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#90 - How to Change the World with E. Jag Beckford

#90 - How to Change the World with E. Jag Beckford

 

Jenn T Grace:              You are listening to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast, episode 90.

 

Introduction:              Welcome to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast; the podcast dedicated to helping LGBTQ professionals and business owners grow their business and careers through the power of leveraging their LGBTQ identities in their personal brand. You'll learn how to market your products and services both broadly, and within the LGBTQ community. You'll hear from incredible guests who are leveraging the power of their identity for good, as well as those who haven't yet started, and everyone in between. And now your host. She teaches straight people how to market to gay people, and gay people how to market themselves. Your professional lesbian, Jenn - with two N's - T Grace.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Well hello and welcome to episode 90 of the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast. I am your host, Jenn Grace, and again I have another interview for you. So we are definitely on a roll full steam ahead with a lot of interviews over the last couple of months, and I just keep getting the opportunity to connect with awesome and interesting people, and if you're listening to this and you think that you would be a good guest on the show, please feel free to reach out at any time. If you go to www.JennTGrace.com and go through the Contact Us page, you can certainly send us a note through there.

                                    So we have another interview today as I just mentioned, and Jag Beckford- so E. Jag Beckford is a guest that was recommended to me from Mona Elyafi who was a podcast guest herself quite some time ago, and she is a PR agent and she works with a lot of LGBT clientele. So it's been really amazing to get Mona sending me more people that are really interesting to talk to.

                                    So today we're talking to Jag, and their business is Rainbow Fashion Week as well as Jag & Co. And those are two businesses; one being a fashion week that happens in New York City every June for Pride, and also a clothing line. So on today's show we talk a lot about just how the evolution of going from an entertainment attorney into launching a fashion line, and launching Rainbow Fashion Week, and all that great stuff. You will note that this is airing and we're in August, and we were making references to Rainbow Fashion Week coming up because we did record this in the beginning of June. So if you're listening to this now, you have already missed this year's Rainbow Fashion Week, however it will be going into its fourth year next year, so I would highly, highly recommend getting on Jag's radar now while you can, so that way you can keep up to date with all the stuff that's going on. But I highly recommend just staying tuned, and listening to Jag's story because it's really interesting, and the incredible amount of purpose-driven and mission-driven nature of this business is incredible. The goal of Rainbow Fashion Week and Jag & Co. are really to make us a more sustainable planet, which is pretty cool to see that kind of weaved in through LGBT.

                                    So it's going to be great, I assure you of this. So if you want to get links that were mentioned in today's episode, if you go to www.JennTGrace.com/90 that is for episode 90, you can get access to the transcript, and the stuff that we talked about in today's episode. And without further ado, here is my interview with Jag.

                                    So this podcast is the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast, and I think that's why Mona thought it would be great for us to connect. So today I would love if you can start off by giving the listeners kind of a broad overview of who you are and what you do, and then my method is to just start asking you questions based on what you said to just kind of talk about your brand, and what you do, and how you're putting yourself out there to the world.

 

Jaguar Beckford:        No problem. Okay so my name is E. Jaguar Beckford. I am the Executive Producer of an annual event in New York called Rainbow Fashion Week. I'm also the CEO of Jaguar & Company Clothier, short Jag & Co. which is pretty much what it's known by. I just design clothing for more gender fluid women, women who are more male identified, but gender fluid women because pretty much it's about everyone enjoys wearing clothing that fits well, looks well, et cetera. And my background is I've been an entertainment attorney for about fifteen years, but ironically I put myself through law school designing clothing, so it's not a far stretch. So that's pretty much who I am, and hopefully we'll have an opportunity to tell you a little bit more about Rainbow Fashion Week, which is coming up in two weeks.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah, that's what I was going to ask you. In looking at your bio, and seeing that you came from an entertainment attorney background, and then now you have Rainbow Fashion Week; how did that idea hit you that this was something you should do, and can you just give kind of a broad overview of what Rainbow Fashion Week is, how many people come, what the purpose is, and all those great details?

 

Jaguar Beckford:        Okay so it wasn't a great leap or far at all to go from the entertainment business into the fashion business. One, as I previously stated that I actually designed throughout law school, so I designed jeans, tee shirts, I made clothing, and I sold them in my off time from school. Rainbow Fashion Week was actually conceptualized probably a couple weeks after I launched Jag & Co. And I just recall when rolling out to take my final vow to- when the designer goes out and everything, I said, 'Wow you know-' in that moment it's just so clear. In that moment I realized that fashion events are not just about the designer, but are more about all of the creative talents that come together to make the designer's vision- to bring it into fruition. And I said wouldn't the audience love to see the art of fashion, and not just what a designer put on the runway, but more the artistry of hair, makeup, and style. And so in that moment I was committed to say, 'I'd like to see an event where people can come and enjoy the artistry or the art of fashion as we call it. So it was conceptualized in 2013, and we got so many ways that we connected to our audiences; we did live streaming, casting, and so we reached over 20,000 viewers, attendees. We had about- I would say, I think our first year we had about maybe almost a million impressions just because social media was really buzzing about what was going on in this new type of fashion event. And so you know, we were just very committed to give new designers and existing designers, makeup artists, stylists a platform to be able to show the artistry of what they do. And so that's more of what Rainbow Fashion Week is really about. It's about the art of fashion.

 

Jenn T Grace:              That's awesome. And now is there anything in terms of just the fashion industry more broadly, other types of events that are doing it the way you're doing it? Or is this kind of a completely new take on things?

 

Jaguar Beckford:        We actually want to change how fashion is presented to the public. So the reason I say it that way, if you think about it, someone decided that women should wear high heels. Someone decided that women should put on rouge and makeup on their face. But men don't do it. Men don't wake up in the morning and say, "Oh I have to put on stockings, and I have to wear high heels," et cetera, so if we really look at what the fashion industry has become, you know it was a male-dominated industry and pretty much we had designers putting things on women primarily because the women models were who really drove the fashion industry. So we had very, very creative souls who decided, 'Well I'm going to create this fantastic so-and-so to put on this model's head, these amazing shoes to put on this model that they could barely walk in,' and so it was pretty much a very male-dominated society that was dressing us, almost like dolls. And it kind of just moved us over into how women were supposed to dress, and what they were supposed to wear, and so on and so forth. So if you actually look back in time, you'll see when women finally said, 'Hey, why do I have to dress like that? How come I can't wear a man's suit? Or come I can't wear a man's suit that's tailored? That can look just as good and I can look as sexy.' So it took someone to break that mold and to say, 'You know, I don't want to conform to that.' And so when I looked at the fashion industry I said, 'Well why do we have to conform? Why do we have continue to have size zero to two models walk the runway when they're not part of our average taking on a daily basis?' I don't see size zero to two people on an average day. I don't go into a department store and says, 'Wow I want to wear that outfit because I want to look just like that person that I saw in Vogue magazine.' It just wasn't reflective of who I was, and who I knew our community was as a whole. And so I said to my team members, I said, "Guys, you know we have an opportunity to change the standard for the norms of what fashion events are. We can make this more fashion expose. We can make them more about fashion and experiences, and have people actually leave still getting the sense of what a runway show is, but at the same time have a total different type of presentation." And so that's where we came up with our commitment to Rainbow Fashion Week was.

 

Jenn T Grace:              That sounds amazing. So where in this timeline did you launch Jag & Co.? So your actual clothing line? Where did that happen?

 

Jaguar Beckford:        Jag & Co. was launched in 2013. And it was so funny because I actually said- I was like, "Wow I'm going to actually take a hit with Jag & Co. not really being able to brand and develop and put things into production in the window that I would want. You know we got very great, and we've had continued success coming at us before. Surprisingly people love Jag & Co. We get standing ovations at shows, people love our products, we do one-of-a-kind types of suspenders, and ties that we make from craft items, so that's kind of a way of repurposing and things like that. So technically ideas came in where we said, 'We don't have to always go out and buy new rolls of fabric. We can look at some of the existing things and say well why can't we create beautiful things from these products as well that people would love and enjoy?' So Jag & Co. took a step back in 2013 to really go out in full production. And I said that we would have our natural evolution through Rainbow Fashion Week, and so I have a day which is called the Haus of Jag & Co. This year it's June 18th which happens to be my birthday, it just kind of happened that way, and our theme this year is transition. From the time that I launched Jag & Co. I can say approximately nine to ten of my mottos have transition. And I've just been there fully supporting them, I always have very kind words because I've noticed that the community tends to begin to shun them, and their language begins to change as it relates to, 'Well how do I now speak to this person?' The same person that you knew and loved and that you embraced in the Facebook group, now all of a sudden your words are harsh because you don't understand why the new posts of someone who just had their surgery, why that's important to them to be able to present that to their community. And so I decided to do a show that pretty much honored what their struggles have been, and that's the other thing that's different about Rainbow Fashion Week. We have themed events with social responsibility causes that we tie into our shows. Not just a name and a pamphlet, but we actually tie them into the show thematically as we present it to the audience. So this is a whole other way of how we can present a plethora of things to an audience once we have their attention.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Wow that's incredible to have such a social good component to things, and I obviously don't have to tell you this but you were just saying how a lot of times people within our own community get ostracized, and the fact that you're finding a way to embrace their transitions, I feel like is such an incredible gift that you're providing to not just the models that you're working with but to the community at large.

 

Jaguar Beckford:        Yeah and what motivates me is I receive letters from people all over the world. And when I say 'all over the world' I mean all over the world.

 

Jenn T Grace:              That's awesome.

 

Jaguar Beckford:        I received notices this year from a young lady who was in a play called 'The Little Prince' in the UK, and she just reached out and she said, "Oh my God, I love what Rainbow Fashion Week is about. I would love to be able to walk in something like it." One, the person didn't see the day would be able to do something like that because you know we have Eight Days of Queer so it's not just like one event that happens one time, and you can't get there during a specific day of the week, so on and so forth, so it just gives people more opportunities to plan to come. But just the mere fact that we would be accepting that she's 5'2" and last year I did an event at the Brooklyn Museum and my shortest model was 4'11". After just training her how to walk and show her the type of confidence I wanted her and what she was wearing to present Jag & Co., she killed it. I mean 4'11". And so we wanted people to see that it's not about your size because that person has to go out and shop for things just as the 5'11" 5'10" model that's a size zero has to as well. And I received another email from a police officer in Camden, New Jersey. She's actually going to be in my show this year. And she said, "Jag, I'm in my thirties," she said, "I feel like I'm in my best body, my best frame of mind." She was like, "I would just love to walk in your show." And you know, everybody can't walk in my show but it was her story; her story motivated me about what was going on in her life. And just to be able to give someone like that an opportunity to do that is all of what Rainbow Fashion Week is about. Another came from a woman in Norway, her name is Siri, and same thing. She was like, "I will come to the United States just for an opportunity to have this experience." And you know, that's pretty much what it is. We want to be able to just show people that you, the average person, have a right to hit a runway. And so we try to actually create shows and experiences for all of our community. So we have a pet show- Rainbow Pet Fashion Show, our social cause this year is dog waste composting. And people are like, "Jag isn't that a stretch?" I said, "Why should it be a stretch? We have an audience, we have an opportunity in having our pet lovers within our queer community to be able to help us, help the city of New York, clean up the city. Why not take advantage of it?" And so that's what we kind of look out; how can we take advantage of utilizing our audience and our voice and having accomplished. And that's what's important to us, so that's what's different about Rainbow Fashion Week and that's why our tagline is 'Not your average fashion week.'

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah I feel like the way that you're incorporating such an inclusive message seems to be so obvious. Like so as you were talking I opened up your website, www.JagAndCo.com for anyone who wants to go check it out, and just looking at the different gender expressions of everybody that you're using for models who are modeling your clothing line, I feel like it's incredible because I feel like anybody who goes there and is looking, they're going to find somebody that they resonate with that they're not used to seeing as a model for clothing.

 

Jaguar Beckford:        Right, exactly.

 

Jenn T Grace:              So in terms of how the clothing side works, are you manufacturing all of that stuff yourself? And is it any type of on demand, or do you have to purchase a lot of stuff in advance? Is it tailored? How does all that work?

 

Jaguar Beckford:        For Jag and Co. specifically?

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah.

 

Jaguar Beckford:        For Jag and Co. products we purchase our materials, we have our patterns, and we kind of make maybe two pieces of a kind. We're not in production so a lot of times it may be one piece that's for show just to get an idea. We're still feeling through what it is that we think people want. It's so funny because in 2013 I came out with the paperboy and that came from my grandfather. So you know I had like an old black and white picture, and I just fell in love with the forties and fifties style, and I said wouldn't it be great that we could present this style to our young and older aggressive females and show them very hip, swanky and sophisticated. And the reason I say swanky is because I'll tell this to bring the craziest socks. I don't care if it's Mickey Mouse or whatever, and I said, "I'm going to show you how to dress up and dress down." And so sometimes we create pieces just for the runway because we're still trying to get a sense of what it is that our market is looking for. We're actually going to be going into production soon which we're going to be doing a crowd on a campaign and it's basically going to be a suit that takes you from casual play to formal. And so yeah, that's pretty much what our next step is going to. We were looking for a place to do our production and we had an opportunity to work with a goodwill ambassador in Honduras and she has been over there doing textile study and she said, "While this would be a great opportunity, I think we can actually get a space for you guys." She's actually found a 20,000 foot- it's a raw space and I said, "Yeah but how do we get things going there?" And she said, "Well the mayor is willing to give you guys a space." And so I decided that through Rainbow Fashion Dream Academy, we would- which we will be launching this year as well, we are going to start their first Women's Economic Empowerment Program. So technically it sounds like a lot but it really isn't. We're committing sewing machines, solar generator, and sewing kits, and so we're going to start the women off on their own small businesses. And then they'll be back into the system to start the next. And we're actually going to create a consortium of producers producing our production, not just for Jag & Co. but for some of these new designers who are coming through Rainbow Fashion Week. And so the Dream Academy is going to give some of these makeup people, designers an opportunity to go to Honduras and see what it's like starting a production, and we'll pretty much be starting everything raw. So they'll be building, they'll be donating their time, they'll be sitting down with seamstresses, and so on and so forth, and that's a new venture but that's how we're going to take Jag & Co. as well as some of our other designers into production and some of the others that are coming through Rainbow Fashion Week, we say, "If you give us a certain number of hours we will open other opportunities and doors for you globally." We've also been invited to come to Nepal to do a Rainbow Fashion Week event. We've also been invited to Johannesburg, South Africa. So there are other opportunities for the people who work within the Rainbow Fashion Week team, because we're building a team, we probably have now about sixty or so team members on various productions for each show. And so now we want them to be able to grow with us, and now seek other opportunities that they never even had within the fashion world as it exists here because the existing fashion world and present model is very elitist so the average person can't just walk in and explore the opportunities that exist. So yeah we have a model and we really try to build on this model, and we're trying to show people that the old model is not the way. We need to work towards a new model that includes our community in greater perspective.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Wow, your mission and purpose in life, and everything that you do seems so incredibly huge and so powerful and impactful. And I know that we are running up against you having another interview right after this, but to kind of close us out if you were to think what Rainbow Fashion Week is going to look like in five years, or what Jag & Co. or just your brand as yourself will look like in five years, what do you think that's going to be? What is your vision for five years from now?

