In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

July 6, 2022

Michael Hughes on being transgender, finding support, respect at Mayo Clinic

By In the Loop
Michael Hughes

"Voices of Mayo" is a series that highlights Mayo staff and their stories, exploring their diverse backgrounds, the challenges they face, the opportunities they have been given, and their experiences at Mayo Clinic.

Michael Hughes always felt like he was different when he was very young. Assigned female at birth, Hughes didn't feel like a girl. It wasn't until he turned 27 that he took the steps to transition to a man.

Hughes, an assistant supervisor in Inpatient Lab Services, shares the struggles he has experienced, the support he has received along the way, and the importance of sharing stories to improve understanding.

I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. I knew from about the age of four that I was different and struggled quite a bit with fitting in from a very early age. I had three siblings, who were much older. My parents were very old-fashioned — both coming from farm families and having grown up during the Great Depression. They weren’t equipped to deal with a transgender child — and to be honest — no one was talking about transgender children in the 70s. School was tough, and I often felt like I didn’t fit in with my peers at all.

I didn’t feel like a girl and wasn’t always accepted by the boys. It wouldn’t be until the age of 27, having lost both parents, that I moved away from Texas and went to Boston and began my transition. That was in 1996. I moved all over the country for the next six or seven years before meeting my wife and moving to Minnesota. We were married in 2003, and I gained a family of four kids. The youngest was 5 and in kindergarten, and I became a stay-at-home parent while still working on college courses.

After many years of trying, I graduated from Winona State University in 2020, and started grad school. I started trying to get in with Mayo Clinic after graduation. I was finally successful in 2021, when I was hired as one of the COVID-19 screeners you see at the entrances. A couple of months after that, I moved up to be the assistant supervisor of the Patient Arrival and Throughput team. Now, I am about to begin a new journey as assistant supervisor in Inpatient Lab Services. I am still plugging away at graduate school and hope to get my master's in health care leadership in the next year and a half.

I am out at work as a transgender person. It is amazing to work for an organization that truly values and encourages diversity. There was a time I was let go from a job because the company’s leadership team found out that I was transgender. So, to be able to sit in an interview with a panel of people and share that very personal truth and have it welcomed is remarkable. I have not ever been made to feel like an outsider. Instead, I have been met with some respectful curiosity, but mostly respect. I am able to be myself here at Mayo, and feel free to share my experiences with colleagues. My hope is that somewhere along the way, my story will encourage someone else to start living their truth and feel safe sharing their real selves with others, as well.

As for role models, just go down the OUTList and see how many LGBTQ+ employees feel safe to share their stories. Every single person there serves as a role model for those staff who haven’t yet decided if it’s safe to be out.

The cultural climate in the U.S. is still not always kind to those who are different. Being out can be a very scary thing. I think that Mayo Clinic is doing a good job having conversations around this, with columns such as this one, as well as supporting the EverybodyIN initiative.

I encourage leaders to continue to find ways to celebrate and embrace diversity at Mayo and in the community. Keep talking to LGBTQ+ staff about new ideas and ways to promote equality in the community. Keep these conversations going and keep sharing personal stories.

Mayo leads the way in health care and can do the same for equality.


Tags: Employee Stories, Michael Hughes, Voices of Mayo

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