06/10/2020|Inside Verizon

It’s never too late.

By: Katie Regner

V Teamer Jeremy Washburn shares their gender identity journey, with heartfelt lessons learned along the way.

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Jeremy Washburn didn’t see gender identity as a personal issue for much of their adult life. “I was well into my thirties. It wasn’t something that was on my radar.”

But as Jeremy, a Solutions Architect based in Hilliard, OH, started to work through their identity, they became terrified. “The struggle of your identity not matching up with who you are -- it’s a bit of torture. It never leaves you. It’s what you look at when you look in the mirror, or when you’re asked to turn in your picture for your ID at work. It’s hard.”

By utilizing Verizon’s health resources, including the ability to meet with therapists and medical care professionals who specialize in this space, Jeremy was able to work through some of their anxiety and began to move to a place of acceptance. “You can’t change who you are,” said Jeremy. “Be the best person you can be and let that be what people judge you by.”

But coming out as transgender to their fellow V teamers was a tougher challenge. After a lot of internal debate, Jeremy finally approached their manager, Ray Bonini. “I think the only thing preventing me from having that conversation was me. Ray has been fantastic. He couldn’t have been more supportive. He was more comfortable having that conversation than I was.”

“I believe I was one of the first people Jeremy came out to at work, so for me, it was an honor.” said Ray. “My wife and I have friends who are of different cultures, races and sexual orientations. For me, just because people are different doesn’t mean that we’re not all part of one big group.”

The next step in the journey came the following year, in 2018, when Jeremy heard that Verizon would be participating in the Stonewall Columbus Pride Parade and Festival. “I thought this is something I’d like to be a part of, but then I was instantly thinking of all the reasons not to do it.”

A short time later, Ray approached, asking if Jeremy was going to walk in the parade. “I said ‘I don’t know. I’m not sure.’ And Ray said, ‘Ok, but if you don’t have someone to walk with you, I will.’ That encouragement meant the world to Jeremy. “I knew then I had an ally. Not just a manager, but an ally.”

From that point on, Jeremy found it easier to come out to other people in their life -- including fellow V teamers -- and the reaction has, by and large, been very supportive. “I would delay conversations because I presumed acceptance would not be there. So many things that I worried about were unjustified. We have a Credo. We follow it. It’s the real deal. Diversity makes us better.”

Jeremy’s positive experiences discussing gender identity aren’t unique here at Verizon. In fact, the company recently earned a 100% score on the Corporate Equality Index, making us a best place to work for LGBTQ+ Equality for a fifth time. “We have a gift working at Verizon in that we value diversity. We should all take advantage of that.”

Another valuable resource for Jeremy has been the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Employees of Verizon and their Allies (Prism) ERG (Employee Resource Group). “It’s great to find friends who are in the community and ask them questions about things like how they walk through different scenarios.”

Jeremy wants to encourage anyone who is considering talking with colleagues about gender-related issues to learn from their example. “It’s a long road, but sometimes we walk it alone and we don’t have to. Have those conversations. Let them know your heart. Think through things, but don’t let yourself stop you.”

Want to show your Pride? Check out the 2020 Pride shirt which is for purchase here.

About the author:

Katie is a member of the Verizon Corporate Communications team and a regular host of Up To Speed. She's a new mom with a passion for show tunes trying to keep up with the latest trends in tech.

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