 

Jaguar Beckford:        Our vision for five years is we will have set the standard for the new fashion week from the standpoint of what our social responsibility is globally, what it is we're doing to our planet. We will have set the standard that more brain trust attention goes into the planning of an event. I just finished doing an article and I said we're David up against the Goliath of the fashion industry. So I know that we're going to make a lot of change within the industry, I know that we're going to catch the attention. A lot of the big corporate giants that are going to want to become a part of and reach our audience from a variety of perspectives. So I know that we are going to create the new model for fashion. I strongly feel that, most of the people that work with us, they strongly feel it as well. We are going to cause the fashion industry to take a look at how they produce these events, how wasteful they are, the products that they purchase, how they purchase them, how they're disposed. So from the standpoint of being a solar- the first solar neutral event, we are going to attempt to reduce our carbon footprint by at least one third, just in energy- electric energy consumption alone. And some people said, "Why is this large fashion event sold out and sets up tents where you have all of the sun, and no one is sourcing solar energy? Why are they using nine, ten, eleven, twelve thousand diesel fuel generators, noise pollution, carbon pollution? So we know that we're going to begin to shape this industry. And it's not from the standpoint that we're something that's- we just want people to stand up and pay attention, and we think that we are going to be the organization that is just going to have people stop and re-evaluate when they're doing a production, how to do a production that reduces our carbon footprints because truly our planet matters, and everything that we're doing we want to consider what that means.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Wow, such an incredible mission. Thank you so much for taking the time to connect with me today. For anyone who wants to get in touch with you, how would you recommend that they do that?

 

Jaguar Beckford:        Well you can send us information on our website, www.RainbowFashionWeek.com. There's a contact form and it comes straight through to info@rainbowfashionweek.com. They can also go to our website. And Jag & Co. you can probably reach me, JagAndCo, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, you can find me on any of those and inbox me. I always try to respond to everyone no matter how busy I am. So definitely thank you for your time, and I appreciate you guys helping us get this message out as well.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Absolutely. Thank you so much and have a great day. Appreciate it.

 

Jaguar Beckford:        Thank you, bye bye.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Bye bye.

Thank you for listening to today's podcast. If there are any links from today's show that you are interested in finding, save yourself a step and head on over to www.JennTGrace.com/thepodcast. And there you will find a backlog of all of the past podcast episodes including transcripts, links to articles, reviews, books, you name it. It is all there on the website for your convenience. Additionally if you would like to get in touch with me for any reason, you can head on over to the website and click the contact form, send me a message, you can find me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all at JennTGrace. And as always I really appreciate you as a listener, and I highly encourage you to reach out to me whenever you can. Have a great one, and I will talk to you in the next episode.

 

 

Direct download: Epi90_LGBTQ_Interview_With_JAG_BECKFORD.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:05am EST

#89: How to Own a Room (or crowd) with Robbie Samuels

How to Own a Room (or crowd) with Robbie Samuels

 

Jenn T Grace:              You are listening to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast, episode 89.

 

Introduction:              Welcome to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast; the podcast dedicated to helping LGBTQ professionals and business owners grow their business and careers through the power of leveraging their LGBTQ identities in their personal brand. You'll learn how to market your products and services both broadly, and within the LGBTQ community. You'll hear from incredible guests who are leveraging the power of their identity for good, as well as those who haven't yet started, and everyone in between. And now your host. She teaches straight people how to market to gay people, and gay people how to market themselves. Your professional lesbian, Jenn - with two N's - T Grace.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Well hello and welcome to episode 89 of the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast. I am your host, Jenn Grace, and in line with the last half dozen episodes or so being interviews, I have another interview for you today. I'm so excited to welcome Robbie Samuels to today's podcast, where we really dive deep into personal branding from a networking type of component, or from a networking aspect. So we talk about what it means to strategically network, and volunteering, and how to work a room if you will. And Robbie's business is around helping people do just that, helping them network with sessions. So he's a public speaker, he does a session called The Art of the Schmooze as well as a variety of other types of sessions and speaking engagements, which all focus around building great relationships and strong and welcoming communities. His website is www.RobbieSamuels.com so I'm really excited to basically just dive right into today's episode where you will learn a lot about networking, and how that can be good for your business whether you are an introvert who might be afraid to show up to a networking event, to the very outgoing extrovert, and everyone in between. For any information that Robbie and I talk about in today's episode, you can go to www.JennTGrace.com/89 and that is for episode number 89. And without further ado, here is my interview with Robbie.

                                    Alright so let's just start if you will by telling the listeners a little bit about yourself, what you're up to currently, and then we'll just dive into some things about personal branding.

 

Robbie Samuels:         Thank you so much Jenn, and I appreciate being on your show. So a little bit about me. Well I am currently a work-at-home dad to a five and a half month old which is the first and foremost thing on my mind. The work part gets a little bit in quotes because I'm still working out the schedule of what works while having an infant. But also focusing on my business as a professional speaker, and that mainly is that I get asked to come and speak to companies, to nonprofits, boards of directors, et cetera to talk to them about relationship building. And my most requested session is called Art of the Schmooze. And so we can dive more into the different topics I do later, but part of building that business which I started on the side as sort of a side hustle in 2009, and then went full time in 2015, part of that is working on launching a podcast called On the Schmooze where I interview leaders from different sectors, and ask them about how they've built their professional networks and stayed in touch with people, and what success looks like for them. And I'm also blogging regularly on the topics of relationship building, networking tips, et cetera. That's kind of where I'm at currently.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Nice, okay good now I have about fourteen questions which I knew would happen. So to start, how did you come up with the topic of the On the Schmooze? Like how did that form and evolve?

 

Robbie Samuels:         On the Schmooze as the podcast or Art of the Schmooze the session?

 

Jenn T Grace:              The session first, and then I think the podcast we can get into next.

 

Robbie Samuels:         Sure so Art of the Schmooze actually came about- I was running a group that I started ten years ago called Socializing for Justice, and this is a cross-cultural, cross-issue progressive community and network in Boston that really brings together likeminded progressives. And about a year in to organizing that, I recognized that there were regulars who came to all of our events. They weren't focused on only one type of event, they came to everything. And I was concerned that this group was going to become very clicky. And we've all experienced coming into a space for the first time, we've assumed that everybody else is best friends, nobody else is new, and it's very awkward as a newcomer. So I wanted this to continue to be a very welcoming space so I invited the regulars out for coffee and we started chatting about what it takes to make that kind of welcoming space. I asked them if they would come fifteen minutes early, and they said yes. I asked them if they would maybe help out at the front door in a more formal role of greeting or helping with nametags, sure. And then I said for that first hour, go out of your way to meet someone you don't know. Like just try to meet some of the new people and introduce them to the other regulars, and they said, "Sure we could do that." I said, "Okay then after that just kind of mingle and work the room," and that's where I got a lot of angsty responses because the room that I was talking to was filled with people who were shy and/or introverted, and so the idea of floating a room, chatting with strangers was the antithesis of a good time for them. So I started coaching one-on-one, started sharing some tips. I'm an outgoing extrovert so I wasn't trying to teach them how to be me, I actually don't really want the world to be filled with more outgoing extroverts. I think there's enough people who speak with very little prompting and take up a lot of space. But I did want them to be seen, heard and respected when they arrived in a room, and to be part of creating this welcoming culture. And it worked. The training evolved from there because speaking one-to-one was not a good use of my time, and I guess that was probably around 2007, 2008 that I first created this training, this session, and it evolved until 2009 I started getting paid to do speaking engagements on a variety of topics, and that has become my most requested one. And it's helped such a wide array of audiences really be more present and mindful and strategic about their networking too. So it's about body language, and eye contact and business cards, but it's also about just taking that time to figure out why are you going to this event in the first place? And then going from there. So it's chock full of information, two hour interactive training, and I love doing it because really people clearly remember a lot of the content which is so rare in a training.

 

Jenn T Grace:              No kidding, right? So how did you take it from this free offering you were doing with your people, and then you moved it to this one-on-one coaching situation with people, and now fast forward to 2009 you're able to get paid to be doing this. What made that leap really natural or maybe unnatural for you?

 

Robbie Samuels:         So what's funny is that, Jenn I love doing professional speaking because I've always loved doing public speaking. When I was in college I was on a speaker's bureau, and I did a variety of trainings, and there was this gap of about a dozen years where I just didn't have a topic. So when the opportunity came to create this and share it, I started to share it from like 2007 to 2009, I was just sharing it with any organization locally that I thought would benefit. So lots of really, really small grassroots groups I kind of met with and helped them out. In 2009 a former colleague of mine- actually not someone I worked with but someone I'd known years ago, and I hadn't actually lived in the same state in probably seven or eight years. She reached out to me and said, "I know that you're doing these talks on networking, and I know that you are a fundraiser," because that was my profession, I was working a nonprofit organizing fundraising events doing major gift work. She said, "Will you come to D.C. and do a fundraising training for my board of directors?" So my answer of course was, "Um yes," and then I went and created a training called Fundraising: Getting Past the Fear of Asking. And I went down to D.C., this organization offered me $200 which was very little money in the world of speaking but I'd never been paid before so I also was really excited. They paid my plane ticket and I shared a hotel room with my friend. And when I got there, it was actually the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association so they were doctors, and they were there for their convention, and they have to talk to people about membership. So fundraising wasn't something they felt very comfortable with, but they were having a break and I went in, and I got a chance to meet all of them, and one by one I memorized their names and when they sat down around the table, and were about to begin, I said, "Oh we should do introductions," and I said, "Oh allow me." And I then introduced each of them one by one around the table.

 

Jenn T Grace:              And how many were there?

 

Robbie Samuels:         Eighteen or so.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Jesus that's awesome.

 

Robbie Samuels:         And they sat up straighter and just were like, "Whatever you have to tell us Robbie, we will listen."

 

Jenn T Grace:              That's awesome.

 

Robbie Samuels:         So that was my first time being paid, but what I did strategically was that when I billed them, I billed them $400 and then applied a 50% referral discount, and I did this because I knew that I needed to get my own mind around the value of what I was offering. And so they only were budgeted to give me $200 but I billed them $400 and then put a 50% referral discount so that the total was $200. And for the next year whenever someone asked me about doing a training, I said, "Oh my usual fee is $400," and then I slid it to whatever was comfortable for their budget because I was still working a lot with really small grass roots or volunteer run organizations. And then a year later this organization, I said $400, they said great without blinking an eye. I was like, okay. And I then increased it to $600 and again spent another year sliding it to whatever was comfortable for people. And then a year later it went to $800, and now it's gone on up. So really a lot of that is that the content for those trainings has gotten better in the years since I started doing this in 2009 because they're way more robust, I've presented it dozens and dozens of times. But it's also my own belief in my own value of what I can offer an organization. So I think that's a trick into how do you sort of move into being an entrepreneur and believing in what you're offering. For me I had to kind of put a value out there, and then allow the dollar amount to be settled along the way.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah I feel like that's definitely something that I find a lot of people are stuck on. Is 'what am I worth?' And I feel like people get stuck in how to value that, especially when you're looking at speakers. And I know you're part of the National Speakers Association, and I believe it says that you're a professional member which means that you are out there speaking a lot in order to be qualified if you will for that level of membership. So I think that a lot of people, they'll go from doing it for free and then immediately think that they have to jump to charging $5,000 for a talk. And you just clearly outlined that going from zero to $5,000 is not the avenue, but it's a matter of incrementally going further and further with what you're comfortable with, which I think you'll see more success if you gradually do it, rather than sticking a flag in the sand tomorrow and saying, "I'm now charging $5,000 for this" because your mindset may not actually be caught up with what you're asking, in my experience anyways.

