Interview with Drian Juarez from @kleffnotes

I had the chance to chat via email with Drian Juarez about the organization Trans Can Work and a new partnership they have entered into. This organization does great work and it was a privilege to be able to share a bit about their mission. Thank you to Drian Juarez for answering all of my questions.

Could you tell our readers a little about yourself?

 Sure, I identify as an immigrant, hetero-woman of trans experience who is also queer and uses female pronouns and gender neutral pronouns.  My identity is informed by my experience as an immigrant and the compounding barriers that I faced growing up as a fem, gender non-conforming person of color at a time when those terms didn’t even exist.  The violence that I experienced in school wasn’t even called bullying you were just told to toughen up. After immigrating here I very quickly had to figure out who I was and what my place in this new world would be.  I definitely made a lot of mistakes trying to figure myself out without any support, resources, or information.  I had to do things I don’t want any young person to have to do to survive and transition.   It is definitely the reason that I do the work that I do today and why I have dedicated my life to making the world a safer place for TGNC folxs.

How would you describe Trans Can Work and your role in the organization?

TCW is like a small start-up trying to do big things.  We are working to change the world by economically empowering gender diverse people because if you don’t have finances then you don’t have a voice and without a voice you can’t advocate for yourself.  We do this work by creating a pipeline from employers who we have trained and consulted with to candidates from within our community.  My work focuses on our engagement with employers.  I design and present our personalized trainings to meet the needs of each employer.  Once we assess where they are at on the road to diversifying their workforce we develop a training package for them.  The goal is to leave employers set up for longevity and success with all the tools they need to train their workforce, have policies to support a diverse work environment, make sure Human Resource departments are familiar with the laws that protect gender identity in the workplace and finally hire gender diverse candidates. 

Could you explain the partnership taking place between Trans Can Work and the City of West Hollywood?

We are so incredibly proud of our partnership with the City of West Hollywood and feel it’s a model for others to follow!  We worked with the City and the City’s Transgender Advisory Board earlier this year to develop and promote an Anti-Transphobia campaign to be promoted city wide to all employers.  We also worked with the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to connect with businesses.  This all culminated in the creation of an Inclusive Workplace Toolkit with all the tools an employer needs to set the foundation for a diverse and inclusive workplace.  The toolkit was mailed out to over five hundred businesses at the start of November in time for Transgender Awareness Week and Transgender Day of Remembrance/Resiliance.  To my knowledge this is the first time a city has undertaken a campaign of this magnitude.  This was huge for our community because this campaign came at a time when the trump administration was undoing many of the protections we had gained under Obama and was working to let health care providers discriminate against us.  This campaign was the light at the end of what seemed like a never ending tunnel.  We are hopeful that other cities will follow suit.  We have a template for how to do this work with cities and we would love to take it nationally!  What a great way to welcome in a new administration and the next four years, by helping cities uplift all of their constituents including TGNC folxs!

What are some of the components of the partnership?

I feel like all the components for the Anti-Transphobia Campaign came together perfectly.  It started with community members coming to the city and the Trans Advisory Board(TAB) to report the discrimination and harassment that they were experiencing at some of the businesses in Weho.   TAB members brought this information to city council and the two groups worked together to locate funding for this campaign.  This work was spearheaded by TAB member  Alexis Sanchez, and Weho City Council member, John D’Amico.  Trans Can Work was tasked with developing the Anti-Transphobia Campaign.  From the work that we did with those employers we developed a tool kit which includes: an inclusive workplace pronouns timeline and tips sheet, a resource sheet, a 19 x 28 inclusive workplace tips poster , Inclusive workplace decal/dark version  and window decal/light version, a flash drive with all of the resources in electronic versions and a Cultural Diversity Certificating link to our elearning training just to name a few. In retrospect the components included, the community identifying the problem, activists working with elected officials to address the issue and the city working with a trans-led organization to deal with the issue. For me this is a model for others to follow!

How do you hope this program will benefit the trans and gender nonconforming community?

Our mission at TCW is to create a national culture where gender diverse people can thrive in the workplace!  I will know that we have done our job when TGNC folxs aren’t experiencing unemployment at twice the national average, it’s as high as four times for TGNC people of color.  I will know that we have benefited the community when TGNC people aren’t forced into the street economy in order to survive.  When I see more of us in the boardrooms and C-Suit spaces then I will know we have done some good.  The only way that will happen is with more employers recognizing that diversity and inclusion is not only good for business but it’s the future so prepping now means employers are set up for success!  My hope is that those exemplary employers will read this and connect with us. 

What are your hopes for the future of this program and the larger impact of this partnership?

I hope that our work will grow to have a national presence.  There are lots of TGNC folx who are ready to work for inclusive employers and there are lots of employers out there who want to diversify and expand their work, they just don’t know how to do it.  We want to connect with all of them and help them on the journey to being excellent employers and fantastic candidates!  We are hopeful that our partnership with the City of West Hollywood will model for other municipalities what is possible and that a campaign of this nature is not insurmountable or overwhelming but actually very accessible.  It would be great for municipalities to be proactive and have a campaign like this before the violence gets so bad for TGNC folxs that community members are knocking on their doors demanding safety.

Where can our readers in the West Hollywood area join the program and where can our readers find out more information about Trans Can Work?

The best way for community members who are looking for employment assistance to get a hold of us is to go to our website: transcanwork.org and complete an intake.  This information will get to our Workforce Development Manager who will then assign them an Employment Navigator to work with them on their employment needs.  For companies who are ready to diversify they can reach me at: drian@trancanwork.org or they can get a hold of me through our website.  We also have a linkedin, FB, Insta, and TikTok so there are lots of ways that people can stay connected with us and our work.  We are also always looking for good volunteers to help us out with resume review, interview preperation, and we love having guest speakers who can inspire our community members to reach for their dreams!   

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