Explore transgender diversity through a cool one-woman show!

JJ Marie Gufreda spends time at the piano composing more songs about her experience as a transgender woman.

I am a big proponent of transporting people out of their daily lives through the performing arts to give them a fresh prospective on societal issues, and have written a few blogs on this subject (see list and links at the bottom of this blog.) I am also a diversity and inclusion consultant and trainer, and one area I often consult in is around policies and best practices to support transgender employees. (Link to my 12 question transgender organization self-assessment.)

Now let’s bring these two areas together!

Since the transgender topic is so often misunderstood and even frightens some people, one ideal way to educate people in a more lighthearted way is via the performing arts. You can credit much of the advancement in terms of gay and lesbian acceptance to the portrayal in televisions and movies, and now the performing arts can also help made strides in the transgender area.

So I would like to introduce an incredible transgender woman and business associate, JJ Marie Gufreda. JJ realizes that often, deeply personal views are not changed by logical arguments, but instead via human interaction, personalizing the discussion, and through humor. JJ delivers her 90-minute show, “Left-Hander in London – The Earthquake,” with a tongue-in-cheek style and uses sarcasm and music to share her experiences as a transgender woman.

The show is edgy and thought provoking. She talks about family, business, religion and politics from her personal perspective. JJ believes, that if this show, which includes original music and songs, can get people to laugh a little and connect as humans, we can then make progress towards positive change.

JJ Marie often engages her audience in dialogue following her show.

This show is ideal for a variety of venues, including businesses, community organizations, schools, and even churches that want to start or deepen a discussion on understanding and treating transgender people fairly. The show can be used to launch a discussion and create a safe space where all people can honestly dialogue about diversity topics and their personal views.

So, for your organization, consider transporting everyone from the typical presentation and training into this fantastic one-woman production that can truly open eyes and hearts.

For more information, check JJ’s updated website at https://www.crossdreamers.com/2019/04/left-hander-i-london.html or contact her at [email protected]

Below are some words directly from JJ, and links to some of my related blogs.

From JJ Marie: Diversity can be a difficult topic to discuss in corporations. What is the real organizational benefit to improving diversity and including minorities? Many organizations have made public statements and have visible initiatives for diversity in their employees, suppliers and customers. But not everyone in the organization may agree with a company’s efforts to improve diversity and inclusiveness. Society is certainly divided about diversity. If an employee shares his or her (negative) feelings about diversity, minorities or any related topics, they may be risking their job. Incongruence between corporate and personal views can cause problems in the organization – especially when even discussing these topics can lead to people losing their jobs.

Since the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same sex marriage, the fight for LGBTQ rights has focused on transgender people and issues, making JJ’s story relevant as it relates to all minorities. Her experiences from 30+ career in facilitation, speaking, training and consulting can be helpful in assessing real progress in diversity, helping people to positive discourse regarding diversity and assisting a company improve operations and the bottom line because of their diversity programs and policies. Just as it is strategically important for a transgender employee to be able to safely and comfortably transition at work, it is critically important to help employees improve their attitudes around people that are different from them. JJ and her consulting colleagues can use experience to help employees, management and the company improve in these areas.

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Links to related blogs about social issues being addressed through the performing arts:

“A great diversity experience – Theater Breaking Through Barriers” about enjoying an off-Broadway play in New York City which featured actors with a wide range of disabilities.

“Promoting Diversity and Inclusion Through Bluegrass Music,” is about an innovative annual concert called “Shout and Shine” of diverse Bluegrass musicians. This celebration came about in 2016 as a direct response to North Carolina’s oppressive HB2 “bathroom bill” discriminating against our LGBT citizens.

I introduce the Justice Theater Project, a social justice theater company whose mission is to produce compelling theater experiences that create community dialogue and give voice to social concerns through my blog “The Justice Theater Project – Societal Impact Through the Performing Arts.”

A two part blog featuring a mother / daughter – director / actress pair using theater to make a positive impact in England. Link to part 1 which then contains a link to part 2.

Diversity and Inclusion – does it divide us or unify us?

As a diversity and career development consultant since forming my business in 2010 after retiring from IBM, I have been publishing 2-4 blogs each month, many of them about a wide range of diversity topics.
• I have discussed that racism still does indeed exist in “Facing the Truth – Racism Stills Persists in the USA.”
• I offered some hard-hitting solutions to addressing gender discrimination and sexual harassment in “Five Provocative Recommendations to Address Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.”
• I had assistance from members of diverse communities to assist with blogs addressing negative stereotypes of Muslims and Hispanics in our country. The blog Five Common Misconceptions of Muslims in the USA introduces the Muslim topic and has links to additional blogs. And then also look up Seven Misconceptions or Stereotypes of Hispanic People.
• The LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Community continues to be misunderstood and maligned by a huge number of Americans, including legislators, and I have written extensively on this topic.

And there are many other areas of diversity that grab our attention: Veterans, People with Disabilities, Diversity of Thought, and even straight white men are part of our diversity mix that adds valuable perspectives and variety.

But what concerns me are the negative comments and misunderstandings about diversity and inclusion. Last week, I wrote “Economic Diversity and a Sad Tale of Misused Privilege,” addressing the recent scandal that hit the news about affluent Americans using wealth to cheat and bribe their children’s admissions into top colleges they may not qualify for. I normally promote each blog on my business Facebook page, and invariably, several people will post negative reactions, often decrying diversity.

This blog was no exception. One reader wrote, “We need to dump all this “diversity” horse crap, it’s not working and only creates more strife. Focus on unity instead, what do we have in common? You should also quit whining about “privilege”. Life is what it is, and crying because someone else has it easier won’t change a damn thing. Do what you can with what you’ve got and you will be much more content with your life.”

At least he did not call me names, bully me and use four or five expletives like many people do. But I felt compelled to reply.

Appreciating each person’s diversity shouldn’t divide us … it unifies us and makes us stronger!

Like many, he misunderstands the value and intent of diversity and inclusion. Focusing on diversity is not meant to divide us, but instead to raise the awareness that every single person is unique and different, and brings value to our society. Embracing differing views, ways of thinking, creativity and talents will build a stronger, richer entity; whether it be our country, community, or business. Learning to understand the challenges various people face and assisting everyone in overcoming these challenges will make everyone stronger. I shared with this reader one of IBM’s diversity taglines, “None of us is as a strong as all of us.”

I do hope that everyone can stop, take a breath, and open their hearts and minds to understanding that appreciating and leveraging the diversity of each person will enhance our lives as individuals, as communities, as nations, and indeed as all humanity. The diversity and inclusion discussion is not a “we vs. them” but an “all of us together” discussion.

Peace, Shalom, Namaste!