 

Robbie Samuels:         You know Jenn, I've learned so much more about mindsets since 2009. I think every training that I've purchased online about online business, and being an entrepreneur starts with mindset. But I agree with you, that is what I was trying to do at the time. I also think that the client list has to really change for me to be charging $5,000. And so I'm pivoting now into working more with corporate organizations versus smaller nonprofits. So like right now my client list is more larger nonprofits and corporations, and it's exciting because it's a totally new market for me to be connecting with, and of course their ability budget-wise is very different than a really small organization. I feel like I want to have a nice balance portfolio though, where I still can offer- particularly on a local level where it's not involving a lot of travel, I want to offer these skills to organizations that I think will just benefit but couldn't otherwise have me come in. And one way I've done that is foundations. So for me, a foundation will have me come in for a half day or full day of trainings, and they'll invite all of their grantees, and so they're getting to bring me in and do this sort of like assistance, technical assistance, and capacity building, and it's great because the funding is actually coming from the foundation and the grantees just get to benefit from it.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Interesting. So for me, I have a similar setup that what you're describing where I do a lot of corporate engagements, and you can get paid good money for corporate engagements. So mine right now on average are right around like $9,500 for a corporate gig. That is not something a nonprofit in any way, shape or form could handle, but I feel like to some degree it's almost like my ability to give back when I do work with that smaller audience, but just because you're working with a smaller audience doesn't mean that there aren't ways to capitalize on that time in the room. So you can ask them in advance if they would send out emails to their list of people, however many that might be, or if you have a book to have them offer- give you the spotlight to kind of pitch your book to the room. So there's a lot of ways that even if you're only making $300, or even if you're not making any and it's completely pro bono, there's still ways that you can ask them for things because they're usually more than happy to do that because they understand the value that they're getting at no charge.

 

Robbie Samuels:         And actually speaking of that Jenn, even when I've slid my training- I no longer do completely zero, but I've slid it to like $100 for a lower organization, or $250 or something just to kind of- I want them to be committing to having me come in as a professional speaker, but I also let them know what my top rate is so that they know what they're getting. Because I think that sometimes when it is free, and this is also true for anyone who's attending and not having to pay to attend, they often don't commit the time in advance of what they want to get out of it. So when I'm brought into some audiences where they pay, I ask them if they looked ahead of time to research who I was. 'Did you Google me? Did you get a sense of what I was going to be talking about?' And more hands go up because they committed their own dollars, even if it's a little bit of money. But if it's a free event and I ask that question they're like, "Well I was just told to be here."

 

Jenn T Grace:              And that's the same thing for everything, right? So if you do someone's telesummit online for example, and there's all of this amazing content- because there are a lot of telesummits out there, and a lot of webinars, a lot of online content that is really amazing, but if you're not paying for it the chances of you taking action on it are so much more greatly reduced. Versus if you're like, 'You know what? I just signed up for this person's course. It's three months, it just cost me $1,000.' You bet your ass people are fully committed and all in on making sure that they get every possible minute of value out of that particular program. And it's the same thing with showing up to speak, I totally agree.

 

Robbie Samuels:         Yeah, mindset.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Totally is mindset. So in terms of mindsets, and balancing the fact that you're now a stay-at-home dad. So Grant is young, and so how are you finding that you're able to grow your personal brand? And one of the reasons why I wanted you on the show is because if you go to your website which is www.RobbieSamuels.com and that will be in the show notes, I feel like you have- it's really succinct and very clear as to what you do, who you are, the types of clients that you work with. But how are you finding that growing your personal brand is kind of balancing with fatherhood right now? Because I can't imagine- my kids are seven and nine and I still have challenges at times. So having a five and a half month old is definitely a challenge unto its own. So how is that working for you right now?

 

Robbie Samuels:         Well I think part of my personal brand is that I am a convener and a connector, and I can't turn that part of me off. So when there was a new challenge of being a new parent, I basically dove right in. And so in August before my son was even born- he was born in mid-December of 2015, in August a few months beforehand, I actually started an online Facebook group for parents with children around my kid's age. And it is now over 400 members and we're hosting a monthly baby clothing swap and other socials, and cross-promoting a lot of great content, as well as having an amazing online support system. So by doing that and making an effort in the first few months to really show up with him to a lot of different parent groups, I've now established myself in a very short amount of time within this sort of parent network in Boston. So wherever I go, someone says- they either know me or they know of me and they say, "Oh I'm in your group. Hey everybody, this is Robbie." So to me that was really important because as a work-at-home, stay-at-home dad I knew that during the week I was going to be around a lot of moms. And so this is sort of a weird catch 22 of being praised for being a dad for doing little things, but being ostracized on the playground on the other hand. So now by offering, by being someone who hosts and convenes people, and creates value, I'm just practicing what I'm preaching in 'Art of the Schmooze,' and with all my training material, and all my blog posts and the podcast that I'll be launching, which is to offer, offer, offer before you ask. And it's wonderful because people know what I do, they're learning a little bit more about my business, I'm quite certain that as we get past the only knowing each other because we're parents, we'll start to know each other's work and professions, and there will start to be connections there as well. And so that's been something I've put a lot of energy into in the last year, is establishing sort of these foundational support networks because I want those for my family. And it's basically me practicing this philosophy of abundance. I'm at the point now where if I can imagine something that we might need for our family, I can put it out there to these different groups, and somebody will find it for us and respond, and offer to just bring it to us for free. So that's been a part of my personal brand; people now in this new sphere now know me. But really my personal brand has been a lot about that. Like Socializing for Justice, the group I mentioned earlier is turning ten years old this year. No one is paid to run that. We've had a few hundred events, we have almost 3,000 members, and it's all run by small donations that people give at the events. And it's been a wonderful sort of place to meet people, I met all my best friends, I met my wife through this, and again it's been really about offering before I ask. So when I launched my business sort of formally in 2015 after working for ten years at the same nonprofit, and saying, "Okay I'm going to take a side hustle, and I'm going to go into this full time," this was before my son was born, I was able to really do that without feeling like I was on my own because I had so much support and there were so many people who had just been like waiting for me to do this. So I think my personal brand is not just topic-based which is networking and Schmooze, I think people know me, but so many people thought that Socializing for Justice was my full time work because that's how they knew me. They didn't even know I actually had a very full- more than full time career that was separate from that. So I think offering is a big part of my brand.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah and it makes me think about ways in which people can continue networking outside of the traditional networking opportunities. So I think that what you're talking about is really important for people just to build more relationships that have meaning and value. And I think this probably might be specific to some industries probably wouldn't make sense for this. So actually maybe they would. I'm just thinking about how you have your parents' group, right? So there's 400 people in it, it's an opportunity for you to build new relationships with people outside of a transactional 'I'm trying to sell you' environment. But rather like you said, over time you'll start to develop those relationships and if you happen to need an attorney, granted there's guaranteed somebody in that group who's some kind of practicing attorney for some particular part of law. So it's kind of like a- it's a different way of looking at networking. So I would wonder if you were to give a tip to somebody, because this obviously comes really natural to you, to be the convener, to be the person who's putting together- putting bodies in a room and getting them to connect and work together. So for somebody who might be in introvert, or not even fully a shy person necessarily, but somebody who this is uncomfortable for, so somebody- a client, type of client that you've worked with in the past. What's one or two tips that you would give to them to help them be more of a convener so they can take advantage of networking opportunities where they least expect them to be?

 

Robbie Samuels:         I think it's wonderful. One thing is to realize that networking is just a matter of being in the world, and present, and aware of who's around you. So it doesn't have to be at a formal event. Someone I know wrote about their experience of having a conversation like online with the DMV, and that it dawned on her in that moment that that was networking. That they ended up into a whole conversation that they actually discovered a connection in the time they were standing around together, and it's just being open to that experience is a piece of it. The other thing is that I actually think convening and being a host for me is actually a way to overcome a fear that I have of not belonging. So I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling like, 'Hm I'm not sure if these people are going to like me. I don't know whether I belong here.' And particularly in the context of being a dad in a new parent space knowing that there aren't going to be a lot of dads wherever I go during the week. That convening parents in this way was a way for me to become known, and for people to appreciate what I have to offer because I am giving them a space to connect online, and then by hosting these monthly baby clothing swaps, I mean we're all benefitting from those resources being shared. And similarly with Socializing for Justice, by starting that it gave me a reason to talk to other people wherever I went in Boston because I had this resource to share, and all the regulars started doing that as well. It gave them sort of an opening of something to talk about. 'Oh you're new to Boston? You might want to check out this group. Oh you're looking to promote your events? Oh here, this group can help you.' They would be very clear ways into the conversation. Now you don't have to start by launching a whole huge group or anything like that, but you can whether online or offline create sort of these niche conversations. And one way to do that offline is something that I've done a lot with my good friend Dorie Clark, and I know you interviewed her earlier on this podcast. But we co-host dinners together, and she's really taken this to an art form. But we started doing this years ago, and we each would invite three or four colleagues and go out to dinner, and just like have a loosely- sort of loosely defined conversation that allowed people to bring more of their full selves, and that's the important part. Is that it's not so strictly business because when people find shared passions, they're both really, really into yoga, that actually can break down barriers much faster than finding out they're both lawyers. So creating opportunities like that are great because as the host of that small dinner gathering, even if you're a shyer person and have a hard time really kind of wandering into an open networking event, this is different, these are people that were hand selected to be here with you, and your whole role is to help them feel welcomed and comfortable. And so it really shifts things in your head, you become that host which is I think a mentality that we can all bring with us wherever we go.

 

Jenn T Grace:              I could not agree more. I was thinking about- when you were just talking about being a host, I remember when I first started learning about chambers of commerce, which is now an actual ten years ago, and I remember going to events and being somewhat frozen in fear of like I didn't know where to be, I didn't know where to go, I didn't know who to talk to, I didn't know anybody, I had travelled halfway across the state to get there, and it was all very awkward to me. But within a couple of months I'm like, 'You know what? My happy place is sitting behind the registration table because now I'm in control and I'm able to talk to every single person who comes in the room, but I have a purpose and a reason to be talking to them.' So I feel like for me it was just a matter of like how can I take this really awkward situation and find a way to network with people in a way that didn't feel threatening to me? And it happened to be helping people find their nametag. It seemed so simple, but for me it was a complete game changer because then you're able to follow up with people after the fact and say, "We only got a quick chance to say hello when you checked in, but I'd love to have coffee with you." So I think it's a matter of finding little ways to take yourself from being completely frozen and afraid of the situation that you're walking in, and making it easier and more attainable. And I think your idea of just having a couple people together that you don't know, and then- like you said it really comes back to mindset of being like, 'Okay my job here is not to be networking. My job here is to make sure that everyone else is networking.' But really when you're helping other people network you are yourself too, and it's just completely like you're fooling yourself, but it works.

 

Robbie Samuels:         Yeah Jenn, I talk a lot about the difference between inviting and welcoming. So as event planners we sit around and talk about who we wished attended our events. 'Oh I wish there were more of X people,' and we brainstorm where those folks might get information about our event. And so we send the invitation to new list serves, or post it on new bulletin boards, et cetera. And then those new folks and other folks arrive, but no one actually greets them. You know they sign in, they get their nametag, they circle the room, they look for an opening, they don't really find one, they stand around awkwardly, and then they leave shortly after. And then the next time we get together as the event planners we talk about retention, and how- well what can we do to keep these people that we made this effort? What could we do? And the answer to what we could do is put more of an emphasis on the welcoming than the inviting, and that's where 'Art of the Schmooze' was training our regulars to be hosts. Because it can't just be me, the person who booked the room, who greets people because often the person who booked the room is also dealing with AV, or catering, or some- getting a banner hung up. They're distracted in that time period when the first awkward newcomer arrives, which is usually even a few minutes before the official start time. So that's why we ask our regulars to arrive fifteen minutes early so that the event was sort of already happening when those first few newcomers arrive not knowing where to stand and what to do. And re-coach them to talk to those new folks and introduce them to the other regulars in the room. And just by doing these couple of things, and asking them to play this host role, it awakened within them this like sense of purpose in the room. Like I now have a role, and so matter how shy they were or how introverted and exhausted they found this sort of being in a space with a lot of people, they started to see, 'Oh there's someone standing off by themselves-' and they used to ask me permission at first. They'd be like, "Robbie should I go talk to them?" And I was like, "Yeah, that'd be great." Now they just do it. They just go over, and they chat with them, and then they introduce them to someone else. Now that's really different than if you really are that brand new person. If you're a guest and you've never been here before and you go and talk to the wallflower, you might have a great conversation, but neither one of you knows anyone else in the room and that's going to be a really difficult ending to the conversation. So I always ask people to be really mindful when they walk into a space, are they a guest like as in they're brand new, or have they been there a few times? And I think if you just show up three times within a space, within an organization’s events, or within an industry's events and you kind of get to know people. At that point you can really start to think of yourself as a host, and the way you kind of mingle in that room is going to be different.

 

Jenn T Grace:              And now how do you think connectors fit into this? Because I know for myself, and so since I'm networking primarily in LGBT environments it's a much smaller community, even in a larger city like Boston. But for myself I know that my style is usually if I just start talking to somebody random, which I typically have very little problems just going up and starting a conversation with somebody. But if I hear them say something that triggered a thought about a conversation I just had, I will walk that person from where I am to that other person and be like, "They two of you have to connect," and I will just go through the room and continue to do this, because I feel like to a certain degree you have to be mindful of your time, and there might be 100 people in the room and you want to be making sure that you're having conversations that are helpful to further your own agenda if you will. I don't like using that phrase but you know what I mean. How do you find that people who are natural connectors, or people who aren't natural connectors but would like to be, how do they fit into this equation, and where is their role?

