Welcome to happiness Jamie Zapata!
“I absolutely love real estate and what I am doing,” she said. “The people are so nice and I feel welcomed. I’m also able to help so many others. I have clients who are LGBT, their kids may be LGBT and they want to be treated well. It feels great to help.”
To say that Jamie has not always been welcomed – or felt like she could be welcomed – is an understatement.
Today, she is a proud 44-year-old trans woman. Proud to be herself. And not afraid to wear heels to bring her height to a proud 6’2”.
Jamie is also proud to represent the LGBT community in many different ways including taking the reigns as President of NAGLREP’s newest chapter in San Antonio. She will also share her experiences at NAGLREP’s LGBT Housing Policy Summit in Washington D.C. on April 10-11.
Jamie joined Coldwell Banker D’Ann Harper, REALTORS® last September and has certainly succeeded. She will finish a productive 2018 with multiple closings. And while she has quickly adapted to her new career, her life has been an open book, reflecting the challenges many in the LGBT community have faced.
Jamie grew up in the 1980’s when things were a bit different than they are today. At her earliest memories, she always identified as female but was told “just be a boy” and “play like a boy.” But she just couldn’t.
“I like to ask people what their favorite and least favorite colors are,” she said when asked how to describe how she felt as a kid. “Then imagine that society tells you that you can’t wear your favorite color. Only you’re least favorite. It was society’s choice not mine. It was so hard to just be who I was.”
She refused to do boy things at four years old. She let her hair get longer in fourth grade and longer again in fifth. All through middle school she rebelled at dressing, acting and being a boy.
“I got sent home a lot in school because I just couldn’t be a boy,” she said. “What bathroom I used, what locker room I was in, everything was a challenge. I just refused to be a boy. The school district wouldn’t allow me to transition because it didn’t adhere to their dress code, so I dropped out of school after eighth grade because I didn’t want to go to high school as a boy.”
Adulthood led to a variety of jobs where she was fired for “being a distraction.”
“I am never going to hide who I am and when word got out that I was a trans woman, it would spread like wild fire through the office,” she said. “People would gossip and then I would lose the job because the bosses said the staff couldn’t concentrate on their jobs while I worked there. My work life has been a cycle of dead ends.”
Jamie was living what proponents of passing the Equality Act point to. The discrimination LGBTs face in their personal life, school and work leads to fewer opportunities to improve themselves financially, including seeing the benefits of home ownership.
“My life has been built through my inner strength,” she said. “My lack of formal education never allowed me to find secure jobs which obviously hindered by earning capabilities. For many years I also lacked the confidence to improve things. I imagine many others face the same thing. I want to help people break that cycle and see the opportunities they have. That is one of the reasons I am thrilled to be in real estate.”
Discovering real estate was one thing. But earning her license required a GED.
“Getting my GED was nerve wracking,” she said. “I know I am well-versed in life and have learned by being with so many people, but I was scared of the math part. School was so long ago. Luckily I passed on the first try.”
She then passed the real estate exam on the first try too and joined Coldwell Banker D’Ann Harper, REALTORS® having no idea of what her future would be.
“I honestly had no idea what it would be like to join a national company like Coldwell Banker. I didn’t know how they would react to having a trans woman. My broker Leesa Harper-Rispoli has been amazing. She has welcomed me with open arms. In fact, in one of our early discussions, I told her that all I really wanted was to be included. She told me not to use the word ‘included’ and instead use ‘welcomed’ because I was welcomed. That meant a lot to me. The company is even sponsoring quite a few different LGBT events that I am involved in including NAGLREP.”
Jamie has spent her first 18 months in the business building her sphere largely through her powerful relationships in the LGBT community where she has leadership roles at San Antonio’s LGBT Pride Center and the Transgender Education Network of Texas.
While her move into real estate has been great, Jamie knows part of that is because she is able to brush aside challenging moments.
“I know the discrimination is out there and I have been treated poorly by a few agents and those on the title and mortgage side, but I don’t let it bother me,” she said. “But I have had friends and clients that have been impacted by similar behavior and I want to be there to help them. So many in the LGBT community are in search for people they can trust and be open with.”
Jamie has also become an ace recruiter for Coldwell Banker D’Ann Harper.
“My friend Kasandra is also a trans woman and she told me that she loved real estate but wasn’t sure if it would be a viable career opportunity,” Jamie said. “I encouraged her to get her license and now she’s also with us and doing very well. I have another trans friend Grayson who is getting his license and will join Coldwell Banker. We have a lot of people we can help improve their lives through home ownership.
“And that makes me happy!”
TAKEAWAYS FROM JAMIE:
• The LGBT Community Needs Us: Since joining real estate, Jamie has seen countless potential buyers and sellers who had no idea that LGBT agents were abundant. She encourages NAGLREP members to promote “as part of our services, not only are we aware of the unique real estate needs of the LGBT community and other diverse groups, but we embrace people of all backgrounds.”
• Participate in the LGBT Community: She feels it is important to not just have LGBT clients, but to be involved. “We should aspire to do something to make a difference in the LGBT community instead of just taking from it. We can’t say we are diverse or care about the community if our actions don’t back it up.”
• Share stories of what LGBTs Go Through: Jamie urges NAGLREP members to share stories of what LGBT clients go through to open lines of communication. She knows of agents who shunned a gay couple locally and another gay couple afraid their offer won’t be accepted if the seller learns they are married men. She knows of a lesbian couple’s neighbor who publicly asks “where they got their baby.” Another lesbian couple that wondered if they needed to remove their family pictures during showings. She knows of trans people who have no idea how to explain name changes and gender identity with a loan officer and title company. She is not afraid to let others know how hard things can be.
• Use of Social Media: Jamie has had a lot of success in making sure every post or conversation is about how great it is to help others. She makes it all about the clients, their needs, and their happiness. And in regards to the LGBT community, the marketing and advertising should be about what we are doing specifically to give back/support them and if possible, relate it to real estate.