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WeHo Business leaders combating transphobia in the workplace

Trans Can Work and West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, partners in visibility

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Attendees at Sep. 20 Small Business Cultural Diversity Certification Training Lunch and Learn. (Photo by Marcelo M. Smith)

As the visibility of transgender people and concept awareness of gender fluidity increases, a little education could go a long way.

Employers, friends and family or just ordinary strangers may not intend to question authenticity or be disrespectful by unintentionally misgendering people, but doing so can have a tremendous negative impact on the life of the misgendered person. For employers and businesses it can also be disruptive economically.

The West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, hoping to champion change among the merchants and employer community in the area, has partnered with TransCanWork, an advocacy organization for transgender people in the workplace, to help strategize and promote best practices around transgender and gender non-conforming employee issues, centered largely around language and inclusion. The partnership also hopes to address consumer issues.

On Thursday September 20, about 75 people gathered at the West Hollywood Library for a Cultural Diversity Certification Training seminar where participants learned new information on gender inclusivity and policies that aims to ensure a more productive and inclusive workplace.

Training focused on gender terminology, gender non-binary recruitment documents, identified ‘do’s and don’ts’ employers might encounter when interacting with different gender identities, focusing on ways to properly employ potential hires, retain transitioning employees and avoid discriminating.

Simply adding a line to employment record and application form that ask for a person’s prefered name in addition to their legal name and their prefered pronoun, for instance, can make all the difference, establishing an affirming environment from the beginning.

You can’t always know what someone’s pronouns are by looking at them. Asking and correctly using someone’s pronouns is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their gender identity, for instance, was the premise of one portion of the presentation.

When someone is referred to with the wrong pronoun, it can make them feel disrespected, invalidated, dismissed, alienated, or dysphoric ( often all of the above).

Role playing. (Photo by Marcelo M. Smith)

“It’s really a privilege to not have to worry about which pronoun someone is going to use for you based on how they perceive your gender. If you have this privilege, yet fail to respect someone else’s gender identity, it is not only disrespectful and hurtful, but also oppressive,” said Rebekah Salvatore, who traveled from her home in Palm Springs for the event. “Teaching that basic thing to businesses is important.”

Attendees ranged from business owners, managers, and human resource employees of different identities and backgrounds to engage in an interactive training.

Live multiple choice surveys, group open discussion and questions challenged the knowledge of the participants in between informative videos and slideshow presentations.

“The transgender community is incredibly diverse, identities can be fluid and ever changing.” said Rex Wilde, director of training at TransCanWork who identifies as gender non-binary and whose preferred pronoun is ’they.’

“Depending on what room I’m in people will identify me as male” said Wilde while explaining how many cultures internationally identify a third gender while the United States does not.

The first presenter was Michaela Mendelsohn, a transgender woman who is Chief Executive Officer of several El Pollo Loco restaurants. Mendelsohn founded TransCanWork to combat transphobia and discrimination in the workplace.

“The positive business case for hiring from the trans and non binary community has never been greater.” said Mendelsohn.

“Most of our trans employees came to us after struggling to receive fair treatment at previous jobs and or had trouble finding work because of their transgender status.”

In their presentation Wilde sought to address those concerns, educating on appropriate interaction, how to replace outdated and offensive language, use of preferred terms, and the seriousness of what it means to be an ally to trans people those who identify differently on the non-binary spectrum.

“For me (the focus on businesses) is about alliedship. As a trans person, it’s about helping out our cisgender brothers and sisters (cis-ters), we respect each others backgrounds.” said Drian Juarez West Coast Program Manager for Grindr.

One business owner, who requested anonymity said he was ready “to take these suggestions back to the hotel and make changes from A-Z.” When pressed he said “It’s just good customer service to have happy employees who feel respected and in the hospitality business that feeling is transcendent. Our employees will undergo pronoun and interaction training immediately.”

