Transgender Day of Remembrance Blog – Transwork: Economic Development in the Transgender Community

Transgender people successfully work in a variety of professions, including serving in our military (photo: KOTA News)

Please do check out several additional useful links at the bottom of this blog!

Each year on or near November 20th, many communities hold their Transgender Day or Remembrance (link to information from GLAAD), or TDOR, as it is often called, an annual memorial ceremony held for transgender people who have lost their lives to violence in the prior year. But certainly, any kind of remembrance should also spur people to take action to assist those who are living. There are still a high proportion of transgender people dealing with severe economic hardship.

In Philadephia, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce affiliate chapter, the Independence Business Alliance, is kicking off “Transwork,” an innovative solution to address this issue.


THE ISSUE: 29% of transgender people are living in poverty compared to 14% of the general US population, and the trans unemployment of 15% is 3 times the national average. 30% of trans people have been fired, denied a promotion, or harassed in the workplace due to their gender identity. Transgender people, traditionally under-employed and after several bad experiences, start to distrust programs and institutions. And in going into interviews, criminal records, former incarceration, and conflicting names and gender markers on identity documents further complicates gaining employment.


AN INNOVATIVE SOLUTION: The Transwork program actually has three components:

1. Assisting trans and non-binary folks to prepare for the job market through a job board, job fairs, supportive vocational services, resume / interviewing coaching and a resume bank.

2. Training employers and workforce development providers to provide safe, effective and culturally competent environments.

3. Promoting trans entrepreneurship as another viable alternative to working for an organization.

Transgender woman Martine Rothblatt, CEO of United Therapies and former CEO of SiriusXM, is the highest paid CEO in the country. But she is a rare exception to the rule of the underemployment of skillful transgender people. (photo by Andre Chung)

And what is really fantastic is that the Philadelphia team wants to share this program with everyone. They are currently packaging the methodology to share with other National LGBT Chamber local affiliates so they can launch a similar program themselves!


CURRENT STATUS: The website has now launched; check out https://transwork.org/ for a lot more details. They are developing a first-phase resume bank, working on recruiting and training employers, and plan to conduct a pilot employment program in the coming year. They have just launched the entrepreneurship part of the program, including workshops about trans business ownership, assistance with NGLCC business certification, and mentorship. They will be preparing a toolkit for other locations around the country to implement similar programs. You can contact the Transwork team through their website.

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Other related blogs and an organizational self assessment: Please check out these additional related blogs and tools below:

The Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer’s 12 question organizational transgender readiness self-assessment

Affinity Magazine article, “Seven Steps to Supporting Transgender Employees in the Workplace”

My editorial blog, “Yet One More Way to Oppress Transgender Americans.”

2016 Transgender Day of Remembrance – Guest Blog by transgender business leader and consultant Elaine Martin

2016 Transgender Day of Remembrance – Guest Blog by Elaine Martin

The Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, November 20, started in 1999, about a year after Rita Hester, a transgender woman and activist in Boston, was found murdered in her own apartment.

The Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, November 20, started in 1999, about a year after Rita Hester, a transgender woman and activist in Boston, was found murdered in her own apartment.

I have cried enough at TDOR memorials. The Transgender Day of Remembrance, or TDOR, as it is often called, is an annual memorial ceremony held on November 20th for transgender people who have lost their lives to violence in the prior year. Most major cities have TDOR memorials that occur at sundown, or later, so that the memorial candles can burn in the darkness. There is no formal protocol for this memorial which is fitting to the diverse ways in which Transgender people lead their lives. However, a benediction and “the reading of the victims’ names” is most common to all. Most often, the dreadful methods by which they lost their lives is mentioned as well. These are read by the assemblers as they progress around a circle.

If you are Jewish and have visited the US Holocaust Museum, or if you are Black and have visited the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, or a Veteran at the Arlington National Cemetery or many other museums that memorialize the persecution or loss of lives by people just like you, then you have some sense of the emotions at TDOR memorial ceremonies.

The 2012 Transgender Day of Remembrance held at the Old State Capitol Building in Raleigh

The 2012 Transgender Day of Remembrance held at the Old State Capitol Building in Raleigh

At first, you just listen. The setting is somber. It’s a memorial after all. But, ever so slowly you begin to shiver in the dark. Your sense of the victims’ struggling in futility to survive, their hopelessness at being overwhelmed by their vicious attacker, their knowledge that they were losing their lives, wells up and overcomes you. These are your sisters, brothers and everybody in-between. All gender non-conforming people who did nothing more than live their lives as best they could, just as you do. And, then the emotion breaks through. Your cheeks are wet, and you are sobbing. Your tummy is tight and you look around the circle and see parents, allies, and families who have assembled in remembrance of the losses they have personally experienced. They are sobbing too. And, so, there is a sense of comradery in sharing the grief that is at the same time comforting and disturbing that we must experience this together.

Yes, I realize that there are all kinds of victims of all types of violent crime. But, these are people just like me; victims of a crime targeted out of fear, bigotry, and prejudice. These are crimes and victims known by very few that rarely are solved, leaving murders on the streets to victimize people, just like me, again.

I have cried enough at TDOR memorials.

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Elaine Martin is a transgender activist / speaker, a former board chair of EqualityNC, retired banking executive, and former business owner who has joined Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer to provide deep expertise around organizational transgender diversity and transitioning employee coaching. She can be contacted at [email protected]