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Co-workers celebrate trans Ottawa woman’s coming out in ‘amazing’ way

Amanda Jetté Knox (left) and her wife, Zoe Knox, who recently came out as transgender.
Amanda Jetté Knox (left) and her wife, Zoe Knox, who recently came out as transgender. The Knox family

For 36 years, Zoe Knox lived as someone else.

Knox knew by age 7, growing up in 1970s suburban Ottawa, that she was a girl.

“I had no idea what it was called back then. I just knew that I was supposed to be a girl but I didn’t seem to have the right parts,” she said.

“I … went to sleep most nights wishing I would wake up female.”

She also learned early on – after being bullied and teased for being “too feminine” – not to let anybody know.

“Being different especially this way was unacceptable.”

But “inside, I was dying.” Still, she kept it hidden, and built a life around that fiction: Married a girl she knew as a teenager; got a job in telecom; had three kids, two dogs and a cat in the suburbs.

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Two years ago her middle child, then 11, came out in an email to her parents: Alexis, whom they’d raised as a boy, is a girl.

WATCH: 16×9 feature on two transgender children struggling to be themselves

“I saw how accepted and loved [Alexis] was and slowly came to believe that it could work out for me. Watching her transition and become happier made it impossible for me to keep living in denial.”

But even then, it took a confrontation with her wife Amanda Jetté Knox to elicit the truth.

“I just knew I had a very unhappy spouse for a long time,” Amanda said. “I essentially pulled it out of her. … And then she said, ‘Yeah, that is exactly what is going on. I am a woman.'”

Amanda admits it wasn’t easy at first. But the sense of betrayal turned to gratitude when she saw how happy her wife was.

“It’s really improved our lives,” Amanda said. “I’m more in love now than I was.”

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The rest of Zoe’s family was equally supportive, even throwing her a first birthday party in January.

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Her daughter Alexis cried when she found out, not because she was sad but because she was “really happy.” She said she understood how important this was.

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The next step for Knox was coming out to her telecom co-workers. She told them via e-mail. Around Easter. Right before taking three weeks off work to let everything sink in.

“The truth is: I am transgender. All my life I have identified as female,” the email read.

It apprised co-workers of her new name and personal pronouns, of her pending email change and altered appearance.

“[D]espite all that, I am the same person you’ve always known, with the same knowledge, skills, background, and beliefs,” the email reads.

“All I ask is for your continued respect and professionalism, and I look forward to you all getting to know the real me.”

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Returning to work was nerve-wracking: She didn’t know how people would react.

When she arrived, she burst into tears.

Her desk was decorated with beautiful strings of rainbow butterflies, curly streamers, and “Welcome Zoe” signs. There was also flowers and a new name plate on the wall.

One co-worker made her a framed sign with a quote from Oscar Wilde that said “Be Yourself.”

Zoe Knox's co-workers went all out to welcome her to work after she came out as transgender.
Zoe Knox's co-workers went all out to welcome her to work after she came out as transgender. The Knox family
Zoe's new name tag on her desk at work.
Zoe's new name tag on her desk at work. The Knox family
Zoe Knox's co-workers went all out to welcome her to work after she came out as transgender.
Zoe Knox's co-workers went all out to welcome her to work after she came out as transgender. The Knox family
Zoe Knox's co-workers went all out to welcome her to work after she came out as transgender.
Zoe Knox's co-workers went all out to welcome her to work after she came out as transgender. The Knox family
Zoe Knox's co-workers went all out to welcome her to work after she came out as transgender.
Zoe Knox's co-workers went all out to welcome her to work after she came out as transgender. The Knox family
Zoe Knox's co-workers went all out to welcome her to work after she came out as transgender.
Zoe Knox's co-workers went all out to welcome her to work after she came out as transgender. The Knox family

Later that morning, she was pulled into an “urgent meeting” that turned out to be a party with cupcakes, coffee and a welcome from the team with lots of hugs and tears.

“I was completely overwhelmed with gratitude for this amazing display of welcome and acceptance,” Knox said. She says there have only been a few inadvertent name and pronoun slip-ups, all quickly corrected.

“I think this is a beautiful example,” Amanda said, “of humanity getting things right.”

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“It’s truly much more than I ever could have expected,” Zoe said.

WATCH: 16×9’s “The Fight for Trans Rights”

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