This was it. I had tossed, turned, and lost sleep for four days over this decision. I consulted my wife, spoke with my supervisor, and even sought input from my favorite Human Resources Business Partner on this decision, but now was the time to either step up, or stay quiet.
“So, let’s back up a bit, how did you end up at Noodle? Or rather how did you end up in Industrial and Organizational Psychology?” John Katzman asked me during a Noodle at Noon — a daily company-wide event during which our CEO interviews an employee — towards the end of my summer internship. I took a deep breath, told myself this was an opportunity to use my platform and I had to seize it.
“Thanks for asking John. To share my journey to Noodle, I have to share my journey authentically. I’m a transgender man, and while that part of my identity is a small sliver of who I am, it is still an incredibly important part of who I am. It has shaped my lived experiences, especially my experiences in the workplace, and ultimately why I found myself in IO psychology studying diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
There it was. Out in the open. Me — I was out in the open.
I shared my story with John, and in turn, the ~200 people who make up the heart and soul of Noodle. I shared my journey of self-discovery, as well as the decisions and consequences that followed my decision to live my life authentically when I transitioned in my early twenties. I don’t remember everything about that conversation, if I’m being honest I may have blacked out from nerves and anxiety. Up until that point, I had worked very hard to be discrete about that part of my identity, spending countless time, energy, and money to be “just one of the guys.”
Candidly, I had not even said the words “I’m transgender” in over 3 years, but I had found my home at Noodle. A home where I feel secure and supported to embrace and celebrate all aspects of who I am. I had spent the last two months of my summer building relationships across all departments and levels of leadership within Noodle, I had a strong support system, and now I had the platform to change hearts and minds about trans* folx. No matter how wonderful people are, we all have our biases, and even if we are not aware of it, they sneak in and change how we view people once we have new information about them. I’m sure some people turned off the webinar and went to lunch after hearing the word “transgender” come out of my mouth, and that’s okay, it’s not about changing everyone’s mind, it’s about changing one, changing one heart, one mind at a time.
I was too anxious to look at the chat on the side of the webinar as John and I sunk our teeth into the state of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as a whole, and how we do better as individuals, as well as an organization. But I do know that the messages full of love, support, and pride that flooded my Slack throughout the day and the days to come confirmed that I had, indeed, found my home at Noodle.
At the end of my internship I was brought on as a full-time Noodle employee (or “Noodler”). I have seen how the amount of support and acceptance of all aspects of my identity has allowed me to flourish in my career here. I have been afforded every opportunity to grow, develop, and do meaningful work that has empowered me. There is no doubt that every organization has room to grow when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion; DEI is ever evolving, and organizations have to keep up. But keeping up starts with people, and the people that call Noodle home, are people with brilliant minds and big hearts who are eager and willing to learn and do the work to continue being better every day. To create the best culture we possibly can so that everyone has the opportunity to thrive as their authentic selves.