Dr. Gennifer Herley and Stephanie Battaglino are the founder and president of TransNewYork, an impactful, culture-shifting organization that aims to empower and enhance the lives of transgender, gender nonconforming and nonbinary individuals. TransNewYork directly supports the LGBTQ+ community through counseling and workforce readiness services, and they also advance workplace inclusion through corporate training programs around the country.
Together they cast a bright light on critical diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues that companies and organizations must face to successfully transform their workplaces into truly welcoming environments for all employees across the gender spectrum. Steph and Genn have guided conversations with Ad Council employees to continue our collective and individual journeys of understanding gender identity and expression. Read on for our conversation with Steph (pictured above, left) about the origins of TransNewYork, tips on equity in a hybrid culture, and her thoughts on the road ahead.
AR: Could you talk a bit about your background, and how your path led you to establish and lead TransNewYork?
SB: I have been involved with the transgender workplace equality and inclusion movement ever since 2005, when I was the first transgender person to transition on the job in the history of the New York Life Insurance Company, where I worked as a corporate vice president. Genn and I first crossed paths when I spoke at her conference in New York in the fall of 2019. We instantly hit it off and it has been an absolute joy to work on something that feels so right and so organic as TransNewYork.
The fight for LGBTQ+ justice has been a long one—and isn’t over. How have you seen this evolve over the years and how do you see the importance of sharing your personal stories in advancing the cause?
There is so much power in our personal stories. They can change hearts and minds—and souls. Our stories are the connective tissue that binds us all together as one human family. The more stories that we can raise up from all corners of the transgender and nonbinary community, the richer and stronger our collective voice for change becomes.
How do you foster inclusion and healthy conversation when everyone may be at different places in their journey in understanding the gender spectrum and issues impacting their trans or nonbinary peers?
First and foremost, I think it is important to recognize that people are going to be in different places in their own journeys of understanding as you have these conversations and, in particular, when I am in a training environment. But that said, it is vitally important to cover all the key concepts of gender and gender identity because they are so foundational to framing the larger language and communication conversation. And then having everyone share their feelings about that experience, from wherever they are, just makes the entire learning environment a richer one.
In this hybrid work culture, do you have any watchouts or tips for having these types of conversations about gender—or others in an effort to build DEI initiatives within a team—when some folks are in person and some are virtual?
Whatever the platform, normalizing the use of preferred pronouns visibly listed along with your screen name is a great place to start the virtual conversation. The hope is that it will create behaviors that carry over to when people return to an in-person office environment.
Many of us are familiar with the latest anti-trans bills sweeping the country. But what are some of the wins or accomplishments for the trans community that you are celebrating in 2022?
Having President Biden sign a proclamation at a White House ceremony, with individuals from our community such as Assistant Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine on Transgender Day of Visibility this past March 31st was a huge win!
What are some things you wish cisgender people would do to show allyship for their trans and nonbinary colleagues?
Be out about it and be intentional about it—visibly and in all of your daily interactions with colleagues, family members and friends. Lest we forget that the word ally is a verb, and what comes along with that is the responsibility to work at it, 365 days a year.
What’s the greatest piece of advice you’ve ever been given, and how has it helped you?
To follow my heart. It’s the mantra I live by each and every day.