Andrea Nunn, Sr. VP of Corporate & Member Relations with the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce says she has a deeper appreciation of the work that needs to be done. “For the transgender community to be experiencing an unemployment rate of 15% is tragic, particularly when the national average is at historical lows. We must come together as a community and break down implicit biases to ensure all those who can and want to work have the opportunity to thrive and prosper. Our communities, as well as our businesses, are stronger when they are inclusive and diverse,” she said.

In a video promotion for TransCanWork, Drian sums up the significance of the work: “Part of this training is being ok with what you are not familiar with. The most important thing is to have an open attitude. The goal is to respect people’s identity and create a safe working environment for them,”

There was a sense of accomplishment in the room that was evident as the event concluded with a photo of attendees behind a giant certification of completion.

Genevieve Morrill says the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerces will be working hard to promote the ideas and lessons of the event, noting that the event was as much about justice as it was about economic stability. “It’s the right for businesses. It’s the right thing for people. It’s just the right thing all around.”

This article will be updated.

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The White House

Los Angeles to host Summit of the Americas in June

The U.S. will host the Ninth Summit of the Americas in LA in June 2022 focused on “Building a Sustainable, Resilient, & Equitable Future”

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President Joe Biden (Official White House photo by Adam Schultz)

WASHINGTON – The White House announced Tuesday that Los Angeles has been chosen by the Biden administration to host this year’s Summit of the Americas, the institutionalized gatherings of the heads of state and government of the Western Hemisphere.

The Summit of the Americas is where leaders discuss common policy issues, affirm shared values and commit to concerted actions at the national and regional level to address continuing and new challenges faced in the Americas.

The United States will host the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles in June 2022 with a focus on “Building a Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Future” for the Western hemisphere.

The vital national interests of the United States are inextricably bound to the fortunes of our closest neighbors in the Americas. To that end, the ability of our democracies to close the gap between what we promise and what we deliver depends in no small part on what we do, together, to make it better,” President Biden said in his statement.

“The Summit of the Americas is the only hemisphere-wide convening of leaders from the countries of North, South, and Central America and the Caribbean. U.S. leadership in the Summit process underscores our deep and historical commitment to the people of the Western Hemisphere as well as our commitment to realizing the Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative,” the statement said.

“Working with the city of Los Angeles, Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti, and Governor of California Gavin Newsom, the United States looks forward to convening leaders and stakeholders across the hemisphere to advance our shared commitment to economic prosperity, security, human rights, and dignity,” the statement added.

U.S. officials hope will help mend diplomatic fences in the Western Hemisphere, officials familiar with the decision told the Los Angeles Times.

The administration is expected to cite the city’s “deep and robust” ties throughout the hemisphere as one of the reasons it was selected, according to a White House official speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter ahead of the formal announcement.

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Ohio

Marriage equality plaintiff Obergefell running for Ohio state legislature

Obergefell was the plaintiff seeking marriage rights that led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in 2015 for same-sex marriage nationwide

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Jim Obergefell (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

SANDUSKY, Oh. – Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the litigation that ensured same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide, announced on Tuesday he’d pursue a new endeavor and run for a seat in the state legislature in his home state of Ohio.

“You deserve a representative who does the right thing, no matter what. You deserve a representative who fights to make things better for everyone,” Obergefell said. “I’ve been part of a national civil rights case that made life better for millions of Americans. Simply put, I fight for what’s right and just.”

Obergefell, who claims residency in Sandusky, Ohio, is seeking a seat to represent 89th Ohio District, which comprises Erie and Ottawa Counties. A key portion of his announcement was devoted to vowing to protect the Great Lakes adjacent to Ohio.

“We need to invest in our Great Lake, protect our Great Lake, and make the nation envious that Ohio has smartly invested in one of the greatest freshwater assets in the world,” Obergefell said.

