Tamara finds her voice as a transgender employee at Lockheed Martin
Tamara Tamas has vivid memories of the meeting where she came out to her team as a transgender woman.
“I was wearing a beautiful dress — one that I still have to this day.” The dress serves as a reminder to Tamas of the time when she began to find her voice and present her true, authentic self to the world.
When Tamas decided to come out to her work colleagues, her manager was incredibly supportive and really set a positive tone for the whole team.
“I went in and told him, ‘This is what I’m going to do,’ and he supported me every step of the way,” she said. “He led my coming out meeting and talked with the team about using my proper pronouns, treating me with respect and emphasizing that I’m the same person I used to be and that nothing has changed except for my appearance.”
His allyship made a world of difference for Tamas, who now strives to be a strong ally for others going through a similar change.
Becoming more herself
Growing up outside of Detroit and spending many years in California after college, Tamas found that she loved to ski and spent many weekends at Mammoth Mountain ski area in California. She recalls seeing the beautiful, colorful ski outfits that women would wear and thinking, “Why can’t I wear something like that?”
When Tamas joined Lockheed Martin right out of college in 1984, she described herself as timid. “I wasn’t one to speak out or get involved with things,” she said. “It’s difficult to speak out when you know you’re living as someone you’re not meant to be.”
When Tamas suffered a stroke at 51, she reflected seriously on her life and eventually began her transition. Five years post-transition, she is no longer the shy woman she once was at the beginning of her career. “Now that I’m out, I feel that I have some valuable things to say. I’m more outgoing, and I’m simply more myself.”
Building support networks inside and outside of work
Now, Tamas supports others experiencing a journey like hers by serving as the president of our company’s transgender council. The council’s mission is to provide guidance, resources and educational materials supporting employees who are exploring their gender, transitioning, transgender, gender non-conforming or non-binary; family of such individuals; leaders; and allies.
“One of the things that I’ve learned over the years is that it’s incredibly important to have a close group of friends who you can share anything with, and who you can count on,” Tamas said.
Building a support network inside and outside of work is one of the things she preaches repeatedly to the transgender council and shares with folks who are considering exploring their gender.
“It’s important to have people you can go to with things and know that you won’t be judged,” she said.
For Tamas, having been with the company for so long, many of her closest friends are her work friends. She mentioned one particular colleague and friend, Christine Bland, who directly influenced and helped her through her transition process. Bland, one of our former transgender council presidents, even encouraged Tamas to get involved with the group and take on a leadership role.
Recognizing the work to come
Despite having a supportive manager and work friends, Tamas is no stranger to microaggressions and other forms of discrimination the transgender community often faces.
“I’m lucky, because I pass reasonably well,” she said. “I’m not a large person and my hair is long enough that I can put it in a ponytail.”
But she’s encountered situations where folks she used to be friendly with no longer go out of their way to talk to her unless they absolutely must. She’s also faced other more blatant forms of discrimination such as comments made behind her back on the elevator and false niceties toward her said out of mockery or condescension.
Although identifying as transgender can be isolating and challenging at times, seeing LGBTQ+ people in top positions at Lockheed Martin and having others show up as allies can make all the difference during trying times, explained Tamas.
On International Transgender Day of Visibility or anytime throughout the year, Tamas encourages supportive people to identify themselves as safe to the LGBTQ+ community by a simple gesture like displaying a pride flag or adding pronoun preferences into an email signature (e.g. she/her, they/them, he/him).
“Our entire lives we have felt we have to prove ourselves over and over again,” Tamas said. “Seeing women and members of the transgender community who have broken through that glass ceiling and have achieved leadership positions is huge to us. They are paving the way for us and proving to the world that we are serious about our careers and can handle all the responsibilities that come with leadership.”