Profiles in IT: Pat Steffes—Trans advocate

Colette Keyser and Pat Steffes
Pat Steffes (right) and their partner, Colette Keyser. (Image courtesy Pat Steffes)

As a U-M Dearborn alumni and ITS Information Assurance (IA) senior software programmer analyst, Pat Steffes (they/them) applies their skills and passion to creating and leveraging inclusive technology, engaging in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts at U-M, and supporting the broader transgender community in cybersecurity. Pat is one of the 1.4 million adults in the US identifying as transgender and also identifies as non-binary. They recall growing up hearing about U-M fighting for racial diversity and the rights of marginalized groups, and knowing it was somewhere they wanted to be. After almost ten years of working on IA’s Identity and Access Management (IAM) team, Pat still feels immense gratitude for finding an inclusive environment and unconditional support within their team and by IA and ITS leadership.

Pat grew up in Livonia, Michigan, and attended a Catholic elementary school. The traditional environment gave Pat a profound understanding of the obstacles they would face as transgender. “Deep down, I knew that I was trans, and I understood that I had to be perfect if I was going to exist.” Though Pat didn’t begin their transition journey until several years after starting at U-M, they attribute their ability to come out as trans at work to the DEI efforts they witnessed in IA. “The IAM team was 50% female when I first joined, and the first training I received was a DEI course provided by IA. I also heard managers like Chris Hable, and IAM Director DePriest Dockins, consistently speaking about and acting on DEI initiatives.” In addition, Pat has been encouraged by the overall support for DEI by coworkers across ITS. “I’ve truly felt more supported by ITS and my coworkers’ efforts to use my chosen name and pronouns than some of the friends and relatives in my life.”

With many friends who cannot come out and are uncomfortable with changing their pronouns at work, Pat is dedicated to living authentically and paving the way for others to do so. Pat focuses much of their energy on inclusive technology supporting the LGBTQIA+ U-M community, including solutions that enable others to update their pronouns and preferred names in U-M-provided services. “It’s dehumanizing not to be called the name you identify with or have others use your chosen pronouns.” Pat also works with the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committees at ITS and co-presented at the 2022 Michigan IT Symposium on Leveraging Technology to Enable Inclusion, where they shared their experience and the importance of inclusive technology for marginalized groups.

Although Pat celebrates ITS’ commitment to DEI and the support they’ve received throughout their transition, they also recognize there’s still work to be done at U-M. Pat would like higher priority associated with DEI projects, including creating a single space to update identity information, such as Chosen Name, for all U-M systems and services. “My team sometimes has to reshuffle priorities to make room for important projects. That doesn’t happen with these DEI efforts, and I would like to see this be a priority now, instead of a future project.”

Pat and their partner live in Ypsilanti, share two dogs and two cats, and are very involved with the local LBGTQIA+ community. They also share a passion for supporting feminists and queer artists in the Metro Detroit area.

Refer to Diversity Equity and Inclusion to learn more about DEI efforts at U-M. For more information on IAM’s work, refer to Identity and Access Management. Finally, refer to Faculty and Staff Counseling and Consultation Office (FASCCO) if you need mental health care and emotional support, including confidential and professional counseling.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2023 Safe Computing Newsletter.

Author: Jennifer Wilkerson, School of Information

Jen is the project/change manager with School of Information. You can reach her at