GO Proudly Presents: 100 Women We Love, Class Of 2022

100 Women We Love

Well, look who showed up on page 79 of GOMagazine’s annual feature of their Pride edition, “Women We Love.” I am beyond thrilled to be included on this list with such an amazing group of women. Especially on this date, when we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX. The work, and the struggle, continue. It indeed takes a village.

I can remember back to one of my first NYC Pride Marches after coming out, grabbing a copy of GO Magazine, and thinking “wouldn’t it be great to be on this list someday?” I love it when things come full circle like that. My heartfelt thanks to everyone at GO Magazine for including me in this incredible collective of voices for change in our world.

TDOV 2022 Thoughts: What is your relationship with vulnerability?

With Transgender Day of Visibility here once again, I find myself thinking a lot about the word vulnerability.  At one of my most recent speaking engagements I challenged the audience with this question, “What is your relationship with vulnerability?”  I’m willing to bet that for many of you reading this, that is something that you rarely think about – because why would you in the first place?  You may find yourself in the fortunate position of being gainfully employed, with a roof over your head and food in the cupboard.  So why would a concept like vulnerability ever enter your stream of consciousness?  The simple answers to these questions are that you wouldn’t – probably never.  And judging by the collective “Hmmmm” sound the audience made I doubt they had too.

The exact opposite, however, is true for far too many transgender people who choose to be visible in our society.  By being visible as their authentic selves they risk being vilified by those who choose hate and fear over knowledge and allyship. And for transwomen of color, this can be particularly dangerous, leading to being victims of violence at alarming levels.  Everywhere we turn it seems as though there is another anti-trans bill being rushed through conservative-led statehouses that seek nothing more than to eradicate the existence of transgender people of all ages.

But what choice is there?  To remain silent and shuttered away never to be seen in public is simply not an option.  Yes, we are different – and if you stop long enough to listen to the stories of our journeys to our authentic selves, trust me, you’ll be moved because they are powerful beyond measure.

But there’s another side to vulnerability that I’d like to bring to your attention.  As we begin to change the narrative that seeks to position my entire community as a political wedge issue it is vitally important that we have ever-increasing numbers of allies by our side, standing in solidarity with our quest for equality and inclusion.  And at the very core of allyship is education.  I have learned over 17 years of talks and trainings that for learning to truly happen, one must allow themselves to be vulnerable.  To say to yourself, or out loud, “I don’t know everything, but I’m willing to learn.”  It is at that precise moment that the heart, the mind, and the soul open and allows teaching to take hold.

By being intentional about learning and allowing that experience to fuel our allyship is how we begin to move the needle on equality and inclusion for transgender individuals of all stripes and all ages.  It can be a truly transformative experience – if you let it.  And that’s something to consider not just on the Transgender Day of Visibility, but every day of the year.




Stephanie Named Board President of TransNewYork

Earlier this year, I was honored to be voted in as the first President of the Board of Directors for an organization that is near and dear to my heart – TransNewYork.  Beginning at the conference in New York City that she organized back in 2019 that I had the privilege of speaking at, Executive Director Dr. Genn Herley and I have become good friends as well as collaborators on addressing the myriad needs of the transgender and gender expansive community.  It is an honor for me to be working closely with a dedicated group of committed board directors that share my vision for a better world for trans and non-binary people.

The Mission Statement of the organization tells you all you need to know about why I have chosen to bring my energy and experience to its work:

TransNewYork’ mission is to educate, empower, and enhance the lives of Transgender, Gender Non-conforming and Non-binary Individuals globally through advocacy, community visibility, human and social services, advance knowledge, and lifelong learning development of self.

Please consider supporting TransNewYork, especially with a monthly sustaining donation and help us achieve our vision of being acknowledged as the organization of choice for transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary communities in the City of New York, the surrounding Metropolitan area, and nationally.  Thank You!

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR)

I’m Tired.  I’m.  So. Very. Tired . . .

