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Where I’m from, in Douglas, Wyoming, we had one transvestite – Sissy. By his own admission, his fashion sense is….unique. Behind the bow barrettes, capped sleeves, and ruffled skirts is one of the most courageous people I’ve known.
Sissy (Larry) Goodwin was recently featured in an L.A. Times article (photo credit: Mel Melcon). You can also watch the video of him sharing the struggles of living his truth.
My family has known Sissy for many years; my aunt and uncle grew up with him. Sissy and my uncle served in the Vietnam War together, but when I was growing up, I only knew him as “Fairy Larry” – which was the town’s nickname for him.
Wyoming isn’t known for its acceptance, or even tolerance, of differences. You may have heard about the brutal death of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man killed by two Wyoming teens in October 1998. The Laramie Project, a play created from interviews with community members in the aftermath of Matthew’s death, has been performed around the world.
I’ve never seen it.
I didn’t want to be reminded of what was wrong with my home. I used to be ashamed to come from a community that is known for its bigotry and narrow-mindedness. I was worried that if people discovered I was from Wyoming, they would assume I was just like them – the kids who killed Matthew, the town that called Sissy “Fairy Larry.”
Recently I realized that people don’t make those assumptions about me. I’ve learned that I’m an example of diversity – an educated woman from a rural community, who took an acting class with Matthew and had a beer with Sissy at my aunt’s birthday party a few years ago.
When I applied to Thomson Reuters, I saw this video, developed as part of the Trevor Project. I was excited and proud that I could work for a company that honors and celebrates diversity. I had never seen something so candid, compassionate and courageous.
Courage is the quality I admire most in others. It took courage for Sissy and Matthew to simply be themselves every day, for my uncle to remain a lifelong friend to Sissy in an intolerant community, and for our colleagues to share their stories in that video.
As a company, diversity drives revenue, increases employee retention and improves employee engagement. As an individual, diversity drives me to be more courageous, to speak my mind, to be bold in my career and to always be true to myself – a true testament to the The Power of Us.