As a disabled transgender woman, Nicole Sgarlato knows that Transgender Day of Visibility provides an important opportunity for transgender people to share their experiences.
“Transgender individuals have grown up being told they could not and should not be themselves,” Sgarlato, a recruiting coordinator at Lyft offices in San Francisco, California, told HRC. “This is why Transgender Day of Visibility is so important. It allows the transgender community to come together and bring trans visibility to the table so we can educate and work toward correcting transphobic attitudes while also bringing awareness to transgender youth… It is especially important that the younger generation understands that they are not alone.”
March 31 marks International Transgender Day of Visibility, a time to celebrate transgender people around the globe and the courage it takes to live openly and authentically, while also raising awareness around the discrimination trans people still face.
This visibility is especially important to those living at the intersections of marginalized identities. Sgarlato is an amputee of over 30 years and understands that both within and outside of the transgender community, people must address ableism.
“Internalized ableism is prevalent within the transgender community as well, which is why I believe a day of togetherness like TDOV is an especially important moment to highlight the intersection of being transgender and disabled -- and for that matter all intersections within the transgender community -- so a conversation about how to best support each other can happen,” Sgarlato said.
For Sgarlato, workplace equality is essential to her wellbeing. And Lyft has been setting an example for LGBTQ equality -- from sponsoring events and initiating the Round Up and Donate program that benefits HRC and other advocacy organizations to its support for the Equality Act, which would provide explicit protections for LGBTQ people nationwide. This is among the many reasons Lyft received a 100 score from HRC’s Corporate Equality Index.
“Prior to my joining Lyft a year ago, not many people in my life recognized my gender identity… It was the first time in my life people acknowledged my identity as a woman and accepted me for who I am,” she said. “This experience has made me see just how important it is for companies to foster safe and supportive environments for LGBTQ+ employees. We as a community deal with daily stress and anxiety for simply existing as ourselves, but to be able to step into work and not have to worry about defending our existence is something all individuals should have the right to.”
As Sgarlato notes, equality and equity must be the norm for all business.
“The value of making an impact on the front lines can not be understated, and Lyft in particular has done a phenomenal job of taking a stand to raise the bar. But individual companies leading the way isn’t enough -- It needs to be the standard for all companies. There must be inclusion and legal protection for employees across the board,” she said.
Being supportive to the transgender community and providing them a safe space is essential for families, allies and the broader community. That’s why Sgarlato wants struggling transgender and gender non-conforming youth to understand that they deserve love and compassion.
“I want to remind them that they are not alone in their struggle and to encourage them to find whatever supportive community they can -- whether that be their local LGBTQ+ center, a safe space on the internet, or even just a friend or two they can lean on for support. Beyond community I think it’s important to take life one day at a time,” Sgarlato said. “Focus on being present in each moment and reflect on what it means to be yourself. With this mindset you can learn to love yourself while understanding that there is no end result to a transition because change is really the only constant in life.”