 

Robbie Samuels:         Well so Malcolm Gladwell talked about connectors, and they know a lot of people and they like to connect them. And so some of us very naturally fall into that category, and you and I both do. And so exactly how you described the scene, I do that but I also have introduced two people who are just standing next to each other, and they assume that there's a reason I did that and they ask each other questions until they find that connection, and then they'll come running over excitedly saying, "Oh how did you know we both went to southern California schools?" You know so I think that it's interesting that I created a space where people are looking for those connections. On the other hand I think everybody has the ability to be a connector, and I'll give you a quick example. I was at a huge conference, 18,000 people, there was this like after party / networking event with like loud music, dark lights, not conducive actually to networking. The first person I chatted with was a college student, I haven't been in college in a decade or longer, so on the surface we had very little in common. And we chatted for a few minutes and at the end I said, "You know I don't know very many people here. Is there anyone you think I should meet?" And he got really excited, and he told me someone's name, and I said, "Oh that's great. I'd love to be introduced." And he grabbed my hand, and he dragged me through the crowd up to his intern's supervisor who was the Communications Director of a nonprofit that I'd wanted to get to know. And he introduced us, and I said, "Thank you so much," and I turned to the Communications Director and started chatted with him, and the student walked away all peacocked, 'I just did that. I just made that connection.' And how many people did he need to know in the room to be a connector? Just the one. And the other piece of this story is that you can't discount people because they're students, or assistants, or receptionists, et cetera, because they're all working for important people who have interns, and assistants, and receptionists. So he got super excited to make that connection, and it helped me leapfrog in this very large, loud crowd over to a good conversation. Like you said, you want to try to talk to the kinds of people you want to talk to. And that is my philosophy. I want to- that's my way of ending a conversation, if I'm in a room and I don't know a lot of people I ask that question, and otherwise I'll ask the reverse. If I'm hosting I'll say, "You know, I know a lot of people here, is there anyone you want to be introduced to?" And I'll just offer that, and that's a nice way to wrap up a conversation gracefully, but also help them or you kind of leapfrog to what hopefully is going to be another meaningful conversation.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah, absolutely. I love the direction that we've been going in this conversation. One of the things that I'm thinking about is the fact that you grew your brand very organically, and I feel like mine was the same way. Like it just- there was very clear this led to this, which led to this, and now here we are. For someone listening to this who- so you know it's the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast. So in thinking about personal branding, and then also thinking about the LGBTQ community, how has the LGBTQ piece influenced what you're doing or not influenced what you're doing?

 

Robbie Samuels:         Well I wanted to work- when I moved to Boston in 2002 from New York, I wanted to work for a mission driven progressive organization that hosted multiple annual events. And I did a lot of contract work in my first couple years in Boston working at a number of different LGBT and HIV/AIDS healthcare organizations before I ended up at GLAD, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, formerly Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders based in Boston. And I think that the strategic volunteering that I did to get those first few jobs was really important. Volunteering for the health organizations doing outreach, volunteering at the AIDS walk, and this was all before I actually moved to Boston. I was coming every other weekend to do some sort of volunteer effort. So I think strategic volunteering was important, and then here I had this job where I was working at an LGBT mission driven organization, and I did that for a decade so I didn't feel like I needed to focus the rest of my life within that sphere. But for me I guess the way it influences me is that I'm an out trans man who is out online, I'm out when I do my trainings I talk about it, I talk about it in the context of feeling like a unicorn, and that we all know what it feels like to be a unicorn. You know like, 'Wow I didn't know unicorns existed. Can I ask you lots of questions? Hey what's it like to-' and there's a downside to being unicorn, to being sort of put under that spotlight, and that we don't want to do that to other people when we meet them. We want to avoid questions that are actually about something that someone can't choose. Like height, or skin color, or hair texture. But we want to more focus on things that people do choose, like their funky sunglasses, or the scarf they're wearing, et cetera. And so I do talk about it and I feel like my activism around LGBT, queer, trans politics has actually been to being an out professional, and to be out as a person who's organizing a cross-issue progressive community movement in Boston so that it wasn't like a singular focused issue-based organization when I started Socializing for Justice, but it was this like multi-faceted space that was extremely welcoming to queer and trans people, but it wasn't exclusively about queer and trans people. And we host an annual dating while progressive event on Valentine's Day and we use the exact same networking tags that we've used at our other major events. One says, 'Ask me about,' and the other says, 'I'm looking for.'

 

Jenn T Grace:              I love it.

 

Robbie Samuels:         There's no like check these different boxes if you're this and this, and if you're looking for this and this. It's like you throw a bunch of people in a room and they meet people, and they find connections, and they find friendships, and I love that like we're co-hosted by a number of progressive organizations including the Queer Poly Women Organization, and I just think like part of my activism is creating these spaces that allow so many different kinds of identities to be present. Because for most of us, most of the time when we're out in the world, we're only really able to be seen for one of our identities, and we're not able to really bring forward the complexity of who we are. So I want to create spaces where we can bring more of our full selves and share that, because that's actually how I think we form really strong connections.

 

Jenn T Grace:              And in that vein I guess then, that's really being authentic. It's being authentic to you, it's being authentic to your brand, and because it's authentic I feel like that's probably why you're seeing the success you're seeing because they get what they get. Like you are who you are, you're not trying to adapt or modify for different audiences, you're just kind of all in everywhere. Is that a fair statement?

 

Robbie Samuels:         Yeah I think about this also, about what do I post on Facebook? And my Facebook is public so you don't have to be friends- I don't know all my friends anyway is my thought pattern, so I thought why close it to friends only? So I get involved in some political conversations, I get involved in some issue conversations online, and for me I'm of the vein if you're not going to work with me because of my points of view, then that's okay.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Amen to that.

 

Robbie Samuels:         I don't want to like twist myself into a pretzel just because that's the pretzel you were looking for, if that's not how I'm feeling. And so it calls to me some people, and I'm sure that it repels other people, but it makes it a lot easier though to sort of choose who you want to work with because they're choosing to work with you.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Absolutely. I always say that going by the Professional Lesbian is such a gift because it weeds out people that would not resonate with me to begin with. So I don't ever have to worry when I get on a sales call, or a potential client call, and they are the ones who requested, I know that that's not going to be an issue and that's not going to be a barrier. And mind you half the time they are- more than half the time they're hiring me for something LGBT-specific, so one would imagine that wouldn't be the case. But for the times where I'm working with an ally helping them write a book for example, knowing that I go by Professional Lesbian, they know automatically that it's going to be a safe and welcoming environment for them and whatever identity they may be bringing to the table that may not actually be part of the LGBT community, but they have something that's making them fearful. So it gives people some kind of sense of comfort if you will.

So I think that's great because it's really a matter of not wanting to work with people who are disingenuine, right? Like who wants to- we have our own businesses for a reason and it's not to be working with people that we don't like, which is what happens when you're working for someone else. So let's see, so we have probably about five minutes to go here. So for someone listening to this who isn't yet where you are, or yet where I am in terms of developing their brand, what would be the one action step you think that they could take today, right now, as soon as they're done listening to this they could go do X. What do you think that might be to get them at least thinking or headed in the right direction to help really kind of build their personal brand?

 

Robbie Samuels:         Well I think having some clarity about what you'd want that personal brand to be is important. I was following on Twitter a very well-known woman who works in the intersection of technology, and nonprofit, and mission driven organizations, and every couple of tweets was a cat video, or something like that. And she one day sort of sent out a note and asked people for their thoughts and whether she should separate her Twitter accounts so that her sort of tech, and nonprofit, and mission drive content was separate from her cat jokes content. And the overwhelming response was yes. And so she did that, and so some people follow both, and some chose one or the other. And I thought that was such a good example of being aware of the fact that you have an audience, and as you build that audience they're gravitating to you because of something that you're sharing to the world, but that sometimes the content you're sharing doesn't resonate with everybody. And so starting to be a little more focused or create separate channels for interests that are very varied and not having enough overlap. So I think that's also true on my Facebook page, for instance there's a wide array of what I talk about, but it's within a very progressive frame. You know? I also don't write hateful things, I don't write anti things, I don't allow people to post anti messages. You can write anything for anyone that you want to talk about, but you can't write nasty things.

 

Jenn T Grace:              It has to be respectful.

 

Robbie Samuels:         It has to be respectful. I'd rather everyone talk about what they're for in the world, and so many of us are framing our thoughts and our positions based on what we're against. So I think getting some clarity about what is it that you want people to see you for, and then curating what you put out in the world more as you go forward. Start to be a little more curated about what you share publicly, and maybe creating separate channels that have different sort of foci, that's what it is that you are feeling very divergent in what your interests are. People will then start to see what you're talking about and either gravitate towards it or not; that will be how you create an audience. Because I've read about this needing to have 1,000 fans, that's it. If you had 1,000 people who were truly committed to the work that you're doing, and would buy anything you sold them just because you're offering it to the world, then you're fine, you've made it, that is success. No matter what you do, you'll be successful. But it's hard to find those 1,000 devoted fans if your content is a little bit all over the place, because you don't have 1,000 fans in one topic, you have 1,000 fans for three different topics, and that's not 1,000, that's a third.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah that is such good, good information. I feel like we could talk for hours just on this- kind of go down a rabbit hole here. But just thinking about even my content, you would think that LGBT marketing, communications, business would be specific enough, but even with me it's not specific enough. I have- it's very broad, and there's a lot of different people who come to it for very different reasons. So even what you're saying in terms of kind of segmenting things out, even I run into that and you would think that my niche is niche enough, but it's far from. And I think that most people actually have that type of challenge where they think that they're talking about technology, but really when we break down technology just because somebody wants to hear about this type of technology, by no means means that everyone wants to hear about it. So that is definitely a long process I think for people to fully kind of wrap their head around, but to your point, if they're mindful of that from the onset then that's a really good starting point. So as we wrap up, do you have anything that you're working on, and the listeners will be hearing this on July 21st; so is there anything that is on your radar right now that you want to share with the audience, explain to them how to get in touch with you, and whatever means or fashion that might be?

 

Robbie Samuels:         So I am working on launching a podcast called On the Schmooze where I interview leaders from different sectors and ask them questions about what does leadership mean to them, how do they build their professional networks and stay in touch with people they've met across their career, what does work life balance look like? And I had the good fortune of interviewing about ten people prior to my son being born, and I'm now finally re-focusing my energy and effort to launching that this summer. So about the time that this comes out, I will be either having launched it or will have a timetable to be launching it shortly after, and that's www.OnTheSchomooze.com and it's also on my website, www.RobbieSamuels.com which is the best way to reach me. I post blog posts and great content that I just give away. I think it's important to share a lot of value up front, so I have a lot of really great, very practical, implement them today kind of tips on my website that if you're interested in sort of being more thoughtful and strategic rather than wasting your time networking and just randomly collecting business cards; if you want to be more strategic in how you build relationships, I have a lot of great resources and content on my website to help you sort of do that and be more thoughtful in the future.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Awesome, thank you so much for being a guest, I really appreciate it. And for anyone listening, I highly recommend checking out Robbie's website, and of course getting in touch and listening, especially as podcast listeners, go check out his because I'm certain it's going to be awesome. So thank you so much and perhaps I'll have you on as a guest a second time and we can go into some more depth on some of the things we covered today.

 

Robbie Samuels:         That'd be great Jenn, I'd appreciate it.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Thank you for listening to today's podcast. If there are any links from today's show that you are interested in finding, save yourself a step and head on over to www.JennTGrace.com/thepodcast. And there you will find a backlog of all of the past podcast episodes including transcripts, links to articles, reviews, books, you name it. It is all there on the website for your convenience. Additionally if you would like to get in touch with me for any reason, you can head on over to the website and click the contact form, send me a message, you can find me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all at JennTGrace. And as always I really appreciate you as a listener, and I highly encourage you to reach out to me whenever you can. Have a great one, and I will talk to you in the next episode.

Direct download: Epi89_LGBTQ_Interview_With_ROBBIE_SAMUELS.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:05am EST

#88: Building a Niche Online Community with Dr. Gloria Brame

Jenn T. Grace – Episode 88 - Building a Niche Online Community with Dr. Gloria Brame

Jenn T Grace:              You are listening to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Podcast, episode 88.

 

Introduction:              Welcome to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast; the podcast dedicated to helping LGBTQ professionals and business owners grow their business and careers through the power of leveraging their LGBTQ identities in their personal brand. You'll learn how to market your products and services both broadly, and within the LGBTQ community. You'll hear from incredible guests who are leveraging the power of their identity for good, as well as those who haven't yet started, and everyone in between. And now your host. She teaches straight people how to market to gay people, and gay people how to market themselves. Your professional lesbian, Jenn - with two N's - T Grace.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Well hello and welcome to episode 88 of the podcast. I am your host, Jenn, with two N's T. Grace, and today I have another interview for you. So this is four interviews in a row, all of which have had amazing content. I really appreciate the feedback that you're giving on the guests, and the topics, and all that great stuff. So today we are talking to Gloria Brame who is a certified sexologist. She has been writing about sex education, sex therapy, BDSM; you name it, she's been writing about it for a very long time. She started the first Internet group back in 1987 that was an online community for people in BDSM. So she has quite a historical perspective of the Internet, how she's used it to grow her personal brand, and her platform, and she's one of the most recognized and cited sources on the topic, which she talks about in the interview, which she really thinks has a lot to do with the fact that she is an academic and she has a PhD in the topic, and it was just a really, really fascinating interview to hear all of the ways in which she's been able to really get her message out there. And she talks specifically about social media strategy, we also talk about the difference between doing traditionally publishing a book, or doing a self-published book. So it's just honestly a wealth of information, and the topic was really interesting to talk to her about. So overall I really hope that you enjoy this interview, and she provides information on how to get in touch with her, but as you're listening to this if you're on a treadmill, or in the car and can't write it down, you can go to www.JennTGrace.com/88 and that is for episode number 88 of the podcast, and there you'll find the links of anything we discussed, her books, all that good stuff. But anyway I really hope you enjoy this interview, and feel free to reach out with any questions or comments. Thanks so much and enjoy.

                                    Alright yeah so if you can just kind of start off by telling the listeners who you are, and what you do, and then we'll go from there.

 

Gloria Brame:             Okie dokie. My name is Gloria Brame. I have a PhD in Human Sexuality. I'm probably best known for being the lead author on a book on BDSM called 'Different Loving' which came out originally in 1993. I just did a 23-year follow-up I called 'Different Loving Too.' I started out just as a kinky person writing about kinky sex from an academic point of view because I was actually an English professor at the time, and that's really my background. But then I found it was very difficult to get any jobs once I've written a book about BDSM. So I decided to go back to school, I got a PhD, I made my dissertation project- I had a research project and a dissertation all about BDSM so you could say I have a degree now in BDSM.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Nice.

