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#41: Hold a Job Fair

One of the critical issues facing the transgender community is the high level of unemployment and underemployment. Workers may lose their jobs or be unable to move forward in their career because of the prejudice we encounter and the majority of Americans live in areas that are not covered by anti-discrimination laws that include gender identity and expression. One way you can help is to organize a Job Fair for the transgender community.

A job fair is an opportunity to bring together employers with potential employees; companies can recruit for their available positions and people can submit applications directly for a number of jobs. Job Fairs may also include workshops to help people gain job-hunting skills so they can find meaningful employment or you can hold workshops ahead of time so people can prepare for the job fair. A number of trans communities across the country have held successful events like this.

It is helpful to work together with others to plan and conduct the job fair. Involve a wide range of local trans organizations and people in planning the event. In addition to helping distribute the work load, this will help you include the diverse needs of the trans community in your planning. Contact the transgender organizations in your area as you start the planning process and to publicize it.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Find a convenient location-some options might be in a community center, school, religious community or government building. Explain the purpose of your event and see if they will waive any rental charges. You will need to arrange for tables and chairs so that employers can set out their information. Find a location that is convenient for people using public transportation and is accessible.

  • Contact the employment commission or office in your city or state; they may be willing to assist you. These agencies regularly conduct job trainings and may have resources you can use.

  • Invite employers to participate. You find information on the Human Rights Campaign website about employers who have non-discrimination policies that include gender identity and expression here: click here. You can choose to invite companies that have offices near you or those who do nationwide recruiting. Contact others businesses and non-profits in your area that you think might be interested in participating. Some businesses may also be willing to sponsor the job fair.

  • Consider holding workshops on topics like career planning, résumé development, and how to interview for jobs. Find local people who have expertise in these areas. You might hold workshops before or during the job fair.

  • Get the word out in the community; be sure to publicize your event widely by sending announcements to trans groups in your area. It is useful to create a flyer that groups can distribute to their members as well as sending around e-mails. Remember that people who are unemployed or underemployed may not have access to some technology (computers, cell phones, etc.) and so you will need to be sure you reach people through multiple means.

Having a steady job and a stable income can make an enormous difference in the quality of life a person experiences. Hire a trans person at your job or hold a job fair to help trans people find employment. Doing so will be a step towards ending one of the greatest challenges we face as a community.

#42. Support a Drag Community Event

All around the country, drag queens and kings are holding events that raise money for charities and provide an opportunity for creative gender identity and expression. Members of organizations such as the Imperial Court, with chapters in several countries, raise tens of thousands of dollars to support local, national and international causes. While drag kings and queens don't necessarily identify as transgender, they are part of the gender spectrum. This week, we suggest that you support a drag community event

In addition to being entertaining, drag queens and kings reflect their own individual personalities and genders. We talked to PJ Sedillo, who- as Fontana Devine- was Empress VI of the Imperial Court of the Sandias in New Mexico. PJ says of Fontana, "Everything that I would love to get away with as a man, but can't, she can do." He says being Fontana has given him new insights into what it is like to be a woman and she has her own personality and way of being in the world. Fontana goes on to comment, "Everyone has the ability to accessorize-a few rhinestones, marabou, sequins can add pizzazz; however, the best accessories a person can wear are hope, compassion and a passion for life." Drag isn't just about the clothes someone wears, but their attitude toward life. Sedillo was recently featured on the local news highlighting his life as both a public school teacher and a drag queen.To watch the clip click here

We encourage you to build bridges and form new alliances among other people who have a non-traditional gender expression. You might want to hold a joint event with a drag organization and a transgender group. If you are planning an event like Trans Unity or Trans Pride in your area, invite members of the drag community to participate in planning it.

To find a drag event in your area:

  • Visit the International Court website; they have information about the organization and a calendar of events happening all over the world

  • Do a web search for a local drag ball

  • Check with your local gay or lesbian bars-some of them host drag nights or shows

  • Visit the drag stage at your LGBT Pride Festival

So head out and support a drag event. You'll have a fun night of entertainment, give a little money to a good cause and support our many-gendered community.

#43: Engage Media Coverage of Transgender Issues

Media coverage of the transgender community can have an incredible impact on how people see us and how they feel about the need for transgender equality. Many people learn about transgender people from watching television or reading stories in the newspaper. One way we can influence how society views and understands our stories is to engage the media's coverage of transgender issues.

"The transgender community has the opportunity to share its images and stories for the media to draw upon in undoing years of our silence and invisibility," comments Andy Marra, chair of NCTE's Board of Directors and the Asian-Pacific Islander Media Manager for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). Helping people understand who we really are is critical to our movement.

Two resources that can help you with this are:

  • Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD): GLAAD's mission is working for fair and accurate coverage of people regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. You can find their website at www.glaad.org and their media style book here.

  • National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA): NLGJA's website includes information for journalists-both for and about LGBT people. Their toolkit has resources specifically covering transgender media representation and inclusion. www.nlgja.org

Here are some ideas for action:

  • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or call the News Director at your TV affiliate or local radio station when you see or hear either a positive or negative story in the media. Remember that reporters and editors need to be told when they get a story right as well as feedback about unhelpful or defamatory stories.

  • Help local reporters access copies of the Associated Press (AP) or GLAAD stylebook (which is a published guideline for reporters about appropriate language to use) about how to respectfully report on transgender people and issues.

