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How acceptance at work can change lives

After a long personal journey, being finally accepted for her gender at work changed MariMar Lamit's life. A little less than a year ago, Lamit faced a tough life decision: to live a lie while working in a profession she loved or come out as a transgender woman and risk her job.

After a long personal journey, being finally accepted for her gender at work changed MariMar Lamit's life. A little less than a year ago, Lamit faced a tough life decision: to live a lie while Lamit recently returned to her hometown of Manila in the Philippines after working in the financial sector in Dubai. She adapted to the conservative work environment in the United Arab Emirates by wearing men's clothes and used her birth name Ryan Cervantes Lamit.

"Being openly transgender in a religious nation such as the Philippines comes with some real challenges."
Karen Boudville, Editor at ANZ's Your World

Yet every day, she yearned to live openly as a woman. On returning home, she made the brave decision to do just that and take on the name 'MariMar'.

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However, being openly transgender in a religious nation such as the Philippines comes with some real challenges. Whilst relatively accepting of the LGBTI community, a set of unwanted and unwarranted perceptions remain.

“After interviews, I talked to myself in the mirror and said, 'is this a sin to be like this?” Lamit said. “Is it really sinful to be who I am?”

When applying for positions at local and international banks, Lamit was often dismissed based solely on her appearance.

At every job interview Lamit attended dressed as a woman, she was told that there was no position for her, with many potential employers specifically telling her that they wouldn't hire a transgender woman.

She would be referred to as a bakla, a Tagalog word usually describing a feminine, gay man in the Philippines. With that came a wake of assumptions that Lamit believed did not apply to her.

"Some people can be very judgmental and think people like me don't belong in the corporate world,” she said. “I went home and always cried. I only wanted to show them the real me."

Despite numerous setbacks, Lamit's steely determination proved successful when she secured an interview at ANZ's Financial Intelligence Operations headquarters in Manila.

“At the interview, I didn't look at her physical appearance, but I made sure she had the competencies that the bank required,” Lamit's supervisor at ANZ Joanne Cornelio says.

Such a global policy is essential to operating a modern, global business, says Mark Woolfrey, the Managing Director of ANZ Operations in the Philippines.

“I look at it not only as the right thing to do, but it's actually a business decision for us, because a workplace must reflect the communities in which we live,” he said.

Lamit soon discovered there were other transgender hires in the building and she hopes that her employment at ANZ will inspire others in the transgender community to aspire towards the job of their dreams.

She has now been with ANZ for eight months, and Cornelio says she's not only one of her team's happiest members, but also one of the most effective.

“When I get to the production floor they embrace what I can bring to the team,” Lamit said. “They're excited to be working with me. I feel like I've found a place I belong. It feels like it was worth the wait.”

This story originally appeared at yourworld.anz.com

Karen Boudville is editor at ANZ's Your World.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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