 

Gloria Brame:             And about a year after I was graduated I became a certified sexologist, which means I'm certified to work in the field of either sex therapy, or sex education, or public sexual health, any of those things. So I hung out my shingle and decided to become a sex therapist, and basically that's how I make a living even though I continue to write and publish books.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Nice. So when did you become certified, was it 2002?

 

Gloria Brame:             Yeah. I became a certified sexologist.

 

Jenn T Grace:              And you started your business shortly thereafter?

 

Gloria Brame:             Fourteen years ago. Right I had been doing really since the nineties what I guess I would call peer counseling because I founded a BDSM support group online way back in 1987, and before it was called BDSM. But it was for kinky people, and I founded it and I had such a huge membership, and a lot of the people were so encouraged- you know how it is, I was like the leader of the chat so I started doing a lot of peer counselling there because people would start writing me an email. So I started to think about- I really just wanted to write because that's my true love. I just wanted to write, but you really can't make a living as a writer unless you have phenomenal success. Like 'Fifty Shades of Gray' maybe. Or you're Stephen King, or something. But most writers do not make a lot of money. Most of us have to do something to earn money, so instead of teaching I wanted to do therapy, and that's been really awesome.

 

Jenn T Grace:              And have you used I guess the learnings and the knowledge that you've gotten by working with people one-on-one? Has that influenced what you've written about in any way?

 

Gloria Brame:             You know I see all of my life, and my life work really, as like just one big bowl that on the very inside, the inner rubber band if you will, is the writing. But everything is built up to a point where I feel that everything is about sex, and everything is about speaking my various truths about sex. So I've written academic types of books like the ‘Different Loving’s are more on the academic end. You know I'm working on a trilogy, I have one more book to write, called 'The Truth about Sex,' which is basically my twenty years of knowledge as a sexologist and theorist packed into three short volumes that sort of re-educate people on sexual diversity as a norm, and not binary heteronormative sex as a norm, because it never really was. And then I also have published some autobiographies where I talk about my sex history, because that's another piece of my work, my belief that what happens to us early in life impinges on sexual choices we make as adults. Not sexual identity, but choices.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Interesting. And now you've obviously written a handful of books, and right before we hit record I was saying that you must have some insights around how you've really positioned yourself as a sex expert, especially since you're frequently cited- one of the most frequently cited in the world.

 

Gloria Brame:             I came from a humanities background. I was a literary nerd, probably like many of the writers who are listening, we all start out as readers, and that was really my thing and I never really even went close to the sciences. I was okay in science but I wasn't even interested in it, and after writing 'Different Loving,' which I wrote because for one reason only, I didn't feel that anybody had written an honest book about that type of sexuality, and I was two or three years into being out, and I was really rah, rah, rah and I felt like, 'This is a terrible thing, nobody knows what it's really like.' So I said about writing that book. In the process of writing that book, I totally became hooked on sex history. I mean totally became hooked on my topic. I mean what could be better for a writer? I mean you write what you know, but then the more you know about it, you suddenly realize you want to devote your life to it. And I think what really got me in 'Different Loving' was just going back and reading all these nineteenth century source documents about what people originally said and how they studied homosexuality, or transgenderism, or fetishism, or what they later called sadomasochism; and their theories were completely kooky. And yet based on those kooky theories the psychiatric community has held sexual minorities in this death grip of disapproval for a hundred years. You know? So the more I learned, and the more I wrote, and the more I researched, the more hooked I became, and then I felt like well if I'm going to be a sex expert, I'm going to read everything I possibly can, and that's really what I did for like ten years.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Wow so you went all in for sure.

 

Gloria Brame:             I went all in and I didn't write any books during that time.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Interesting. So now what are the types of organizations or publications that are reaching out to you that are looking to quote you as a sex expert?

 

Gloria Brame:             Well I've been very academically successful, I've been incredibly successful in my practice, and my first book 'Different Loving' really set me up as an expert in that particular field; in a field where very few people except for pro-doms for a long time were really- most people were not comfortable admitting they were into it. And I was totally out of the closet since 1991 under my real name and everything. And I had a degree. One of the reasons I went back to school and got a degree in sex is because I felt that it would lend more authority to the books that I write.

 

Jenn T Grace:              I was actually going to ask you that question.

 

Gloria Brame:             Yeah, you know it's like okay this is just a kinky, poly, bi woman who's writing everything from her perspective, as opposed to oh this is somebody with a PhD in the subject. And I felt that definitely enhanced my ability to get my message out, and I really- I'm not entirely sure how my name has gotten out that much except that I've always positioned myself from the start as somebody who knew a lot about BDSM, and from there it grew, and I have always kept a high profile on the Internet, or as high a profile as a private person can.

 

Jenn T Grace:              As far as your high profile status, or trying to still have a low profile but being really heavily involved on the Internet, if you were to look back at what you were doing- because I feel like we have technology also kind of complicating things, but also enhancing things at the same time. So the fact that you had started an online group in 1987 is so amazing because it shows how in a sense cutting edge you were then. So have you been I guess keeping up with, or leveraging, or taking advantage of just the wide world of information that's out there right now. Has that helped you?

 

Gloria Brame:             The main thing of course- and this is where writers really fall down on the job, and a lot of artists, because they don't understand the Internet. Although I don't think that's going to be a problem to anybody under the age of 35 anymore, but I would say consistency and it's fluidity because in the early 1990's I hosted this- I was teaching classes for Netscape. Now does anyone even remember what Netscape was?

 

Jenn T Grace:              I do.

 

Gloria Brame:             You know it was the router that everybody used in the 1990's that was crappy and went away. So but at the time they thought they were going to take over the world, they thought they were going to be what turned out to be Google or something, and they had classes. So I was the first person to teach online BDSM, you know what I mean? A few years later Netscape was gone, then AOL merged with another platform, and again a lack of at the time people who had academic credentials to back up their expertise in BDSM. And then we jump ahead to blogs, and then you jump ahead to Facebook and LinkedIn. So I have a consistent presence on every new media platform, or every new platform that has emerged really since 1987.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Wow I feel like that's impressive.

 

Gloria Brame:             I tried Myspace, totally not for me. Totally not for a sexologist adult. But you know places like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, I consider essential. And Pinterest. I mean you have to be where there are going to be readers, and I think part of why I have a good reputation is I've also always offered a lot of free content.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Which is totally key in building a personal brand, is the more content that you put out there for free, and dripping it out to people when you have something that is paid for, I feel like you're going to have a higher likelihood of people wanting to buy from you because you've been giving away so long.

 

Gloria Brame:             Yeah and my goals as a writer because I used to teach creative writing, was to get myself locked onto routines and disciplines, things that I did every day. One of the hardest things for me was when blogging first emerged, to actually have something to say every day. You know I felt like, 'Oh my God.' You know or even something to say three times a week it felt overwhelming. So for a while like I switched to an all visual blog, after like a couple years of trying to write something new for my blog every day, it became impossible. So I switched to all visual, but by being all visual and being a sex person, I got banned like on all the search engines.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Interesting.

 

Gloria Brame:             So I learned my lesson. And now I've switched back to commentary, but now I use my blog- I would say 50% to 60% to promote my books.

 

Jenn T Grace:              And how often are you blogging? And what is it about? Have you found a new routine that seems to be working for you right now?

 

Gloria Brame:             I have. My routine is I now share with the public what I did for those ten years of not writing, which was I used to track every single new sex study, and I would take like post-graduate education modules online in sex, and so I was keeping up with everything. I still read the sex news every single day, I just got into the habit. So now I share on my blog. And sometimes really it's just a link. Like today there was a historic event in transgender history in the Philippines. Geraldine Romano, a trans woman, was elected to a Congressional office in Manila. So like that's a big thing. So something like that, all I need to say is congratulations. But there's always something that keeps people coming back to my blog, and of course to the right of my blog are links to my various books, and lots and lots of content to keep people there if they want to stick around.

 

Jenn T Grace:              And are you finding that Google has been good to you now with the amount of information that you have on your website in terms of ranking high?

 

Gloria Brame:             Yeah I actually had to write to them and all of that, but I got McAfee to take me off their banned website list.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Oh wow.

 

Gloria Brame:             And that was really important.

 

Jenn T Grace:              That's a big thing.

 

Gloria Brame:             Because you couldn't read me in other countries. I'm still banned in some countries, but that's okay. It's the nature of my work. When you're writing sex books, and talking frankly about sex, and you're not coming from a heteronormative perspective, you should expect to encounter pushback and censorship.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Now how does that play out on Amazon for example? Do you have any pushback or problems with them carrying your books?

 

Gloria Brame:             No, not so much on Amazon. I really don't. I haven't had any problems. You know again, I think some of it has to do with your credentials. I'm really grateful I have the credentials, that's all I can say. You know I'm really glad that I'm so nerdy that I could stand going back to school at age forty and getting a degree in something.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah.

 

Gloria Brame:             Because the payoff is that I do think that mainstream media are always going to be more comfortable with somebody who has the PhD or Dr before their name, or some kind of impressive to them credential, whether you're the founder of something, or whatever it is. And that's how my name has spread I think.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Do you think that that was partly why McAfee was willing to take you off their black list so to speak?

 

Gloria Brame:             It was, I'm sure of it. I was able to say, "Look go to my site." You know I stopped running the images, and I went back to just talking about it, and I said, "Well please look at the totality of my site. I'm a sex therapist and yes, I talk about frank things in frank language, and there it is." And they de-demonized me. They unblocked me.

 

Jenn T Grace:              I feel like that's a victory. Yeah that's a big one.

 

Gloria Brame:             That is a big one. But again, you know if the women and men listening to this are planning to do let's say erotic fiction for which they don't need any kind of degree because it's all about your creativity, but if you're doing that kind of- it's going to be hard to get noticed and branded.

 

Jenn T Grace:              And now-

 

Gloria Brame:             Whereas if you write self-help books you might be able to do without the degree.

 

Jenn T Grace:              I was going to say- yeah my audience is definitely more of the nonfiction side of things who might be writing some kind of self-help book rather than some fiction-related stuff.

 

Gloria Brame:             Yeah. So I would say that part of branding is making sure that people associate you with what you do, and not just erotic writer which is- but like something more specific like Queen of the Lovology Institute- pardon me, I think there is a Lovology Institute. But you know, something like that, something that is memorable.

 

Jenn T Grace:              So they think your name and they think exactly, very specifically what you do so that way they can find you when they're looking for you online.

 

Gloria Brame:             Right you know there are plenty of my peers, and colleagues are sexologists, but I always put that out there. Because it's not that common a word but it turns out to be a word that everybody sort of understands.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah.

 

Gloria Brame:             And sort of like they're involved in sex but it isn't too dirty because they're helping people.

 

Jenn T Grace:              I know you throw 'ologist' onto anything and it seems like it works.

 

Gloria Brame:             Yeah.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Do you think that if somebody were to be starting to do something even remotely similar to what you're doing now without having that PhD that they may encounter any type of resistance like you faced earlier on? Or do you think some of that's been a little bit lifted.

 

Gloria Brame:             Well it depends on where you go. Like for example I'm very, very frequently quoted but when I've tried to get 'The Truth about Sex' published, no mainstream publisher wanted to touch it because they felt that it was just too far out. They felt it was too far out for me, and this was like back in 2010 or 2011 to be saying that sexual diversity was normal. You know? And they felt- at least one place, that had marketing- at a place that had formerly published me said, "I can't sell a dominatrix in today's environment." Whatever that meant. You know because I've never hidden that I'm involved in BDSM as a topic. So it depends on what you're selling. If you're a lesbian and you find a sympathetic lesbian editor who wants to publish articulate books, you know about the lesbian experience, you may not experience any pushback. But if you go someplace mainstream and they're like, "Oh well we already had two lesbians this year," you know what I mean? You may experience marginalization, pushback, people not really taking you that seriously, and for me since all of my stuff is like cutting edge, you know I feel lucky that I actually got my first book through a big publisher. And in recent years I just moved to self-publishing.

 

Jenn T Grace:              I was just going to ask you about that. So when the big publisher shuts the door in your face, the solution is to self-publish. Can you just talk a little bit about that experience compared to the traditional publishing experience?

 

Gloria Brame:             There are a lot of great things about self-publishing and there are a lot of great things about commercial publishing. I don't want to discourage people because the bigger money usually is to be made in big publishing, although again I'll note 'Fifty Shades of Gray' I think started out as a self-published 'Twilight' fanfic and I believe sold enough copies on Amazon that it got a publisher interested. That happens once in a blue moon, but it does happen. Mainly the advantages of going with a commercial publisher are very simply- and you need an agent to get into a commercial publisher by the way, because I operate only with an intellectual property lawyer, I don't have an agent anymore. Fired them, too. You have to have an agent, an agent takes 20% of your money, all your money. The advance, residuals, everything.

 

Jenn T Grace:              How about services that you provide, or other products?

 

Gloria Brame:             Right that they provide. But they can get you into- they'll know who to send your manuscript to, hopefully they'll know the right people to show your manuscript to, and they have an in with those people so those people will actually read your manuscript. So if you send a manuscript in blind, you may never get read. You'll never get higher maybe than a reader for the editor who is a grad student or something like that. You know? But if you can get through in commercial publishing, they'll do all your publicity, they'll create your publicity campaign, they'll tell you where to show up, they'll sign you up for any book signings and readings, they'll do all of that. They'll do all of the backend work on copywrite and production. You may not even get a choice in the book cover they slap on you, but maybe. You know and they take all of that stuff, all the financial end, and the creative end of production, and they do it all for you. So basically you submit your manuscript and other than having to re-edit it to their like several times, you kind of work for them once they pay you for your book. With- and you also have your best chance, finally the most important thing is distribution. They distribute your book across the country, and make sure it gets on Amazon. If they like it enough they'll really push it harder and try to get book sellers interested.

