De Sube is a steadfast advocate for transgender people in the Hampton Roads area, where she moved in 1973 after graduating from Randolph-Macon College where she earned a Bachelor's degree in Political Science. Before her work in the transgender community, she worked in the retail industry for J. C. Penney and Proffitt-Parisian Department Stores for many years in various positions including store management; merchandise management; human resources; and marketing. She has gone on to become a conduit for change and the advancement of trans people.
Though she is now a vital part of Virginia Beach’s LGBT community, it has not always been easy for De. “My earliest memories are of feeling different,” she says of growing up in the late ’50s and ’60s when the term transgender was not widely used. She spent much of her early life suppressing and wrestling with her identity. The advent of the Internet helped change things and she was able to find resources to begin the process of transitioning. In 1996 she came out to her then wife and later to her employer.
From there, De’s life started over. Her marriage ended and she moved out. Being out as trans woman initially proved difficult, both personally and professionally. She was fired upon coming out to her employer who cited that they could not have a contract with a transgender person. With no job and no legal recourse for her termination, she used the resourceful skills her father taught her and began building houses. This sustained her until the economic decline of the Great Recession in 2007. With no clients, De lost her income and was left essentially homeless.
Fortunately, friends opened their doors to De giving her a place to stay while she got back on her feet following economic hardships. During that time, De sought ways to make life better for her fellow transgender neighbors and in May 2007, she followed her passions and created, as well as served as a facilitator for, the New Life Transgender Outreach, a peer-facilitated transgender support group that later evolved into The Gender Expression Movement of Hampton Roads. In 2011, she helped to found the LGBT Center of Hampton Roads and was its first employee. In 2015, she co-founded Transgender Assistance Program (TAP) a non-profit organization created to end homelessness within the local transgender community in Virginia. She also serves as TAP’s treasurer on the Board of Directors and is a member of the homeless emergency response team.
Today, a thriving member of the community, De also works as operations manager for a chain of hair salons, while also devoting a great deal of time toward helping other people in the transgender community. A grassroots activist at heart, her support comes in various forms, whether it is devotedly serving the organizations she helped found, referring those in need to doctors and mental health professionals, or creating a safe space in which transgender people can connect with one another. In 2011, she was given the Old Dominion University Diversity Award and in 2014, she was given the Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission’s community service award. Advocate magazine named De one their 2015 Trans100.
De is grateful to be recognized as an OUTstanding Virginian, but awards and honors, however, are not the reason De stays committed to the trans community. She is heartened by the strides made in our community in recent years and hopes that her work, along with the efforts of so many others will help bring about continued change.