Interview by Lara Lillibridge
In Maeve Rising: Coming Out Trans in Corporate America DuVally pairs her struggles with alcoholism with her trans journey. We see the younger narrator struggle in juxtaposition to the emergence of Maeve. Truly a story of redemption, Maeve Rising inspires the reader to live out loud, in life and on the page. I was excited to ask Maeve a few questions prior to her book release August 15 with Sibylline Press.
A New York City resident, Maeve is an LGBTQ+ advocate; communications and diversity and inclusion consultant and a writer. She worked as a corporate spokesperson for Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch for twenty years and was a financial journalist previous to that. She is a frequent traveler to Japan where she lived for years. A frequent public speaker on workplace diversity, she serves on the board of multiple non-profits including GLAAD, Anchor Health Initiative, and Trans New York. She is a mentor to transgender people in corporations.
About the Book: In this searingly honest LGBTQ+ memoir, Maeve DuVally tells the story of coming out transgender in one of the most high-profile financial institutions in America, Goldman Sachs. DuVally intimately documents her struggle to be herself in this environment, initially keeping her identity a secret with wardrobe changes in the lobby bathroom after work. Eventually she declares herself and, to her surprise, Goldman Sachs embraces the effort. Surgery follows.
Before she found her courage, DuVally’s life was mired in depression and unconscious struggle. Raised in an Irish Catholic family with a sadistic pathologist father, her upbringing dropped her―already damaged and feeling separate―into an adulthood plagued by alcoholism. After a decade in Japan, she returns to the US and prospers as a journalist and bank communications specialist. Yet throughout, her personal life is in shambles, leaving two marriages and three children in her wake. At Goldman Sachs in New York, she ascends to a top communications position before her drinking begins to encroach upon her work.
Finally, DuVally hits bottom, becoming sober after a lifetime in and out of AA and rehab. Clear at last, she begins to understand the source of her lifelong struggle and takes the bold step to become the woman she is now.
Lara Lillibridge: I really enjoyed your structure–how you alternated between your journey to sobriety and awakening to your trans identity. How did you determine that this vacillating timeline was the best way to write your story?
Maeve DuVally: The book starts with what I call my gender awakening, which is a singularly significant moment in my life. It just seemed right to go back in time and describe what happened in my life to prepare me for that moment and weave that timeline through one that describes what happened from that moment on. Every time I edited the memoir, I felt relief when the two timelines merged toward the end of the book and continued forward as one.
LL: One thing that struck me as particularly unusual in your story, is that it was first told by other journalists–you came out publicly and with microphones in your face. Did that factor into your decision to write a memoir?
MDV: My public coming out certainly made me comfortable sharing intimate details about my life. I’ve never had a problem being brutally honest. What I was never able to do until recently is attach emotions to my life experiences.
LL: Can you tell us about your publishing journey? How did you wind up at Sibylline Press?
MDV: I’ve wanted to write a memoir and a piece of fiction for a very long time. In retrospect, I needed to wait until I got sober and came out trans before I could tell my story. Sibylline believed in my story and has provided excellent support for this first-time author.
LL: You were a journalist previously. How did writing the memoir differ?
MDV: Memoir writing is a much bigger undertaking than writing a news story. Life is so big and chaotic, it’s difficult sometimes to find an order and create a story with a narrative arc.
LL: You wrote,
I smiled inside and out, setting my intentions for the full moon: fortitude to immerse myself in writing; fortune to experience intimacy in my new body; and resolve to leave Goldman Sachs when the time was right.
I love how you manifested fortitude to immerse yourself in writing–it’s the perfect word I think.
What was the most challenging part of the process for you?
MDV: There is the discipline of writing regularly and like everybody else, I sometimes get blocked or I procrastinate. I’ve learned to power through that. But, more importantly, there is the daily challenge of believing in the value of the story and the value of the process to myself as a human being who is continually seeking to grow. If I can marshal those beliefs, it really doesn’t matter if the memoir is published.
“But, more importantly, there is the daily challenge of believing in the value of the story and the value of the process to myself as a human being who is continually seeking to grow. If I can marshal those beliefs, it really doesn’t matter if the memoir is published.”—Maeve DuVally
LL: As a member of the queer community and also a person who has family members in varying degrees of “outness,” another remarkable thing about your story was how all-in you were. Once you had your awakening, you came out to work and family pretty rapidly. It seemed to me an act of radical self-love–not torturing yourself any longer. I loved your quote:
I realized that I hadn’t just become Maeve. I had to keep becoming Maeve every tick of my life because she is not only an actual being, but also an idealized terminus that I would never reach.
Can you speak more about this?
MDV: The challenge for me was finally getting sober after decades of trying. Once that happened and I realized I was trans in relatively short order, my path forward in life has been relatively clear and well lit. I’ll never get to the end and will hopefully die still striving. There is a nobility to that.
LL: You wrote about the support system you have, do you have a comparable writing support system, or are you more of a solitary creator?
MDV: My natural tendency is to work alone. I showed an early version of the memoir to a good friend in 2020 and she told me what I already knew–it needed work. I then began working with a couple of people who run writing workshops. They really helped. It’s not advisable to do something for the first time in a vacuum.
LL: Your book comes out August 15th. What are you most looking forward to or apprehensive about with the release?
MDV: Having been a journalist and PR professional as well as an alcoholic in recovery, I’m a huge believer in the power of storytelling to inspire. I hope my book inspires queer people and drunks and addicts. I also hope that some who are wary of trans people might recognize the universality of my experience and be more open to accepting us. But, at the same time, I worry about harsh reactions from people who have been taught to hate us.
LL: Do you have any favorite authors or books that were formative for you?
MDV: I really like modern Japanese fiction that captures the absurdity of modern urban life. “Convenience Store Woman,” by Sayaka Murata is a good example. Haruki Murakami has been a huge inspiration, causing me to experiment with fantastical elements in the memoir and the novel I am now working on.
LL: Lastly, what is one piece of advice you’d give to an emerging writer struggling with writing their own story?
MDV: As I said earlier, recognize the value of a memoir in making sense of your life. The first draft of the memoir I wrote in 2020 was inherently different from the finished copy I turned in at the end of 2022. I was a different person than I was two years earlier and was therefore viewing my past life through a different lens.
LL: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Where can people find you on the internet?
MDV: There’s nothing like a book coming out to turn somebody who is not particularly self-promotional into a regular social media poster. I am active on LinkedIn and posting more on Facebook. I also have a website, maeveduvally.com.