Being Transgender Is Just Living My Life: Gerri Cannon
“Driving a tractor trailer is a lifestyle,” says Gerri Cannon. “Being transgender is just living my life.”
Gerri knows of what she speaks, since she spends more time behind the wheel of her Kenworth than she does at home in Merrimack. “It’s a gorgeous truck,” she says of her 70-foot 18-wheeler. “It’s a lot of truck.”
She’s logged about 210,000 miles over the past 18 months for Con-Way Truckload, a multi-billion dollar freight transportation company headquartered in Missouri. Gerri drives up to 11 hours a day, takes a 10 hour break, then repeats the process for a 70-hour work week. “I’m on the road four to six weeks at a time,” she says. “That’s an over the road truck driver’s life.”
As a transgender woman, she’s grateful to be driving cross-country for a company she says is committed to diversity. There’s a “good mix of folks” among her friendly fellow drivers, says Gerri, including many other women and husband/wife teams. Con-Way provides workplace protections, including for transgender people. “That’s the way the world is supposed to be,” she says of her work environment.
It’s dramatically different from her first trucking job, with a Phoenix-based company, a few years ago. After first telling Gerri that being transgender wasn’t an issue, the man assigned to train her later called and said, “I’m not sure I can train a transgender.” Rather than addressing the discriminatory behavior, the company instead connected Gerri with a driver who was a cross-dresser, even though his training certification had lapsed, meaning Gerri would have to wait until he was re-certified. Meanwhile, she recalls, “I’m sitting here in Merrimack, with no job, not making any money and not on the road.” Taking matters into her own hands, she emailed a corporate officer to explain the situation and within days she was being trained by a driver who later told Gerri she was one of his best students.
When she’s not on the road, Gerri, 59, visits with her two adult daughters and attends Pilgrim Congregational Church in Nashua, where she found a supportive community after she started her transition. Returning after long stretches on the road, Gerri says, “everyone is all over me: ‘Oh Gerri, we missed you!’ It’s great.”
Gerri also volunteers doing educational and advocacy work on behalf of New Hampshire’s transgender and LGB community. “In being more comfortable out in the public eye I’ve established more friendships and more connections than I’ve ever experienced in my life,” she says.
After sharing her story in a local newspaper about five years ago, Gerri attended a meeting of her congregation’s over-50 group. Some congregants didn’t know until then that Gerri is transgender, and were a little taken aback and initially standoffish. She says they quickly warmed up again after
realizing that Gerri is the same person they have always known.
“It was just something they learned about me that was new,” she says. “And it became no big deal. I ended up with a lot more supporters in my church.”