Diego Sanchez is used to being labeled “the first transgender,” and he doesn’t mind. He’s happy to pave the way.
“If no one is first, then there can’t be a second,” jokes Sanchez, 52, who—yes—is the first transgender person hired for a senior congressional position on Capitol Hill and is busy tackling healthcare reform and employment-discrimination issues as an aide to Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.
Sanchez’s extensive résumé boasts 30 years of award-winning experience in global public relations and diversity management at leading companies such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, No. 19 on The 2010 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list, as well as decades of social justice and civil-rights advocacy.
Sanchez was the luncheon keynote speaker at DiversityInc’s November leadership conference in New York. Sanchez was born a girl in 1957 and knew from a very early age that he should have been born a boy. When Sanchez was five, he told his parents that he felt he was born wrong—then braced himself for the punishment he expected would surely follow. It never did. Instead, his mother left the room and returned with a copy of Life Magazine, featuring a story on Christine Jorgensen—the first transsexual in the United States to publicly announce her change of sexual identity.
“If it’s OK for her to do this in the 1950s,” his mother told him, “then by the time you grow up and decide to do this, you will be OK.”
“My parents’ acceptance of me was their way of giving me something they didn’t always get from the world,” he says.
To see this article as it originally appeared in the January/February 2010 issue of DiversityInc magazine, click here.