focused on meeting the needs of the business. I learned at the manager school at Lucent how to meet the needs of the business and focus on the needs of the business. That made a huge difference.

I was focusing on the needs of the business constructively. I was much more productive because I was spending all my time as myself and not worrying about hiding part of myself. I was bringing my whole self to work. I had a great attitude. I was promoted twice and became their most highly-rated worker. It was a good thing for me.

Stop worrying about hiding a part of yourself at work. Bring your whole self to work. – Mary Ann Horton Click To Tweet

It is so interesting that you say that because so often, people are not engaged in their work. When you’re not engaged, you’re bored and not happy. Therefore, your productivity suffers. You are a perfect example of someone that is engaged in their work. Now that you’re transition was complete and you came out, that fear of people knowing about you was no longer taking up headspace.

 

You were free to be yourself. Therefore, that came out in your work because you were happy and productive. You ended up being one of their top performers so that’s great. I do want to ask you, what gave you the courage? You were written between jobs but what was the final courage piece that you acquired to say, “I’m ready to live as a woman?”

 

Three things were holding me back. One of them was my job initially. I was closeted at work. One of them was my wife. She wanted time with her husband. The third thing was my kids. Adam was in middle school and Matt was in high school. Those are rough years for kids. Their biological mother, it turns out, is lesbian. That was an interesting divorce case, the crossdresser against the lesbian. I wound up winning full custody but it was quite the epic event.

She dropped them off at school one morning. She had a rainbow bumper sticker on her car. One of Adam’s friends saw that bumper sticker and he knew what it meant that that was a gay thing. He harassed my son in the classroom going, “Your mom’s gay.” He came home from school that night and was so mad. He went up to the teacher and politely asked the teacher for permission to kill him.

When I came out to them, they didn’t want to go through that again. They’d already been through it once and it was horrible having all their friends harass them. They lay down two conditions. “Don’t come to church and school as Mary Ann.” This was a small town surrounded by Columbus, Ohio and there were three churches in town. A lot of people from the school went to the same church. If I went to church as Mary Ann, then everybody would know. Those were the rules.

I wound up having to sneak into other churches to go as Mary Ann. My kids, my wife, and my job were the three things holding me back. I came out to my kids and at work so that wasn’t a thing. The final straw was my wife. She wanted time with her husband and she didn’t want me to transition. I was hanging on by my fingernails, trying to keep this part of my identity as a man. I realized I was doing it for her. I had to work up the courage to talk to her.

I won the trailblazer and was out of work. I wasn’t going to work every day so I booted up every morning in Mary Ann mode and stayed a woman all the time unless there was some reason to be Mark. I was a woman most of the time and I wanted to be a woman all the time. I wanted to do things like pierce my ears, paint my fingernails, and all those kinds of things. I couldn’t do that part-time. Shaving my legs and wearing heavy tights in the summer is not fun.

That was a big loss for you. You had so much love for her that you were holding yourself back. Once you said, “I want to do this 100% of the time,” she said, “I don’t want to be married to a woman.” That was the end of your marriage. That’s unfortunate but at the same time, it gave you the freedom to be who you truly desire to be.

 

Dating is hard as a transwoman but life eventually got better. I got to move to San Diego in 2007. I got a call from San Diego Gas & Electric. They needed me. I went to high school in San Diego. I love it here. Shoveling snow is overrated. I was happy to get to move to San Diego. SDGE valued my contributions. I’d written some tools when I was a grad student at Berkeley that everybody uses in the Unix and Linux system. My coworkers were using these tools and were like, “You wrote vi? We want you here. Please come.” They were all impressed.

Dating is hard for a trans woman. – Mary Ann Horton Click To Tweet

Everybody was supportive when I came out here. It helped that the bosses were supportive. They were wonderful. They valued my contributions. While I was out here, I met a woman in a lesbian social circle. Her name is Katie. We started dating and became a couple in 2012. We’ve been together for several years. We got married in 2021. Life is good. I’ve got the ring and my wife in the next room. Happy wife, happy life. It’s all legal. As two women, we can get married. I’m retired from SDGE. I’m writing my book. Everything is happy. I love being a woman. I would never go back to being a man.

As you know, this show is geared toward women in the corporate world. Can you tell me a little bit about some of the challenges? You have had an incredible story in the fact that you were the trailblazer paving the path for other transgender people. What were maybe two challenges that you think were the biggest challenges in transitioning and then becoming this activist?

 

I didn’t run into that many challenges. I expected to be treated poorly as a woman because women are constantly being talked over and mansplained to. I heard that all the time. I’ve heard from other transwomen too that when they change, they see the difference. The transmen talk about how all of a sudden they have credibility. It’s an amazing thing when their voice changes and they’ve got he-him pronouns. Suddenly, people listen to them.

That didn’t happen to me. I was surprised because I kept expecting it to and I kept looking for it. I think it’s because I brought value to the business. I made it a point to focus on the needs of the business. Not to be aggressive or anything but I took initiative. I saw areas where things could be improved and I went about fixing them, making things better, doing the work myself, or getting buy-in and getting other people together to do it to make the improvement. The people valued that because I did it constructively.

