• Julien

Jeanene Williams, Australian Trans Software Development Manager & Outsystems Champion

Jeanene is a transgender woman who came out late in life at the age of 49 and has a proud supportive partner of over 25 years and one amazing daughter. She is a seasoned Software Development manager with almost 30 years of experience managing teams working on a wide range of languages and platforms.


The most amazing coming out moment was when I told my work. Our CEO put a nice piece in our company newsletter offering the support of the entire company. I will never forget one simple line in that piece, “We are pleased to support Jeanene’s choices and manner in which she chooses to live and celebrate her life.” Simple line but set the scene for everyone in the organisation and was the first time I had “her” associated with my name in writing.



When did you have that “a-ha” moment and realise you were different?


I have always felt that I was different but never really understood how. Being raised in a small town in mid-Western Australia I never even new that Transgender was a thing. It wasn’t until very late in life, a bit over 5 years ago, that I finally figured out what the difference was. I always found women attractive particularly when they were nicely dressed yet I was never able to form a romantic connection with them. Finally, I realised what the attraction was, I was jealous.


How would you describe your experience of coming out?


First time I came out was to my daughter which I knew would go well as I already knew she would be 100% supportive and I was right. Coming out to my wife was more stressful and took her a little while to understand but now she says I have changed so much and it was the best thing I ever did, we are more like a cross between partner, sister, and best friends than anything else now.


Coming out to those outside my family was the biggest surprise. I was prepared for awkward conversations and rejection but the first few were simply met with a huge hug and massive amounts of support. In fact, my first out of family coming out experience was with an amazing girl from work who let out a squealed and hugged me setting up my expectations going forward.


The most amazing coming out moment was when I told my work. Our CEO put a nice piece in our company newsletter offering the support of the entire company. I will never forget one simple line in that piece, We are pleased to support Jeanene’s choices and manner in which she chooses to live and celebrate her life.” Simple line but set the scene for everyone in the organisation and was the first time I had “her” associated with my name in writing.


How did your childhood and family background impact both the timing and the way you came out?


Coming from a small country town in Western Australia I had a very sheltered background where I didn’t really see much in the way of overt discrimination but at the same time there just didn’t seem to be anyone “different”.


My parents were both extremely supportive of anything I did and neither of them had much interest in conforming to other people’s labels. My father was also always coming up with weird grand projects and was a great cook. These things certainly rubbed off on me and I always enjoyed cooking and the more “domestic” tasks but have had my fair share of “crazy projects”.


The two aspects of a sheltered childhood and an upbringing of not being concerned with labels is probably why it took me so long to assign a label of Transgender to myself but once I did allow me to move forward with minimal stress.


What would your advice to anyone trying to come out?


Don’t go out being either defensive or overly aggressive. I found that if you assume you are going to have bad reactions from people then your entire demeanour changes and you probably will have a bad experience.


Choose your first coming out experience and make it on your own terms. The first couple of experiences are what will give you the confidence and resilience going forward. For example, if I had come out to my wife first instead of my daughter I wouldn’t have had that first level of support behind me while my wife was coming to grips with my changes.


Don’t be afraid of coming out at work, eventually you will have to and prolonging it isn’t going to be good for your confidence and health. Do however plan how you come out, I first started with a couple of trusted colleagues so that I would have support close at hand, then I told my direct manager followed by our HR & CEO.


What was the most difficult experience you faced in your life because of your sexual orientation / gender identity? How did you handle it?


My biggest difficulty has always forming relationships due to what I now see as a disconnect between what I was brought up to think physical attraction should be and what my body was actually telling me. This resulted in me making very few friends of ether sex but not knowing why. Since transitioning this has changed and I am now far more confident and make friends a lot easier, although I do have almost 50 years of habits to unlearn.


Who is the most important role model in your life and why?


My biggest role models in life have been my first boss, who taught me that it didn’t matter what formal training or experience that I had as long as I believed in myself, I could pick up any job and do it just as well as anyone else. The other was a colleague and amazing young woman called Kate who beat cancer and then embarked on an amazing journey to raise funds and help others showing me that you should never give up and to get out and help others.


Now broadening our horizon, describe your experience being a member of the LGBTQ community at work? In your industry?


Being in a relatively small business based in Perth I haven’t had a lot of direct interaction with the LGBTQ community in a working environment. I have however found that in general everyone is very accepting of my transition both at work and wherever I have had any professional contact in the industry. From an online professional basis though there are a huge number of really positive role models out there who have shown me that you do not need to hide who you are to still be counted as a professional.


And, what could make the biggest positive impact for the LGBTQ community?


The biggest issue still faced by the LGBTQ community is the lack of understanding of what it means to be LGBTQ by the wider community. This is even more obvious for those of us who “stick out” such as Transgender people.


Whilst there is a lot of work going on around the rights of LGBTQ people, in my opinion the biggest positive impact would be to help people understand that being LGBTQ isn’t something that people choose to be, it isn’t a sickness, and we aren’t a threat. Until people understand this, we may get some progress on being treated fairly but we will never have understanding and true acceptance.


Finally, and on a less serious note, what stereotype do you love the most about the LGBTQ community?


We are vocal, strong and at the same time vulnerable.

More about Jeanene


She is a certified professional and Senior Member of the Australian Computer Society and well as being elected to the ACS’s National Diversity & Inclusion Council. She has also been recognised as a strong supporter of the Outsystems development community and has bee awarded the title of Outsystems Champion for her work in helping and supporting others in the Outsystems development community.


One of the areas that she most enjoys in her professional career is working with diverse groups of people and she is a very strong advocate of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Her favourite quote is


To truly get creativity out of your organisation there is no substitute for a strong and broadly diverse group of people who all feel respected and appreciated for their differences not for how they “fit in”.

Not one to feel that she must conform to other people’s ideas of normal she is always looking for personal challenges and projects. A couple of the more interesting ones being, converting a Daihatsu Charade to Electric, running a 40,000L aquaponics system in her back yard, and most recently building a 2-story house out of shipping containers.

Social Media


LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jpcwilliams/


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