SPEEA member shares transition to authentic self
By Karen McLean
SPEEA Publications Editor
SPEEA member Trinity Downing knew she was
different when she was growing up. She preferred
to hang out with her sister, mother and grandmother. But Trinity was a boy. When caught
playing ‘dress up’ with her grandmother’s shoes,
clothes and purse, her grandfather was stern. “I
will not have a grandson of mine dressing like a
girl,” she recalls. “He was very kind, he just didn’t
understand it,” she said. Neither did Trinity at
the time. “I made changes to make them proud.”
That day, when she was 12, she made a vow.
She would become a soldier, like her father,
who served in five tours of duty during the
Vietnam War and earned four purple hearts.
“I wanted to be the baddest soldier that ever
walked the earth,” she said.
She became a wrestler and proved herself as a
boxer. Getting hooked on the adrenaline rush,
she worked at cattle ranches and learned to
train horses, as well as ride broncos and bulls
“I wanted to be a man’s man,” she said about
that time in her life. She enlisted in the U.S.
Army at age 17, and became a unit sniper with
a 99 out of 100 accuracy rate at 1,000 yards. She
served in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm and
spent time near the demilitarized zone of Korea.
A knee injury while on duty led to her honorable discharge. She received the Joint Service
Commendation medal and several other medals.
While in the Army, she married and started a
family. Although she didn’t have a name for what
she felt about her gender, she and her wife raised
two boys and a girl to be open-minded. Trinity
loves to share a story about her daughter’s invitation to prom by another girl. “Our response was
‘is she nice to you’? My daughter’s jaw dropped
because “we don’t care about gender.” That was
years before Trinity transitioned.
Her three children are the reason she didn’t take
her life. In July 2009, Trinity recalls changing
her status on Facebook to ‘uncomfortable in
my own skin’ because of her severe depression.
A former neighbor saw the post and reached
out via a private message to talk about being
transgender. “The first time I heard the word,
the world was (suddenly) brightening up.”
She admits the conversation she had with her
wife was difficult, but they found their way
through it. Her wife even offered advice on buying clothes and makeup.
Together, they laid out a plan to tell their
children, who were not surprised by the news.
“I know Dad’s a woman,” Trinity recalls her
Trinity wondered how to tell co-workers at Boeing, where she worked since
2011, but after a year on hormone
replacement therapy, she was ready to
go public full time.
At work, she was announced by her
gender transition leader, manager
and Human Resources Generalist
(HRG) the last day before winter
break December 2014. On her first
day back from the break, dressed as a
woman, her co-workers noticed more
than just the way she dressed. They
saw a significant shift in how she acted
in the workplace.
“I had not been very content. I was
not a happy or welcoming person. I
would have helped you out any way I
could but I didn’t want you around,”
she said. When they saw Trinity smiling and welcoming, there was “shock
and awe,” she said. “I can see how
happy you are. It makes sense,” she
recalls hearing from her co-workers.
Acceptance at work, she said, “has
increased my commitment - I’m a
better employee, better teammate,
better human being,” she said.
“I’m not snapping at people,” she
added. “By being my authentic self,
it’s made me a better person.”
As hard as her life was as a man
when she didn’t feel ‘comfortable in
her own skin,’ going through transition can be
harder. “Society has a norm of what women
and men look like. If you don’t fit, then you
can get attacked or verbally accosted,” she said.
“Transgender women are victims more often
than non-trans people.”
She shares her experience to help others who are
seeking answers to gender questions, whether for
themselves or someone they know. For example,
she joined an advisory committee of the national
Out and Equal Workplace Advocates, “to guide
their paths to more education and more leadership.”
For Boeing’s Propulsion Site Diversity Council,
she organized a multistate broadcast in June of
a panel discussion on gender issues for those
in transition and those who are questioning
their gender. She also helps the Boeing Global
Diversity and Inclusion Specialists who assist
transgender employees. She provides mentorship
to employees who are transitioning to assist in making it a smoother transition.
Trinity, the rodeo cowboy, still loves to go fishing
and hunting with both a gun and a bow and arrow.
“That is my adrenaline rush.”
She quips that if she was ‘dropped’ into South
Africa blindfolded without a compass, she could
find her way out. “I was destined to go down that
road, but as a woman, not a man.”
Advice for allies
Trinity Downing, a SPEEA member and
Tech designer, offers the following advice
to those who want to help. “If you’re a true
supporter - be respectful.”
• Speak up to stop off-color jokes
(“you wouldn’t say that about your
mother,” she suggests).
• Call your lawmakers when related
legislation is debated.
• If you want to ask a question (such
as a personal medical question),
consider whether you would want
to answer that for someone who
does not know you.
Trinity Downing, SPEEA member and Everett tech designer, shares her
story to help raise awareness. She notes she is a “better employee, better
teammate, better human being” by being her authentic self.