Vet school graduate Charlotte McCarroll is a research associate in the University’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, where she is investigating ways of improving heart function after heart attacks. She is a transwoman and a champion for diversity on campus, offering mentoring to any student or staff member who identifies as LGBT+ and would like to hear from someone who has gone through the transition process at work.
She is the founder of Seahorses, a swimming group for transgender people in Glasgow, and co-founder of nGendr, a collective of trans and non-binary people in the UK who write, vlog and create art. At the University, she is involved in pushing forward trans-awareness teaching for medical students, and has been invited to speak and contribute to a number of student and staff groups, including helping to deliver staff trans-awareness sessions with the Scottish Transgender Alliance.
“I made the transition, probably at the point between PhD and post-doc. I had known that I was different when I was an undergraduate – that was in the early 2000s – but it was a frightening time. There weren’t many laws to protect people like me, and I was kind of terrified that if I transitioned at that point that I would be killing my career. So I kept it almost to a part time life I suppose. Part of my reasons for choosing a research job was to get away from a public facing role and get some mental space.
During my PhD years I was a bit more open with my friends and colleagues. They all knew, although I wasn’t fully out at work. Once all the stress of doing my PhD was out of the way I thought, well, I’ve got to do it. By that point, the Equality Act was through, the Gender Recognition Act had been in for six or seven years, so I felt that the situation was about as good as it was ever going to be.
An email came through the University email network, that there was now a transitioning at work policy. I read that and thought, either someone has done it before, or someone has recognised that there is an actual need and that made me think, let’s just go for it. So I sent a very terrifying email to the Equality and Diversity unit. I think they were asking for volunteers to go to an equality conference, so I volunteered for that and then I said that I was particularly interested in transgender matters because…and then I put this last sentence…because I intend to transition. And then I sent the email, kind of heart in mouth.
I got a reply about 20 minutes later saying: “Perhaps you should come in for a meeting?” So I went in and spoke with Equality and Diversity and then we set out a plan for transition that was at a steady pace that was good for me and good for everyone else and I made that transition in about six months.
That was about three years ago. And now, I suppose in a sense, I’m trying to be a bit more visible. I do some teaching of undergraduate vets and of vet bioscience students, so that students can be aware that there is diversity within the profession that there are going to be going into. Because that is something I found that I couldn’t see when I was going through vet school.
I think I’ve built a lot of confidence during my work. As a scientist, you are put up on platforms to speak about your research quite regularly. The first time you give a presentation, it can be a terrifying experience, but after you’ve done about 20 or 30, you get more confident and when someone asks you to speak about something else, you know that you’ve done it before and that helps. For me, achieving something overrides any nervousness I might have. And actually, I find that I quite enjoy it.”