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‘Devereux has always been a safe place for me:’ Arizona team member shares transgender journey

 

Kagen Leva

Devereux Arizona Accounts Receivable Specialist Team Lead Kagen Leva was 37 years old when he came out as transgender after experiencing what he describes as a “sudden realization.”

Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Arizona Accounts Receivable Specialist Team Lead Kagen Leva was 37 years old when he came out as transgender.

Leva, who was working at Devereux Pennsylvania’s Children’s Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Services (CIDDS) center (now Devereux Pennsylvania Children’s Services) at the time, describes it as a “sudden realization.”

“Hindsight is 20/20, so I can see how I got to this point, but I didn’t know until 2016 when I came out,” said Leva. “I had just watched a men’s shaving commercial and was walking through a store when I saw men’s shaving kits. I looked at the kits and thought to myself, ‘I want one of these. I wish I had a beard so I could shave my face.’ In that moment, I realized I was transgender.”

Support from family, friends

Within two months of his realization, Leva began gender-affirming hormone therapy. Throughout his journey, he says his family and friends have been accepting and supportive.

“Everyone has been amazing,” Leva noted. “Pre-transition, I was very masculine. When I came out, and began my transition, my voice deepened and my body changed a little bit, but my haircut and clothes remained the same. So, it wasn’t a significant visual transition. For my family and friends, the biggest change was getting used to saying my new name and pronouns. I had a lot of support, and was very lucky in that regard.”

Transitioning at work

When it came to transitioning at work, Leva credits National People Operations Director of International Recruitment and Special Projects Rich Latella, who was then working at Devereux Pennsylvania CIDDS, for helping to guide him through the process.

“Rich made it easy for me,” Leva shared. “He asked, ‘How do you want to do this? Do you want to announce it to your office? Do you want to have one-on-one meetings? How much do you want us to be involved?’ In areas where I struggled, he helped guide me. He suggested that if I was going to change my name, and wanted my colleagues to use my new name moving forward, that I should pick a date to make the change. On Sept. 1, 2016, I was Kagen everywhere. Seeing my name change on my office phone was incredibly meaningful. I took a picture of it as it was the first tangible evidence I had that I was now Kagen. Over the next year, Rich checked in on me periodically to make sure I felt safe. He changed my life professionally.”

Latella also said, “Kagen wanted his co-workers to be informed and aware. Working with Carebridge, Devereux’s Employee Assistance Program, I arranged for a highly skilled therapist, who was a transgender woman, to speak with Kagen’s team about being trans. It was an hour filled with information, understanding and acceptance. As a People Operations professional, I know that listening to our employees’ needs is just as important as providing a solution. In Kagen’s case, it became clear to me that he both wanted and needed an open, safe and inclusive environment in which he could work. Supporting Kagen not only demonstrated our commitment to him, but also to our other LGBTQ employees.”

Promoting inclusion

Looking back, Leva says he is proud of how far he has come, and wants to ensure other LGBTQ team members feel seen, safe and supported. He currently serves as co-chair of Devereux’s national LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group, which fosters an inclusive workplace, facilitates discussions, educates allies/advocates and builds a community of inclusive teams.

Kagen explained, “Devereux has always been a safe place for me. With this group, I want people to feel like they have a voice and know they are not alone.”

Learn more about Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health’s efforts to support the LGBTQ community.

  

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