Being “Out” Is Now In

| Sep 12, 2016
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For a community that suffers from widespread discrimination in employment, it is notable and applauded when “out” transgender people are hired and thrive in mainstream, or non LGBT related jobs. This summer we’ve seen two well known and successful transgender women leave secure mainstream jobs to pursue direct full time employment in fields of their part time transgender advocacy.

Jillian T. Weiss

Jillian T. Weiss

Jillian (Jill) T. Weiss, who I met in New York city in the late nineties as Todd Weiss was a young up and coming “published” attorney who was beginning to explore life as Jill. Jill could not find a job as a lawyer and could only find work as a legal secretary. She went back to school, earned her PhD in 2004 and in that year joined the ranks of academia at Ramapo State College of New Jersey rising to rank of full Professor of Law and Society! Her research area is transgender workplace law and policy and she is widely acknowledged as an expert by her writings and actual practice in the workplace and courtroom.

In 2012 she became the first Transgender Board member of Lambda Legal and as such has carried a large caseload of volunteer work in her field.

This summer she decided to make a career move and go “all in” for Transgender legal equality and justice. On July 12, 2016, The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) announced the appointment of Jillian T. Weiss as its new Executive Director and first Trans Leader succeeding Michael Silverman who founded that organization in 2003.

Melissa Sklarz

Melissa Sklarz

I’ve probably mentioned Melissa Sklarz more than a few times in my blogs. I first met her in the summer of 2001 at the Metropolitan Community Church when she spoke up at the historic meeting of transgender activists led by Stonewall hero Sylvia Rivera and the Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Matt Foreman to urge that organization to support a fully LGBT inclusive non-discrimination workplace law, rather than their gay only signature legislation, SONDA. I got to know Melissa in 2004 as she was a member of the Credentials Committee to the Democratic National Convention in Boston. There were only 6 of us, transgender Delegates, Alternates and Committee Members. We served together later on the Board of National Stonewall Democrats where she was Vice-Chair of that organization. She was the first out elected transgender official in New York and a long history of community service and leadership positions in LGBT and transgender rights organizations.

She has had a remarkable career bringing herself from the ranks of the unemployed to cocktail waitress, to a 20 year career as Director of the collections department of the Actors Federal Credit Union in New York. On September 6, 2016 TLDEF announced the appointment of Melissa Sklarz to the role of Director of Development. “Sklarz is a highly respected and beloved political stalwart in New York who brings decades of transgender advocacy to the post. Her own inspiring personal story as an out and celebrated transgender activist in the state adds to the significance of the hire”.

For me, and perhaps all transgender people, Melissa’s quote in the press release is most pointed,

“And I am thrilled to be a trans person, raising funds for a trans-run organization, helping trans communities,”

I know that for me those words reflect an added incentive to support an organization that does great work for transgender and gender variant people. I hope that those who read this blog feel and act the same!

Post Script: I ran into Jill Weiss at a small reception at Lambda Legal HQ in New York prior to attending the DNC LGBT Gala Featuring Hillary Clinton and Barbra Streisand on September 9 a few blocks away. Two things of import:

  1. Although no longer a Lambda Board member, it seemed clear that both organizations had good relations with each other
  2. Hillary Clinton received a most eloquent, articulate and energized introduction by our favorite TV actress and star, Laverne Cox!
  3. FYI. I first met Laverne Cox at a TLDEF fundraiser a couple of years ago.
  • Yum

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Category: Transgender Community News, Transgender Politics


About the Author ()

Babs at 76 passed away in 2019. She was a member of the Executive Committee of the Democratic National Committee, Deputy Vice Chair of the NJ Democratic State Committee and Political Director of the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of NJ. She served on the Executive Committee of Trans United 4 Obama. She has served as Vice Chair of the DNC Eastern Caucus, was President of NJ Stonewall Democrats, Co-Chair of National Stonewall Democrats Federal PAC Board, Vice-Chair of Garden State Equality, Executive Board member of National Stonewall Democrats as Chair of the DNC Relations Committee and a member of the NJ Civil Unions Review Commission.

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