How Natalie Egan’s Explaining Transgender To People Who Don’t “Get” it
Many of the problems facing our current world could be solved by one thing, but what is it?
Natalie Egan has the answer: empathy.
A former tech CEO, Natalie came out as a transgender woman at 38. While hard for her at first, she soon figured out what she had to do and has since been creating resources for other people in the transgender community.
She created Translator Media, which is a software program that uses virtual reality as a tool used by corporations or schools to show employees or students how to feel empathetic towards people of different cultures and sexualities.
We talked with Natalie about how she came out and the reason why she created Translator Media.
When did you transition and how?
Basically, I figured out that I was trans about a year and a half ago. I didn’t know because it was so deeply repressed. To be clear, there were parts of me that knew I liked things associated with women and femininity. Once I figured out I was trans, it took me a while to figure out how I could move forward. I thought, “I cannot be transgender. I’m married, I have 3 kids, and I’m a CEO of a tech business.”
I was a very public figure. Coming out could be really devastating for my career, and that scared me, but as I started telling people, they were very supportive. I got such great reception. I’m very fortunate; this acceptance is not the experience most transgender people have. That really gave me the courage to completely come out, and really restarted my career as a woman. That started in October 2015 when I came out. I changed my social handles, started hormones, and began my life as Natalie. Now I’m sort of hitting my stride.
What is Translator?
When I told my mom I was transgender, she was sitting in front of her computer and started googling what it meant. And what she saw was horrific. She immediately had this negative emotional reaction. I was so excited for this phenomenal moment in my life, a real mother-daughter moment, and here she is going, “Oh my god, you’re going to get killed.”
At the same time, my business network started calling and emailing me. They were asking me, “Will you talk to our executive team? We need consulting and training in how to handle our trans employees and customers.” I said you know what, I can do this. The more I told my own story of embodying my true self and experiencing discrimination, the more I saw how storytelling could be a pathway to connection and empathy. People who heard my story were opening up, seeing me in a new way, and connecting more deeply with their truth as well. It started with a conversation about my transgender identity, but it went way beyond that.
When the election happened, we were afraid it was going to destroy what we were building, but it actually crystallized what we should be doing. Translator is now an organization that builds empathy as a skill, which is needed now more than ever. Our immersive digital and virtual reality experiences help employees understand their own identities, experience new perspectives, and develop critical soft skills like respect, trust, tolerance, collaboration, and empathy. This ultimately improves company culture and increases employee productivity and retention.
In addition to our in-person trainings and talks, we’re using virtual reality to tell the stories that matter most to the people within these companies. We know that in-person storytelling works, and this new technology allows us to scale that incredible impact and reach more people.
Our virtual reality experiences help people understand their own identities. And in that process, they start to become more accepting of other diverse identities. Not just trans people, but women, and people of color, and Muslims, and more. It’s about getting in touch with the truth of your experience, and having the opportunity to witness and understand someone else’s. We know that our institutions – from businesses to schools and beyond – will be stronger and more successful when people feel engaged and respected in this way.
Is everyone who works at Translator trans?
A few of us are. We’re bringing people of all different races, genders, classes, and more to talk about their experiences and bring users of Translator into their worlds. Our team and partners are people who gravitated toward me because of my story. People heard my story and realized that stories like this have an impact on people because they have never had a real window into a life like mine before. And I had the same experience – as a 38 year old male, with privilege and access to everything, I had never before experienced discrimination. At that age, it’s an eye opening experience.
Translator’s work is about providing those windows into people’s lives and helping people understand each other more. Our work is about translating the human experience. And we do that even within the Translator team. We don’t make assumptions. We take the time to get to know each other, to understand the identities that matter most to each of us, and to learn how to address each other with the words and names that feel most validating.
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How do you feel about Caitlyn Jenner being the face of the majority of trans visibility?
My first reaction is that I love Caitlyn. She is such a pioneer, and such an amazing person that has blazed this path for me to be me. It really started with watching her Diane Sawyer interview.
I cried the entire time during the interview. I didn’t understand why I felt this way, and then I realized Caitlyn’s story was a mirror image of me. I can’t overstate the power of representation, of seeing your experience reflected in someone else’s story. People like Caitlyn and Laverne Cox are making it easier for others to come out.
On the other hand, I would tell you that her being the face of the transgender community is only temporary. It’s only because she was the highest profile person to come out.
She’s not the voice of me, or the trans community. It takes more of us walking into places and doing day to day things. And I don’t necessarily agree with or understand her political views.
How would someone who wants to get involved go about doing that?
Translator works with all organizations from larger corporations to schools to healthcare providers. If your organization is working to align your values to greater diversity, authenticity, and empathy, we want to hear from you.
Great people for us to talk are often Chief Diversity Officers, Human Resources leaders, and CEOs who are interested in increasing employee engagement and deepening authenticity and connection in the workplace. So if you are this person or know anyone who are in these roles, connect us and we’ll make magic happen.
Visit our website, www.translator.media, and send us an email.