I see lots of women at work who are sitting passively. They’re not contributing. They don’t speak up in meetings. They sit there. Their careers don’t go anywhere. The women whom I see that are successful take initiative, speak up, and are assertive. Not to knock anybody else but what they do is speak up to add value to the business and they’re helpful. They do it kindly. People value that and that has brought me a long way. I’ve learned to always focus on the needs of the business, not on my needs personally or my little part of the business but on the business as a whole. I think about what my boss needs and my boss’s boss needs. If I’m meeting those needs, then everything will take care of itself.

NWB 31 | Transgender Equality
Transgender Equality: A lot of women get called out at work because they’re not contributing or bringing value to the business. Successful women are not afraid to take the initiative and speak up.

As far as benefits, have you seen any benefits once you transitioned?

 

I’m not spending energy hiding myself so my productivity went up. I wound up getting promoted. When I was with Lucent, I was promoted. Spinning off with Avaya, I was promoted to a Tech Manager responsible for their email and corporate directory. I went back to being an individual contributor with Bank One and was promoted twice there. There were lots of promotions and it’s because I’m not spending energy hiding myself. I’m just being myself.

Stop spending energy hiding your real self. – Mary Ann Horton Click To Tweet

My voice doesn’t pass and that’s intentional. I tried learning how to talk as a woman and have a passable voice. It’s a lot of work. I can do it but it sounds fake. Nobody believes it. All my coworkers hated it. They said, “Mary Ann, just use your regular voice. We like it better.” I realized at that time that I don’t pass and I’m not going to pass.

I met an activist who intentionally didn’t pass. She shared with me that she intentionally didn’t pass because whenever she’s out in public, interacting with people at the store, work, or anywhere, people know she’s trans, a regular human being, kind, and a nice person. They realized they know a trans person and she was okay. I was inspired by that and I thought, “I’m going to do that too. That way, I don’t have to work on this fake voice.”

I do that. Everywhere I go, I’m educating people. By being myself, they realize that they’re talking to a trans person. I’m not a drag queen with inch-long eyelashes and 6-inch heels. I’m not some weird person. I’m a regular person. I just happen to be trans. By doing that, I figured that I’m an ambassador to the world on behalf of the trans community educating people and saying, “This is what trans is.”

Mary Ann, that is so impressive because you are an ambassador to the world because your work is so incredibly important. Now more than anything, many people are being more accepting. We are trying to be more inclusive of people. Your work in educating me as well as so many others is going to be incredible and it is already incredible. I wanted to recognize that you have a PhD in Computer Science from UC, Berkeley. You are a doctor, ma’am. I should have said that at the beginning. You’re a computer nerd. Tell me a little bit about your book.

 

I was a visible activist in the community. I was going around giving Transgender 101 workshops to universities, churches, and companies. I tell my story in these workshops. The feedback that I got which was the best part of the workshop was my story. People asked me. They wanted to know more. I decided to write it all down. I’m retired from SDGE so I’ve written a memoir. It’s called Trailblazer: Lighting the Path for Transgender Equality in Corporate America.

NWB 31 | Transgender Equality
Trailblazer: Lighting The Path For Transgender Equality In Corporate America

It’s my coming-of-age story. It’s not just about Corporate America. It’s my whole story. All the details are there. It’s coming out on October 28th, 2022, which is the 25th anniversary of Lucent signing that historic policy. Lucent was bought by Alcatel. Alcatel was bought by Nokia so it’s Nokia now. Nokia is all on board with this. They’re going to do a bunch of social media stuff on October 28th, 2022 about the anniversary. They’re going to interview me and Ethel Batten, who was the HR Director who got the policy signed. The book is being released on that anniversary on the 28th. It will be available on Amazon and hopefully in bookstores. I’m hoping some of our readers might enjoy reading that book.

Mary Ann, I want to ask you emotionally, how do you feel now versus prior to your transition or coming out?

There was a time when I came out in 1996 or ‘97. There was a time when I transitioned in 2001. There were lots of times. The difference between coming out and being out is that coming out is voluntary. It’s when I choose to come out. If someone else outs me, then they’re disclosing it without my permission. That happens and it’s not a good thing.

I had a year at one point where I had this big empty yearning to crossdress. That was fulfilled by cross-dressing. The feelings became more intense. At some point, I had a very strong need to be a woman. Now that I am a woman legally, morally, socially, and medically, the yearning is gone. I’m who I am and whom I need to be. I’m comfortable. I’m happy with who I am, to be living in paradise in San Diego, and being married to my sweetheart. I have a wonderful life and I couldn’t ask for more.

You gave me the chills, Mary Ann. I’m so happy for you. That’s wonderful. I would like to ask you if you could provide us with two tips for transwomen specifically. I’ll leave it up to you as far as what you want to do for tips because we could go a lot of different ways but the point is how to be happier and advance in their career.

