This week I talked with Michaela Mendelsohn, transgender activist, public speaker and businesswoman with over 40 years of entrepreneurial leadership experience. Mendelsohn is the CEO of Pollo West Corp one of the largest franchisees for El Pollo Loco restaurant in the Western Region of the United States and the founder of the California Transgender Workplace Program to promote transgender employment opportunities. After competing in the Ms. Senior California Pageant and serving as a consultant to Jenji Kohan in the development of Laverne Cox's character on Orange is the New Black most people would be content to rest on their laurels but not Michaela Mendelsohn. Instead she launched her important mission to make a difference for our transgender community. Michaela passionately advocates for working transgender women through her efforts with various California trade associations. Her personal mission is to help transgender women find employment, social acceptance and a path to raise families of their own. I talked to Michaela about what she hopes to accomplish with the California Transgender Workplace Program and give us her spin on our LGBT issues.
When asked what she would like to see happen for LGBT equality in the next few years Mendelsohn stated:
We've made a lot of headway in certain areas but you know what we're seeing is a lot of pushback. I think the polarity between the two major parties in this country right now exists largely because a) we have an Afro-American President and b) that we have had all this LGBT exposure in the last three or four years and I think we're getting tremendous pushback from right-wing segments of this society and we've got a battle to fight. We know we have to keep pushing forward every attack we have to fend off and we can't be lazy. A lot of this depends on who gets elected president but this next four years, eight years are going to be a crucial time for us to continue the momentum and this is very Pollyanna-ish but I'm hoping to see an evolution where we get to the point where these labels are just not needed anymore. Even the word trans I think eventually will disappear because it's just another box we put ourselves into. I think gender nonconforming is a lot more open a term I would like to see.
Michaela Mendelsohn was born in New York City and moved to Southern California as a child where she has remained. Michaela was married for over 30 years and is the proud parent of three grown children. In 2008 she legally changed her name to Michaela Irvi Mendelsohn and her gender to female. As a parent Michaela is also focused on outreach for our LGBTQ youth, speaking on issues specific to the transgender community and informing the community about the work of the Trevor Project where she serves on the board. Michaela is truly one of those rare individuals who works to make a difference in and for our community. She's an admirable selfless human being and an inspiration for us all. Michaela lives with her partner Carmel and their two-year old son. (Photo Credit AFU Productions)
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