 

Jenn T Grace:              So in your experience, the 20% that the agent would take, did it seem worth it for at least the ones that have gone through that traditional publishing route?

 

Gloria Brame:             Yes, it does. You may not be happy if you're not seeing a big number and what you end up with is really not that great, and then you may really resent 20%, but overall the value of getting into a commercial publisher, you know there are many positive things about it. Unfortunately there's also a tremendous downside to commercial publishing. And the first downside of course is that it's very hard to get a book published, and even when you do, if they tell you to change it, you have to change it. And my first book, 'Different Loving' was really censored, and at the time I accepted it and I don't think I would today.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Interesting. And how much did it take away from what you were talking about from that censorship standpoint? Did it like really dilute the message that you were trying to convey?

 

Gloria Brame:             I don't think it diluted the message itself, but it definitely diluted what the sexuality was about and how extreme it could get. Because they made us remove a chapter on people who into some really edgy, edgy play. And anywhere there was really edgy play, they wanted it to go. So to somebody who's in BDSM that edgy, edgy play didn't seem that edgy, but to straight people it scared the bejesus out of them. So- and lawyers said, "You know we're going to see a million lawsuits on this, and blah, blah, blah."

 

Jenn T Grace:              Interesting.

 

Gloria Brame:             So we let them cut us down, and you know the basic message is this stuff's okay, and then we just weren't able to include all of the interview material and that was kind of sad. And one chapter had to go on edge play. So you know that was sad, but then I found even when I wrote a very mainstream book called, 'Come Hither,' which was like a basic introduction to the community, and how you can tell if you're kinky, and it was really like a fun book for couples who were talking about kink together. Even there, you know with a different publisher, and even though they signed up with me because I had written 'Different Loving.' You know they really reigned it in, and their PR plan for me fell apart when the editor and then the head of PR left. New people came in, and they didn't really care about my book. So that's the peril of being at a big house, is that even when you land that contract, in the end you may not see the money you were expecting because if they pay you up front you have to earn it back in sales. And not a lot of books earn back their advances; that's why publishing is in shitty shape. You know it's very hard for them to make profits these days on book sales. And with self-publishing you have total intellectual freedom, and total creativity, it can be the book you wanted to write, but the downside is you have to do everything yourself. You know if you sign up with like- the place I signed up with actually treats me like a publisher not a vanity press. In other words I don't pay them anything and they do things for me because I was a known entity and they felt they could sell my books. So my deal with them is 50/50 profits. I don't invest anything, and they don't charge me anything, and we share profits 50/50 down the line from the day the book starts selling. I pick the cover, they do the copywrite stuff in the background, I have to do all my own marketing.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Interesting. So they'll take care of all the logistics if you will.

 

Gloria Brame:             They take care of all the logistics. This particular company works with you if you can submit a cover, they can suggest a cover, they have volumes and volumes of clip art, they can design with you or use your designs. They will also make sure to file for all the important copywrite and ISBN data for your book, they do all of that stuff.

 

Jenn T Grace:              And do you find that there are-

 

Gloria Brame:             And they get it on Amazon, they get it on all of the online book stores, Barnes and Noble, and they do a digital version as well.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Do you find that there are a lot of companies similar to what they're offering? Is this kind of a new- it's not even really a new frontier but you know what I mean.

 

Gloria Brame:             It's not even a new frontier, no. There are lots of places and the degree of your own autonomy there is according to place. Like I believe some sites you have to fill out all the paperwork and you're just using them to print your book literally. You know? Or you can go to Amazon which I believe now has its own print-to-vision for authors, and you can work directly with Amazon and make sure it gets on Amazon automatically. Or you can use a service where you would pay a nominal fee like $300 to $1,000 depending on the level of service, and they give you a la carte services like, 'Well we'll do this, and we'll do that, you can pick all the way up to- we'll give you a fancy cover design.'

 

Jenn T Grace:              So are there other benefits to the self-publishing road other than what you described?

 

Gloria Brame:             Well for me I prefer it because A) I will always write niche books. In other words I doubt I'll ever have- my books will have ever have universal appeal even though my blog may. Because you know on my blog I write about women's sexual health, and just everything that is newsworthy in the field of sex. But my books are really pretty specific to a more queer, and then sometimes BDSM perspective.

 

Jenn T Grace:              So knowing what you've been talking about, for somebody who- maybe they're just starting out, and they're just trying to figure out the lay of the land for how they can make their name synonymous like we were talking about before with what it is they do. What do you think the number one thing, or the first step that would be worthwhile for them to take, into really kind of building their online community, which is what you have. It seems like you have a really big online community.

 

Gloria Brame:             First I would recommend before they go to their blog, is that they start building their social networking platform that they believe will be a great place to promote any free content they're going to be doing. So like if they're going to be posting covers of their book, they want to have a Pinterest board. Like I have a Pinterest- in addition to all my sex history, and [Inaudible 00:30:05] pictures, and kittens, of course there must be cats. But I mean in addition to all of that I have a board devoted to 'Different Loving,' you know a Pinterest board. And all my book covers as I'm designing the book, or any pictures of people who are in the book, or anything like that goes on that board, so that's one place. I have a Tumblr account, all my blog posts go there. My blog posts auto-post to a Facebook fan page which is dedicated only to my work. My LinkedIn page which is dedicated only to my work; I will not use LinkedIn anymore for chat or even for networking because I didn't find that it did a damn thing for me.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah for your industry.

 

Gloria Brame:             But what does do a thing for me is when I post a blog post as an article on LinkedIn, you know? In other words just making sure that word of my free content appears everywhere, and on Twitter. And there's a program you can use called www.IFTTT.com.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yes I've heard of that before.

 

Gloria Brame:             Okay.

 

Jenn T Grace:              How are you using it?

 

Gloria Brame:             I use IFTTT and I advise it for anybody who wants to get writing and news of their books out in a very targeted way. IFTTT is an online software program that allows you to automatically re-post your post from let's say Twitter, or from your blog, to all of your other social media. And they actually have a much wider range of social media platforms than I ever use because I'm not on everything, you know? But you could probably use it to- if you're on everything you can- you just set it up one time and then every time you post on a particular place, that particular content will go out to ninety social media platforms. And you may only get one or two hits on some of them, but it's worth it.

 

Jenn T Grace:              It's still exposure, right? It's still getting your message out.

 

Gloria Brame:             It's exposure and you keep doing it, and you can't really rely on other people these days to promote you, or that a single promotion in any one place is really going to change your life. It's just not like that anymore because the Internet is drowning in content.

 

Jenn T Grace:              So as the Internet is drowning in content, how do you think the best way to stand out in this kind of flood of information? Have you found any particular way that seems to work for you?

 

Gloria Brame:             Well I find that- I've shifted a lot. I mean I'm constantly adapting. Like the reason I ended up with IFTTT was that I just spent a year casually just sort of browsing media impact on my numbers. You know? Just sort of watching to see what was more effective, what seemed to get more hits to my website, where was I selling more books? And I found like Twitter was useful for that, so whereas I used to use Twitter for the usual kind of banter that people get into, or personal things. I never got into what was for lunch, but you know what I mean. Yeah just like random comments on Twitter. I stopped that completely. I only use Twitter now as a promotional tool for my free content and my work. Period. No chatter, no nothing. Because I think that in such a busy world people really need to know who you are, and what your identity is. It's like you know Kim Kardashian, what's her brand really? Well it's being Kim Kardashian but I think it's having insane outfits and always looking perfectly coiffed. You know? Or deliberately looking great when she's disheveled too.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah.

 

Gloria Brame:             So I mean it's all about looking good.

 

Jenn T Grace:              So what I'm hearing, and you're saying that you're using Twitter to put out content, it's not always asking for something- for people in return. You're just saying, "Here is my free information."

 

Gloria Brame:             You know like when I say 50% to 60% promotes my stuff, like today I'm writing a thought piece on redefining BDSM that's going to go up on my blog a little later this afternoon. And there were opportunities because they were relevant, opportunities to talk about an opinion that I had in one of my books on this subject. You see what I mean? So I'm not doing a big promotion for my book, I'm not going to include a big picture of my book, or anything like, but among the various things that I'm linking to including other people's articles and thoughts, I'm including a link for my book.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yes I think that's the key.

 

Gloria Brame:             I feel that in exchange for getting people to see that there's a link to my book, they're getting five or six paragraphs of provocative reading that they don't have to pay for.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yes. Yeah I think that's the key. So you're not telling people to just go out there and start spamming people saying how great your book is, you're giving valuable content that's related to what your book is providing, and everyone's winning because you're giving out stuff. You've spent time and energy writing, and writing well, that you want people to see that free content, which then just gets your name in front of them more often.

 

Gloria Brame:             Yeah, you know I'm sixty years old, I'm like a different generation and I'm really uncomfortable praising myself. I'm really uncomfortably going and saying, "I'm the greatest-" you know whatever I may think at home with people who love me and forgive me, whatever flights of fancy my ego may take here. I think it's really rude, and crass, and ugly when people just get up and start telling you how fucking fantastic they are.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah for real.

 

Gloria Brame:             You know it's just like- and who's the judge of that? You and your mother?

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah. There needs to be a balance for sure.

 

Gloria Brame:             So I don't do that. I mean I do believe that my work contains important stuff, or relevant stuff, or fun- whatever my books contain, I will push the content, but I'll push the content by showing rather than claiming, if you know what I mean. I'll give them some content to show what I'm talking about. However that said, I will say that on Twitter, I don't know if it's not a hit on my blog, but on Twitter and on my Facebook fan page they like getting promotions. People respond positively to promotions. They don't on LinkedIn, not nearly as much.

 

Jenn T Grace:              You're paying attention to your audience. I think that's so important is that you're not just splattering it.

 

Gloria Brame:             So seeing that people will like or even love when I create- I create a lot of funny ads for my book, so I'll create a funny ad and even there I hope it's not just 'go and buy my book,' but 'here's something that will make you giggle, and please buy my book.' Or 'here's an excerpt from my book, don't you want to read more?' That kind of thing.

 

Jenn T Grace:              That makes a lot of sense.

 

Gloria Brame:             And I don't do it a lot, I do it a couple times a week because I have seven books that I really want to sell.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah so we're already getting over forty minutes here so I would love to have you spend a couple of minutes just talking about your new book that you were mentioning, and letting everyone know where they can find more information about you since we're really kind of talking about your community, and all the places that you are. I'd love for people to be able to know exactly how to follow you should they want to.

 

Gloria Brame:             Well I'm really easy to find, just Gloria Brame into Google and you can find me on Facebook and Twitter or www.GloriaBrame.com and once you get to my website you'll see my blog link and you can subscribe to it, or you can- anything that goes on my blog goes out to social media, so if you follow me @DrGloriaBrame you'll see links to all of my free content. Now the new book, I wasn't sure if I wanted to ever write a sequel to 'Different Loving' to be honest, because it was an enormous, enormous task and it took three people almost three years to write that book.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Wow.

 

Gloria Brame:             So I couldn't do that now, I couldn't commit three to six years. One of our collaborators died in the interim, et cetera, et cetera. But what I did want to do is I really got interested some years ago about doing like what happens to people after they've been in the scene for twenty years? Because I first got involved in like 1985 or 1986, now it's 2016, I'm still involved in my community to some degree. I don't really appear many places anymore, I don't attend conferences much because I'm older and I have my BDSM community in my home with my partners. But so I've evolved enormously even in terms of how I play, or how I live. One of my partners is a woman, you know that was kind of unexpected, I thought I would be partnered with men. So you know things really changed and I really wanted to know how things changed in the lives of other players, and I was in touch with- I don't know about a half dozen or more of the original interviewees over the years, hooked up on Facebook. So I decided that was the place to start. I was going to start not by trying to look at the overwhelming phenomenon of BDSM online that has completely transformed our community, but first to go and see how many of the old interviewees I could find twenty years later. And I found about twenty of them which was awesome.

 

Jenn T Grace:              How many were in the original?

 

Gloria Brame:             The original was like sixty or seventy that appeared in the book.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Wow that's a good percentage, yeah.

 

Gloria Brame:             And for this one I actually found more, I found 25 but some people had withdrawn, a number of people had died, and some people just didn't want to be in this book. They were living very different lives and they didn't want to be defined as BDSM publicly anymore. So I added to those nineteen, twelve people who hadn't been in the book who were a lot younger, but who also had been at least- had at least twenty years' experience. And so our youngest participant was a woman of 37 who started out when she was 17. And I decided that the best way to chronicle like what had changed in the BDSM world- because that was the real question, is where are we as a community now 25 years later, was to chronicle it through individual stories. So I did in-depth interviews with 31 different people across all of the orientations; trans people, trans men, trans women, gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and straight people. And then I went and I did on Facebook general community surveys where I asked like 200 BDSM friends to contribute their answers to a range of questions on BDSM subjects. And that was like my research base; using those interviews and then all of the rafts of community dialogues as I called them about different subjects like what does consent mean to you, or what's your bottom line in a relationship, or what have you learned? I asked everybody I interviewed in depth, 'What would you say now to the person you were 25 years ago after everything you've learned?' And then from there I just treated it like a sexologist by looking at some of the science that submerged in the twenty years, how the culture has changed in the twenty years, how growing acceptance of sexual diversity means that we couldn't even count the number of people in the BDSM worlds if we counted like every fetishist out there, et cetera, et cetera. So that's really what the book is about. It brings 'Different Loving' circa 1993 into the 21st century.

 

Jenn T Grace:              It sounds fascinating.

 

Gloria Brame:             Where we now- what has the journey been like, what's our real history, with some predictions of mine on what future sex will be like.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Wow that sounds really interesting. So if somebody were interested would it make sense, or would you still recommend that they read the first one and then read the second one?

