Everyone’s “coming out” story is different. For Lauren Almonte, a transgender woman at MRY, it certainly wasn’t simple.
Growing up as a boy in a Dominican household with four brothers, Lauren was intimidated to admit that she was gay. At age 15, she decided to blurt out her sexuality to her parents during the heat of a typical teen argument after coming home past curfew. While her mother and brothers were understanding, her father wasn’t so quick to accept that one of his manly men could be gay. Lauren distinctly remembers his view on coming out: “No matter how gay you are, always conduct yourself as a true man in all ways and forms.” That motto stuck with her when dating other gay men as a teen, as she consistently felt like she had to take the lead aggressively.
By age 17 as a senior in high school, Lauren realized she identified as a woman, a transgender woman who was ready to transition.
Lauren began her corporate career at age 23, during the final stages of her transition. She admits she wasn’t prepared for the criticism she would face in the workplace. “I always made sure not to let people know my ‘Tea’ or the identity of who I really am,” Lauren explains. “I was afraid of being discriminated against or shunned from groups and conversations and opportunities in the work place. I remember one day while in the office at one of the many advertising agencies I worked at, a close gay coworker came to me and said, ‘Lauren, many people are asking me if you’re a lesbian.’ I was like ‘Oh no girl, you better tell them I am a Tranny.’ And we both laughed. As I grew older and wiser, I learned to finally embrace who I am and what I have accomplished in life.”
Since her first day working at MRY, Lauren was relieved to notice the company culture was “super gay friendly.” From LGBT employees in leadership roles to being part of Egalite, which is a Publicis Groupe LGBT alliance network, Lauren has found the support she needs at MRY in order to feel comfortable knowing her work and opinion is always “valued and appreciated.”
As a member of Egalite, Lauren is proudly working on supporting the premiere of the movie Carl(a) alongside fellow MRY Egalite members. When Lauren first saw the trailer for the film, featuring the story of a transgender male to female, she thought, “Okay, here goes another transgender movie.” But she quickly realized it was much more than a stereotype. “It kicked off with so many of my personal issues I had during the beginning stages of my transition to the concerns and worries I had when I was in a committed monogamous relationship,” Lauren admits. “I actually cried. Super impactful.”
As Lauren explains the typical hurdles faced by transgender men and women, as evident in Carla(a) she notes that “We all struggle from some type of ‘lack’ – either lack of love, money, happiness, friends… the worst feeling out there is the lack of acceptance. Acceptance is the key element needed in order to feel good about the steps you are taking or the direction you are going in life. If my parents, friends and family did not accept my decision to embrace becoming transgender, I might not have been here to tell my story.”
Lauren is happy to give advice to those considering transitioning: “Before anything, you have to make sure you build your team. Those will be the individuals that will guide and support you through all steps during your transition. Make sure you seek professional help as far as a therapist or spiritual advisor. I made sure I was mentally fit to transition, so I saw a few psychiatrist before I made the decision. Knowing that I was mentally and emotionally ready to move forward, the rest just fell into place. Knowledge is power. Do your homework and research everything. Ask lots of questions, and make sure to get positive true answers.”
Lauren’s best advice for others? “Love yourself and others will then love you. Make sure you have emotional support from family and friends – that will always set you up to succeed.”
MRY is proud to support the premiere of Carl(a) and invites you to RSVP for the premiere screening on Monday, April 20 in New York City. Doors open at 6:15pm and the screening begins at 7pm. A Q&A with the director and cast to follow.
To donate to The National Center for Transgender Equality and to learn more about Carl(a), visit: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/carla-raising-funds-for-transgender-community