Transgender Transition Inside EA Sports: ‘Will Everyone Stare At Me?’

Transgender Transition Inside EA Sports: ‘Will Everyone Stare At Me?’
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Going from the person most co-workers know as a man to one they will know as a woman is a challenge most people won’t ever have to face. Doing it in the sports division of a video game company probably adds a ridiculous degree of difficulty.

But when EA Sports producer John Worrall became Kelly Worrall, she says that company went to great lengths to prepare colleagues and support her decision.

EA and Worrall spent a year working to make sure that she’d have a safe and respectful workplace at the company’s studio in Burnaby, British Columbia — where titles such as NHL, Fight Night and FIFA are made. But even though candid questions came up — like which bathroom Worrall would use — she says a presentation on her transition met with an amazing reaction.

“That time leading up to the actual transition was very important to me,” Worrall told The Vancouver Courier. “It was a time where I felt reassured because I could see the steps that [the human resources department] was taking to build the environment where I would be protected, and that was my big concern.

“Am I going to be laughed out of every meeting?” Worrall wondered. “Is everyone going to be staring at me the whole time? The answer to that] is yes, by the way. There’s nothing you can do about that.”

Worrall says that businesses that embrace transgendered people now will be able to claim they were on the right side of history. The thought resonates on a day when the President of the United States announced his support for gay marriage after voters in North Carolina passed a law proscribing it outright. Electronics Arts didn’t passively endorse its employee’s decision, either. The company straight up tweeted the news on its official Twitter account earlier today.

Worrall has a long tenure in the games industry, where issues around diversity representation are often met with derision and scorn. People may have voted EA the Worst Company in America but they can’t be that bad if it helped an employee like Worrall through a transition like hers.

Event speaker enjoyed smooth ‘trans’ transition at work [The Vancouver Courier]


  • They’ll be trying not to look. Not because they’re homophobic, but because you’ll look like a really weird woman. That’s how it is. Maybe it sounds sexist, and it’s still totally innapropriate to ridicule him in the workplace, but making himself up like a chick is going to have social consequences.

    • I like this reference.
      Surely Kotaku could come up with a link to post an article about Tom on this site?
      Here goes: Tom Gabel’s band Against Me!’s songs appear on many games including NHL 12. Now Tom Gabel is becoming Laura Grace. Make it happen kotaku, you post about 200 game of thrones articles a day.

      • I will say, while I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t some ‘Look at the good press Laura Grace got, we need some of that!’ from EA, it wouldn’t be a sudden thing from Kelly, who would have been getting professional care now for years. Especially in the US, the gatekeeping on it all is extremely rigorous, a lot of it based around various commitment tests and so-called ‘real life tests’ that are there to make sure you endure enough suffering that you couldn’t possibly be faking because who would do that to themselves?

        Which is why I hope so much that, if EA is going to go for the good press on it (And honestly, I am happy for them to do this publically if Kelly is, we need more people willing to stand up and show what being transgender ISN’T just by being, well, as normal as we can be. ><) they ought to at least be sure to cover her from the first pill through the surgery (If she's lurking out there somewhere, Dr. Suporn in Thailand has my person recommendation, but you already knew about him. 😉 ) and on into the life-long hormal aftercare.

        I was very lucky to transition in Brisbane. We have one of the best (If not best known) gender clinics you can have, with doctors with /decades/ of experience in transgender clients. They have trimmed a lot of the pointless gatekeeping. For instance, I didn't have to live several years with /no/ hormones, surgery, or anything else, just to get /hormones/. I was offered those on my second visit. I did have to wait the 'standard' 2 years of 'real life test' before they would clear me for surgery, but even that is lessening for clueful doctors who understand that 'the real life test(s)' are just 'the humiliation tests'.

        I will say my transition is ongoing and will likely never end, because we never stop changing and growing. But I look back with fondness when I decided the world could piss off and I wasn't going to try to learn things I despise, like makeup and fashion. My dysphoria was purely physical, and I have little (Though not none) interest in dresses and such – I'm a denim girl through and through. And while that is fine for a cis woman, it is trickier for a trans woman who has to worry about 'passing'. Every little bit helps, so TG people tend toward hyperfemininity, often going way past the needed points and into 'ouch'.

        Cramming 30 years of learning to BE a girl into even 2 years is hard work! But I still stand by it as the best thing I ever did for myself, and my family, and my children. I am happier than I ever would have been, and certainly can point at this as a 'Life throws you curveballs, you deal with it' thing. They both know my background and get quite fierce if someone tries to be a pain about it. 🙂

        I will also say, as I have said before when talking about this here, I am always happy to answer respectful questions. (Or, as I did below in a probably unwise bit of pique, non-respectful ones. 😛 ). I personally find that most people are apprehensive about such things not because they feel it is Wrong, but because they don't have the frame of reference to understand it, and it is rare enough that most people can go entire lives without ever having to think about it. As I said before, what people need to see most from us, I think, is the basic 'we're just people dealing with an issue the best we can' act of /living/. I have the option to be open about my life; many don't, so I do what I can!

