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AUSTIN—As a little boy at the age of 8, Grace Anne Stevens knew that something was "off" about her: Her perception of her gender did not match her outward appearance. Later, as a teen experiencing puberty, Stevens struggled with being attracted to women while also believing that her true gender was female.
She recalled buying adult magazines with centerfolds and the ensuing confusion and inner struggle.
"I wanted the playmate and I wanted to be the playmate," she said. "How do I date? The needs of the body," she observed, "will often overcome the needs of the mind."
It was not until after 25 years of marriage that the athlete, design engineer, holder of two patent awards, father of three adult children and grandfather of two took action.
In 2011, at age 64, Stevens transitioned to female.
"My body now represents myself," she said.
[SHRM members-only toolkit: Employing Transgender Workers]
Today Stevens is divorced, has a master's degree in counseling psychology and is the author of the memoir No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth (Graceful Change Press, 2015). She works with individuals and organizations to help them understand the issues and emotions related to gender nonconformity. She shared her personal story and professional insight during a concurrent session Oct. 26 at the Society for Human Resource Management's Diversity & Inclusion Conference & Exposition.
"I always thought of myself as female," she said during her presentation, "Everything You Wanted to Know About Gender Transition in the Workplace but Didn't Even Know to Ask." Stevens never let people get too close for fear that they would learn her deepest secret.
"People do not have a choice of being transgender. They do have a choice of what they do about it. It took me 60 years to figure that out."
Education, Best Practices
While no two transgender experiences are the same, Stevens said, she did identify stages that a transgender person often goes through—hiding, self-acceptance and transition. The hiding stage includes confusion about how the person's gender identity differs from the sex assigned to them at birth, the discovery of transgender and transsexual concepts, and identity comparisons.
Self-acceptance spans a range that includes identity tolerance, a delay before acceptance of the transgender identity, acceptance and a delay before transitioning.
[Related resource: HR Magazine's "A Remarkable Transformation"]
The transition stage includes acceptance of the post-transition gender and sex identity, integration, and pride in one's identity.
Stevens shared her "Transgender 101 Top 10" list:
An estimated 1 out of every 167 people are transgender, Stevens said, noting that "HR and D&I [diversity and inclusion] professionals have their work cut out for them."
What do you do, Stevens asked HR professionals in the audience, when you get a phone call or e-mail from an employee announcing that the person is transgender and plans to transition while employed there?
She suggested the following best practices for organizations:
She urged HR professionals to remember that transgender experiences are not all alike and that the employer likely has no idea how long it took for the employee to get to this point in his or her life.
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