I came of age during the exciting times of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and pounced on the opportunities to extend equal rights to transgender people.
In 1997, inspired by my gay and lesbian colleagues freedom to come out at work (thanks to Lucent’s Equal Opportunity policy not to discriminate based on sexual orientation), I asked through channels if transgender language might be added to our EO policy.
Later, an answer came back through the channels: “If we were to add this, what language should we use in order to be as inclusive as possible?” I didn’t have the answer, but Riki Wilchins of GenderPAC did: “Gender Identity, Sexual and Gender Characteristics, or Gender Expression”. This was quite a mouthful, and was edited down to “Gender Identity, Characteristics or Expression”. I sent this back through the channels.
I was overjoyed in October to see that Lucent CEO Rich McGinn had signed into policy a new EO policy protecting transgender workers, using this exact language! Lucent had become the first Fortune 500 company with trans-inclusive language in their official nondiscrimination policy!
I came out shortly thereafter, and came to work as Mary Ann in 1998. Being openly trans gave me the opportunity to champion Lucent’s policy with other employers, beginning with Apple in 1998. By 2001, the idea was gathering steam on its own.
Since Lucent offered its gay and lesbian workers domestic partner benefits, to much rejoicing of the workers, I began to inquire about coverage of transgender health benefits, which were officially excluded. The eventual response was that they were already covered! Once my colleague Sharon got her reimbursement check for her surgery, I was confident that Lucent both talked the talk and walked the walk.
Out & Equal Trailblazer
In 2001 I was nominated for one of the Out & Equal Workplace Associate’s big annual Outie awards, the Trailblazer award. This award is for an LGBT worker who makes a significant contribution in the workplace. My work with Lucent and it’s successor Avaya was recognized when Out & Equal presented me with the Trailblazer award at their annual conference in Cincinnati.
Transgender Health Benefits
In 2001 I performed research into how many transgender people were seeking surgeries, and what it would cost. The resulting two papers tell us
- how many transgender people there are, and
- how much it would cost to cover transgender health benefits with our medical insurance plans.
I gave a 90 minute workshop at Out & Equal from about 2004 through 2008. It takes the dry statistical information from my Transgender Health Benefits papers and present is in a fun, interactive format. Here is the Powerpoint from the workshop.