 

Gloria Brame:             You know it really depends on the person. You know if they're a BDSM-er they probably want to start with number one, and then go to number two. If they're coming to BDSM as scholars or just people who have friends involved who are just kind of interested in it, DL Too is the 21st century of BDSM. So it's kind of like do you want the whole historical perspective? Because the original volume really goes into the history- like I'll have a chapter on bondage and then we look back to ancient practices, and what people have written about BDSM, what they had written about it in the seventeenth century, and the nineteenth century, and so forth. The new book is definitely rooted and based in the 21st century.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Wow.

 

Gloria Brame:             And it's a look back at where we were and where we are.

 

Jenn T Grace:              It sounds really interesting just from the historical standpoint of it, just to get a lesson.

 

Gloria Brame:             Yeah it's really cool to me because I feel it's- I mean the next best thing to a real longitudinal study, which has never been done. You know I mean it's just never been done that you look at this particular sexual population and then you come back to them twenty years later, and interview many of the same people, and find out how massively their lives have changed without their sexual orientation changing.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah, wow that's so interesting.

 

Gloria Brame:             Yeah I mean a lot of them are just doing all new things, things they weren't doing, and many of them have partners they never expected to have.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yourself included, right?

 

Gloria Brame:             I can't tell you- like a lot of people have become poly, something that would have been really out of the box twenty years ago.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah this is really interesting. I have a client who does a lot of work in terms of education around the poly community, so I think that she would love this book, so I'm certainly going to send her to your website. She probably already knows about you for all I know.

 

Gloria Brame:             Yeah one of my favorite interviews was a woman who had been married like two or three times, and they'd all failed, and she was really depressed, but she also had this secret life as a spanking fetishist. She had done movies as a spanking fetishist. Well- and that was her interview, was based on she's this star of spanking fetish movies back in the 1990's. But now when I meet her in 2015 I guess was when I spoke with her, you know she couldn't find anyone, she couldn't find anyone, she finally said, "That's it, I'm done with straight marriages." And then she met a man and his female partner and she fell in love with both of them.

 

Jenn T Grace:              That's awesome.

 

Gloria Brame:             And now they're a three way marriage. They found a place to get married as a three, as a triad. And she said, "I never would have imagined I could be this happy. Who knew?"

 

Jenn T Grace:              That's so nice to hear, right?

 

Gloria Brame:             I mean she vaguely knew she was bisexual, or so she thought until she fell in love with a woman. So you know, people's lives- I think that once you allow yourself to be sexually free, that you know, the potentials for your life are just genuinely transformed.

 

Jenn T Grace:              I think it's just trying to not put yourself in a box or feel the need to label yourself, which is something the LGBT community certainly struggles with in a lot of ways.

 

Gloria Brame:             Correct. You know?

 

Jenn T Grace:              Wow so for folks-

 

Gloria Brame:             It's funny because the blog piece I'm writing today is about I'm tired of people defining BDSM as bondage and discipline, dominance and sub- you know because actually most people, I don't even know how many people still even do bondage and discipline. People have moved on, they've evolved, you know? And the reality was, is while it was a very politically effective acronym to use, you know because it seemed to unite us, you know millions of us don't do any of the stuff in that thing, and being defined- as the gay rights movement knows, being defined by the things you do in bed sends a really creepy message.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Absolutely.

 

Gloria Brame:             As opposed to who you really are as people. You know or your right to have dignity and equal rights in society.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah labels do us a disservice.

 

Gloria Brame:             So I think even there, I mean we're still growing.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah, absolutely. I feel like this interview has been so good because I feel like just having such a historical context for even social media, you're bringing so many very perspectives to us, and also just knowing about your book. So for people who- I know that you had given your website, is there a different place to send people to get your books, or still just straight to your website directly?

 

Gloria Brame:             I have a shop on my site but of course the cheapest option is Amazon, and you can just type Gloria Brame into Amazon and hopefully my author's page will come up with- oh that's another place every writer should be of course, is have your own author's page on Amazon, have your own author's page on Goodreads.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yes absolutely.

 

Gloria Brame:             So I have an author's page with a bio and a picture of me with a flower I believe, looking very mature and professional.

 

Jenn T Grace:              That's awesome.

 

Gloria Brame:             And there it is. I would appreciate and love if your listeners would support my work because I'm out there.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Absolutely. Been putting yourself out there for a while. Well I sincerely appreciate your time today, this has been great and I'm sure my listeners are going to love this.

 

Gloria Brame:             Thanks so much Jenn, it was a great interview.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah thank you so much.

 

Gloria Brame:             Alrighty.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Thank you for listening to today's podcast. If there are any links from today's show that you are interested in finding, save yourself a step and head on over to www.JennTGrace.com/thepodcast. And there you will find a backlog of all of the past podcast episodes including transcripts, links to articles, reviews, books, you name it. It is all there on the website for your convenience. Additionally if you would like to get in touch with me for any reason, you can head on over to the website and click the contact form, send me a message, you can find me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all at JennTGrace. And as always I really appreciate you as a listener, and I highly encourage you to reach out to me whenever you can. Have a great one, and I will talk to you in the next episode.

 

Direct download: 88-Building-a-Niche--Online-Community-with--Dr.-Gloria-Brame.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:05am EST

#87: How Lindsay Felderman Turned a Pile of Words Into an Inspirational Book

#87 - How Lindsay Felderman Turned a Pile of Words Into an Inspirational Book  [Podcast]

Jenn T Grace:             You are listening to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast, episode 87.

Well hello and welcome to episode number 87 of the podcast. I am your host, Jenn Grace, and today I have a special interview for you. As you know for the last probably three months or so at this point, and for probably the next three months to come, I have had nonstop interviews. And I'm so excited to be back on the interview kick, and today I have Lindsay Felderman on, and she is the proud new author of the book, 'Walking through Walls. Finding the Courage to be Your True Self,' and I cannot be more excited to have Lindsay on because she shares her journey of writing and publishing her very first book.

Her book talks about the coming out process, and a lot of really kind of amazing things in terms of just getting outside of your comfort zone, and really kind of pushing yourself to realize that you have a story to tell, and your story is important, and your story can impact the world. So it's super exciting to have Lindsay on, and even more so because she is one of the first graduates- or one of seven people who graduated from my spring session of the Purpose Driven Author's Academy, and she's the first of those seven to produce her book through the program. So I could not be any more excited as my second group of authors recently started on June 7th. So I'm in the summer session right now with seven new amazing authors.

So it's really kind of cool to have Lindsay on who talks about her experience of writing the book, a little bit about her experience of publishing the book, and kind of the things that have been a little more of a pain versus things that were a little bit easier. So yeah, it's just- it was a really good conversation, and the moral of everything in what we talked about is it's really kind of about finding the courage to just be yourself, whether you are part of the LGBT community or not. So her book is already available on Amazon, which is super exciting, so you can go to Amazon and type in Lindsay Felderman or type in Walking Through Walls, and either way you should find Lindsay's book, and you can purchase it, and I've already read it so I'm excited for you to get your hands on it as well.

So that is what I have for an introduction. I don't want to take up any more time, but I do want to let you know that if you want to see the transcript for today's show, if you want to have access to the links that Lindsay and I talk about, if you want a direct link to the Amazon page where you can find her book, you can go to www.JennTGrace.com/87 and that is for episode number 87. So enough of my blabbering on, let's just dive right into the interview with Lindsay.

So yeah if you just want to start off by giving the listeners a quick kind of background of yourself, and then we'll get into all the good things about your book.

 

Lindsay Felderman:  Okay, I don't even know where to start with a background I guess. Yeah I'm Lindsay, I'm in my late twenties, I am gay and I wanted to write a book about my coming out story because I struggled with my identity for a long time, and I wanted to kind of just share that with the world and show them that it's okay to struggle. But at the end of the day you really should trust your gut and believe in yourself. Yeah.

 

Jenn T Grace:             So how long would you say you had been thinking about writing a book? Because I know when we first talked which was like six or eight months ago at this point when you were first thinking about this, that we were talking about how it feels like there's a lot of books out there for this topic, but in the way that you were thinking about it, it just didn't feel like anything was landing for what you were feeling. So how long has that been on your mind?

 

Lindsay Felderman:  I probably first started thinking about writing a book probably a little bit after college. When I graduated from college which was in 2006, so I guess like ten years ago- oh now that was high school, college was six years ago. Yeah okay so 2010 I graduated from college, and I don't know, soon after that. I'd been thinking about it, and then a few times I would actually go to like write it on my computer, and start writing, and I always for some reason just had this like inclination that what I had to say didn't really matter, and always ended up just like shutting my computer down and was like, 'Forget this, I don't know why I'm even thinking about doing that.' And then it wasn't until I guess last year, I went to this- I guess you could call it a seminar with Seth- I always mess up his last name.

 

Jenn T Grace:             Godin?

 

Lindsay Felderman:  Yes. My old boss called him 'Gahdin,' so then like it's in my head as 'Gahdin' but I know it's Godin, so every time I go to say it I like stutter. Anyway I went to a seminar with him, and it was called 'The Ruckusmaker's Seminar,' and basically it was just this whole thing where you were just bringing like a project, an idea that you wanted to make better, and like everybody kind of had the same theme of like making the world a little bit of a better place. So my old job actually sent me to it, which was kind of funny because I didn't really use it for that, which was probably- he doesn't need to know that. I mean I did, I did think about work, but I really was there like personally. People would ask me, "What do you want to do if you're unhappy at your job?" And I was like, "I don't know. I really want to help LGBTQ youth. I don't really know how to do that." At that point- had I started volunteering for GLSEN? Yeah I think I had already started volunteering for GLSEN, so I was doing that. But other than that I was really unsure what I wanted to do. So I just kind of talked to people all weekend about that, how I wasn't really super happy in my corporate marketing job, but I wanted to find something that I felt like I was helping people. And then Seth wrote a book called, 'Your Turn,' and it's just kind of basically just a bunch of passages just talking about all sorts of things about life, and I kind of was sitting there looking at the book on like a break, and I turned it to a page and there was a quote at the bottom and it said, 'The most important book you'll ever read in your life is the one you write yourself.' And I kind of just was like, 'You know what? I've been wanting to do that forever. I really need to stop messing around with it.' So we had to like break up into groups, and I was in with a couple of my friends, and I just was like, "I want to write a book." And they both were like, "Yes, you should, oh my gosh," and I had never really said it out loud or told anybody that I had wanted to, so that was like a really big moment for me when I realized like, 'Yeah I'm going to do this.' And then I actually went up to Seth to thank him for the seminar, and I told him, "I'm going to write a book." And he's like an accomplished author, he's written like twenty books, and I was so nervous to say it, and he just like looked me in the eye and he said, "Yes you will."

 

Jenn T Grace:             That's awesome.

 

Lindsay Felderman:  I don't know, from there that's when I was like, 'I've got to this. It's something that I really just need to do.'

 

Jenn T Grace:             That's awesome. Not everyone can say that Seth Godin said it right to their face that, "Yes you will." That's pretty impressive.

 

Lindsay Felderman:  It was cool, yeah.

 

Jenn T Grace:             So that's awesome. So in terms of like getting past that place of turning the computer off because you're like, 'I can't do this,' and being completely afraid; how did you get from that hump to actually starting to put words on paper? Because I know that when we finally connected, which wasn't until December, you had already had so much of it finished. So that's like a big kind of emotional and some kind of like mental roadblock type of hurdle that you had to get over. Do you have any specific ways that you feel like you got through that?

 

Lindsay Felderman:  I think a lot of it had to do with the confidence in myself that when I had first thought about writing it, I was only like 21 or 22, and you've read the book so you've seen I went through a lot after that. And I think I was finally in a place now to actually believe that what I was saying would matter, and that I kind of know what I'm talking about when- because I'd been through so many things versus just kind of writing about life. And I kind of got more of a vision too of what I wanted to do. When I first would go to write it I kind of just was like writing my thoughts on the world, and kind of how I felt, and I don't really think there was real purpose to it, and so just like over the years realizing my- focusing more on my vision, and then like going to Seth's thing was really like the catalyst because I said it out loud for the first time, I think that was a really huge thing, and I had some validation from my peers saying, "Yes you need to do that," and that was a really huge thing as well. So then at first in order to like kind of start, I started actually writing my blog which I've been horrible at doing this year because I've been focusing on the book, but writing a blog was super helpful too, just kind of like writing in chunks and having people respond to that. And then I just took my computer and started like writing, it kind of was like word vomit, it was literally just write down everything that you can think of that happened in your life, and why that's relevant, or why that would help somebody else. But I'm not going to lie, it was hard. Like every time I would go to do it, it was super emotional for me. I had to be in a spot where I could actually focus on it, and like really just focus on that. And I actually wrote a lot- because I travelled a lot for work, a lot of it I wrote on like planes because it was like easy to be able to just kind of like shut everything down, and there was nobody there to bother me, and I kind of just could like zone in. But I never felt like I could just go in for like twenty minute spurts and just kind of write, because I would- it just kind of lost the emotional feel for me, and it was too much. But it just was really just telling myself, 'Okay you've got to go do this,' and other people asking me about it. "How's your book going?" Or "What are you doing and what are you thinking about?" And I was kind of like, 'Oh yeah I've got to do that.' And I set a date for myself, I think that was helpful, so I told myself by my 27th birthday which was October 22nd, that I would have my rough draft finished. So when we talked in December, that is what I had done. I had just my rough draft and then I kind of didn't know what to do with it. And I had some peers from this thing that I met at Seth's, that I tried to kind of reach out and was like, "What do you think I should do?" But everybody's kind of going at a thousand miles per hour, so they didn't- we kind of talked through it, but it just got stagnant. But yeah I think the validation of just hearing, "Yes, you should do that," and having the confidence in myself that it matters, and saying it out loud. Saying something out loud and telling yourself you're going to do it is- you think that it kind of sounds silly, but when you actually say it or like write it down, it like changes your perception of what that actually means.

