The power of an invitation
One day during March 2018, Darcy Stratton received an email that validated something she had known about herself her entire life. It was an invitation to a Women’s History Month lunch with the other women on her team.
“It was overwhelming,” said Darcy, operations lead for Integration Solution Services in Kent, Washington, when describing the impact of this meaningful invite. “I was actually being included with the women on my team!”
Women’s History Month celebrates women’s achievements and significant contributions past and present, while also presenting the opportunity for gender partnership and allyship across the company. The month also contains Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31, which recognizes the resilience and accomplishments of the transgender community.
Darcy — like many transgender employees at Boeing — is defining womanhood in a way that connects with her own identity.
“First and foremost I am a woman,” Darcy said. “I don’t like being identified as a transgender woman: I’m a woman.”
Darcy said that her team and manager were supportive during her transition and used Boeing’s gender affirming resources for helping employees and their teams through the change. While she was out of the office for a week, her manager led a meeting with her team to explain what was happening. She said when she returned everyone was respectful and the work continued as usual — but she really felt welcome when that simple act of inclusion happened and she was invited to join the women in her organization for a Women’s History Month event.
That feeling of being seen and accepted had been missing from Darcy’s life for decades. Growing up in Utah during the 1960s, Darcy had to create a character to survive a society where being different attracted bullies and even violence. She played the character throughout high school, her military service, and as she started a family.
“The girl inside me would come out and haunt me every so often,” Darcy said. “I started realizing that my life wasn’t happy. I didn’t care about people. I was emotionally dead.”
Through therapy, Darcy recognized and embraced her identity. She said that it was like a load of bricks had been taken off her shoulders. Today she has continued her 25-year legacy at Boeing in its integration solutions organization. She has a group of female friends she calls her “sisters” and belongs to an all-women’s motorcycle club. Last year she took a cross-U.S. motorcycle trip from Washington state to El Paso, up to the Canadian border and back home — something she might never have had the motivation to do five years ago.
Susan Morris, an F-15 line employee in St. Louis, sees her identity differently from how Darcy defines hers. After all, just like cisgender women are not a monolith, neither are those who have transitioned.
Susan has operated one of the largest Boeing robots in the U.S. since 2019, when the wing program returned to St. Louis, and ran the Flex-Track machine on the F-15 center upper fuselage section for five years before that. In 2014 she became the first hourly employee at the site to transition. Had it not been for that decision, she said she might not still be alive due to the toll that covering her true identity took on her mental and physical health.
Susan took time off of work, during which her manager held a meeting with her third shift team to explain what was happening. She herself explained it to the first and second shifts, and all but one of her teammates were accepting of their coworker’s transition.
While company policies prohibit discrimination of any kind, a general feeling of exclusion can be difficult for members of the transgender community to overcome.
Susan says she has declined to participate in events where representatives insist on using her former name, known as a “deadname.” For Susan, it is too difficult to engage with groups that do not accept her identity. Instead, she has found community through her church, friend groups, allies at work, and the Boeing Women Inspiring Leadership business resource group.
“It’s OK to be transgender and that other people can see it,” Susan said. “There might be someone who needs to see it. We’re out here. We’re available for people who have questions.”
“Disclosing something this personal is like climbing a mountain: You don’t know what’s going to happen on your way to the top. I’m still climbing the mountain, but have had several stops on the way up, to look out and appreciate where I’m at on this journey, and to be thankful for the people in my life that I’ve met along the way.”
Supporting transitioning teammates
At Boeing, we have well-defined processes that guide how teams, managers and HR partners work together to make an employee's transition as seamless as possible.