Emma Hayden shares her journey of transitioning while working as a data center technician at Equinix in Manchester.
It’s fair to say life was pretty different when I joined Equinix back in 2016 as part of a merger. I was presenting as a man, and I hadn’t shared my internal struggle with any of my colleagues.
For as long as I can remember, I knew there was something different about me - I wasn’t a girl but I didn’t fit in with the boys. When I was at school, there wasn’t a name for that feeling that I was aware of, and when I was a teenager growing up in the '80s, there was nothing in the public domain about this.
Eventually I became aware that there were options available to me, but one day, on a visit to my doctor for an unrelated matter, I noticed a sign requesting that patients did not enquire about gender-related services. This was a huge knock for me. I knew then that there was no help forthcoming, so I went on to try and have the life that was expected of me, which led to a couple of relationships and two children. I kept a lid on my true identity as I felt that I had no other option.
Burying my feelings for years, I tried to live up to an expectation of something I perceived was right. I became a people pleaser and had incredibly low self-esteem. This in itself makes it extremely difficult to start the transitioning process, as it’s one of the most selfish things you can do, especially if you’ve built a life with a family around you.
However, as the years went by I realised I couldn’t carry on as I was. I was unable to build genuine relationships with anyone because I was hiding this huge secret. I was trying to live a life that wasn’t mine, which was hugely damaging to my mental health, and the only way forward for me was to transition and start putting my own needs over maintaining the status quo.
The entire transitioning process to date has happened during my time at Equinix, and I was apprehensive about how I was going to share the news. I remember one of my colleagues asking me about the clear nail polish I was wearing. It was the first time I had ever felt ready to share, and I told her everything. She was totally supportive, and to this day is one of my closest friends. I then felt confident to share my news with my manager a few months after I had started the process with the National Health Service.
My manager was as surprised as anyone might be. Because he didn’t have any experience with this type of situation and wanted it done right, he immediately reached out to the Equinix HR team. They were brilliant from start to finish. It was handled by the most senior people in the organisation who had dealt with transitioning employees before, and a plan was put in place and implemented flawlessly. It was fantastic to have someone take control of the process but with my input and following my timetable, showing empathy for my situation, and ensuring that everything was in place for when I officially transitioned at work. The team had thought of absolutely everything: email aliases, HR records, payroll, the lot.
The day it became official, HR organised an all-hands meeting for the Manchester campus, where I got to tell my story in my own words. Some of the most senior Equinix directors from across the UK also attended the meeting, making it clear to everyone that I was supported from the very top. My colleagues also took it in their stride. A few of them I told ahead of time simply said, “We’ve got your back.” Having those core people support me on the day meant the world to me.
Since transitioning, my self-esteem is head and shoulders above where it was previously. I’m not scared of people anymore. I will have conversations with people I don’t know. It’s not important what people think of me. Of course, I have and know that I will continue to face challenges as I go through my transition, but knowing that I’m entirely safe at work is priceless.
Day to day, I don’t need any special treatment at work, but I continue to be supported by my team and the Equinix Employee Connection Networks and am an active participant in PrideConnect, Equinix’s connection network for LGBTQ+ employees and allies. I have been so supported here and they will have to carry me out of Equinix in a box - I don’t ever want to work anywhere else.