        • Ahem, sorry, that was longer and rantier than I meant. But. Oh well! 🙂 I hope my reply to MrTaco also shows that there is no reason I can’t have a sense of humor about it all, too. Being who I am with my love of puns, it’s inevitable. 😉

  • Wow, it’s almost as if I’m reading the press release that EA put out to all the game outlets myself!!!

  • The worlds getting crazier. I’m not trying to take shots but.. its a psychological disorder, he cant really ever be a woman until scientists can physically change his genes.

    So making a big deal of it really isnt fair to people with these conditions…. this just reminds me of the days where companies would make a big deal about hiring women, or gays etc.

    It shouldnt be held up on a podium it should just be done.

    • I completely agree with your last 2 sentences. This is not news worthy or special, stuff like this should just happen without and bullshitting.

    • If there aren’t stories like this, though, violence against vulnerable people will continue.

      Also, she is a woman. That is how she defines and presents herself, and it is respectful to refer to her as such.

  • From one person who’s made that journey to another, I wish her luck. It is not an easy road, but in the end, is far better than the pain and discomfort that leads up to it. And it is nice of EA to publicly support her, but I will ask this: Will you push your insurance provider to cover all related medical costs? Or will you just ride the public ‘support’ train for the PR and privately leave her to fend for herself?

  • Too little, too late, EA. No amount of feel good press releases will get me to buy another of your games.

  • The looks only last a short while. Eventually you avoid scrutiny. It’s mostly a case of blending in with the women around you. For those that know you, a kind and affable personality goes a long ways towards acceptance.


  • This is great! For once I’m seeing the world not be quite so crazy. First Laura Grace, then Obama’s support, and now Kelly Worrall. Maybe I will see trans equality within my lifetime….

    At the moment though, being trans sucks. It’s like a never ending nightmare. =(

    +1 to you Kelly for being amazing and making the leap. The beginning is the hardest in transition but after you make the first steps, it gets sooo much better.

  • so sick of the LGBT mafia.

    Like i’ve stated up above equality, means not making a deal about it. The LGBT alliance and campaigns need to start stating what they really are.

    Your with us or against us.

    One of my best friends is gay and something like this happening at he work place? it would have caused her hell…. she just is who she is. The lgbt got onto her work place and tried to make her work place do all this and do ‘sensetivity training’ for all the staff she works with.

    She got her work place to reject their demands and they started calling her a self hating homosexual and started accusing her workplace of making her want to stay in the closet and not ‘celebrating her pride’.

    I think everyone can agree that this kind of stuff…. its personal and thats how it should stay.

    If he had shown up to work the next day as a she, yes there would have been a few looks, but thats natural, people respect its personal and theres no need for this fake ‘trail blazing’ etc crap.

    This just reminds me so much of highschool when they decided to teach us why racism was wrong…. up until highschool everyone I grew up with had no concept of racism….. it was all on who the person was and school taught us racism.

    All this kind of stuff will do is teach inequality and make people afraid of diversity.

    • Right. Or, maybe if there aren’t any stories like this, all people will know about transfolk are what they might see on Jerry Springer. Stories like this serve to show people that we aren’t the trainwreck hookers that the media has enjoyed portraying us as in the past. Furthermore, if people aren’t familiarized with REAL people in unfamiliar situations, how are they to respond? Knowledge conquers fear, and while “sensitivity training” might be the worst way to get it, the best way is through media reports like the one above.

  • I used to work at IBM and we had a transgender lady there. I found it hard not to stare. I’m gay too so it’s not a homophobic thing…

    • …and because you’re gay, it makes it all okay for you to stare, right? It just seems peculiar to me that someone who should be well acquainted with disdain from various cultures for a situation that you had no control over should understand the way she may have felt to know that people were treating her like she was some kind of a circus freak.

  • It’s all well and good, if the person’s happy, then go for it and they certainly shouldn’t be discriminated against because of the way they choose to live their life.but this whole thing just seems way over the top. EA spent a year working towards making sure this person was going to be ok and they had presentations on the matter etc, but is that really necessary? It just seems like making a massive deal out of someone’s life choice and pandering to them specifically is counter to the issue of it not being an issue. I doubt the adults who work at EA need lectures on what transgender means, so no one is ignorant of what is going on, so why all this effort just because one employee is making a cosmetic change (cosmetic in the sense that it won’t effect workflow)?

    As i said above, if it makes you happy you should be able to do whatever you like (as long as it’s not you know, murdering people or something), but this kind of overkill super PC pandering from EA seems a little excessive, and also seems to be in direct contradiction if they want them to fit in like everyone else, because it singles them out more than before.

    • EA spent a year ensuring A) her safety and B) that she would be protected from discrimination. And yes, sometimes “adults” need to be taught what it means to be transgender. Thinking individuals realize how little they actually know about the world, and thirst for knowledge to fill in the gaps. Rather than making assumptions, they gather information and draw conclusions based on that information. On the other hand, there are people who make off-color remarks about trans people and think it’s okay because we aren’t “normal”.

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