[June is Pride Month, and this year we're celebrating by honoring 30 LGBTQ firsts. To see the full list, visit nbcnews.com/pride30.]
Gina Chua, the newly appointed executive editor at Reuters, came out as transgender late last year. She’s now one of the most high-profile trans leaders in media.
Gina Chua has spent her life dedicated to telling stories. In her decadeslong career, she’s held leadership positions in newsrooms across the globe and has been a go-to expert on the business of journalism. Late last year, after a "private, internal and exploratory" journey, it was time to share her own story.
In an email to colleagues, she wrote: "I'm transgender. And beginning today I'll be living and presenting as what I know to be my true self 100 percent of the time."
Chua, 60, told NBC News her decision to announce herself to the world didn’t come as a flash of lightning, but as a slow burn. A feeling, she said, of, “I want to move out of the shadows and live in the sunlight.”
About four months after Chua came out, she was promoted to the newly created position of executive editor of Reuters, one of the largest news agencies in the world — and one she’s been part of for the last decade. Before Reuters, she was the editor in chief of The South China Morning Post, and she also spent 16 years at The Wall Street Journal. Chua credits journalism with giving her an education about the world, and said something she loves about her line of work is “the opportunity to talk to people who have no business talking to you in any other universe.”
Coming out has meant Chua gets emails from people who have seen her story, and they write to her about their trans children, or their experience with their own identity, or colleagues write about their desires to transition. Chua sees it as an opportunity and a responsibility to help build understanding, to exist “so that people can see it’s possible to exist.”
Ten years ago, she said, she couldn’t have imagined she was ever going to come out herself. Chua said she felt she had two different personas, two different lives. “I don't think I ever lied to anybody, but it was just the idea that you had to be careful about what you said.”
She wanted the little things: going downstairs in her apartment building to do laundry and not having to change clothes or think about how she looked. If she was going out as Gina, she didn’t want to have to open the door of her apartment and listen out for people in the hallway before sneaking out without them seeing. Her life was sectioned out, and she said that took “about 25 percent” of her brain power — even if it was, at the time, 2 percent of her actual life.
“Look,” she said, “I've been on this road for a long time. You get very good at compartmentalizing, and you get very good at breaking your life into chunks.” Living in that way became untenable, she said. “What it was for me, ultimately, was this compartmentalization. It was this life in the shadows.”
Now, she said, she feels more calm. People tell her that she’s happier and that she smiles more. When it comes to her job and being a leader, she said that she’s more focused and that her brain has been freed up to tackle other things. She said she’s leaning into a more nuanced understanding of others, of womanhood, of community.
“And I think that I'm still growing into that, and I would like to hope that makes me a better manager,” she said. “It makes me a better person.”