When someone comes out as transgender, one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the process is wondering how others — especially those close to them — will react to the news. This was especially true with my own coming-out journey.

I am the CEO of Bradley & Parker, an insurance and financial firm in Melville, NY. Many people in my professional life knew me as “Wayne” for years — some, even decades. So, when I decided to come out to my company, I had an understandable amount of anxiety. How would I come out? What would be the reaction to my physical transformation? Would this affect my standing within the company and the relationships I had forged?

I decided to draft an email to my colleagues explaining that, the next day, I would be coming to work as Wynne — donning a woman’s business suit, makeup, jewelry, and my chic new pixie hairstyle. This email was the culmination of much thought, rumination, and planning. I was ready and hoped my coworkers and colleagues would accept the authentic me.

Though sending that email was terrifying, the response I received from the people in my life was overwhelmingly positive. I came to work the next day to an immense amount of support. Looking back, I believe moving forward in my transition with authenticity as a priority made all the difference in how my transition was received.

After I came out to my team at work, the next step was notifying our clients and business partners. However, that familiar anxiety rose in me once again. As the CEO of our company, I needed to maintain those professional relationships. There was one particular person that I was concerned about, an “old world” conservative type who worked in the construction industry. Even though I knew him to be a great guy, I was nervous, so decided to send him a personalized email.

I sent the message and waited on pins and needles. Literally, within moments, I received a reply — one that filled me with an overwhelming sense of relief. He said my coming out changed nothing, and our relationship was as secure as always. The next day, an elaborate package arrived at my office with a bottle of Dom Perignon. Guess who it was from?

Coming out in the fairly traditional, buttoned-up insurance industry has taught me that sometimes, people will surprise you for the better. I’ve learned not to make assumptions and that people respect someone who can remain authentic in their actions and words. That colleague and other people I worked with before my transition knew me as a reliable, professional person. They also knew that none of that would change as I moved forward in life as Wynne. Like myself, they trusted the strength of the relationship we already built.

And while the response to my coming out at my office and to my colleagues and clients was overwhelmingly positive, I can’t pretend that everyone embraced me as Wynne with open arms. For example, there was some concern among some of the ladies in the office about which bathroom I would use in the workplace. Bathroom matters have been a significant part of the onslaught of anti-trans legislation that has emerged over the last few years and still remains a hot-button issue for some people today, despite there being no link between trans-inclusive bathroom usage and safety.

With this in mind, I approached the ladies at work and their concerns the same way I approached coming out: with authenticity and honesty leading the way. Their concern mostly centered around my height and the worry that I would be able to peer over the stalls and watch them as they did their own business. I informed them that I would indeed be using the women’s bathroom, but clarified that I would not be using my height to my advantage to peek at them over the stalls.

The ladies eventually came around, as I find most people do when they get to know me better. I feel there is so much myth, rumor, innuendo, and all-out falsehoods that permeate the conversation surrounding transgender lives. It’s up to me to foster authentic relationships with those around me, so they get the truth that can cut through all of the lies.

Any negativity that has come from my announcement is unfortunate but not unexpected, given the tension surrounding the state of LGBTQIA rights in the U.S. and abroad.

Looking back, I knew that sending my company-wide email would be shocking, to say the least. At 56, I had spent many years living a life that was not as authentic as it could be. The courage to finally transition was a slow process, colored by many conversations with myself and questions that only I could answer. I wished I had not waited so long, but once I decided to act, I knew it was now or never.

By coming out the way I did — out loud and all at once — I was able to control my own story as much as possible. I knew people would talk when I showed up the first day in my woman’s pantsuit and tousled pixie, but because I had sent the email and laid everything out about my transition ahead of time, I felt a sense of peace coming into work the first day as Wynne. I believe this helped others feel at peace with my transition as well.

It’s encouraging to me, and hopefully to others, to see the positive impact my coming out has had on those around me. While I have had people who are long-time colleagues or clients struggle with things such as pronoun usage or my name change, the fact that they are willing to make a true effort and take the transition seriously is meaningful to me. Many people have felt comfortable asking me questions, and because I have been open and honest with them in my answers, they have learned more about the trans community and the trans experience. Everyone I have come across can now say they know someone who is trans, which makes a big difference in changing perceptions.

The trans experience is rooted in authenticity. Trans people who come out are saying that they are going to henceforth live authentically, and I believe this inspires others around them to be more authentic in their own lives.

As an executive, I feel that my coming out has allowed me to be a more effective and engaged leader. I no longer work as two people, battling to see who emerges as my authentic self. If my story can empower anyone to live life as they truly are, despite the fear of judgment, then all of the anxiety leading up to my coming out will have been well worth it.


Wynne Nowland is the CEO of Bradley & Parker. As one of the very few trans CEOs, Wynne is able to provide unique insight on coming out to family, as well as in the workplace.


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