An Unrepentant Idealist on Transformative Leadership
As Chloe, a transgender woman who transitioned gender later in life, I have belatedly learned that a dismissive shrug has profound – indeed often dire – consequences. In my male embodiment it was so easy to go with the flow of male privilege; it relieved me of any need to decide or to push back against inequality. “May the best man win” was celebrated as the virtuous rule, and I did not question it. It’s an embarrassing admission to make now, but it is also a deeply personal awakening that warrants sharing. Procrastination in taking a personal stand against unwarranted privilege – especially for someone in a leadership position – simply means that the suffering of others will continue unabated. It may also mean that you too will feel the pain.
“In my male embodiment it was so easy to go with the flow of male privilege;”
“Universal equality? Fairness for all? Who talks about that?”
I’m unlikely to waver; at my age I have become used to tilting at windmills. You might be generous and call that leadership, but not if that is to be measured by a burgeoning followership. Holding my conviction that human dignity, care, compassion, and solidarity are society’s building blocks is not a choice for me – it is just who I am. And, as a transgender woman, I have spent many very difficult years finding out who I am, and what I must do about that discovery. That discernment process saved my life once, and I am not inclined to question it now. Equality, universal dignity, care, and compassion – these will continue to characterize what I give my remaining years of leadership to. Call me a feminist if you want.
It’s an odd form of leadership, perhaps, but I’ll take it.
Dr. Chloe Schwenke is the founder and president of the Center for Values in International Development, a nonprofit organization uniquely addressing applied ethics and moral values in the field of international development and a client of The Athena Advisors. She did her doctoral studies in public policy and ethics at the University of Maryland.
You can reach Chloe at: firstname.lastname@example.org.