At trans.cafe we aspire to provide content for everyone—transgender folks, friends, family, allies, and employers. The goal is to speak to everyone… After all, that’s how beliefs actually change at scale.
A few years ago, any company seeking to establish a trans-inclusive environment found itself sailing into unchartered waters...
If you haven’t noticed, the Transgender Train has definitely left the station. Transgender people are now featured in magazines, television shows, books, websites—you name it. And yet, for some of us, it can start to feel overwhelming.
After all, it’s not like we were taught what any of this gender stuff meant when we were growing up. And it’s true that a lot has changed in a short amount of time. How can we be expected to keep up?
When I began my transition from female to male in high school, I was prepared for the worst. Horror stories of rampant bullying, hostile teachers, and bigoted administrators filled my head. Why would I expect anything else? All I had ever heard was that being trans in school was hell. When the school year began, I headed into the classroom anticipating a war.
With the new school year just around the corner, we are getting more and more inquiries about the best way to talk about gender identity in the classroom.
On Monday, October 24, 2016, an 18-year-old transgender girl said she experienced a feeling of "nothing but love and support" when her North Carolina high school announced that she was homecoming queen. Selena Milian had recently won the popular vote for the school award at Overhills High School in Spring Lake, NC the previous week—on Friday, October 21st.
It’s believed that Selena, who is also Native American, is the first transgender homecoming queen to be crowned in the state of North Carolina.
Twenty-four years ago, in 1992, my son, Harry, told me, “Inside my head I’m a girl.” He was two years old. I had no idea what that meant. I felt disoriented even trying to process it. The internet was no help, because there was no internet. Books didn’t exist on how to raise children who didn’t fit neatly inside a box that was either pink or blue. And terms like transgender, gender nonconforming, and gender fluid were rare or nonexistent.
Coming out as transgender is a very scary process—particularly when you’re in the uncertainty phase, considering thoughts like whether you’re just experimenting or feel fundamentally at odds with the gender you were assigned at birth.
There’s no denying that “young adulthood” is a developmental stage marked by infinite amounts of questioning, burgeoning self-awareness, and plenty of insecurity alongside growth.
Part of being a trans ally is helping to build and cultivate trans-friendly social spaces.
This last weekend I went back for my 20-year reunion and was graciously welcomed by current students, faculty, and alumni as me, Natalie Egan. It was amazing on so many levels!
Here is what I learned:
As many of you know, and as many of you do not know, I don’t go by Nathan anymore. My full name is Natalie Jane Egan and today is kind of a big day.
Besides coming out “online” as Natalie and now being openly transgender on the Internet, I am also announcing my new company: trans.cafe (more on the biz in a bit).
I realize many of you know me for different reasons. Some of you are my brothers and sisters; others are friends, professional colleagues, or acquaintances at some level and for some reason. If you’re getting this message, chances are we somehow know each other, or know friends in common, and I want to thank you in advance for your support. And, if I don’t know you at all, I hope my message helps you or someone you know find their true identity.
So yeah, I am transgender. Oddly enough, I really didn’t even know this until pretty recently. But before you jump to any conclusions, let me answer some commonly asked questions, and address some reactions I anticipate:
What does being transgender mean? To me, being transgender is a matter of my identity. Despite the fact that I was biologically born a boy named Nathan, my gender identity, the way I want to express myself, is female. This has been a profoundly personal realization for me and shouldn’t matter to anyone. I want to live my life as me—not as the person society wants me to be. Don’t we all deserve that right? I am not hurting anyone. If anything, I am setting people free. If you have a problem with me being “me,” you should really think about why that is the case.
“But Nathan was so manly!” Well... sort-of. You’re right that my outward appearance was “manly.” You may remember me as a rather large, hairy, OCD / hyper-controlling alpha-male that at times could be quite uncouth. But if you really knew me, you knew that inside I was a very nurturing, sensitive, open, and colorful person that loves shopping and art and flowers and doing “feminine” things like going to the spa. I also always wished I was pretty and that I could be a mom. If you are confused, imagine how I felt! Until recently, I never even knew I had a choice to express my true self, nor did I realize anyone else felt similarly to me… I’m grateful that I do now, so I am going to live the rest of my life like it is the only one I have got!
So, how do I identify? To be clear, I identify completely as a woman. Genetically, I was not born as a woman and yet I have the right to identify as one. Please use the pronouns “she and her” with me. I also don’t mind words like babe, girl, girlfriend, sister, and woman as long as you have a little class in your delivery.
What bathroom am I using? When I look like I do in the middle picture above (which, for now, is still about 80% of the time), I simply try and avoid using public bathrooms. It really sucks. But the good news is that I am making great progress with my transition, and eventually I will look much more like the Natalie on the right! Hopefully, by the time that happens (about 12-18 months), this whole bathroom debate will be over and no one else, no matter how they identify or what they look like, will have to suffer from not peeing.
How could I not know I was transgender? The truth is I always knew I was “different.” But I didn’t yet have the vocabulary to pinpoint why exactly. I didn’t know why I wanted to be pretty or why I was drawn to the color pink when I was younger. I just did. And no one readily used the word “transgender” when I was growing up—and don’t forget, there was no internet. So I felt totally alone, which left me feeling alienated and unsure of what was “wrong” with me. It was only about 9 months ago that I finally accepted that I was transgender and not just a “crossdresser” (although that took a very long time for me to accept, too).
