I Can Be Who I Truly Am at Work — Why That Matters to Me, a Trans Woman with a Disability

Sponsored by 3M

Photo Courtesy of 3M.

Photo Courtesy of 3M.

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Bringing our full selves to work is already easier said than done, but it can be especially difficult when companies don’t walk the talk. For Jaymie Wagner, a trans woman with severe rheumatoid arthritis and a rainbow of hair, this hasn’t been the case — and that’s because of the deeply supportive culture at 3M.

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A 3Mer of nine years, with 2 years in her current role as an IT Service Delivery Lead, Jaymie didn’t come out to her team until years into her career at the manufacturing company. When she did decide to come out, she said every single one of her team members extended their support. “I announced I’d be changing my name and my pronouns, and everyone was so conscientious of making sure they were addressing me correctly,” she added.

Jaymie’s team extended similar support when she shared her arthritis diagnosis, including her boss, who made sure to arrange accommodations for her like new office furniture and a reserved parking space. “My bosses have never looked at me differently for my disability or my sexuality,” she said, which makes bringing her authentic self to work a smooth and truly rewarding experience.

She recently shared with us the extent of 3M’s support, as well as advice for trans women and differently abled people seeking community at work. Check out what she had to say below.

How long have you been at 3M, and what were you doing previously?

I’ve been at 3M for nine years now. I’ve also held tech-related positions at AT&T, IBM, Sterling Commerce and Cogent Systems, which was acquired by 3M. 

Tell me a little about your career journey at 3M. 

I started out as a Field Engineer at 3M and was traveling quite a bit. I got to the point in my personal life where I wanted to cut out some of the travel, so I moved into 3M’s main IT ecosystem and worked from Ohio for a while. 

About a year and a half ago, I was in a position where my role was at risk of being dissolved. Even though it was scary, 3M gave me the opportunity to apply to other roles that interested me. From there, I decided to relocate to Minnesota to begin my role as a Service Delivery Lead which involves project managing, facilitating change management, prioritizing IT improvements and projects and more. 

What was your experience like relocating?

It was scary at first — moving to a new place that I’d only been a few times — but as I started to get used to life in Minnesota, I started figuring out where I was at both personally and emotionally. I started writing and within about six months of the move, I realized some things about myself that I needed to sit back and accept. That is when I decided to publicly come out as a trans woman. 

Tell me a little about your experience coming out at work. 

One of my first visits was to 3M’s Employee Assistance Program. I told them, “I don't know what to do.” From there, they helped me find counseling resources and local support, and put me in contact with 3M’s Pride Group. Someone from the group connected me with Alison Heebsh, who had also transitioned while at 3M. She was kind enough to take me out to lunch and offered me her advice and support. She also introduced me to a few other trans women who had transitioned at 3M. 

How did 3M help you feel support during this time? 

3M’s Pride group has been an amazing resource. It is a central organization that supports employees who identify as LGBTQ+. We have chapters in countries all over the world that are doing incredible work to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, especially in countries who are still working towards progress. 

My manager, Yvonne Houle, was the first person at 3M outside of the LGTBQ+ community or assistance program who I went to share who I truly am. I was terrified. I am tall and have crazy colored hair. I am not subtle at all, but until that point, I had spent so much time trying not to get noticed. Going into her office was absolutely gut-wrenching. 

All that being said, the first words out of her mouth were, “What can I do?” She gave me space to talk to everyone I needed to make sure we had the trust and relationship we needed to get the job done moving forward. Everyone was extremely supportive. 

I received many emails from colleagues and had people coming by my office with encouragement. I even had a 3M parent come by who is raising a trans child and offered me their support. It felt amazing to know people still understood who I am. 

Tell me a little about the diagnosis you received and how 3M also supported you through that. 

I was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis and I've spent most of my career at 3M as a disabled employee. I’ve been given nothing but support. They provided the flexibility of being able to work from home on days I need to. I never thought to ask for anything special until I was working in the office in Minnesota, so I talked to my manager about what I needed and was able to get more accommodating office furniture and a reserved parking space. That was a huge help to me. 

It’s important to find someone who will listen to your concerns — whether it's physical, or even something like transitioning. Once you have that, it’s amazing to see how much better it gets. 

What’s your favorite thing about 3M?

The people — no question. I’ve built friendships and mentorships at 3M that have continued throughout the years. They’ve been there for me through a divorce, a transition and beyond. 

I’ve also loved the flexibility at 3M. There’s a very strong idea here that you need to take care of yourself first, and the rest you will figure out. I’ve always had that flexibility to make my appointments. 

I appreciate that 3M has so many Employee Resource Networks — a Pride network, a new employee network, a new parent network, a disability network — you name it. They really do make an effort to try and establish as many resources as possible. It’s something that has made me feel very valued. 

What is your #1 piece of advice?

My advice is to gamble on yourself. If you’re questioning whether or not you can do something, or if you can land that next job, gamble on yourself. Make that bet, take that chance. I’ve lived by that and it’s saved my life a number of times.

I grew up being taught that something like divorce, losing your job or even being gay was the end of the world. I’ve lived through most of those things. We get told, “This will end your life” or “there’s no coming back from this.” If you’re willing to figure what you need to do and you have the right people around you who can support you, you can move past anything, find a job that makes you happy and have a great life. 


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