As the calendar flips from December to January and another new year begins, I find myself – like I am sure many of you are – in a very reflective place. Personally speaking, 2022 was quite a year of travel for my wife Mari and I. We traveled to places we had always hoped to visit – but were postponed from going to due to the pandemic. Spain, Greece, Italy, and Croatia each had their own unique sense of place and moments of awe-inspiring magic.
As we explored each place, we never shied away from being visible and being our authentic selves. As two transwomen we have a firm grasp of who we are and as we interacted with locals and travelers of all types we always know, that in one way or another, outreach comes along for the ride. We do not shy away from it, but rather embrace it wholeheartedly. I have long believed that you get back only what you put out into the world, and when you lead with authenticity and positivity that is what the universe gives back to you in return. And that is precisely what happened throughout our time in Europe and on our transatlantic cruise ship crossing back home. It helped to create a sense of community with our fellow cruisers – many of whom happened to be Bears! My hope is that by spending some time with us they felt the same sense of connectedness in our shared humanity that we did.
It was also a year where I was able to help several firms further their inclusion initiatives through my training programs and consulting work and by being given the opportunity to tell the story of my journey to my authentic self to their employees. It demonstrated for me, once again, that our stories possess incredible power to change hearts, minds, and souls.
And speaking of changing hearts and minds, I am ever grateful that my book has continued to reach more individuals than I could ever imagine. It warms my heart to know that many have benefited from its tales of strength, perseverance, and hope. It was never my intent to publish a New York Times bestseller (although that would have been nice!). But rather, it was always about being able to help those that were searching for guidance and support for their own life journeys in whatever measure they needed.
The vagaries of the publishing business being what they are, I find myself at the start of this year in search of a new publisher so that I can ensure my book remains in print and continues to help those that can benefit from it most: transgender and gender diverse individuals of all stripes as well as those managers of people, DEI professionals, and the like. I believe it can continue to touch the lives of many if given the proper platform. In addition, I have much more to share about what I have learned with respect to the roles privilege and vulnerability play in the evolution of cultures in organizations of all sizes and I seek a forum on which to do that.
So, I humbly ask that if any of you reading this can assist me in that endeavor by introducing me to individuals in your network who are in the publishing industry I would be beyond grateful.
Finally, along with reflection comes discernment, and I have discerned plenty in 2022. I have purposely and intentionally devoted a good deal of time to understanding how my voice can continue to contribute to the future of the transgender/gender-diverse inclusion movement. The new year marks my 19th year of doing what I do, and I have arrived at a place where whatever work I take on it is because I want to, rather than because I need to. And that is no small realization for me as I have often struggled with what comes next – and what does that look like.
To be sure, there are plenty of younger voices in today’s movement who bring a much different point of view to the table. I have seriously considered the possibility that perhaps it is time for me to step aside and let them carry us into the future. But if I am honest with myself, I am not quite ready to do that. There is far too much hate, falsehoods, and misinformation being heaped upon my community, and God only knows what waits for us in the new year given the dynamic political landscape in this country. The only way we combat that and shape the narrative to an honest and true place is by using a multitude of voices collectively speaking truth to power. And that is a collective that I have always been proud to lend my voice to, in whatever manner feels right for me.
Be kind to each other and I wish each of you a Happy, Healthy, and Peaceful 2023.
Beyond honored to be on the #linkedintopvoices list with such wonderfully important voices for the LGBTQ+ community. Especially, my friends and colleagues in the movement, Celia Sandhya Daniels and Fabrice C Houdart. Collectively, all of you make such a profound difference in the lives of so many and I am grateful to be in your company. Let’s go change the world together!
With Transgender Day of Visibility here once again, I find myself thinking a lot about the word vulnerability. At one of my most recent speaking engagements I challenged the audience with this question, “What is your relationship with vulnerability?” I’m willing to bet that for many of you reading this, that is something that you rarely think about – because why would you in the first place? You may find yourself in the fortunate position of being gainfully employed, with a roof over your head and food in the cupboard. So why would a concept like vulnerability ever enter your stream of consciousness? The simple answers to these questions are that you wouldn’t – probably never. And judging by the collective “Hmmmm” sound the audience made I doubt they had too.
The exact opposite, however, is true for far too many transgender people who choose to be visible in our society. By being visible as their authentic selves they risk being vilified by those who choose hate and fear over knowledge and allyship. And for transwomen of color, this can be particularly dangerous, leading to being victims of violence at alarming levels. Everywhere we turn it seems as though there is another anti-trans bill being rushed through conservative-led statehouses that seek nothing more than to eradicate the existence of transgender people of all ages.
But what choice is there? To remain silent and shuttered away never to be seen in public is simply not an option. Yes, we are different – and if you stop long enough to listen to the stories of our journeys to our authentic selves, trust me, you’ll be moved because they are powerful beyond measure.
But there’s another side to vulnerability that I’d like to bring to your attention. As we begin to change the narrative that seeks to position my entire community as a political wedge issue it is vitally important that we have ever-increasing numbers of allies by our side, standing in solidarity with our quest for equality and inclusion. And at the very core of allyship is education. I have learned over 17 years of talks and trainings that for learning to truly happen, one must allow themselves to be vulnerable. To say to yourself, or out loud, “I don’t know everything, but I’m willing to learn.” It is at that precise moment that the heart, the mind, and the soul open and allows teaching to take hold.
By being intentional about learning and allowing that experience to fuel our allyship is how we begin to move the needle on equality and inclusion for transgender individuals of all stripes and all ages. It can be a truly transformative experience – if you let it. And that’s something to consider not just on the Transgender Day of Visibility, but every day of the year.
Earlier this year, I was honored to be voted in as the first President of the Board of Directors for an organization that is near and dear to my heart – TransNewYork. Beginning at the conference in New York City that she organized back in 2019 that I had the privilege of speaking at, Executive Director Dr. Genn Herley and I have become good friends as well as collaborators on addressing the myriad needs of the transgender and gender expansive community. It is an honor for me to be working closely with a dedicated group of committed board directors that share my vision for a better world for trans and non-binary people.
The Mission Statement of the organization tells you all you need to know about why I have chosen to bring my energy and experience to its work:
TransNewYork’ mission is to educate, empower, and enhance the lives of Transgender, Gender Non-conforming and Non-binary Individuals globally through advocacy, community visibility, human and social services, advance knowledge, and lifelong learning development of self.
Please consider supporting TransNewYork, especially with a monthly sustaining donation and help us achieve our vision of being acknowledged as the organization of choice for transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary communities in the City of New York, the surrounding Metropolitan area, and nationally. Thank You!