On International Transgender Day of Visibility, I'm reflecting on how Avanade supported my transition journey
- Posted on March 30, 2023
- Estimated reading time 4 minutes
At Avanade, we strongly believe in the value of the uniqueness of our people. To mark International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31, we want to share the story of Valeria Tandurella, a Digital Marketing Senior Consultant in Milan, Italy, who utilized Avanade’s Gender Transition Paid Leave policy while embarking on her transition journey. Here’s what Valeria had to say about her experience and how companies can foster an inclusive environment to support LGBTQIA+ employees on Transgender Day of Visibility and beyond.
When did you start becoming aware that you didn’t identify with the gender you were assigned at birth?
From my first memories until adolescence, I always had the feeling that there was something different in me compared with other people I knew, but I could only partially explain this. For that reason, I did not talk about it with anyone. When I reached puberty, this feeling turned into pain. My body started to change and I developed characteristics that made me feel bad about myself, and there was nothing I could do to avoid it. I gained full awareness of what this all meant by conducting an initial search on the internet – I was around 14-15 years of age at the time, in the late ‘90s. I discovered the definition "gender dysphoria," or the perception of not recognizing oneself in the sex assigned at birth.
When did you decide to start your transitioning journey? What were your thoughts and feelings at the time?
When I was 16, I realized that this malaise would accompany me throughout my life. I focused on solutions and, more specifically, on the possibility of accessing gender-affirming hormone therapy.
I made my first concrete decision at the age of 22, amid the indifference of my parents and a thousand fears for a life that was going to be very difficult. I was subjected to two and a half years of psychotherapy without positive results for me and my peace of mind. Disappointed by lost time and poor results, I continued my life by shutting down and retreating within myself. I internalized everything and held it all in until 2019, when I entered a state of deep depression. That sparked the decision to resume the transitioning journey and in November 2021, at age 38, I obtained the authorization for hormone therapy, which I started in February 2022.
How did you broach the topic with your colleagues?
After all these years of inner suffering, beginning the transition was a liberation for me. At this point, I had very little fear to face it. I gradually started to share my journey with colleagues, which helped me a lot in gaining confidence and feeling just as appreciated as I was before, despite the change.
How has your life changed since then?
In general, it has definitely changed my life for the better, because I feel better about myself and, consequently, in relationships with others. It has changed my pace of life, too. I am now following a long-term therapy path, which means I am under strict medical supervision and I have to pay much more attention to my health. Interestingly, it has also changed the way I feel emotions, both positive and negative ones. Compared with before, everything is more amplified, which is a consequence of the effect of hormones on my state of mind.
What does International Transgender Visibility Day mean to you?
Personally, I feel particularly touched by the theme of visibility because the representation of transgender women in the collective thinking here in Italy is, even nowadays, still strongly linked to clichés and common misconceptions or stereotypes such as prostitution, drugs, perversion and social discomfort. Meanwhile, there’s almost no representation of trans men at all, almost denying their existence. This narrative excludes positive trans role models to be inspired by and tends to highlight the phenomenon of "internalized transphobia," i.e. the discomfort that trans people feel being trans because of the discriminatory views and attitudes that society shows towards the trans community.
Transgender Day of Visibility was created with the aim of challenging the negative stereotypes that still weigh so heavily in society, especially for trans women, whilst also showing the contribution that these people can give to society in any field and to celebrate their successes, despite the difficulties they encounter daily.
In 2020, Avanade launched a Gender Transition Paid Leave policy for transgender and non-binary employees across Europe. The policy gives all employees the right to paid leave associated with transition and change of gender expression to concretely support them through key life milestones. What do you think of this policy – has it supported you in your journey? What role do you think companies can play when it comes to supporting the LGBTQIA+ community?
I believe companies like Avanade, which already support the LGBTQIA+ community, play a key role in showcasing best practices, thus inspiring other organizations – as well as their employees – to foster an inclusive, caring and welcoming workplace culture.
The Gender Transition Leave policy was launched just before I took the initial steps of my transition. This helped me a lot, because I immediately had the impression that, when I came out in the company, everything would be easier than initially planned. The most important part of the policy, in addition to any paid leave, is a framework and a series of guidelines to facilitate the change of gender identity and expression process in the company. This approach has been very useful both for me and for the colleagues who have supported me on this journey. Ultimately, I believe that it is a very valid and well thought-out tool and that it should be adopted as a model for other companies.
Do you have any advice for those who are going through or thinking of embarking on a transitioning journey?
It is difficult to give advice that is valid for everyone because every transition is unique and personal. In Italy, where I live, it is mandatory to follow a predetermined path if you want to obtain legal recognition of your gender identity – self-identification is not permitted. To undertake this, it is necessary to undergo the assessment of a psychotherapist or psychiatrist who certify the gender dysphoria. The advice is to rely on professionals who specialize in the field to avoid long waits, which often put lives of trans people remain suspended in a limbo of uncertainty and anxiety. In general, I believe that networking with other transgender people can also be a valuable help to face the journey with greater awareness.