James Jurgensen is a Consulting Analyst, a former Accenture Skills to Succeed intern, a visual designer and a stand-up comedian.
He also happens to be transgender.
In honor of International Transgender Day of Visibility, James reflects on the importance of an inclusive and diverse workplace, where individuals can feel comfortable being their true, authentic selves. He also shares how finding such a workplace at Accenture has allowed him to take on new challenges, knowing that he will be considered for the quality of his work and contributions—not his gender.
Living as the real me
I served as a Bonner Scholar in college, partnering with non-profits to bring about positive community change through service, research and action. During my time as a Bonner, I was struck by the significant results we were able to produce by working together to face complex issues. Foreshadowing the work I would later do with Accenture, I knew I would spend my life finding ways to help bring about positive change.
I also knew that if I continued to be afraid of living as my authentic self, I wouldn’t be able to do that work to my full capability. Despite acknowledging the ways hiding my gender identity was holding me back, I still had to deal with a lot of fear.
Fear that my existence would be a problem for others. Fear that I would be judged unfairly. Fear that my identity would be used as a weapon against me.
A lot of people tell me now that they’re surprised at how open I am about the fact that I’m trans, and they ask how I’m so comfortable openly acknowledging it. I certainly wasn’t always, and since coming out, my gender has been used in countless ways against me. But it is exactly because of this that I openly acknowledge my gender identity. It’s important to me that my identity not only come up when someone is trying to disparage me.
A person’s gender identity should never be a reason they are barred from contributing to the world, but this is, unfortunately, often the case for gender minorities. In my eyes, it’s important that I take ownership of my identity and show others that it is not a source of shame for me. Being open about my identity allows me to control the conversation.
After completing an internship through the Accenture Skills to Succeed program, I was offered a full-time Consulting Analyst position. I knew that if I was going to succeed in this new opportunity, I needed to bring my authentic self, and that meant being visibly transgender.
Doing so in a new city and a new professional environment wasn’t easy, but I started with cautious optimism. At first, I felt that I had to tiptoe around the issue. I knew that my colleagues were asking questions.
I decided to tackle the discussion head-on.
I started doing stand-up comedy to take back the power that had been stripped from me in situations where people disparaged my gender identity from a place of ignorance and fear. Doing stand-up comedy about these experiences is my way of providing an open invitation to the audience to move past their preconceived notions.
This past fall, an ‘open-mic’ event was planned in our local Accenture office, and I decided to perform. Initially, I was worried about how receptive my colleagues would be to the material, but it ended up being one of the first moments at work that I felt completely accepted and supported.
The warm response I received that night is one of the best moments I’ve had while working at Accenture, and no one has tiptoed around the subject since. I performed months ago, and I still meet people in the office who say things like, “I know you. You performed during that comedy night. I loved your set.”
People saw that being trans was a piece of my identity that I was comfortable naming and proudly claiming, and because of that they felt comfortable acknowledging it as well. It doesn’t always go that way, but the fact that it did in the Boston office says a lot of great things about the Accenture community.
I’m currently an analyst in the Consulting Development Program, working as a communications and training specialist for a Resources client. My days revolve around problem-solving and digital design work. I was a Psychology major in college, and I love that the work I do now pushes boundaries and reaches beyond expectations—both in terms of how I’m applying my formal education as well as in the work we’re doing for clients.
But my favorite thing about Accenture is the people.
The relationships I’ve formed with many of my Accenture colleagues have enriched my life in more ways than I would have ever expected. In the analyst community, we collaborate, brainstorm and problem-solve together. We share meals, laugh together, and I know we can reach out to one another for support whenever we need it.
And I’ve really grown from working with my Accenture leaders. They offer me support to handle issues as they come up, give me permission to set boundaries and encourage me to raise my expectations around respect and inclusion in the workplace.
I love to learn, and this is a great environment to foster that love. If you’re interested in something, you’re encouraged to grow your skillset, reach for that next opportunity and even teach and mentor others.
Why International Day of Transgender Visibility matters
For me, the significance of International Day of Transgender Visibility is that we’re actively pushing back against the expectation that fear and ignorance will make us hide who we truly are. I like to say there are a thousand things more interesting about me than the fact that I’m transgender, but at the same time, being transgender has informed a lot of my life experiences and the way I view the world.
Only when we live openly and authentically can we be our best selves—in our jobs, in our relationships, in every aspect of our lives. You can’t become the person you’re capable of when you’re hiding a core aspect of who you are.
If you want to do work that’s truly transforming the way the world works and lives, find your fit with Accenture.
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