EPIC is the name of the LGBT affinity group where I work. Or that is it used to be; EPIC is gone. Killed off by the direction of management with a few clicks on someone’s keyboard. My company still has an LGBT affinity group, but it isn’t EPIC by any means.
You see my company’s owners did what so many do, they sold the company. Our new owners, another similar company already had an LGBT affinity group, so their management didn’t see any reason to keep EPIC. For sure having any affinity group is better than having none, but the new group is so different. In so many ways it is not EPIC, but the biggest is history. You see EPIC saved my life.
When I came to this company over 3 years ago, I was still presenting as my birth assigned sex and going by my birth name. When I moved to Utah for this job, I was also moving to find myself. Shortly before that move, I had made the astounding discovery that all of the messed up things in my life were because I am transgender.
I came to Utah, it would be more accurate to say I was brought to Utah, to find out who I am. At the beginning I didn’t know much, but I knew that transgender was a spectrum. Just because you don’t 100% identify with the sex you were assigned at birth, doesn’t necessarily mean you are totally the opposite.
In that first year or so in Utah my wife and I researched and explored the world of transgender. From the beginning we both knew that being the opposite of your assigned sex meant a lot of huge changes, so we hopped for something less. We considered so many other outcomes and conclusions, but they were not to be.
The more we researched, the more I explored my past and who I really am, the more it became obvious I was the opposite. And the more I explored this reality the more difficult it became to continue the lie. For decades I had lived a lie, I had put on this facade of being male when I was anything but. I had managed that because I had buried it so deep I was mostly numb to who I am. But the numbness was gone and the pain of every day living a lie was getting increasingly more difficult to bear. But change isn’t easy.
To come out and be me was such an enormous daunting task, I had no idea how to do this. But much more intense than my ignorance was the consequences. At the top of that list was my job. I had spent decades building up a career under an identity I could no longer accept. What would happen to all of that. Even more important what would happen with my new Utah employer?
I was caught between two different hells. The hell of pretending to be someone I am not and the hell of loosing my job and career. The latter would leave me and my family totally destitute. I have no other skill sets that I could support my family with. Continuing with the lie was becoming more and more unbearable, but putting my family in totally poverty was unthinkable.
It seemed there was no way out of these two hells and the cost of existing between them was becoming more than I could manage. Then EPIC saved my life via a simple email and a very special event.
One day I got one of those ‘to everyone in the company’ emails about an odd event. It was an invite to watch a company presentation of EPIC Story Telling. I don’t recall anything in the email that indicated what the stories were about beyond that they were stories from other employees. I decided it might be a good distraction from my torment, so I accepted the invite.
This was being done at a different office, so I was just watching via the video on my computer. As I watch what I thought was just going to be a bit of entertainment my life was changed, my life was saved. These were not just any employee’s stories. There were stories of LGBT people that worked at the same company I did. These were their stories of how they were able to overcome all that the world throws at us to be their authentic selves. To live out in the open as an LGBT person at the company I worked for.
At that moment hells gates were broken. I didn’t know what my path was to be yet, but I knew there was a path. Because of these people who were so secure in who they were that they were willing to tell their very painful stories to the whole company, I knew somehow some day I could too.
Shortly after that, I learned that EPIC Story Telling wasn’t just an event but EPIC was a group, a group committed to supporting LGBT people within my company. Then I found out there were people from this group in my office. Eventually, I found the courage to reach out to these people. I found more love than I have ever seen in any religious group, so much intense caring and acceptance.
Over the next few months with their help, I learned what it meant to be part of the LGBT community. After a while, they and the rest of EPIC gave me the courage to come out. My life is so much better now.
But now EPIC is gone. Many of the people are still here. But some have been excluded and many new faces added. That special mix of people that was EPIC is gone. I have noted in the past that some “groups” seem to have a life of their own. The right mix of people with their passions and goals creates a unique personality. That was so true of EPIC
How do you say goodby to that which saved your life? I feel such a deep loss. I know what I must do. I must wipe away the tears and move on, as any loving departed would want those they loved to do. But how do I move on, where do I put all of this immense passion I have that was once reserved for EPIC. There is the other affinity group. But there are also so many other options. I have wanted to be more involved at my local Pride Center and there are other online groups I would like to be active in.
Death inevitably brings new life. I know I will grow past my loss. I will take all that EPIC gave me, and invest that somewhere where my light can shine, where all of my passion can be free to give.