Katie shares her experiences growing up, finding her own pride, and fully embracing who she is.
Katie Schmidt is a Quality Assurance Engineer on the SMB Candidates Management team in Seattle, Washington. She has been at Indeed for 3 years and is an active member of the iPride Inclusion Resource Group. She is passionate about helping others find a path to pride within themselves and their communities.
When I was growing up, I had no one to relate to. I felt wrong and alone. I knew I’d be rejected if I told anyone about how I felt. I keenly remember my mom telling me and reminding me several times, “It’s okay if you’re gay, please talk to me so I can support you,” and my unuttered response to this was, “Yeah, but this is… more. This is harder. This is ’worse.’”
Even with her potential support being so close, I felt like this was a bridge too far. She was willing to accept a gay son, but that didn’t guarantee she could take the further steps needed to accept a trans daughter.
The media did not help matters. Constantly, transgressions of gender norms were the butt of jokes, or it was seen as something deviant, disgusting, and perverted. It was tied to sexuality and usually portrayed as something wrong with the person. You never saw well-adjusted trans people in the media. You saw people who rejected gender norms entirely and were punished for it, never able to fit in, always at war with the world, and, frequently, losing.
All of this was telling me, it was wrong to feel the way I did. It was wrong to be who I was. I would not be accepted. I would be misunderstood, sexualized, shunned, and forced into a life where I had to throw away safety to live as who I was.
Finding Pride and Living in Truth
Several things helped me break through this. Our health class in 7th grade talked about trans people, not in mocking terms, but in clinical ways. It talked a little about the process people went through. It treated the subject with compassion and gravity, and let me know that it was possible to transition and blend in again, to still be a part of society as who I wanted to be.
I learned about what was known at the time as “sex change operations,” and I started making plans to cut all contact with everyone I knew, get the operation, and start my life for real, once I was old enough. My childhood was like living in a shell, where I was honest only with myself. I didn’t have pride, I had shame.
That changed when I first came out to someone, near my 17th birthday. A friend who had moved several states away was joking that I was “becoming a real woman” for some reason, and I played along for a while, until I told her that… I actually wanted to become a real woman, and had for as long as I could remember.
She was the first to learn about who I really was, and she was supportive. She was encouraging and kind, and our friendship even deepened.
Soon after, I started to tell the people I trusted most around me. Each time I came out, I was placing trust in them, and time after time, I was rewarded. I may not have been understood, but I was accepted. I was beginning to gain pride. I was beginning to feel real.
Two kinds of Pride
Lowercase “pride” is important to me as a way of standing up for myself. It is a declaration that I matter, even when the people around me may not understand. It is a promise to myself to be true to my identity, and to be comfortable, confident, and happy with who I am.
Without pride, I wouldn’t be able to be myself.
Uppercase “Pride” is important to me as a statement that there are others who are going through the same kinds of things I am. It’s a community of acceptance and positivity in the face of a world where discrimination still exists. It’s a refutation of the fear that is behind most heartless words and acts that marginalize us, and instead, shows how much we matter, and how amazing we can all be.
Pride is a way to connect, and to pay forward and inspire others so they won’t feel as alone in their struggles as I felt, when I was disconnected.
I’m eternally grateful for that network of support I was able to find early on, because once the setbacks began, they began in earnest. When I was actually taking steps to change how I presented to the outside world, I started to get pushback from all sorts of places, and usually places of authority. I wasn’t allowed to use any of the public bathrooms in school, and had to use the nurse’s office.
On things that were separated by gender, I wasn’t allowed to be one of the girls, and I wouldn’t accept being put with the boys, so they would find ways to put me in a separate, isolated category.
What kept me going was pride. I had learned to be proud of who I was, and to stand up for myself. I didn’t have to hide it anymore. It stung every time I wasn’t accepted, but I always had myself to rely on, and I always had my own back.
Pride let me assert myself. Pride let me be myself. Even through all the hardships, even in confronting an unsupportive father, and even as I entered the workforce, I was able to push through, because I was able to experience the world as myself for the first time.
Joining iPride at Indeed
I joined iPride because I want to support anyone who is going through the things I have, and I want to make the road easier for others to travel. I don’t want anyone else to have to go through the hurdles I did.
Indeed is the first company I have worked at that has a dedicated group for supporting people who don’t fall into the cisgender heterosexual categories. It’s a place where I can be myself, and I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I can make a difference for others like me.
While the pressures of navigating systems that are not designed with you in mind can forge one into a diamond, it can also make others crack, and no matter what, it wears away at you.
Nobody should have to endure that. I want to make a difference, and I want to make it easier for those who come after me.
Read Astra’s story of transitioning at Indeed here.
The Pride in iPride
For all the setbacks and all the red tape and all the hurdles and systemic issues placed in our way, iPride has been there to help us. The people in iPride recognize the needs of the trans community. Though a lot of our work is still foundational, and it’s difficult making headway, they’re there for us, and supporting us, and asking us what we need.
iPride isn’t just listening. They are actively working to improve the lives of so many people. We’re building the infrastructure we need to support our employees, and to retool the way Indeed engages with the world to be more sensitive and aware.
This month, Indeed is also beginning a push to educate employees and others outside of the company about the importance of pronouns, which will continue long after Pride Month ends.
Below are some helpful resources from Indeed to support the Transgender and Non-Binary community