Elevating Voices: Transgender Awareness Month is a series of interviews, experiences, and stories from the transgender and gender non-conforming community. The series is beginning during Transgender Awareness Week – a crucial time to uplift the stories and voices of the trans/GNC community – and will continue in other facets of our work.

Aro Royston is a Graphic Artist and the Boeing Employee Pride Alliance(BEPA) Enterprise Vice President at Boeing.

What does Transgender Awareness Month mean to you this year?

Transgender Awareness Month means giving voice. It is about letting it be known that we are here. It is about letting others know that we are human beings—human beings who deserve to have basic human rights, to be protected, and to be loved as people.

What does resilience look like in the trans community? What has resilience looked like in your life and your journey?

Resilience is imperative in the transgender community. Transgender individuals have an internal battle within themselves, like any other LGBTQ individual. We see that same resilience when we look back at our LGBTQ history and see the struggles of Marsha P. Johnson and Silvia Rivera–icons for the gay/trans liberation movement and the very reason we have Pride, a fact too often forgotten in the movement for equality.

Resilience for me is standing in my authenticity in my Blackness and my transness, and seeing where I am today and how many people I have helped, not just in my activism, but in just being myself, as well.

How do you hope things look differently in the future for the transgender/GNC community?

In the future, all Black lives will mater and the murder rates of transgender individuals will be none. We won’t be subjected to homelessness and lack employment opportunities. We will be accepted and loved by our families.

What message would you give your younger self at the beginning of your journey?

If only I knew what transgender was earlier in life, I could only imagine where I would be right now. 

I thought something was wrong with me for over half of my life. Now when I wake up in the morning, I see the person in the mirror that I have always wanted to see. It is the best feeling in the world to be comfortable in my own skin. What most people take for granted is something I never thought would be possible.

What I would tell my younger self is “be you and be happy!” No one can make you happy, but yourself. Yes, times get hard and you sometimes feel alone, but you’re not! Find help and someone to talk to even if you feel like no one will understand what you are going through. There are others like you. You are not alone. 

Why is inclusion in the workplace important for the transgender and gender non-conforming community?

I am the product of an Employee Resource Groups (ERG) / Business Resource Group (BRG.) The engagement for me was as significant as the development of wings inside of a cocoon.

Through my ERG/BRG journey, I learned that I was valued and there was a place in my company for people like me. As my engagements in my ERG/BRG evolved, it enhanced my career and allowed me to gain leadership experience through mentoring with the company’s top leaders. It unfolded opportunities, including reverse mentoring leaders, leading/participating in panels, coaching, collaborating, and hosting/leading events across the enterprise

Most importantly, it was through navigating the BRG experience where I gained the tools and confidence to live my life authentically. Not only at work, but in my personal life, as well. Through the resources provided by Boeing, I was able to evolve into the person I was always meant to be—a person that I used to hide from the world.

Being valued and included at my workplace saved my life. It also has the potential to develop other struggling caterpillars that don’t know they are destined to be beautiful butterflies.

Today’s diverse workforce is reshaping what it means to achieve personal and professional success. Without inclusion for people like me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.