Gabrielle Claiborne: I'm an Authentic Passionista
Gabrielle Claiborne is the CEO and Co-Founder of Transformation Journeys Worldwide, a cutting edge, transgender focused inclusion, training and consulting company. Her passion is teaching businesses, religious and civic organizations, schools and educational institutions, healthcare providers and municipalities, what they need to know to create an environment of belonging for transgender, gender nonconforming and non-binary patients, customers, colleagues, congregants and kids. She believes that when all people are respected and empowered, we all win and our world becomes a better place. We spoke with Gabrielle about her own transformation and meeting herself for the first time at the age of 49. Here is an excerpt from our interview. Passionistas: What is the one thing you're most passionate about? Gabrielle: I’m most passionate about making sure that when I wake up in the morning I lean into that day with every fiber of my being and that I show up. And the best way that I can show up is in integrity with who I know myself to be authentically, hopefully, and given the opportunity to inspire others to live their highest and best self. That is one thing that I try to do every time I wake up. Passionistas: Tell us how you help other people do that through your company, Transformation Journeys Worldwide, and the path to starting that company. Gabrielle: I have always felt purposeful as an individual and early on in my transition. I wanted to find what was mine to do. And so, I began exploring what was mine to do. I actually started seeing a life coach and she taught me how to live out of my heart space. And when I started living out of my heart space, I realized that I did not have to find what was mine to do. The more that I showed up authentically and embracing my truth of who I was, opportunities and doors opened up for me and allowed me to step into new spaces that allowed me to show up more authentically, more powerfully, owning my own voice. And as a result of that, seven years ago, my business partner and I created a transgender inclusion and training program called Transformation Journeys Worldwide. Passionistas: What does it mean to you to be able to have this kind of impact on all these different types of organizations? Gabrielle: I appreciate you bringing that question up because I'll never forget the first time that Gabrielle showed up in corporate America, fully aligned. I'll never forget sitting in the lobby of one of our first clients. And I looked at my business partner and I said, “Linda, do you realize what is about to happen? I am about to show up fully authentic for the very first time." And I reflect back over that moment because it was a surreal experience for me. And it's a surreal experience knowing that not only I experienced that but other individuals have the opportunity to show up in spaces within these organizations who were doing the work to have that same experience. And to know that you're moving the needle every time you're showing up, it does my heart good to know that I am leaving a legacy for folks that hopefully have a path that is a little easier than the path that I had to navigate. I wake up every morning feeling like I'm not going to work, I just feel like I'm showing up advocating for those who need to be advocated for. So it's just a great joy. Passionistas: You've talked about living authentically. Why is that so important and how has living authentically transformed your life personally? Gabrielle: I think I have to go back a little bit to answer that question. And I would start at when I was eight years old or even a little younger. I was a young child when I knew that there was something different about. I grew up in a very conservative environment. My daddy is a Pentecostal preacher. I'm actually a fourth generation Pentecostal preacher's kid. This was long before the days of the internet. So, I didn't have the language to understand what was going on inside of me. So consequently, I did what culture expects of a cisgender male to do. I got married to a beautiful woman. We had three amazing children. I had a very successful career owning multiple businesses in the construction industry and I was very prominent in our church, a large church here in the Atlanta Georgia area. And so by all outward appearances, I had life by the tail. But the reality was I was living a life of turmoil because of this internal gender dilemma, which I still had no words to describe. I was 45 years old. I accidentally stumbled across a website showing pictures of trans women. And when I saw these images i thought immediately, that's me. I spent the next five years doing online research, living between the exhilaration of knowing that's me and the despair of thinking I can never live my life as a woman. That would change my world, turn my world upside down. But after going through all of this turmoil, I finally decided to get help. And it was in my online research, I found a woman by the name of Ramona, who actually made a living dressing biological males as women. Now, this just goes to show you that you can find anything on the internet if you're looking for it. Well, I finally mustered the courage to make an appointment with her. On the day of the appointment, driving to her home, I was just a nervous wreck. But as soon as she greeted me at her door and ushered me upstairs to her dressing salon, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. She spent hours dressing me head to toe in my true feminine expression with the clothes, the heels, the wig, the makeup, the jewelry. And when she got done, she walked away and I saw myself in the mirror for the very first time. I was 49 years old and meeting myself for the very first time. And it was — “That's me.” So I answered that question by saying, because I lived so long inauthentically, I knew. And there were a number of invitations in my life that invited me to get honest with what my heart was saying about who I was. And so meeting myself the very first time, set me on the course of finding what was mine to do. And it turned my life upside down with my family, with my children, with my parents and sister, who by the way, have chosen not to have any contact with me since coming out 11 years ago. So understanding these perceived risk and pain that I might experience, I realize over the course of the last year or last 11 years, that they pale in comparison to living an inauthentic life and waking up at the end of life and looking back and saying, did I do all I could do to be in integrity with who I was created to be.
So I've learned that the power of authenticity sets us up for success. Yes. The path to authenticity is not a straight line and yes, it has some bumps and difficulties along the way. But the view on the other side of authenticity is like no other.
Find out more about Gabrielle at Transformation JourneysWW.com.
Listen to the full interview here.