“My name is Vanessa, but it wasn’t always.” Vanessa McGivern was born Raymond and lived most of her life as a man. But somehow she always knew that that didn’t quite match up with the person she was.
IT Analyst at Bayer in Pittsburgh, USA
Where I was raised, there were no transgender people. Although there were gay people, I knew that wasn’t me either. I just didn’t seem to completely fit with myself or any group. I dealt with this as best I could, with the real me showing up here and there. For example, I dressed as a girl for Halloween for three years.
Let’s fast forward to last year when I found I didn’t like to wear jeans anymore. I wanted something more comfortable but only owned two pairs of sweatpants and they were old and worn. Then, I happened upon a pair of tights and they were perfect. But with them came up all my suppressed feelings of femininity. That’s why I bought three pairs of tights! Voilà une femme! I began allowing myself to be female in the confines of my own room.
I found out my daughter had a friend who is transgender. She and I spoke about this friend and I learned that my daughter was okay with transgender people and would also be okay with me being transgender. At that point, I opened the door out of the bedroom; but not out of the house.
Then, I happened upon a pair of tights and they were perfect.
After getting through the holidays and my birthday, I decided it was time to come out. Remembering a flyer I had seen the previous year from BLEND, Bayer’s LGBT+ Employee Resource Group, I reached out and spoke to the leader of the Pittsburgh chapter, where I work. At the time, I knew only that I wanted to belong to a community and to contribute to that community in a positive way.
Upon my initial meeting with BLEND, I hesitated to allow my real self to show through. I spoke about being LGBT, but didn’t mention transitioning. At the same time, I also came out to my friends and family through a series of Facebook posts and phone calls to my siblings.
Then, I realized I was out everywhere except work. With LGBT Pride Month coming up, I felt it would be great to be 100 percent out for that event. I had my goal! With the support and help of my HR business partner, manager and the Pittsburgh BLEND leadership, the experience was wonderful.
My plan for coming out involved first making an announcement at a small impromptu meeting with some of my current and former coworkers – that approach made me feel comfortable. Almost simultaneously, an email announcement of my coming out – which I had worked on with HR and my management – went to the entire Bayer Pittsburgh campus. Over the next day and a half, I had a hard time keeping up with the congratulations and well-wishes I received! Even some from people I didn’t know. I was then able to take the next steps of updating my email, badge and employee profiles.
Bayer’s Transitioning in the Workplace guidelines provided helpful guidance through this process and it eased my transition. It’s very thorough, addressing both the needs of transitioning employees and the company. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not all easy and there have been some bumps along the way. Overall, though, it’s been a very positive experience.
It’s a wonderful feeling typing this story at my desk, where I’m free to be the woman I always was on the inside. And I’m very blessed to be at a company that has both guidelines that allow me to do this and employees who support me. I know there are many out there who are not as lucky, and I intend to pay it forward, if possible. I truly hope that telling this story will help give courage to others who want to come out.