Building Acceptance Towards Transgender Women May 26 2022 – Recap

May 26 VL_Screenshot

In honour of Pride Month in June, FEW Japan was proud to host this special Virtual Lunch on the theme “Building Acceptance Towards Transgender Women”. Transwomen are still experiencing a lot of difficulties navigating different careers and they’re still fighting to have equal rights and acceptance. We at FEW Japan have been keen on building inclusion and signaling an LGBTQ inclusive message in all parts of Japanese society and the world and it was really exciting to finally have this conversation with our members. We had a panel of 3 fascinating transwomen who shared their stories of successes and challenges and how we can be better allies, advocates and inclusive leaders in our personal and professional lives. 

Meet our Panelists

Maeve DuVally is a managing director in corporate communications at Goldman Sachs in New York, where she has worked for 18 years. Previous to that, she worked in communications at Merrill Lynch and as a journalist in Tokyo, Washington and New York. She spent ten years in Japan, including stints as an exchange student in Osaka, a government-sponsored English teacher in Kumamoto and English teacher, brokerage analyst and journalist in Tokyo. Since coming out as a transgender women in 2018, she speaks publicly about her experience; mentors other trans people; and, serves of the boards of several queer non-profits.

Nurul Darlene Illyana is a Singapore-born Australian transgender cabaret entertainer. Her transition was met with  peaks and valleys since the 90’s with much perseverance, but once she arrived in Australia, her life altered to a world of endless possibilities. Her entertainment career soared from winning singing competitions, and getting gigs with recommendations from Australia’s iconic Carlotta & Christy McNicols. Her growth gave her the confidence and inspiration that led to her winning Best Costume Award at 2013 Mardi Gras. One other great experience that she wasn’t expected at all was being co-featured in a BBC Documentary about the transgender beauty pageant in Thailand. Singing in a 2 hour concert with a LGBTIQ Orchestral band was another one that will always have a very special place in her heart. 

Tiffany Rossdale, our Special Events Director was our member host for this exciting event. She invited two guests that shared their stories with our members. Tiffany Rossdale went from being a provocative top trans “Showgirl” in Tokyo’s Shinjuku red light district to a powerhouse in the “Ginza Hostess” scene. Leveraging her experiences in both of these worlds, she went on to become for many, the “Queen of Tokyo’s nightlife” before freeing herself of the toxicity of the underground party scene and making a drastic change to a daytime career doing PR, Marketing and Sales.  Her current career is serving the LGBTQ+ community,  sharing very important topics and conversations on her weekly podcast episode of the “Breakfast With Tiffany Show”. She is also a certified wellness and life coach. Tiffany has become a force for positivity, growth and self-improvement in the lives of the people around her; all while working through the process of her own mental and physical transition and transformation.

Transgender Realization Stories

Maeve had no conscious knowledge that she was transgender until October 2018. In retrospect, she didn’t like anything that was masculine about herself and always thought women were superior to men. She has since pursued her transition aggressively and quickly. She knows what she wants and is going for it. 

She further highlighted that there are differences in terms of acceptance but in last few years, especially in the technology and financial services sectors there has been much acceptance of transgender people. The number of transgender people at Maeve’s company has increased since her coming out. Not everyone accepts her but she generally felt very supported and accepted and has had almost a universally positive experience.   

Before coming out Maeve was inwardly focused and now she is a much better colleague and better person to be around. Being her true self makes a lot of difference for her in the workplace and to everyone surrounding her. Her story also encouraged other transgender people to reach out and share their experiences. Maeve spent a lot of time mentoring and serving the transgender community at Goldman Sachs.

Darlene also shared her career highlights in the entertainment industry. Her experience in Australia, (where she currently is) is different from where she was before. Australia is more accepting and open. She shared how sometimes her audience would expect her to look in  certain way that shows that she is transgender but she openly tells them that she is and also gives them the opportunity to ask any questions that they may have about her. She also takes this opportunity to educate her audience about who she is and they get to have a better understanding and appreciation of her as a woman.

Darlene lost her mother to breast cancer in 2012, and because of the pain she still endures to this day she started raising funds for breast cancer patients to try and help people that are affected. She asked her cosplay friends to help her with her “Wonder Women for Breast Cancer” initiative which challenges us to donate towards cancer and also encourages each and everyone of us to get checked for cancer. Anyone can get breast cancer including transgenders and males so Darlene encouraged all of us to go and do a mammogram. 

How can we be better allies, advocates and inclusive leaders in our personal and professional lives?

  1. Have more panels like this to foster education about and with transgender people.
  2. Ask questions from a place of kindness to get more understanding on such conversations.
  3. Challenge people who say cruel things about transgender people.
  4. To keep the gift, you have to give it back. 
  5. The best way to support people is to show empathy for what we hold in common in our humanity. 

Final Message from Panelists

Maeve – “A lot of people talk about transgender transitions but l would hypothesize that every human being is in transition and every person is trying to self actualize, trying to find out who they are and become that person, so in some ways our experience isn’t that different from that perspective to everybody else’s”.

Darlene – “Ever since I was little, I’ve always been a girl. I’ve always struggled on my journey and now that l am a woman, l do not need to justify my life as a woman. This is my personal take for representation of my life as a transwoman for myself. What’s in between my legs does not justify how l live my life”.

Tiffany – “At the end of the day, we’re all just the same, fighting for our rights to survive and thrive”.

Many thanks to our guests Maeve and Darlene for their time, generosity and courage. Thank you for sharing your experiences and sharing strategies that will assist us to be better allies in our workplaces and communities. Special thanks to Tiffany, our Special Events Director for her leadership and courage in offering to build this conversation for our members and organization. 

Finally, we wish to acknowledge the generosity of spirit and the open hearts and minds of the many lovely members in our FEW Japan community who showed up for this pivotal first dialogue to learn, share, exchange and be empowered and informed to bring the change in solidarity with our trans sisters. 

Click the links below to learn more about our panelists:

  1. Beyond Acceptance – A Transgender’s Story With Maeve Duvally
  2. Faith, Family, Forgiveness & Fabulous Journey Of Trans Showgirl Cosplayer Ms. Darlene
  3. Navigating your transformation: Thought partnering out loud with Tiffany Rossdale