The Joy and Challenge of Coming Out in a New Job

The first day Maddie G presented herself as Maddie in a work environment was also the first day she started her career at Shepherds of Good Hope.

“Coming out can sometimes happen in stages, first coming out to your most trusted loved ones, then, at your own pace, coming out to the rest of the world,” says Maddie. “Starting at Shepherds of Good Hope presented an opportunity for a fresh start and to introduce myself to the world as…me,” she says. “My first day at Shepherds was also my first day as Maddie.”

Although Maddie’s first day was over two years ago, it will always be locked in her memory.

“It was daunting and nerve-wracking,” she says. “You don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what to expect from other people. But I already knew Shepherds had an accepting environment, because my partner had already worked here for a year.”

“I saw it as an opportunity to come into a place that was accepting of people of all backgrounds. It was the instant acceptance,” she remembers fondly. “There was no questioning of my identity. There was nothing but support and allyship. I was treated like an equal, like anybody else.”






Maddie knew she had found the right place to work and be the new her.

Working on the front line of a shelter is challenging and rewarding. No two days are the same. No two people are the same. Your work ethic and empathy levels must work in unison. It’s not always easy.

“It can be difficult some days, because I feel a lot for other people,” says Maddie. “Especially coming from the background where I’ve experienced things like going through addiction and watching friends and family struggle through substance use disorder, poverty, homelessness.”

Maddie sees herself in the people she works with. This reflection makes it difficult to turn it off at the end of each day, but she knows it’s important to have that work-life separation. She knows she has a job to do.

“Even the difficult moments are overtaken by the fact you’re doing something good. It’s worth it because you must remember the “why”. Why are we here? To make a difference.”

The guests who stay in the shelter recognize Maddie, greeting her as she crosses Murray St, from the Community Kitchen to start her shift.

It’s 3 pm, on a nice spring day. There’s a lot of people outside the shelter, commuters in their cars are beginning to crowd together at the red light. For some, the gathering of people can be a disconcerting sight.

“People fear what they don’t understand. Passersby may feel anger, resentment, frustration,” says Maddie. “When it comes to substance use, people don’t use for fun. A lot of people are experiencing the hardest day of their life, for the 1000th day in a row.

Maddie sees a strong parallel between the misunderstanding of people experiencing homelessness, the LGBTQ2s+ community, people of colour, and any marginalized group.

“It’s difficult for people to accept others for who they are sometimes because they don’t take a minute to stop and try to understand where they’re coming from,” she says.

“Once you put yourself in the environment and get to know people, day to day, you find out they’re just like you or me. They’re going through something incredibly difficult. Once you realize we’re all the same deep down, you can really start to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.”

In the time since Maddie came out and started working at Shepherds of Good Hope, she continues to grow. She gives back to her community as a mentor to others who may be experiencing a transformative moment in their lives.

“I’m excited to have this opportunity to have this platform and have a voice,” she says. “Not everybody has the privilege to feel safe, to feel loved, to feel supported. Even as a member of the community, every single person is responsible for being an ally.”

Maddie believes allyship is more than just being accepting. “It’s using your voice. It’s speaking out. It’s doing what you can with the tools and privilege you have, to help others.”

“Sometimes I meet younger transgender people who may not have support at home. I can be a mentor, or a friend, or a bit of a mom to them. It’s great to be able to support somebody.”

Coming out can be challenging.

“It’s a difficult process, because there’s a lot of hate in the world right now. Other visible trans people gave me the courage to really embrace who I was and show myself to the world. And now I have the privilege to use my voice and show other people that it’s okay to be you.

Maddie’s journey to become who she is today, includes thirty years of introspection, self-exploration and just “trying to figure things out”.

“The journey to becoming who I am was very intimidating,” she says. “There’s a lot of unknowns. Once I did come out, I realized how great my support system is and how much happier I am. Life became easier than it ever was before.

“Some days aren’t always easy,” she points out. “There’s a bit of a political climate which can be a little stressful, but we live in safe place, having that support and allyship makes it easier to continue being me.”

“I hope every single person who accesses our services can at the very least find a place where they are okay. A place where they can feel good about themselves, where they feel safe, loved, and supported, and a place they can call home.”

Just like Maddie.