Name: Stella Gardiner
Role: Environment Support Manager
Organisation: Transport for London
How does your identity relate to your work?
I'm a transgender woman, who transitioned five years ago. I'm also open about my bisexuality. I’ve worked for Transport for London (TFL) and the London Underground since 1988. I was quite well known in the business when I decided to transition. Until then, I'd been in signals department – a very macho environment. It wasn't until I was promoted to management and working at TFL that I felt I had the support to enable me to transition.
I think it took me a good year to get to a place where it felt comfortable. I didn't pass at first and I made a huge effort to try to look less male. And I was always self-conscious. I never felt that I was wrong or that I'd made a mistake, but I did at first feel that life was about to get a lot harder for me. But I've started working with people who never knew me before and it’s got a lot easier.
Transitioning was the best thing I ever did. The world opened up for me once I learned to be myself. At work I've felt much more able to express myself and, with all the baggage of dysphoria out of the way, I can concentrate better on my job. It's allowed me to get involved with things I would never have done before like media coverage, dealing with the public, giving presentations to groups of colleagues, and participating in the staff network groups for women and LGBT+.
I feel that being out and openly a woman now gives me a much better chance of overcoming any barriers in my career than when I was in denial. I now have colleagues who are allies and friends. I can talk to them and get advice. Before, I just kept problems to myself.
What does intersectionality mean to you?
I'm autistic, bisexual and trans, so it means quite a bit. I've found that a lot of my problems fall across being disabled and being LGBT, so it’s necessary sometimes to address them via both approaches. This can meet heavy resistance. I've been criticised for talking about autism in a LGBT context, but for me they’re not things I can separate out.
I’ve been quite keen for the staff network groups at work to also address intersectionality, which I think is starting to happen now. I also feel quite strongly as a woman with autism, and one who was diagnosed late in life, that raising awareness about how women experience autism is important.
Why are role models important?
I spent 30 years hiding and in denial about being trans. Since coming out I've met others like me, but I've also met cis people who are very supportive. I feel like I could have come out at work a long time ago if trans role models had existed.
I've also received messages from trans people – mostly still in the closet at work – who are so happy to see visible trans people now. There are a few of us now and I think we all feel a little emboldened about being out, because we can see others doing the same.
I’m now involved with the LGBT network at my organisation. It’s important because I want things to be better for those coming behind me and I want trans and bi people to be at the forefront of influencing change.