Do I think I was born in the wrong body? No! But I definitely went through a phase where I thought that was the case. I now truly believe that I was born in the right body and all of this was meant to happen. I was meant to meet Nancy and make our kids. I was meant to start trans.cafe and you were meant to read this. Together we will change the world.
What about my kids? Van, Brook, and Teddy are all fine! Seriously. If they were older, it would be harder for them to process for sure. This a transition for them too. But they are all at a good age for acceptance, and as a family we love each other totally unconditionally. So while all of this isn’t easy, what my kids “get” is a happier more loving parent who is more present and connected than ever before. That is all that matters.
What about Nancy? This has been really hard for everyone, especially Nancy. And through it all, she has been unbelievably supportive of me and the kids and I love her so much for it. We are deeply committed to helping one another live happy and healthy lives, but again, that doesn’t make this easy. The bottom line is that we have a foundation of mutual respect, love and support. Every day, we look forward to helping each other be the best versions of ourselves, and to being great co-moms for our kids.
What happened with PeopleLinx? As many of you know, PeopleLinx is the software company I started in my basement in 2008. As CEO for six years, we put more than $8M to work in the US economy, and created 35+ full-time jobs in Philadelphia. In mid-2015, I voluntarily resigned for personal reasons (which may be clearer to you now - haha), and today the team is being led by my good friend and our former Chief Operating Officer, Kevin O’Nell. So to answer the question, PeopleLinx is doing great and I am still an active member of the Board of Directors.
Where am I in my transition and how far will I go? Let me start with a friendly reminder that this is not really an appropriate question to ask a trans person, especially if you don’t know them well. Everyone expresses their gender identity differently, and is a matter so personal it just isn’t other people’s business. That said, I don’t mind sharing. I have started hormones, which is amazing, and is connecting me with my body and humanity and the earth in ways I never knew possible (BTW: I love to talk about the hormones part, so always happy to chat about that one). I am also currently doing hair removal procedures, which are super painful but I love the way they make me feel afterwards. Other than that, I am taking all of this very slowly and my only basic expectation is to feel a sense of progress towards being my real self.
Am I happy? Healthy? OMG yes! In fact, I am both the happiest and the healthiest I’ve ever been. I have lost 40+ lbs in the last nine months, simply by becoming more mindful of what I put in my body (regular exercise helped too). I also quit smoking cigarettes completely (I was smoking a full-pack-per-day!), and cut my drinking and any other unhealthy activities by at least 80%. I am also no longer dealing with depression, or the suicidal thoughts that plagued me over the last year. Those dark days were especially hard as I lived in fear of being outed or blackmailed and ultimately rejected by society because someone “knew” I like to do things that women do (which is totally ridiculous now in retrospect). Today, I have a ton of energy, am super focused, and I know I am making a real difference in the world. I also know that I am a great parent for these kids. What else could I ask for? Well sure, there are a lot of other things I want, but you get my point.
So what is my new business? trans.cafe is an information hub for both consumer and institutional audiences related to a broad range of transgender issues. I started trans.cafe because I myself really struggled to find good, up-to-date information about being transgender. It was even harder for my friends and family, all of whom immediately Googled the word “transgender” when I first said it, and still felt in the dark about the nuances of what I was going through. Furthermore, I found corporations have no tools, language, or metrics to handle the growing number of both employees and customers that identify as transgender. That fact is that everyone deserves access to current, high quality information about trans issues and that is what we are doing. Our vision is to change the way the world thinks about identity and being who you want to be.
*Please note, I don’t claim to be an expert on being transgender or plan on being the authoritative voice of transgender people. That’s an impossible feat, as there’s no such thing as a homogenous “transgender community.” I am, however, an expert in building digital platforms and connecting communities so they can share their experiences and self-identify with what matters to them.
So what else? What can you expect? To be honest, I don’t know really know. I am learning more and more about myself and my transition everyday and it is super exciting. Please know that you will probably keep seeing subtle changes in me and I will try and keep you in the loop on important matters. Most importantly, know that I am working really hard to support my family as best I can.
How can you help? All I really need is your love and support and ask that you respect my right to identify with who it is I really am. My family needs your support too. It means so much to me and to them to know you care, please show you do by sharing this article with your friends and loved ones! It would also be super helpful if could spread the word about trans.cafe as a resource for consumers and corporations on trans related issues.
In closing, remember this: being transgender is about more than gender. It is about identifying with who you want to be—not who others want or expect you to be. If you want to change your life: DO IT!
Big love to all of you. Thank you again for your support. There is so much more to come!
PS: Please remember to call me Natalie (or Nat, or even Natty) if / when you respond or comment. Also, please also use the pronouns she / her and try to avoid declarations like DUDE and bro! If you make a mistake that is fine but just keep trying. You will get it!
* Note - we intentionally keep comments “off” for trans.cafe because of the broad range of readers (from kids to parents to corporate professionals) and encourage you to continue an authentic conversation on your social media networks. You can also reach out to me or the company directly if you want to chat!