Kai Stowers was the first speaker at the three-day conference. Kai Stowers went to work in his human resources (HR) job one day, knowing his next move would cause friction and tension. That was the day Stowers came out to his work as a transgender man.
“My place of work prided itself on being friendly and warm and welcoming, but it wasn’t the kind of place that encouraged employees to rock the boat,” Stowers said at Webster’s sixth annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) conference.
He shared his experience about coming out as transgender with Webster students on Feb. 23. He spoke at Webster University’s DEI conference during a segment called, “Mindfulness and Intercultural Communication: Showing Up in Mind, Body and Heart.”
The DEI conference was organized by Vincent Flewellen, Webster’s chief diversity officer.
“We go into these fields because we want to fix or correct the experiences we had that didn’t fit right or feel right, and to ensure others also don’t have to experience that,” Flewellen said at the conference.
Stowers now works full-time in organization development and diversity, equity and inclusion in the San Francisco Bay area.
Before he began his work in DEI, he worked in HR. This was after he began identifying as transgender.
Stowers came out to chosen relatives, friends and the women’s hockey league he played in. He hadn’t come out to his workplace yet.
“It was very clear, to me at least, that asking an organization that hasn’t yet started its DEI journey to use male pronouns to refer to someone who is still presenting as female is considered as rocking the boat,” Stowers said.
Stowers decided it would be best if he didn’t come out to his organization, but by not coming out, Stowers did face challenges.
“I had to tolerate the sandpaper-like grating that comes every time somebody used the wrong pronouns,” Stowers said.
Eventually, Stowers’ legal name and gender marker change had come in, and he knew it would be visible to his coworkers. He decided it was time to come out to his organization. Stowers knew coming out would be difficult, so he hired a consultant to help him with the process.
Zakiya Mabery, a diversity, equity and inclusion strategist, also spoke at the event. She discussed disabilities and how practices, language, attitudes and stereotypes have an impact on individuals with disabilities. Jackie Glenn, founder and CEO of Glenn Diversity, Inclusion and HR Solutions, hosted a lecture on the power of allyship.
A panel discussion on “second chance” employment, referring to those who were jailed and the disproportionate amount of minorities affected by incarceration, was also featured.
Rounding out the day was one of the keynote speakers, Charlotte Clymer. Clymer, a military veteran and LGBTQ+ activist, discussed being trans in a post-Trump era. Patrisse Cullors, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, will speak tomorrow at 7 p.m. You can still register for the event here.