Trans driver setting records at Uber

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Wednesday September 21, 2022
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Kerry Pryce, sitting behind the steering wheel of her car, has been driving for Uber since 2014. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Kerry Pryce, sitting behind the steering wheel of her car, has been driving for Uber since 2014. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Kerry Pryce has been driving for Uber since 2014. In that time she has clocked in more than 24,000 rides. A transgender woman, she has become a favorite in the Uber office, but Pryce just sees it as living her life.

"With more than 24,000 rides completed Kerry is not only a shining example of an outstanding driver, her perspective is essential to helping guide our team's efforts to build a more inclusive experience for all drivers," said Zahid Arab, Uber's communications and public affairs manager for the western U.S. "No matter what gender identity or expression, we strive to create a platform where drivers can live authentically and earn independently. We're committed to building a safe and inclusive platform, and are always listening, learning, and engaging with community members so we can better support those using Uber."

Pryce, 51, has lived an eventful life. During her pre-transition years she served in both the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard. She signed up for the Navy in 1991, the day after the first Gulf War started, and served on a carrier for two years. After that she worked as a cryptologist as an expert in the study of codes. This required top-secret clearance. She did this for eight years.

"I was stuck between a rock and a hard place because I had a young family," Pryce recalled during a recent interview. "I was straight back then. I reenlisted for six more years, which would put me at 16 years, and the wife said to me I'm going to separate from you and so we separated."

This was followed by her years in the Coast Guard. By then Pryce was living as a gay man and came out to her superiors. She was removed from the service because of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," a compromise that then-President Bill Clinton signed in 1993. It stated that military personnel were not to be asked about their sexual orientation and couldn't talk about it. But being LGBTQ in the service was still not permitted, and so for coming out Pryce was discharged. DADT was repealed in December 2010 and that formally went into effect in September 2011.

After the discharge Pryce moved with her partner, Michael, to San Francisco because he was from here and his mother wasn't doing well. November will mark 18 years since she left the service. (Pryce requested that Michael's last name not be used.)

"I did odd jobs here and there," she said. "I first worked for a friend of mine in the Castro for a few years as an executive assistant in a tax office. But my friend died of cancer, so I did security for awhile. That was around 2008, when the economy kinda tanked, so I stayed with security for six-and-a-half years or so."

In 2014 Pryce learned about Uber.

"I realized that it's easier for me to probably do this because I'm a prior veteran, I live in San Francisco, my medical is paid for and I just need a car," she said. "And so I put those three items together and said, 'If I qualify for a car, I'm going to do this.' I got qualified for a car on my own and, before I knew it, I was in business."

Pryce added that her customer service experience paid off, and that she did very well as an Uber driver. After about 22 days on the job, she had a person from Uber corporate in her car.

"You have a 4.88 rating 22 days in," said the executive. Pryce said that she replied by bemoaning the fact that her rating wasn't a five.

"The average is 4.62," the executive said, "so keep doing what you're doing."

Eight years later Pryce said that her rating was 4.99. She expects her rating to go up to five.

In 2017 Pryce, who continued to do quite well with Uber, realized that she still wasn't happy. During a visit to her VA doctor for her annual check-up, she found herself asking about the policy on hormones.

"That kinda threw me off," she said, "because I heard myself say that."

The doctor told her that the VA hospital had a "great" policy on hormones and that there was a transgender veteran's meet-up group that very night, she said.

"And I attended it," she recalled. "That was a critical part for me because I was confused with things in life and I didn't know why everything was going on. That helped me understand what was missing the whole time."

At the age of 46 Pryce underwent a great deal of therapy and also had discussions with people. She realized that she was transgender. At the age of 47, on her birthday, she began her transition.

"And I have never had any regrets," she said. "But the difference was that here I am driving for Uber and I thought I'd be discriminated against, and I was not. Because I got to live my true self, finally my rating went up even higher."

Pryce has since participated in a panel on safety for women Uber drivers.

Pryce's transition was totally accepted by her biological father, but her mom and stepfather weren't as accepting at first. Fortunately, when her stepfather passed on, their relationship was on the mend. She is now very close with her mom and has come out to her children.

"My daughter, who is now 30, she lives in Idaho, same as my son," she said. "My daughter was pro dad being gay, no problem. So I thought she would be OK with me being transgender. It took a little bit of time, but now she's fine. But my son, who was raised by his mother, never really accepted it. He said that he's not thrilled about it but that he can't deny my happiness. And so that's where we're at with him. When I transitioned, everyone around me transitions. I understand that. I've had a lot of support here in the Bay Area."

Pryce is still with Michael. The couple are now engaged to be married. Michael did want to comment for this story.

"He supported me," said Pryce. "It's a companionship, it's cool. He's been there the whole time. When I found out about the transgender meet-up group, he said, 'Go check it out.' He supported me through all that. On my 50th birthday I got down on one knee in a dress and make-up and heels and asked him to marry me, and he said, 'Yes, of course I'll marry you.' So he was awesome. We just don't have a date yet."

Pryce continues to drive for Uber. She said that what she likes best about it is that she gets to meet people from all over the world.

"I have great conversations with those who want to talk," she said. "I provide a service. I like to focus on the quality of the ride, not the quantity of the ride."

Pryce added that she likes the climate of San Francisco, the people, the street fairs — the upcoming Folsom Street Fair is a favorite of hers — and the business that she's in.

"I feel safer here," she said.

She offers advice to anyone thinking about transitioning.

"First and foremost, pick out a therapist," she said. "Because it's important that it be a therapist that deals with transgender issues. A regular therapist from my limited experience doesn't work, because they're not going to understand because they haven't had the training. Get the therapy and get the knowledge to make certain it works for you. Weigh your options, and then if it's right to transition, go for it."

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