#ProudAtZG: London Montgomery, in her own words.

This story is part of a collection of personal essays about belonging, recorded and written by members and allies of the Zillow Pride affinity network.

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I had a previous job in tech that I was happy with before I moved to Zillow, and the reason why I moved was to live and work in a place where I could be the same person. I was out at my last job, and I let them know my new name and my pronouns at the time. I got messages of support that ‘we appreciate and understand you,’ but mis-gendering was constant. Nobody got the pronouns right. That might sound petty, but every day I was just reminded: I’m not the person they think that I am.

When I heard about the opportunity at Zillow, I jumped at the chance because I had read up on the culture and the community. As I was talking to the interviewer, I was able to confirm that this wasn’t just talk and that they actually do have places for me and that I can be myself. This is the first job that I’ve just been London from day one, and everybody’s respected my new name, and it’s just an honor to be on the Pride Council. It’s great that there is a Pride Council for Zillow. I love that, and I love the work that I do here.

Pride is something that I’m still learning. I transitioned at 32. I’m 35 now, and I still have a lot to learn. There are moments in our history where we lift up and support. We make sure that we’re visible today and that we have a chance to show each other that there is a community for us. It’s common to hear folks before they come out say that they didn’t have a place where they felt comfortable or welcome. And it’s not something that you realize until you experience it. I just didn’t have a baseline for what community could be, that I could create the deep relationships that I have in the trans community now. 

My coming out story: It started off as a costume. There was a wedding that I was shooting as an event photographer,  which I do on the side and I love doing it. And it was for a burlesque community.  It was two MCs that actually run a burlesque troupe locally here in Phoenix, and I was invited to be their wedding photographer. And I talked to my wife and said, ‘wouldn’t it be funny if I dressed up feminine and cross-dressed?’ and that’s what I thought it was at the time. I thought this was just a fun thing to do on the side. 

I had such a positive response at that one experience, where people saw me and … I had a body that I was proud of for the first time. And I presented it in a way that meant something to me and that hadn’t happened before. It was entirely new and it was such a beautiful experience. And I had more opportunities to shoot with a burlesque group. And I kept finding excuses to dress fem, even if it wasn’t in the brief. You’re a photographer, you don’t have to dress up, it’s completely optional. And really you’re just supposed to be out of the way and taking photos. But I found myself just drawn to new outfits and I got wigs and I got makeup and my wife did my makeup the first time I went out and it was so sweet. I then proceeded to read books by Alex Zandra. I started to talk to members in the trans community. And when I talk about the importance of pronouns, this is what changed it for me.

I had somebody come up at one of the shows that I was shooting. I was dressed fem and somebody, a kind trans individual, asked me for my pronouns. And I had never thought of that question for myself before. And I responded with what I thought was right at the time, I was he/him. And I thought about that question and what it could mean for me. And it felt exciting to have an identity that I was proud of, that was the right fit for me. And it started to click from there. 

I received great therapy. I am part of a medical system and thankfully part of a healthcare benefit system that gives me direct access to hormone replacement therapy. That started in 2018. And that first day, I remember that Target parking lot where I took those first pills and — that’s just meant a lot to me. 

Since then I got my name changed and I’m out at work and I’m just so much happier. Even now, I’m really happy. 

I think I can love myself now, and I don’t think I was very good at that before. I’m getting better.