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Community Work Leads Transgender FedEx Team Member To White House

March 20, 2017

Jesse WhiteWhen people meet FedEx SmartPost manager Jesse White, they see an African-American man—not a man who was born female. Being transgender means a person’s gender identity, or internal sense of being a man or a woman, differs from the sex the doctor marked on their birth certificate.

When people make changes to match the way they feel inside, it’s called transitioning. When Jesse started his transition in 2009, he knew it would be difficult for some to accept, but necessary to be true to himself. Today, Jesse is an activist, advocate, educator and mentor who cultivates diverse schools and workplaces, and supports inclusive communities. His work led him to the White House to discuss transgender policy issues and celebrate cultural achievements.

FedEx: Assigned female at birth, when did you first identify as the opposite sex?
Jesse: As far as I can remember, I always identified more as a boy than I did a girl, even though I was born female. At 3 or 4 years old, I was no longer allowed to use the same restrooms as the boys. We were split up for certain activities based on gender, and that’s when I started realizing that I was different from my other male friends.

FedEx: How did being transgender affect you growing up?
Jesse: I wasn’t aware of the word ‘transgender’ or what that meant. I didn’t know there were options for me to align my body with the way I felt, so that the rest of the world could see me the way that I saw myself. Puberty was a struggle. I was really self-conscious, timid and shy. I wanted to hang out and play and be more social than I was, but I felt trapped in a shell. I felt like I couldn’t express myself the way that other boys could. I remember wanting to play football, but hearing that girls can’t play football. I spent a lot of time questioning myself and feeling trapped. I didn’t know there was a way for me to escape the shell that I felt like I was in.

FedEx: How did your family react to your decision to transition?
Jesse: When I told them, they were initially confused and hurt. My parents thought they did something wrong. A lot of parents feel like that when they learn their children are transgender–that perhaps they somehow failed them. I see it as the complete opposite. If someone feels comfortable enough to express themselves to their family, then their family has done a really good job in molding an individual to be comfortable with who they truly are.

I waited to tell my parents until after I began therapy. Their initial concern was that I was safe and seeing healthcare professionals, and not in some back alley somewhere or doing something illegal. Around the time that I ‘came out’ as being transgender, I was becoming more comfortable with who I was. A lot of education needed to take place, and my parents and I grew together.

Having my family’s support is definitely huge. My mother and father are my champions, and I’ve gained my strength to persevere from them.

FedEx: When you started at FedEx Ground in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in 2007 you had not yet transitioned. Was it difficult to transition in the same city, with the same job, versus relocating for a fresh start?
Jesse: It was a process for everyone involved. I had been on the job for two years before I started the transition, and I think working with a small group of people during that time definitely helped. I had a lot of support, but also got a lot of questions, which I wasn’t sure how to answer at the time. While difficult initially, it became easier when people realized that I was the same person inside. My outward appearance changed, but at the core of who I am, I am the same.

I gave my senior manager two books about transgender individuals in the workplace when I disclosed that I was going to begin transitioning. He asked me how he could be supportive, which I didn’t expect. I had heard so many stories from others transitioning on the job that were not positive, and so I was prepared to not have an advocate in leadership. His support in educating other employees removed a lot of stress and allowed me to feel more open at work.

I've always been the same person inside.FedEx: So you started transitioning in 2009. When did you start to feel more comfortable?
Jesse: I had a euphoric sense immediately after beginning to transition. I am still a work in progress, though definitely much happier with who I am as an individual. I became most comfortable during the summer of 2014 when I had my first gender affirming surgery.

FedEx: You are involved in your community as a transgender activist and mentor. Why do you promote education, awareness, and inclusion?
Jesse: This activism, organizing, educating and awareness evolved from my survival needs. Prior to beginning my transition, I was merely existing. Once I began walking in my truth, I realized there are many who struggle much harder than I do. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 40 percent of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt, most of those before the age of 25.

I have made many friends along this journey, who are no longer here because they lost their lives to hate, fear, ignorance and bigotry. This fuels my will to continue.

FedEx: Your activism led to a visit to the White House during the Obama administration. Why was the Transgender Community Briefing important to you?
Jesse: The briefing included Lourdes Ashely Hunter, from the Trans Women of Color Collective, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, from the White House Office of Public Engagement, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch. It was an opportunity to celebrate the many contributions of transgender individuals, and transgender-led and owned companies across the United States. It was a time to uplift one another.

FedEx: What are your hopes for the future?
Jesse: I hope we can live authentically in our truth. I hope that transgender individuals can be a part of the general community, and people understand that we’ve existed for centuries, that we are going to continue to exist. We are doctors, lawyers and educators, and we don’t want to just be tolerated. I hope we move towards a space of acceptance and understanding, and can have conversations without having great debates, and that people can openly love and live in a world that is safe for them.


Comments

    Kathy O'Dell says:

    It’s great to see a company so supportive of transgender people.

    Sarah Backus says:

    What a fantastic article! Jesse is clearly an incredible, brave (and handsome) human being. KUDO’S to Fedex! You are now my favorite shipping company!

    Dornita Branham says:

    great post….keep walking in your truth..

    Susan Yurgil says:

    Jason, what an excellent story about Jesse White. I believe this article and many more like it will enlighten folks who are unknowing about the subject and once they become knowledgeable and open their minds no longer will there be a need to hate or fear.

    Anonymous says:

    Jesse, Thank you for representing the greater whole of humanity! #loveislove

    Mechele L. Flavius says:

    Very informative article. Very happy i read it. God Bless you Jessie.