  • Attend a training on how to work with the media. These types of media trainings are often hosted at local LGBT community centers and conferences.

  • If you are asked to give an interview, NCTE can help you prepare with the most current information on trans issues and with tips on how to have a successful and positive interview. Give us a call.

  • Pay attention to people and groups who oppose transgender equality; write letters to the editor in response to their transphobic comments in the media.

Do your part to help ensure that there are accurate and positive portrayals of transgender people in the media. Take action today!

#44: Conduct a Community Needs Assessment

How do we know what the community needs in services, advocacy and support? Often, we look at the challenges the community faces and jump right in to address them. But this doesn't always mean that we are getting it right or even addressing the most important issues first. One very important tool to use in making lasting and meaningful change for the community is to find out; so this week's idea is to conduct a community needs assessment.

Christopher Daley from the Transgender Law Center comments, "One of the first things we did when we launched TLC was conduct a legal needs assessment survey of community members. The data that came out of that survey shaped TLC's work because input from large numbers of community members about their needs and goals for the movement helps to make sure that the work we're doing is needed and authentic." He goes on to say, "Putting the data into a report or a fact sheet, like TransRealities, was also incredibly useful in making arguments with decision makers. Fresh data strongly supports our advocacy efforts for anti-discrimination laws and social change programs."

A community needs assessment is a big project and one that is most fruitful when you take the time to do it carefully and thoroughly. It can include things like studying what information already exists about the community, talking to leaders for their input, using surveys, holding focus groups and conducting town meetings or community forums where people can address the issues. It is critical that you find ways to reach as many segments of the community as possible, including people of color, younger and older people, people of differing gender identities etc. You may want to write a grant proposal so that you can use a consultant to assist you in this process.

Some resources to get you started are:

  • Community Toolbox, which is a project of the Work Group on Health Promotion and Community Development at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas This site has tons of resources for community based organizations, including information on how to do a needs assessment.

  • Laboratory for Community and Economic Development at the University of Illinois, which has a series of fact sheets on community development and needs assessment

  • Iowa State Extension: information on the types of assessment tools, with advantages and disadvantages for each one

What are the most pressing needs in your community? Considering conducting a needs assessment survey in your area and getting more information about where your activism is needed most.

#45: Vote!

On Election Day, across the country, a number of close races may be decided by just a handful of votes. At NCTE, we believe that being active in the political process is crucial to our movement for transgender equality and that every vote matters. Therefore, we have a very simple message for you this week: Vote!

Vote for whomever you choose, but do your part by going to the polls. NCTE has a Voter Resource with specific information to help transgender people overcome any obstacles they may encounter at the polls. You can view it here.

In most states, the deadline to register to vote has already passed. However, there are exceptions. There is no voter registration required in North Dakota; all residents are eligible to go to the polls. In the following states, you can still register on Election Day: IdahoMaineMinnesotaNew HampshireWisconsin and Wyoming. Click on the state name to go to the state government web page with more information.

#46: Start a discussion group on gender related books

There are so many ways that people explore questions related to gender and countless perspectives on the topic. Some of them are intriguing to us, while others might be ideas we don't easily understand. One way to expand our knowledge of transgender issues, while building community, is to start a discussion group on gender related books.

"When I was young, confused and ignorant, the only books I could find that seemed relevant to my condition were The Autobiography of Christine Jorgensen and The Transsexual Phenomenon by Dr. Harry Benjamin," notes Merri Banks, Vice-President of TGEA, the Trans Gender Education Alliance of Greater Washington. "Later, the internet provided a river of information, but mostly the river was a mile wide and an inch deep, with many switchbacks and backwaters, and navigating alone led to a lot of wrong turns. When my support group, TGEA of DC, started a book club, I was surprised to find the variety of books now available on Transgender topics, from biography to psychology to politics to literature. The club provided a framework to learn, discuss, and have fun along the way. My only regret is that we didn't start this when I was much younger."

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Find a convenient time and place to hold a book discussion. This can be in someone's living room or in a public place. Many bookstores, especially independent ones, will be glad to let you hold a book discussion in the store. They may also provide a discount to group members who purchase their copies of the book from them and may have a special shelf for book club selections (this means that members of other book clubs will also see gender related books). Public libraries may have a room where you can meet and sometimes display books being read by local book clubs.

  • Pick a book that lends itself to lively discussion for your first meeting; after that, decide on a selection process for the group to choose future readings. Include a variety of genres, including novels, non-fiction, etc. Consider articles and films in addition to full length books. Sometimes it is easier to get people to read a chapter or an article than a book.

  • Research a little bit about the book to provide group members with some background. Things to look for include a biography of the author, reviews of the book, and other titles by the same author. You can find much of this information on the internet and the reference librarian at your public library can also help you search.

  • Ask group members to prepare for the meeting by reading the selection and picking a passage to discuss or bringing 3 questions for the group. This will help people be active participants.

  • Prepare 10-15 open ended questions (ones that require more than a yes or no answer) so that you can keep the conversation flowing. Allow for spontaneity as long as the group is staying on topic. Pay attention to make sure that everyone has a chance to talk.

  • Provide time for discussion (usually about an hour) and time to socialize. Book discussion groups are great ways to build community and make new friends.

There are some excellent books out there on gender issues. Expand your mind and your community today by starting a book discussion group.

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