Neutral Corner recently hosted the panel discussion “Profitable Intersections” at the Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. Local entrepreneurs in biotechnology, real estate, and landscape architecture discussed gender transition on the job, being defacto ambassadors to the cisgender world, and helping the transcommunity.
The panel was moderated by Neutral Corner’s Kaya Chua. It featured Beth Kind of Quadrants Scientific Inc, Evan Tando of Finest City Homes & Loans, and Vicki Estrada of Estrada Land Planning. Their stories offer a number of important lessons for transmen and transwomen.
Although all are focused high-achievers, their success belies the fact they faced the same internal struggles as anyone before making the decision to transition. Beth lived a double life for years, as male for work, and female for socializing. Vicki came out after attending the Southern Comfort Transgender conference, after the experience of being able to be herself for five full days. Evan had his own moments of fear of personal and professional obstacles. And as self-employed business owners, they all feared client reactions. Vicki says “When you’re the boss of your own business, you can’t be fired. But your clients can fire you”.
Yet all subsequently found their work much less negatively impacted than they had imagined. Evan was given support by Zander Kieg, who told him “Don’t explain! Just do it!” Evan soon found he became a better realtor as he was more comfortable with his preferred gender. Beth was originally apologetic, giving her clients a labored explanation. Not only were they okay with it, they wanted her to skip the story and focus on transacting business. Vicki came out in an even more public way. She had previously been interviewed (as male) by radio personality Tom Fudge in his program These Days. She was invited back two years later to discuss her transition, and this public disclosure brought her more support than she expected. https://tfudge.com/2010/07/12/vicki-estrada-four-years-later/
Each realizes they represent the transcommunity by default. Beth believes self-confidence is the key to dealing with clients and the public. If you project this, the hostile are often disarmed and others even respond with respect. Vicki believes one should let the professional work itself do the talking. An in-your-face assertion of being trans isn’t always the best approach. And Evan feels it’s important to be willing to answer patiently and truthfully all questions from the curious, and make as many teachable moments as you can.
What advice do the panelists offer the transcommunity? Beth: Seek education. There is a lot of financial aid available, not just for a college/graduate degree, but even for certificate programs. Evan: A good work ethic. Set goals, and stick to your plan. Vicki: Get support. You can’t do this alone.
Special thanks to San Diego Pride for their kind grant, the Neutral Corner event planning committee (Veronica, Michelle, Zander, Ray, and Kaya), American Sign Language Interpreters Jessie and Brittany, and Matt Morrow and the staff of the Diversionary Theatre for the venue and logistical help.