Career Profile: James Gardner, News Announcer at Bell Media
Bell Media’s new employee-led Diversity and Inclusion Think Tank (DAITT) works year-round to find ways to build Bell’s culture of diversity and inclusion.
We caught up with one of our DAITT members, James Gardner, an award-winning news announcer with Bell Media, who shared his experience as a transgender person in the workplace.
Tell us about your position at Bell Media:
JG: I’m currently a news announcer for C-FAX radio – an all-talk station in Victoria, BC. I do the news at the top and bottom of the hour, along with on-air interviews. Working in radio has given me a voice, and I want to be able to use it as an advocate for the transgender community.
How long have you worked at Bell Media?
JG: I have been with Bell Media for 7 years and in the radio industry for over 35. Most of that time I was known as Sheila Gardner. I started my transition shortly after being hired at Bell Media in 2011. It’s now been 6 years since I came out as a trans man.
Can you tell me about the beginning stages of your transition?
JG: Going into the meeting where I told my manager about my transition, I feared the worst. To my knowledge, no one at Bell Media had gone through this before – there was no blueprint. I worried I might lose my job.
Thankfully, my situation was met with acceptance. My manager was familiar with transgender people and worked with me to figure out next steps.
One of DAITT’s goals is to eliminate the uncertainty that other transitioning employees at Bell might feel by providing a place to talk. It’s important to know that there are other team members who have gone through the same experience and are here as a support.
What was your experience like at work when you decided to transition?
JG: Typically, people were really positive. After I told my manager, there was a team meeting to explain that I was coming back as James, which allowed everyone to ask questions and have an open dialogue about the transitioning process.
The only big adjustment for the team has been using the correct pronouns, but those things take time. Overall, it was a smooth transition. Now, 6 years later, people just see me as James.
What sort of resources were available to you at work to assist you in transitioning?
JG: Honestly, there weren’t many resources in place when I transitioned. There was a general awareness, but no blueprint. Thankfully, we now have a range of resources, including Bell’s LGBT network, gender transition guidelines and support for leaders who have a team member who is transitioning. We are constantly adapting and adding more support.
Based on your experience, what do you think Bell Media can do to make transitioning a smoother experience for its employees?
JG: It’s great that we have DAITT and the Bell LGBT network to provide additional support for transitioning team members. Organizations should have more programs and committees like these to ensure the workplace is a safe place for transgender people.
We also need to directly ask people who are transitioning how they want to be supported – it sounds so simple, but sometimes gets forgotten. Each of us can make a difference individually. I want people at Bell to know that I am here to support them.
Do you have any advice to those wanting to transition?
JG: I would say move at your own pace. Start talking with a friend or approach someone in the workplace that you think might be supportive. Start the conversation.
What was the most positive thing to come out of your experience transitioning while working at Bell Media?
JG: The most positive thing was the acceptance, the overall inclusion and support, and general openness of Bell team members. They all had a willingness to learn!
Being open to changing policies, launching internal committees and encouraging open conversation have really led to progress internally. We have come a long way, but there is still room for further development. I hope Bell and other organizations continue to step forward and take a leadership role in championing the rights of their trans team members.