Philadelphia native Daphne Dorman’s career began with a 12 year journey as a stage and TV actress, and later started her own web development agency.
She spent two years on an island off the coast of Africa establishing a wildlife preserve and research station before returning to the US where she now works as a Senior Software Engineer for a company in the residential solar industry.
Daphne volunteers at the San Francisco LGBT Center serving as the instructor for Transcode, a series of classes aimed at training transgender members of our community for a career in technology. She spoke about Transgender Visibility at Yahoo and emceed the Economic Justice celebration at the LGBT center in SF.
Have you always known you were transgender, or was it a gradual process of putting the pieces together?
I have always felt different. While there are many things that make me different, I didn’t know there was a word for that particular brand of unique. It took me 39 years to come fully to terms with the fact that I was female and that I was transgender.
Has your family been accepting of your transition?
I have been so incredibly fortunate. Everybody has been more than accepting; they’ve been supportive beyond measure.
What aspect of transitioning has been the most challenging for you?
On a daily basis, I still battle to accept myself, to recognize my worth, and to love who I am. I fight against a lifetime of insecurity, and feeling worthless, and alone, and lost. Many of these issues are the emotional overspray of a lifetime spent hiding and being inauthentic. Overcoming them, seeing myself for the person I am today, and learning to live in the present have been my greatest challenges by far.
What issues that transgender people face do you feel are the most relevant today?
Despite significant recent advances, many of us still bear the burden of stigma and discrimination. Far too often, we remain punchlines. We are dehumanized, greatly increasing the risk that we will face violence, murder, and suicide. Discrimination also impacts our economic status. Without economic equality, we find ourselves left with few options for employment. Unemployment or underemployment create an instability that makes it difficult to transition financially, mentally, physically, and spiritually.
How do you respond to those who say there is a “transgender agenda” or that we want special treatment?
Of course there’s a Transgender Agenda. There will always be as long as there is an Anti-Transgender Agenda. The treatment we are asking for only seems special because it’s been unequal for so long. Inequality is unacceptable.
What is one thing that you would like the general public to know about transgender people?
That there is no one thing to know about transgender people. We are all unique. Each of our experiences and transitions and lives are different. I would like the general public to know we are more than our transgender status. We are humans. We are mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and colleagues and lovers and writers and fighters. I think it’s less important that they know about us, and more important that they know us.
What motivated you to become such an active member of the transgender community?
Largely due to some strife in my childhood, I never attended college. In the years that followed, I became an actor and a technologist. Neither of those careers would have been possible for me if it wasn’t for the fact that so many others who came before me had been so generous in sharing their knowledge, their skills, and their experience.
Many in the transgender community are equally generous, sharing stories of their transition, lifestyle tips, and information about medical processes and procedures. Being an activist allows me to give back, to pay forward all the knowledge generously given to me by fellow thespians, my colleagues in technology, and my peers in the LGBT community.
Who are the people who inspire you most?
We all love a hero, a story of triumph over adversity. Heroes don’t just save themselves; they save others too. They work tirelessly to make our world a better place. So many of my friends and family fit this bill: my mom, my sisters, my friend Clair, and my best friend Stacy, are all heroes to me. Each of them has a tale of triumph and victory.
Sometimes, making the world better means fighting for political reform, or legal justice, and sometimes it means being the shoulder your friend cries on. Sometimes, being heroic means making just one person’s world a little better. I’ve been very successful at surrounding myself with friends and colleagues who are heroic.
I am greatly inspired by heroes.
What is the last book you read?
Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
What makes you happy?