Hello, my name is Patti and I have lived and worked in the Buffalo, New York area my entire life. I have a Bachelor’s of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology. I consider myself a typical woman, although technically I was born male and transitioned to female. I transitioned genders in 2004 at the age of 50 and, in 2010, I had my gender reassignment surgery in Montreal. I was happily married for 23 years to a wonderful woman and we have a beautiful 27 year-old daughter, who is my strongest advocate. I have always been attracted to women and my transition did not change this. Now being female, I consider myself a lesbian. Therefore, my coming out process was multifaceted; my friends and family had to cope with my new gender and simultaneously deal with the fact that I came out as being gay.
I work with members of my family along with other employees in our family business, a machine and tool design company. Presently I am the Vice President and Head Design Engineer. Before my transition, I worked face to face with engineers for all the large corporations in the area including DuPont and 3M Corp. I was a highly respected mechanical design engineer in the Buffalo area.
Working in our family business meant that my family and co-workers are one and the same; therefore I wasn’t able to come out to just one, which made my coming out process and acceptance difficult. Once I told them of my need to transition, it was very painful to see how I went from mentor to demeaned overnight. I was going through the most trying struggle of my life; when I needed my family's support the most, I was rejected by them. Outside of work my family easily dismissed and avoided contact with me, but because I own one third of the business I wasn’t as easily dismissed there. After I came out to my family and co-workers and started living and working as a woman, their reactions varied from accepting to dismissive to confrontational.
My co-owner siblings felt it best that I step back from any customer interaction despite the fact that through my customer interaction as an engineer I typically generated 25% to 50% of our company’s work. My extrication from customer interaction proved to be a misconceived decision as it had a negative impact on the company’s profits. It was not until recently that I have been permitted to accompany my brothers again on sales calls. It turned out our customers did not care about my gender, only my skill as an engineer. My family and business relationships are almost back to normal, but it has taken a lot of time, effort and patience to get to where we are today. The process could have been much easier for all if those involved would have been more proactive and accepting instead of reactive and obstructive.
This type of reaction is not uncommon for many transgender people who transition and want to live authentic lives; in many cases it is far worse. Because most people have difficulty understanding what it means to be transgender, many react with confusion or worse, animosity. Without legal protections, it is easier to avoid, dismiss, fire or evict us than make the effort to understand. This is why we need to raise awareness for transgender issues and pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA). The transgender students, teachers, police officers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, engineers, office workers, construction workers and farmers deserve the same rights and protections as any other New Yorker.