Being visible on behalf of the invisible

My name is Raika, and I'm a trans woman working in Autonomy & Automation in Integrated Components and Solutions (ICS). When I started working at Caterpillar four years ago, I wasn't out as transgender. But over time, I gradually became more comfortable with myself and overcame the existential dread of being openly transgender in such a dangerous world. I knew from an early age that I was different and asked my parents if I could transition as a kid, but they were not supportive. Growing up, I learned that it was something to be ashamed of and keep to myself. Gender dysphoria is impossible to ignore, however, and to try and do so only results in perpetual pain, so I had to indulge my femininity in total secrecy, living in constant fear of anyone finding out. It shaped me into a person with no confidence, existing as whatever people wanted me to be instead of myself.

That's no way for a person to live, though, and eventually, everything came to a head. It was do or die: live fully and publicly as myself — no apologies, no compromises — or nothing was worth anything. Fortunately, the pandemic allowed me to take a break from societal expectations, look inward, and take steps to address my dysphoria and fear. As I started getting out more as my true self, I realized that societal pressures were not insurmountable. I could face that danger and hate head-on and live my life; maybe even make some positive change in the world.

Ever since I started presenting publicly as myself, my life has been full of so much color and joy. I've had experiences I never dreamed I'd have and made lifelong friends and enjoyed the contentedness of being myself. All this didn’t come without its costs; I’ve lost family and my existence is at the center of a culture war. Despite all that I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Being a part of organizations like Caterpillar Lambda is incredibly important to me because I don't want any person or child to go through what I had to go through. My coming out at Caterpillar was met with nothing but acceptance, but I know this is still an uncommon response. The first step to addressing this is just being out in the community and visible, to show queer people we have a place in society. So please, join me in continuing to grow Caterpillar into a place where people from all parts of life feel safe and welcome!