Back to Blog

Celebrating Pride: Regan Hanley

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Michigan is proud to celebrate Pride throughout June. Sign up for our to get updates in your inbox and learn more about Pride in your community.

Regan Hanley, IT Analyst at Stryker, came out publicly as gay in 2015 and transgender in 2018. Since then, she has given back to the community that helped her by providing support through OutFront Kalamazoo and her workplace.


Growing up in the 1960s, Hanley wished she had a mentor. She knew she was gay from a young age but was confused about her gender identity. “I didn’t know what transgender was at the time. There was no word for it, but I knew there was something different,” she explains.

Struggling with her identity and lacking a role model, Hanley turned to drinking at 14. She was terrified to lose her friends and family if she shared how she truly felt, so she kept it hidden.

“It’s who I thought I was going to be,” she shares about her alcoholism. “That’s the image I created for myself, and it’s not right.


As the sixth of seven kids, Hanley looked up to her older siblings. Inspired by her older brothers’ and sisters’ sobriety, Hanley got sober herself when she was 26. “While watching their journey with sobriety, and knowing I belonged there, they supported me when the time came that I needed help,” she shares about her brothers.

Being sober “helped save my life,” Hanley says. One of her brothers helped get her started in IT a year after she became sober, and she graduated college in 2002. “I wanted to set an example for my kids,” she says, “so I went back and finished my degree.”

In 2012, during a family trip, Hanley’s ex-wife discovered a text from someone from an online trans-support group. In that moment, Hanley pulled the car to the side of the road and came out to her ex-wife. Although the two divorced, they remain close, co-parenting their children together. Her children’s support has meant so much to her. She remembers her son’s words after she came out as transgender: “Dad – you’re being who you are. I love you.

Hanley’s children pushed her to find the community she needed. Seeing their parent struggle with depression, they encouraged her to take action. This inspired Hanley to visit OutFront, where she now leads groups for transgender support and addiction recovery. 


A few years after coming out to her family, Regan Hanley came outpublicly at work during a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion panel in 2018. Although she was terrified – “It’s a huge change to be that public,” she recalls – she was relieved to be herself openly after decades of hiding. 

Much of her bravery came from those who had been supporting her. “I am so grateful for this community,” she shares. “Without them, my kids, ex-wife, and siblings being so supportive, I don’t think I could have done it.”


“When I came out in this community, I met a lot of amazing people,” Regan Hanley says. Those who helped her along the way inspire the support she provides for others. “I understand the importance of volunteering and being there for others. There’s a part of me that has to do it,” she shares.

In addition to the support groups she leads, Hanley is on the Board of Directors at OutFront Kalamazoo and helps lead an LGBTQIA+ employee resource group at Stryker. She loves it when people have questions or just want to talk. “It feels so wonderful because I love these people,” she shares, smiling fondly. “They’ve helped change my life. I get so much joy out of what I do.”


“That’s the message I want to send. I know it’s hard. When I see kids, that’s what gets me. I love parents who are supportive. I wish more parents would be,” says Hanley. She remembers bursting into tears after hearing someone talk about their transgender daughter because she was so happy that their child was seen. 

“I wish I could do more for them … That’s who I would love to get to more. To let them know ‘you’re okay. Don’t hurt yourself. You can be happy.’”

Regan Hanley’s advice to trans youth echoes what she wishes she could tell her younger self: “Reach out and ask for help. Talk about it. You’re okay. You can do this.”