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.

During this year’s Workplace Summit, Victor shared his story of belonging on behalf of Bank of America. He shared his journey of coming out in the workplace and as a transgender professional, the importance of having role models in your industry. For this year’s Transgender Awareness Week, we invited Victor to share his story and talk about his role model at Bank of America, Alex Dropp, and how Alex’s story changed his life.

Victor Lim is the Vice President of Operational Risk Lead in the Americas for Bank of America.

I knew that I was transgender since early primary school. My family was religious and my community was conservative, so I had to constantly push down that part of myself. When my loved ones started to realize that part of myself was not going away, they feared that I would be in danger, and would be throwing away any chance of a successful career, if I came out. I was sympathetic to my parents, because they were immigrants that came here with no connections, so they had a “survival mindset,” which included assimilating any way they can. My family saw non-conformity a risk to all of my hard work – and theirs.

I worked in a very traditionally conservative industry, and I thought I would be okay with being closeted, that it was my duty to sacrifice my needs, just as my parents have done, to fulfill their dream of giving a stable, safe, and successful future to the family. 

But that changed last year during the 2019 Out and Equal Workplace Summit. I saw Bank of America present diverse leaders of various faiths, genders, and ethnicities. I watched Alex Dropp give their speech on behalf of Bank of America and it was an important moment of “seeing is believing.” I never saw such a senior trans-masculine professional, especially one from an industry as traditional as finance. I thought I would have to switch careers entirely to have even a fighting chance as a transgender professional. Seeing Alex and witnessing the support and the thousands of professionals there made my dreams so real. It gave me hope that I did not have to change who I was, that I can stay in my career and be my authentic self. 

Since coming to the bank, I reached out to Alex and they have been an incredible mentor. I was still so shy about my identity, but Alex’s unwavering support and encouragement helped me find my strength and confidence to proudly say my pronouns and name. Alex checks on me at least once a week. We were able to provide each other support and share our experiences. Alex is so generous and open with their time, nothing’s off the table. I think that’s what Alex does best, they connect with individuals, on such a level that can make anyone really understand what it is like to walk in their shoes. I strive to be an amazing leader like them. 

I was given the incredible opportunity to have my experience come full circle and deliver the opening plenary speech for the 2020 Out and Equal Workplace Summit. I was 25 years old when I came to Bank of America this year. I wanted to demonstrate that being an out transgender professional will not mean throwing away or impeding your career. If anything, trying to scrape together the strength and confidence it takes to bring your authentic self at work only made me a better person and professional. 

For my first full year of being an out transgender person in both my personal and professional life, this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance is my most meaningful one yet. 

It is important for everyone to know about the people who have lost their lives to anti-transgender violence and hate. At the time that I am writing this, 34 lives were lost this year, with the likely possibility of other peoples’ stories being unreported or misreported. So many of my own transgender friends have been physically assaulted and harassed for being transgender. My loved ones were always fearful of when I had to travel to a new location for my work, always praying for me that the next location will be kind to LGBTQIA+ folks. My own fears and experiences have driven me to speak out and be visible as a transgender person. 

I also strongly believe it is important to recognize how this violence disproportionately affects Transgender women of color. It goes hand-in-hand with current discussions around BLM. We cannot ignore the inequality in our society.