Emily Hamilton is Vice President of Strategic Change for Electrocomponents PLC. She is an incredible advocate for the trans community and has played a leading role within her global company to create and drive a supportive, caring, and safe environment for trans employees. From ensuring the implementation of fair and inclusive policies to delivering in-depth training sessions on supporting trans colleagues, Emily has fought, and continues to fight every day, for the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace and beyond.
However, it’s not been an easy road for Emily. Her journey began decades ago and has been rife with struggle.
“I’ve been out as trans for just over two and a half years now. However, I have known I was different from the age of six. I tried to come out for the first time age 11 and again when I was about 20. Each time, I was slammed very firmly back into the closet.”
This denial from those around her to be able to be her true self led Emily to attempt to take her own life twice. In 2019, after Emily’s second and final time of crisis, she came out very visibly as a senior leader in her current business.
“What I reflect a lot on now is, for a lot trans people, this shift comes after a crisis point. But it shouldn’t come after a crisis point. That self-realisation of who you are and who you want to show the world – that should be a point of celebration. This is the sort of thing where you should be getting cards and having a party and people sending you lots of lovely gifts!
“I’m very fortunate in the place I work that everyone has been supportive, and I’ve been able to just carry on with the job. In fact, I would say I’m even better at my job now because I’m not thinking about how to hide who I am.”
While Emily has been greatly uplifted, supported, and empowered with her current employer, she continues to face serious issues outside of the workplace.
“I now have no shame, no embarrassment, no guilt about being trans – that all came from the need or the perceived need to hide who I was. However, now I have to deal with the hatred and bigotry that goes with it.
“But for every person who comes onto a public platform to say that trans women are male predators or trans women are living out a sexual fantasy, there’s a person like me just living their life, just being an ordinary woman in a leadership position, in a business, doing her job. We’re buying the same clothes in the same shops as everyone else buys. We’re taking five minutes to do our makeup because we’re late for work in the morning.
“We are just relatively ordinary, boring women and men from the trans and non-binary community, just getting on with our lives. And I think for every time someone vilifies trans people, we need to be there to say, I don’t recognise that. I don’t see that. Where is this stereotype coming from? Where is this villainy that’s being assigned to us coming from because that’s not me and it’s not any trans person?”
For Emily, this is why Trans Day of Visibility is so crucial; visibility pricks the balloon of fear, lies and hatred and breaks down the stigma that so many in the trans community still face today.
“Trans Day of Visibility is an important counterpoint. We have two major days in the year where we talk about trans people. One is Trans Day of Remembrance in November. That’s where we think about all the people we’ve lost to violence or to their own hand in a year. But was it right that the only time we think about trans people is when we think about the horror, the loss, the violence, and the abuse? We needed to have time to talk about who we are, being visible and the contribution that we make in society.
“Of course, one day I hope we don’t need any of these days. It would be wonderful if we didn’t have days which are there to highlight inequity and oppression. Hopefully one day the world accepts that trans people are just a variation of humanity. I’d love that day to come. But until we reach this, we still need to have these days to really lift our voices.”
As an advocate and ally in the workplace, Emily finishes our interview by giving advice on how businesses can do more to create a safe, secure environment where people feel able to bring their full selves to work.
“The first thing businesses must remember is that they are built on human capital. So, you’ve got to think about who are the pool of talent that you’re going to be drawing on, and the likelihood is you’re going to be drawing on a diverse community of people.
“You’re going to be drawing on people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, you’re going to be drawing on black and ethnic minorities or disabled people. All of us have talents to offer. And if you, as a business, don’t recognise that, if you think that you will succeed by refusing to engage with that talent, that’s not good business.
“Additionally, we’re not just talking about employees either. Trans people spend money, they also work within the supply chain. So, thinking about your whole business from start to finish, why would you not be an inclusive employer? Why would you not say, ‘we are here to support you in whatever way we can?’
“By doing that, you’ve built that loyalty with employees, suppliers, and consumers.You have proven that you are a business built on integrity.”
Emily goes on to add:
“We should look at trans-exclusive businesses in the same way that we would look at a business that endorses child labour or that uses immoral practices of import. When companies are caught doing bad things, they are rightly picked up on that. It should be the same for any form of discrimination around coming out – it’s not acceptable. We should be holding these businesses accountable for their actions.
“The bottom line is that good humanity is good business.”