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Finding acceptance and caring about the true me

Kira Dlouhy’s story

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Kira Dlouhy brown shirtAt a client site — my first time presenting as a woman at work
At maybe the most important time of my life, my Grant Thornton colleagues and leaders cared to make me feel totally included and accepted for who I am.

The time came about six months after I joined the firm. I had started a transition to my true gender just before becoming an employee. During the recruitment stage, I reviewed the firm’s gender transition benefits and learned that insurance covers many medical costs, and there’s flexibility for appointments. I also checked the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index and found that the firm had the highest rating for demonstrating its commitment to inclusion. These positive findings made me extra certain that I wanted to work at Grant Thornton.

I took my search seriously because after 23 years of confusion, denial and repression, I finally had the way to progress in life. I wanted to work where I could be true to myself — as true as I would now be in my personal hours. Up until just before I came to Grant Thornton, I presented as male but subconsciously, consciously and silently referred to myself as female. When a friend of mine transitioned, I asked many questions. With the answers, I knew what had been bothering me for my entire life. I was in fact not a man. I was a woman. And I would no longer hide who I am.

Kira Dlouhy red shirt I enjoy interacting with colleagues and clients from home and on-site.
By the time I told my team about my transition, I was undergoing hormone therapy. I asked a manager in People & Culture for guidance on how to explain this change in my life. He put me in touch with representatives of the Diversity & Inclusion team. They provided me with information about Grant Thornton’s benefits for transgender employees, as well as guidelines and best practices for meeting our needs. I was thankful that the firm showed its concern by being knowledgeable and proactive, and I felt cared for. I talked with my team on a Friday so they’d have the weekend to process the news. But they didn’t need it. Their understanding and acceptance were immediate. I was assured that they’d know me as Kira from then on. One of my colleagues thoughtfully asked for my preference in pronouns (it’s she/her, they/them). To be completely open about my transition, I contacted leaders to share that I’d be presenting as female at the office and at client sites. Everyone — leaders, colleagues and clients — has accepted me professionally, respectfully and cordially.

Yet another source of support is our business resource group. I love being part of Equality GT, Grant Thornton’s BRG for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ+) employees and allies. I value sharing my experience because there’s a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about us as transgender individuals. Our BRG has held virtual social hours since work-from-home began. Our monthly calls, with speakers and discussions, are ongoing.

Kira Dlouhy dark blue dressAt a friend’s wedding, probably my favorite picture ever taken — I felt truly beautiful for the first time
My work also continues and is also thoroughly collaborative. I’m a senior associate in Cyber Risk, a penetration tester/computer hacker on the cyber defense team. Clients engage us to hack into their networks, uncover vulnerabilities and point out effective defenses. Some of our hacking is from an internal perspective, to gauge the damage a disgruntled employee might be able to inflict. I’m passionate about cybersecurity as a whole and especially what I do. I serve an interesting variety of clients in sectors such as finance, telecommunications, manufacturing and technology, and I’m fascinated by the real-world implementations of security solutions.

I enjoy my work and the encouragement to develop professionally by investigating new attack and defense methods, and attending networking events. Because of the interest in my professional and personal well-being that’s been shown to me, I have encouraged other transgender people to apply for positions at Grant Thornton. I’d like others to feel the relentless happiness I have in living my home and work life as Kira, my most authentic self.

For 23 years, my life was a harsh and dark winter. But now it’s spring, and I’m in full bloom.