 

I would say be true to yourself. If you haven’t transitioned at work yet, haven’t come out yet, and there’s a yearning there, you know your circumstances and you have to do what’s best for you. Every journey and situation is different. I tell you that once you come out and transition, it gets better. You may have to give up some things and weigh what you’re going to give up. That was one thing that my dad told me before I transitioned. He said, “You can have anything in the world that you want but what do you have to give up to get that?” I didn’t know what he was talking about at the time. I gave up a lot to transition like two marriages but eventually, it got better.

For all those people that have transitioned and you’re trying to fit in at work, it’s okay. You talk to your boss or HR if your company is large enough to have a diverse organization. Talk to your diversity folks. Plan your coming out. Make sure that your boss is on board with it. Make your announcement and plan it with everybody. Make sure you’ve got support from the big boss, the person that everybody listens to, because if that person is on board with you, then everybody will be on board with you. Be comfortable. Be yourself. Focus on the needs of the business. If you focus on the needs of the business, you’re true to yourself and you have supportive management, then you will succeed.

I’m going to reiterate a little bit. The first one is to be true to yourself. You said a lot about that. The second one for me is to focus on the needs of the business while you’re feeling true to yourself. Your career and the productivity of the business will advance. Did I get that right?

 

That advice applies to everybody. If you focus on the needs of the business at work and solving the businesses’ problems, whatever those can be or whatever your little piece of the business is that you can help the business succeed, then people will take note of that and you will succeed. That works for transwomen, women, men, and transmen. Focusing on the needs of the business has been a lifeline for me.

Mary Ann, I thank you so much for coming to the show. To me, this has been so enlightening and educational. I do have one final question. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about LGBTQIA+’s definition. One of the things that I read is that the term queer is being used as an umbrella term. Years back, it was a derogatory term but the queer community has taken that term back. They are celebrating it and it’s being used as an umbrella term. I was wondering if that is accurate and resonates with you.

 

It is accurate. Queer was a slang word, an insult that was thrown at gay men decades ago. It was a terrible thing to be called queer. We kept adding letters to the movement. There was gay and then gay and lesbian. The women got assertive and spoke up for their needs so it became lesbian, gay, and bi. We got trans so it became LGBT. The letters keep adding constantly.

Q has popped up and you see Q a lot. That’s because many people in the community have reclaimed queer and are saying, “This is our term. We’re going to take it and make it a positive thing. We can say, ‘We’re here. We’re queer. We’re not going shopping.’” Some people identify as queer. Some people don’t. Everybody has got however they identify.

I identify as lesbian and trans but I don’t identify as queer. Queer is a perfectly reasonable umbrella term that can be used for the whole community. In practice, we throw all the letters out there, LGBTQ, I for Intersex, A for Allies or Asexual, and Q can also stand for Questioning. We say plus because who knows what else is going to come up in the future? Those are all good terms.

I did a post on that and a little bit of an explanation as to what you said. I was amazed because trying to understand it all is very confusing. Even for any person trying to understand it all because you can’t be all of those things at once. It’s good information for us to understand. I am an ally. People close to me are part of the queer community. I want to understand, learn, and support. I will be featuring the show and making sure that people know about your book coming out because it is important work. Thank you again. Any final words, Mary Ann?

 

I’m happy to be here. Thank you so much for having me on. This has been a lot of fun. I hope our readers enjoy it. I hope we all have a wonderful life.

Thank you so much, Mary Ann.

 

Thank you. Take care.

Mary Ann Horton is an inspiration. Her life was incredible. Her journey was amazing, filled with ups and downs. Mary Ann was integral to bring transgender equality and benefits to the corporate world, and that’s why she got the Trailblazer Outie Award. Mary Ann has two tips. Tip number one is be true to yourself. One of the things that her dad told her was, “Mary Ann, you can have anything you want, you just have to figure out what you’re going to give up.” In Mary Ann’s situation, she gave up not 1 but 2 marriages, and now again, she’s happily married and living life as a woman.

Tip number two is to focus on the needs of the business and you will succeed. Mary Ann said that once she was living as a woman, that didn’t take up space in her head, and she was able to focus on her work and on the needs of the business. Those are two great tips. Mary Ann’s book called Trailblazer: Lighting the Path for Transgender Equality in Corporate America is coming out on October 28th 2022. I hope that you buy her book because her story is absolutely incredible. With that, remember to be brave, be bold, and take action.



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About Dr. Mary Ann Horton

NWB 31 | Transgender EqualityDr. Mary Ann Horton is a transgender activist, an author, an internet pioneer, and a computer architect. She earned her Ph.D. in Computer Science from UC Berkeley, spent 20 years with Bell Labs, and retired from San Diego Gas & Electric, where she protected the power grid from hackers. In 1997 she persuaded Lucent Technologies to be the first Fortune 500 company to add transgender-inclusive language to their nondiscrimination policy, earning her the Trailblazer Outie Award, and inspiring her to write her memoir “Trailblazer: Lighting the Path for Transgender Inclusion in Corporate America.”