Obergefell was the named plaintiff in the consolidated litigation of plaintiffs seeking marriage rights that led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in 2015 for same-sex marriage nationwide. Obergefell was widower to John Arthur, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and was seeking the right to be recognized as his spouse on his death certificate. The ruling in the consolidated cases ensured same-sex couples would enjoy the full benefits and responsibilities of marriage.

“We should all be able to participate fully in society and the economy, living in strong communities with great public schools, access to quality healthcare, and with well-paying jobs that allow us to stay in the community we love, with the family we care about,” Obergefell said in a statement on his candidacy.

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Arizona

Arizona lawmakers and activists push back against anti-LGBTQ bills

Arizona is no stranger to anti-LGBTQ bills. In 2020 lawmakers sent an anti-LGBTQ education bill to Republican Gov. Ducey’s desk- he vetoed it

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Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs hung Trans & LGBTQ+ Pride flags on the balcony of the historic state Capitol building on Friday, June 28, 2019. Courtesy of Arizona Secretary of State’s Office

PHOENIX – Political leaders and activists in Arizona are sounding the alarm bells over nearly a dozen anti-LGBTQ bills introduced by Republican lawmakers in the state legislature. 

The discriminatory bills – totaling nine to date, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) – mirror much of the anti-LGBTQ bills introduced last year around the country, in what was a record year for legislation attacking the LGBTQ community, particularly trans people. 

Three of the bills – Senate Bill 1130, which would ban gender-affirming care for minors, Senate Bill 1165, an anti-trans sports bill, and House Bill 2112, which could prohibit the teaching of racism and sex discrimination – are set for committee meetings this week. 

Senate Bill 1130 was introduced by Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers, who, as the Blade reported last year, is an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump and a member of the far-right anti-government militia organization Oath Keepers.

Other bills would limit gender markers on official documentation to only “male” and “female,” make educators only use incorrect pronouns for students if it differs from their birth certificate and force students to get written permission to join clubs involving gender identity or sexuality. 

“This is an attack on human rights,” said Arizona state Rep. César Chávez, chairman of the Arizona LGBTQ Legislative Caucus, at a press conference hosted by the HRC. “We’re criminalizing individuals for being who they are. On top of that, we’re criminalizing doctors and health care workers, individuals that are doing their job.”

Sponsors of these bills say that they will benefit their communities and protect women and children. However, Chávez accused the Republican party of wanting to “attack our youth and those individuals who identify as LGBT+.” 

Lizette Trujillo, a parent of a trans child in Tucson, Arizona, detailed the toll that the proposed legislation takes on her son and her family. 

“Legislators in our state are wielding their power to leverage the most vulnerable youth in our state to further their political careers,” she said, adding: “This causes irreparable harm on the transgender community.” 

She also had an urgent message for members of her community: “Help us stop power-hungry legislators in this blatant attack,” she said. “Help us stop our government from using parents like me and kids like mine as their political pawns. Transgender kids exist – protect them, believe them, support them and affirm them.

Trujillo, who is also a member of the HRC Foundation’s Parents for Transgender Equality National Council, has become accustomed to the fight for her son’s rights. In 2019, the HRC featured her for “leading the charge” for LGBTQ-inclusive education within the Tucson Unified School District. 

Arizona is no stranger to anti-LGBTQ bills. Last year, state lawmakers sent an anti-LGBTQ education bill to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk. But he ended up vetoing the bill, calling it “broad and overly vague.” 

Now, pro-LGBTQ lawmakers and activists in the state are readying to push back against such legislation. 

According to Bridget Sharpe of HRC Arizona, the group plans to show up to the statehouse and testify against the anti-LGBTQ legislation. She said that is the best way to get results. They will make their first appearance Thursday, where Trujillo will be a speaker. 

Chávez wants to have conversations with his colleagues across the aisle, noting that it has “become a rarity here in the Arizona State Legislature,” but that they are “very meaningful.”

“I will say that it’s going to take political will from my Republican colleagues to be able to vote against these bills,” he said.

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