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.

* * * * * * *

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.

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.

* * * * *

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