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Opening His Eyes: Inspired by His Family, a GE Aerospace Executive Helps Launch a Support Group for Parents of Trans Children

June 17, 2024 | by Amy Merrick

Brian Pfeiffer recently attended his first Pride event, in Hamilton, Ohio, and he was a little uncertain about how it would go. There could be protests, or people might make hostile comments. Together with his family and members of his church, he helped set up a festival booth, handed out stickers, and walked in the parade.

“The event was awesome,” Pfeiffer says now. “It was amazing. After you have experiences like this, you start to realize a lot about people that you’ve probably been unaware of, who you should talk to and get to know. Maybe you’ll be moved to take up their cause.”

Pfeiffer’s 16-year-old son, Jacob, is transgender. When Jacob began to express this aspect of his identity about seven years ago, it came as a shock to Pfeiffer and his wife, Jackie.

“We had inappropriately built a whole life for Jacob in our heads about how it was going to go, who you’re going to marry, how many kids you’ll have,” he says. “We had to sit with things and understand how to process and deal with them. At the very beginning, one thing we did commit to was being all in and supporting him.”


Community Support

At GE Aerospace, where Pfeiffer is an executive in Commercial Engines and Services, he often shared his family’s story with his friend Lauren Duncan, who is active in the GE Aerospace Pride Alliance, the employee resource group for members and allies of the LGBTQAI+ community. Duncan was in contact with other parents of transgender children who were looking for support. With her encouragement, Pfeiffer worked with those employees to form a grassroots parents group. 

Since earlier this year, they have met monthly to seek advice and share their experiences. 


Pfeiffer and his family taking a selfie on a balcony overlooking a city at sunset
From left: Brian Pfeiffer and family: Dax, wife Jackie, Jack, Jacob, and Cameron. Top, from left: Jacob, Cameron, Jackie, Dax, Jack, father Bill, and Brian. Images courtesy of Brian Pfeiffer.


Much of the discussion lately has centered on new laws that affect their children. States such as Texas and Ohio have passed laws that restrict gender-affirming healthcare for transgender children and teenagers. (Ohio’s law is on hold following a court challenge.) The group has also talked about how laws differ in the United States and Canada, where there are no restrictions on gender-affirming care.

But the discussions are about much more than the legal landscape. “It’s cool to have a group where people can express what they’re feeling and hear from people on different parts of the journey,” Pfeiffer says.


Life Lessons

For Pfeiffer, the journey to understanding and celebrating different identities started years ago, growing up in Indiana. When he was in high school, his sister, Amy, came out to their family as gay. Initially, Pfeiffer didn’t react well. “As a selfish 18-year-old trying to protect my reputation and be cool in school, I didn’t want my friends to know I had a gay person in my family,” he says. “I had to make this decision around sticking up for my sister, and it was a process. My life experience has been that it’s really easy to have an opinion on something when you don’t interact with it. When it’s not somebody you love or care for, it’s easy to say, This is good, this is bad. This is right, this is wrong.”

Since then, Pfeiffer has sought out more opportunities to expand his thinking. Through Catalyst, a global nonprofit, he participated in Men Advocating for Real Change, a training program that helps men in leadership positions become better allies for women. In 2017, he and colleagues at GE Aerospace formed Stronger Together, which provides a safe environment for people to discuss difficult topics and build personal relationships. A Stronger Together discussion in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer drew more than 2,000 participants. GE Aerospace employees around the world have used the Stronger Together framework to talk about the caste system in India, Ukrainian and Russian refugees in Poland, and civil war in Ethiopia.


Pfeiffer and his family taking a selfie during a bright midday walk with snowcapped mountains in the background
Front: Brian and Jackie. Back: Dax, Jack, Cameron, and Jacob.


Facilitating these conversations has become central to Pfeiffer’s work. “What do I want my legacy to be?” he reflected recently. “I want to be in jobs where I can try to create the strongest company so that it can provide opportunities for future kids who grew up like me, who never saw the world, never got a chance to experience other cultures. Now I’ve seen many countries on six continents. 

“How do I participate in setting up our business for a ton of success with a culture that pulls everybody along with it?” he continues. “Whether it’s a kid born in Appalachia or someone with a disability or a person who is nonbinary, whatever the situation is, I want them all to have a chance to come work here and have the same opportunity I had.”

Pfeiffer recognizes that he still has a lot to learn about what other people are going through, but all these experiences have helped him in one of his most important responsibilities: being a supportive father to his son. “If you would have asked us beforehand if we would have never chosen to go on this journey, we would have said absolutely not,” Pfeiffer says. “But if we think about our life now and what Jacob has brought to it and our compassion for other people, we are a much more resilient family, a much more interesting, much better family. And it’s just really opened our eyes.”

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GE Aerospace is a world-leading provider of jet and turboprop engines, as well as integrated systems for commercial, military, business and general aviation aircraft.