Year after year, transgender individuals like me, their allies and advocates gather around the world to honor, and remember, once again, those in my community we have lost to senseless hate and violence in the past year.  It is what has come to be known as the Transgender Day of Remembrance, or TDOR, for short.  It was created 22 years ago by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was brutally murdered in Boston in 1998. And while it is the gracious, honorable and right thing to do – to recognize our dead – I am weary and yearn for the day when we won’t have any new names to read and candles to extinguish.

It has gone on for far too many years, and far too many lives. . .

A very wise person once said to me, “before you ever get to the answers, you must first get comfortable with the questions.”  And I get that, but the nagging, unanswered questions continue to mount as each new murder is reported, or as is the case with many media accounts, misreported by not noting the victim’s preferred name, or worse yet not reported at all.   But of all the unanswered questions about this utterly senseless loss of life, the one that stands above all others is: “Why?”

Sadly, my struggle for answers only creates more questions.

Why is it that the transgender community has been repeated hauled out to be publicly flogged in the town square to the delight of those who look to undermine, and yes, eradicate our right to fair treatment in all facets of our lives?

Telling my story.

From a keynote that I delivered at the Museum of Public Relations’ Pride Month event, “The LGBTQ Experience in Public Relations: Visibly Proud.”

That’s how it all began for me after becoming the first transgender person to successfully transition in the 160-year history of New York Life Insurance Company back in 2005.

It is quite simply the through line to everything related to the journey to my authentic self – to the person that I’ve always known myself to be.

In the lead up to my coming out, for every person that I shared my true self with, I did so by telling a story in the hope of making who I am as accessible as I could to their unknowing ears.  I did so somewhat naively, not knowing how it would land, despite my attempts at fashioning it as authentically as I could.

It’s the only way I knew how.

For my entire life, telling a story had always been my default mode of communication.  It’s what I always did – most of the time without even thinking.  It was how I pursued a human connection – how I went about getting people to like me – and hopefully, not see the real me hidden behind the façade of maleness I was desperately trying to keep in place.

Telling my story helped me hide the real me from everyone around me.  All of those stories – mostly real, and some – I must admit – that were fabricated for the time, the place, and the audience – all seemed to work at keeping my deep, dark secret from the world through four-plus decades of shame guilt and denial.

So, it should come as a bit of a surprise that when it came time for me to give back, to pay it forward, I wasn’t sure how to go about it.  While I was quick to point out to the HR VP’s at New York Life that “I may be the first, but I won’t be the last,” I had no idea about how I would go about creating a path for others to follow.

What perhaps I didn’t fully realize in that moment was that I was taking on a responsibility to do everything I could to make it easier for those who were to come after me – whether they be at my company, or at any other.

It would require me to create space on my shoulders for those who would follow me, just as I stood on the shoulders of my trans sisters who came before me.  People like Maggie Stumpp who, as an executive at Prudential, had come out a year or so before I did.  Her story – and how it was spread through the media of that time – gave me the courage I needed to overcome my fears and pursue my dream.  I felt a strong desire within myself to do the same, but I was at a loss as to how.

I struggled with what it was that I could bring to the trans inclusion conversation.  What was my angle, how could I best position myself to be heard amidst what seemed like a cacophony of much more compelling voices.

But then, through perhaps more than a little divine intervention, I received two particularly important pieces of advice that taken together formed a seminal moment for me.

The first came from a friend of mine who at the time was a leader at a national LGBTQ organization.  In responding to my question “but is there room in the sandbox for me?” he said quite pointedly “Stephanie, it’s not a sandbox, it’s more like a beach!”  And the second came from another transwoman who had already achieved some measure of notoriety with a book of her own, who said to me “all you have to do is tell your story.”

These honest and authentic answers instantaneously impacted me.  Suddenly I realized that my own story – however mundane and run-of-the-mill it may have seemed to me, wasn’t mundane or run-of-the mill at all.  And, that there was a place for it in the ever-expanding constellation of voices that were already out there calling for equality and inclusion for all transgender people.

