Living a Vibrant & Powerful Life as a Transgender Woman with Cynthia Fortlage
Meet Our Guest:
Ms. Fortlage is an international award-winning information technology executive for the past 30 years with a privately owned Winnipeg company. She is a parent of two young adults. She is a board member with various organizations including Rainbow Resource Center where she sits as President of the Board, and Women’s March Canada where she is part of the national board. Ms. Fortlage came to terms in 2016 with a 41-year denial of her true gender identity. In 2018 she started her own consultancy and coaching business for women and LGBT+ identifying persons in business.
Have you ever thought about how it would feel to figure out something critical to you living your life fully, only to find out many others don’t want to accept this part of who you are?
This week’s guest, Cynthia Fortlage, has lived it and has made it her mission to help open the minds of others so that they can learn to accept even when they don’t understand where that person is coming from.
To set the stage I asked her to share what she thought people most need to hear right now about being a transgender person.
“Very often I hear the word choice…when did you choose to do this, how could you choose to do this, etc. So I ask you to think about this…would anybody truly make a choice if they realized that their marriage, their family, their friends, their finances and even their career were at risk? No…you wouldn’t. It’s not a choice. So when I hear conversations around bathroom issues and so forth …trust me, the only reason I’m in a bathroom is because I need to pee.”
She shared a heart wrenching statistic about women in the 50-year-old age group, which both Cynthia and I belong to, about suicide.
“At the end of the day over 50% of people in my age group that do not face their life journey of being transgender, attempt, or are successful at, suicide. I don’t consider death a choice either so for me it was go forward and follow this path that was in front of me, or not... It was simply I had to move forward just as I had every other day… “
We talked about the idea of acceptance without understanding (which has become Cynthia’s motto), and she shared how she realized we’ve been taught from a very young age to ask ‘why’ in an effort to understand how things work before accepting them. This is a problem when it comes to accepting people, because we stop seeing them as human’s trying to live their journey and instead see them as problems.
“[I began to wonder] why there was such a disconnect from the world who really seemed to [need to] understand before they would accept who I was. It struck me that, ‘why’ is really a question that we ask to gain understanding and so therefore our mantra is, I need to understand before I accept. And all I was simply saying was, I’m a human being, can you not just accept that I’m a human being first and foremost? I’m following my life’s journey just as you are a human being following your life’s journey.”
Acceptance without understanding is similar to having faith in a higher power. A person might not understand everything about the Holy Trinity or other religious aspects, but that doesn’t stop them from accepting it.
This goes way beyond the LGBT+ community as it affects all aspects of diversity such as religion, culture, race, age and so on. To me, acceptance without understanding is akin to unconditional love which is an important part of our human experience – especially as parents.
“I think we need to think of it beyond people as human beings and understand that it covers so many aspects of things that people would have us see as different between us. It’s really what’s common between us that’s important, not our differences. “
Listen to the podcast to hear Cynthia’s story about “Alphabet soup,”; tips for asking non-offensive questions and keeping communication flowing; secrets for staying vibrant despite facing adversity in life; the business Cynthia has started to support others; and be sure to visit her on facebook to find out more.