    M.G. says:

    This is awesome! Company support like this should spread across the world!! I love the company I work for!

    Dianne says:

    Thank you for being so brave and sharing your story making it easier for those that follow you.

    Michael Watt says:

    Jesse, what an inspiring story! Thank you for being so honest and transparent. I am so glad that we work for a company that embraces its transgender employees.

    Jordan Basaldua says:

    If I could have hit Bravo more than once, I would. Great read and truly inspiring. I hope that my son will trust in his parents enough to be open an honest about all things, and know that we will always support his decisions to be who he wants to be.

    Alicia Johnson says:

    Great article Jesse. Please continue to be a wonderful person.

    Joseph Holmes says:

    Keep up the good work Jesse! This makes me proud to say I work for FedEx!

    Sarah Wilson says:

    Well done Mr. White, thank you for sharing your courageous journey.

    Well done to FedEx as well for being a supportive and empowering company to work for.

    Leon Sloat says:

    Awesome article! I especially loved Jesse’s comment, “Once I began walking in my truth”. That comment really spoke to the reason for his transition.

    Luis Wiadacz says:

    What I admire the most is not only his courage but for his thinking bigger than himself, and got involved in his community as a transgender activist and mentor to promote education, awareness, and inclusion. Thank you for making a difference!

    M Green says:

    What a great company we work for! So blessed to be transgender and have job security! Keep up the good work brother!

    Kelvin Golden says:

    Great article Jason, and thanks for sharing your story Jesse. God Bless!

    Virginia Henry says:

    Jason,
    Let’s have a grand holiday ball for everyone in the fedex community. Please get in contact with me! One Mission…One Team….One Goal!

    Sharon D. Shakespeare says:

    Jason, this was a great article about Jesse and how FedEx supports its transgender employees. I am currently writing my dissertation on this exact topic.

    Rich says:

    You are very brave Jesse!

    Robin Jackson says:

    What an awesome story to share an Im so proud to be apart of the fedex family. Big shout out to Jesse for sharing an being proud of who he is, I am Fedex….

    Kyle Krivanek says:

    This is so awesome. Very Happy for you Jesse. You’re with the right corporation alright and in good hands.

    Shondelle Browne says:

    You are very brave and it is great to work for a company that is accepting of our sexuality no matter what it is. Not everyone is able to come out and put forth such a personal matter definitely eye opening.

    Walter A. says:

    Great story. Thank you for sharing that.

    Corey B says:

    I applaud your courage to live in truth- continue to be an inspiration.

    Marty Haywood says:

    Great story and great courage by Jesse. Best of luck in all your endeavors

    Linda Collins says:

    Congratulations Jason and thanks for sharing.

    Karen W says:

    Proud to work for a diverse company that supports all employees.

    Ayaz Banglorewala says:

    More Power to you Jessie.

    Rob LeBeau says:

    Makes me proud to work for FedEx!

    Anna says:

    Awesome article. Powerful! Walking in one’s truth. Thank you for sharing your amazing story Jesse! Blessings!

    Stephen Ortega says:

    What a great story! Thank you for sharing. Jesse, your strength and openness will assist so many others in their journey. Best wishes for the best life possible and thank you for what you do in support of the operation each and every day.

    MS ANGELA M. FOSTER says:

    ITS NOT THE VISUAL VANITY, ITS ABOUT INTEGRITY AND SELF WORTH. THE WORLD WOULD BE A BETTER TO LIVE IF ALL WOULD HAVE HUMILITY…GOOD FOR YOU JESSE……

    KATHLEEN SHARKEY says:

    This is an extraordinary story, I hope everyone reads this and understands what a Transgender person
    goes through, Thank you Jesse and thank you FedEx I am truly proud to work for FedEx

    Carlos Rivera says:

    Way to go Jesse!!

    Chuck Ehrismann says:

    As a parent of a transgender child, I am encouraged by the strong character and brave determination of Jesse White. It really boils down to compassion, education on the topic, and living your life as your authentic self. This is my hope for my child. Thank you Jesse for bravely taking the risk and putting it all out there.

    leslie danikels says:

    great story I was touched thank you

    Greg McMains says:

    Jesse, thank you for your courage and leading others to a better life. My nephew shares a similar path and he is enjoying a rich family, personal and professional life. Again thank you for standing up.

    Emily Lamar says:

    Great article. Thanks for sharing his story!

    Paola Marie Amezquita says:

    Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!
    I’m proud to be part of the community
    LGBT…..Im live in Orlando, Fl I have 17 years with the company and I’m a transgender too. I’m very happy if I hear more about what I can help…Thanks a lot…..God
    Bless You….Paola

    John Davis says:

    Thank you for your courage and commitment to making our world a better place Jesse.

    John Dolan says:

    Thank you for this wonderful article — I am so proud to have Mr. White as a colleague at FedEx.

    Jesse stated that he provided books to supervisors when he transitioned several years ago.

    Now, FedEx has developed more formalized, integrated support for employees who are transgender, as well as their colleagues who may have questions about the process. Anyone who would like more information can reach out to their OpCo’s Legal Department or their Human Resources professionals.

    Paola M. Amezquita says:

    Congratulation!!!!!!I’m the first transgender in the history of Fedex in Puerto Rico…..I’m very very proud of you….God bless you!!!!

    VALERIE HORNBEAK says:

    WELL SAID AND THANK YOU FOR SHARING JESSE.

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