What I have learned every day since is that there is immense power in our stories.

They truly can change hearts and minds.  It is the connective tissue that binds us together as human beings, because they have the unique ability to tap into our shared humanity – and it is precisely this shared humanity that is our greatest common denominator.

But it is not just the stories of other LGBTQ individuals that add to this collective voice, it is also the stories of our allies.  Those that stand in solidarity with us and urge others to join our fight to be heard.  They are equally, if not more important, than our own.  Their stories of love and support for the LGBTQ people in their lives creates space for others to step up and do the same.

For the last seven years I have been privileged to serve on the board of PFLAG National and have witnessed firsthand the incredible power that a parents’ love for their LGBTQ child can create.

It’s as if we were all standing on the shore of a mountain lake . . .


And that’s where each one of you here today come in.  By amplifying our stories – and those of our allies – you are creating even more ripples.  And make no mistake, each one of those ripples contributes to the movement – to the greater good.  By proudly proclaiming your support and allyship you are sending a powerful message to your employees, clients, business partners and customers that equality for all people is a major priority.

But the question I put before you is this:  are you – and the company that you represent – and ally with a capital “A” or an ally with a small “a?”  Capital A allies are visible, engaged in our history and our issues, and embrace teaching moments when they encounter them.  Small a allies just talk a good game and wave their pride flags for the month of June and then put them back in their desk drawer for the other eleven months of the year.  They acquiesce when conflict arises, and they shy away rather than lean into the difficult conversation.

Make no mistake, we are at an inflection point for the LGBTQ community – and in particular the transgender community.  We need all the capital A allies we can get, because we cannot fight this battle for equality and inclusion alone.

Our very authenticity is under attack.  While this has certainly happened before – think North Carolina’s bathroom bill in 2016 – it has now taken on a particularly hate-filled and hurtful turn.  The opposition has taken direct aim on the most vulnerable of my community – trans kids and trans athletes, many of whom are of middle school and high school ages. At last count, some 37 bills have been introduced across 20 state legislatures, and in nine states these have been signed into law banning transgender girls and women from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity.  The latest happened at the very beginning of Pride Month – on June 1st to be exact – in Florida – and as you all well know that timing was not by accident!

But trans youth are fighting back by living their truth – and telling their stories.  Voices like Stella Keating, who bravely testified before the Senate on behalf of the Equality Act, are sharing their challenges, their hopes, and their fears so that society can get an honest picture of what it is like to be a young trans person in today’s America. They are courageous, they are brave, they are resilient.  They are my heroes.

And that is why, among other things, I decided to write my book. I am proud to share my stories with the world in the hope that it can raise up the many in my community that feel they do not have a voice, for they all have a right and a need to be heard.  And that’s why I think it is right for precisely this moment in time that the transgender community finds itself in.

One of the key post-transition themes that I write about is around my experience with white male privilege.  For 25 years of my corporate life, I had it and didn’t think much of it.  But when I made the decision to embrace my true self and live my life authentically, it vanished in an instant.   All that power that I possessed throughout my climb up the corporate ladder was gone.  And its loss cut like a knife.

Many of you possess great privilege – I’m speaking directly to the straight and gay white males in the room.  How are you going to use this to fight for equality for underrepresented communities like mine?  We need you.  And to be clear, it is not a zero-sum game.  Share your knowledge.  Share your value.  Share your network.  Share your own story.  Because as you lift us up, you elevate the entire LGBTQ community in the process.

In closing, I ask each of you here to consider these questions:

-What is your responsibility as public relations and communications professionals, to amplify these voices and raise up these conversations?

-What will you do to mirror the courageousness of my younger trans siblings in combating the onslaught of misinformation and disinformation designed to eradicate their existence?

-What will you do shape the narrative around equality and inclusion for not just the transgender and non-binary community, but for LGBTQ persons everywhere within your cultures and within your community?

I ask each of you, what will be YOUR story?


Thank You Very Much and enjoy the panels!