 

Jenn T Grace:             And how many people do you think you told? Obviously you told the people in that room that were there that day, but did you announce it on any social media that this is something you were going to do? Was it only close friends and family? Like to what degree did you put yourself out there to tell people- or declare this to the world that you were doing this?

 

Lindsay Felderman:  Right. I guess so initially it was just the people that I met that weekend, I came home and obviously told Sam. I was super emotional when I came home and told Sam. She like realized because I was just not happy in my other job, and she was like super happy to see that I was having something that I was really passionate to start working on. But then I didn't announce it on social media right away. I did tell like close friends and family kind of just like over that next month or so that that's what I was planning on doing. But in my blog a few times, I started to mention it. I didn't kind of just say, 'Hey I'm writing a book, this is what I'm doing.' I would say, 'I'm going to be working on a project,' or something along those lines that that's what I was doing. But I pretty much told anybody I saw in person that I was doing it. So it wasn't like I was hiding it per say, but I didn't really know- at that point in my early stages I didn't have the whole concept down yet, so I didn't- I don't think I actually fully announced it until after I started your class online, because then I was asking people for help. So that's I think the first time that I was kind of like, "Hey, I'm writing this book, I want your story, I want you to be involved." And that's kind of I think the first time I did it. I guess it was like January or February.

 

Jenn T Grace:             So now in looking at your story, part of- again we briefly touched on this, was the fact that you felt like there weren't enough coming out stories that kind of resonated with you, and I know that when you and I connected, I completely agreed with that because I'm like, "You know what, my coming out story isn't tragic, but it's certainly not fun or great." I don't think anybody's is. So have you found some kind of niche- or I don't even know if niche is the right phrase, but do you feel like what you've put together is really going to help that person who may not have the worst possible coming out story? To just kind of hear from you, and then also that process of reaching out to other people to say, "Hey can you share some of your thoughts?" Can you kind of describe what that process was like in terms of just reaching out to other people to add to what you were already writing? Because I can imagine that can be kind of a pain in the ass in some regards, but also adding good value to the end reader, which would be an LGBTQ youth.

 

Lindsay Felderman:  Yeah. So it was kind of a pain in the ass, and I actually got kind of the same almost reaction that I felt before even writing the book. A bunch of people said to me, "I could give you my story but there's really nothing to it, or it's not exciting, or there's nothing really that I can say." And I would explain to them it's like no, any coming out story is like a struggle. Like I have a very good friend of mine, her parents aren't really accepting of it, they don't really know that she's with her current girlfriend. They do know but they don't, it's kind of one of those things they just don't talk about. And she kept telling me, "I could give you my story but it's really not that much." And it's like, no that kind of thing matters. The fact that you struggled with your parents, like there's plenty of people struggling with their parents. Yeah like were you kicked out, or were you harmed, or were you severely bullied? Maybe not, but I think the family struggle is probably one of the biggest struggles that isn't talked about. The ones that are just, 'Here's my family and we struggle every day. And yeah we still have a relationship, but it isn't the really, really dramatic stories that we do hear about. I think the majority of us go through that as- you mentioned when I listened to the recording you gave me after you read my book, and you said something about your parents have to grieve the loss of what they thought, and I think that it's like really important, and I think a lot of parents like take a really long time to do that because you spend a lot of time thinking about who you are, and what you want, and when you finally take the step to say, "Hey, yeah I'm gay, or I'm this, or I'm that," or whatever to the outside world, it's like this relieving feeling for you, and it's so exciting, and it's new and it's fresh, and you finally feel like, 'Yes I'm showing myself to the world,' and you weren't showing that part of yourself to the rest of the world, so all of a sudden they feel like you're this new different person, where you feel that this is who you've been the whole time, you just weren't sharing that. And I think that more people really have those types of stories but aren't talking about it because they think that, 'I wasn't beat up, or I wasn't this, or I wasn't that,' and so it doesn't really matter, but every single- I think out of all my friends I have one friend that I can think of, that her parents were like excited when she came out. And it was like this weird thing, it was like a coo, "Oh yay, you're gay, that's so cool!" But like everybody else that I know has had some struggle, something going on where their parents were just not accepting, or they didn't want to hear it, or they just told them they didn't know what they were talking about. And I think especially for me, coming out so young and being told you don't know what you're talking about, was really hard for me. It really- like that's why I really started to question myself and have a lot of self-doubt because the people that raised me, and told me, "Hey you don't know what you're talking about, you're fifteen, you have no idea." It's like wait a minute, how do you know how I feel inside? Like this is not something that we're talking about, like I'm saying I'm dumb or something and you know that I'm smarter than that. It's like I'm telling you I'm attracted to females, I romantically want to be involved with females, and you're telling me that you know me so there's just no way that that's possible. That at that age did a lot of- I don't want to say damage, but almost damage to me in my confidence, in my feelings, and like I had a lot of doubt for a long time about who I was because I really trusted my parents, and I didn't expect that. And I think that a lot of people have that same type of thing, where I wish I had a book like this one, where I could have read and been like, 'Oh my gosh, you were doubting yourself too? Oh my gosh, you thought your parents knew everything and that was like earth shattering to you?' I think that would have been everything for me, and I started to realize that too when I started volunteering for GLSEN and I was speaking to some of the youth, and just in passing just explaining to them some of the things about myself, and why I was there, and just like little bursts of story and they would be like, "Oh my gosh, thank you so much for sharing. I feel so much better about X, Y, and Z. Or why my parents are being annoying, or not accepting." And that's why I was really like, I've got to write this. There's more people out there that I think need to hear it's okay to like have all this self-doubt, and it's okay to like have people not accept you, and it's okay to continue trying to figure out yourself, and not listening to the people that are just not willing to even understand what's going on. So that was a really long-winded answer.

 

Jenn T Grace:             No that was such a perfect, beautifully articulated answer. And for anyone who might be listening who doesn't know what GLSEN is, can you just kind of give a thirty second of what GLSEN does?

 

Lindsay Felderman:  Sure, so they are the Gay and Lesbian Straight Education Network, and they basically are the ones that started GSAs in school, so Gay Straight Alliances, and have done a lot of work over the years in really just helping gay youth feel comfortable, and have resources and outlets for them in schools in order to be themselves. And I actually didn't even know about GLSEN until later because of Sam, she worked for Teach for America and then met through GLSEN. But that's over there. They basically started the GSAs in schools, they spent a lot of time with LGBTQ youth, and making sure that they feel confident in themselves, or even as something as serious as the trans bathroom issues that are going on, they work on- I don't exactly know how they do it, but they work to try to get legislation changed. For me it was just volunteering, you worked with youth in the schools, and we'd have meetings, and just kind of talk about like all sorts of issues surrounding the LGBTQ youth, or being queer in high school.

 

Jenn T Grace:             Perfect. And so for those listening who keep hearing you reference Sam, that is indeed your fiancé, so we want to make sure people know that.

 

Lindsay Felderman:  Oh yes, that is my fiancé.

 

Jenn T Grace:             Yes. So if we're talking about just kind of how you started to volunteer with GLSEN, and really started to interact with other young LGBTQ people, did- I guess if you could turn back time and you had an opportunity to have recognized that they were a resource to you, do you think to some degree- because I feel fortunate that I've actually read your entire book before it's published, and I obviously now have a really good handle on your story, but the fact that you had a- that you came out twice. And I wonder how many people have had that type of experience. And have you had- have you talked to others through GLSEN or any of the other work that you're doing and found that that has happened to other people as well?

 

Lindsay Felderman:  I have obviously talked about it. I don't think I've met anyone specifically that has done it the way that I have. I think the more stories that I've heard is somebody comes out as gay, and then they later realize they're actually trans. So I think for our generation, especially for me when I was in high school, it was like you were gay or straight, there wasn't all these other letters. There wasn't all these other identities, or these things that you could associate with or feel that you were. So it was like if you don't feel straight then you're gay. And I think so for a lot of people in my generation they kind of would come out, 'Okay I'm obviously gay,' and then as these letters have been progressing, and all these identities and people really saying hey, it isn't just black and white like that, there's a lot more going on. And as people started to associate with other identities, I think that's kind of the- I would say double coming out story. But I have not heard of anybody that came out in high school, decided to pretend they were completely straight, and then come back out again. It was definitely an interesting one. I felt so dumb when I was 21. I was like, 'Seriously? You were fifteen, you knew exactly what you wanted, and then like you have to do this all over again.' It was stressful to say the least.

 

Jenn T Grace:             Yeah, I can feel the stress and the angst in your writing, and so hopefully- well we haven't even said the name of the book, so I would love for people to know the name of the book, and then I feel like we have a good synopsis of what it's about, but maybe give a synopsis as well so that way people who are listening to this can actually go read your story, and really kind of get this- it's not like an opposing view at all, but I feel like your take on it is very unique, and I think for anyone who might be saying- and mind you my audience is mostly LGBT people listening, so it's not like we're talking to a completely unknown audience. But I feel like a lot of people nowadays are saying, 'Well why do we have to talk about this? Why does this matter? It's 2016, we have marriage equality, this, that and the other,' and to me it's a very short-sighted type of view on things. So I feel like you're kind of shedding some light on things that people are absolutely going through right now, like in present day. But yeah can you just say the name of the book, and just a brief kind of description of what it entails.

 

Lindsay Felderman:  Sure so the name of my book is 'Walking through Walls: Finding the Courage to be Your True Self.' I can't believe I just tripped over that. And it is just a- the whole background of the book is my coming out story, which as we said I came out twice, and then what I did is I took stories of others that represent all the LGBTQ letters, and intertwined them into my book. Just asked them a bunch of questions, and they responded to them about pretty much anything that has to do with coming out. And I totally get what you're saying about it's 2016, and why do we need to talk about it, and let's just everybody kind of be equal, but the issue is we're not, and I think that we can't brush all of that under the rug. And even though we have a lot of milestones, and I will honestly say that I did not think that I would be able to get married when I came out in high school. Like I remember- I think it was Massachusetts passed something and I was like, 'Wow that's crazy,' and I never thought that like that was going to be able to be a thing. You know, like it would be like, 'Hey I'm actually getting married in 2017 and I'm literally getting married, not just having the ceremony to say that I'm married,' and that kind of thing. And I think as much progress as we're making, there's still so many issues that need to be talked about, and I think if we just kind of pretend that they're not there, that- I don't know, I just think they need to be talked about, and I think they need to be validated, and in order to truly be equal with everybody and be accepted, we need to have everybody actually be accepted, which is just not the case. I mean you can turn on the news for five minutes any day, or go on Facebook, and there's just so much hate, and so much ignorance. And even people that are my age, I'm like shocked the ignorance when it comes to like the LGBT community, and the misconceptions, and thinking that people are just- somebody who they're just not. And it's like I think it's just- the fight has been fighting, and people have been fighting, and we've won a bunch of battles, but I still think there's a huge war that we're still up against. And for everybody in the community, and specifically with trans people right now, I mean just the bathroom laws. Like that's just ridiculous. Like the things that I hear people say to me about those like, 'Oh well they can do something in the bathroom. I don't want them with my child.' It's like are you serious? Like any guy can walk in the bathroom and like hurt your little girl if they want to, or little boy. Like it has nothing to do with your identity, how you identify who you are. Like no, they're just shitty people, like stop. And I think that kind of thing just needs to be talked about, because the amount of ignorance I think is really the biggest battle that we need to fight. I mean I literally wrote an article yesterday too, about a boy who identifies as a girl, out in Alaska so she was competing in a track event, and I guess like demolished all the other girls. And somebody wrote an article like, 'See world, you made your bed, now you need to lie in it. You can't complain that this girl decimated the other girls when she was born a male.' And it's just like seriously? You just don't understand. And so I think this type of thing does need to be talked about. We can't just pretend that we're equal and say, 'Hey we're equal.'

 

Jenn T Grace:             Yeah, I cannot agree more. Have you seen the thing on- the Save Sarah that's a Go Fund Me campaign that's happening right now? And I feel fortunate that this episode is going to air within like a week of us recording it versus a lot of times I have like months delay. But the seventeen year old gay girl in- I think she's in Austin, Texas, who was sent away to a Christian boarding facility that's one of those pray the gay away type of places, and she's basically trapped, and her family is doing nothing so she has a cousin who's trying to kind of help her get through it, and they're raising money for her legal fees. And it's like, okay it is June 8th as we're recording this, it will be out next week, but this is happening on June 8th in 2016, that we have children who are being forced into places that are already deemed not helpful by many, many governing medical bodies, saying that this does not help and it actually causes more harm than good. So it just kind of continues to prove that books like yours, and books like anybody who want to write about LGBT and about coming out, or anything like this, it just kind of continues to prove that there's such a need for it because this stuff is not going away, and it's not going away as fast as we would like it to.

 

Lindsay Felderman:  And that kind of thing blows my mind. I didn't get sent to like a Christian camp, but just the same kind of mindset. 'You're not gay, you're not gay, what are you talking about?' It's just ridiculous to me. I mean one of the people that contributed to my book I met through my blog, I followed their blog, they followed mine and I posted that I wanted to write this and they submitted their story, and they're in their fifties, they're bisexual, they're married to a man, and she writes about how in her fifties she still realizes she thought that that would just go away, and it doesn't go away. Like I know for a fact that if I'd ended up marrying the guy that I'd been dating in college, or some other guy, like I would still be feeling the way that I felt when I was fifteen right now, and into the rest of my life. It just doesn't go away, and you can't pretend that it's just going to go away. I think that's probably the biggest thing too for me, is I want people to see like hey I tried to be somebody that I didn't want to be. I gave it more of an effort than I think that I probably should have. But I spent four years with a guy that- I loved him, I really did, that's the thing. He is still very angry with me, but I truly did love him, and we were best friends, but I wasn't romantically in love with him. I wasn't sexually attracted to him, and I could have stayed miserable, and stayed with him, and it would have been really bad for both us because we wouldn't have had the life that we should be living because I was hiding behind this wall of me, and I was a miserable human being. Like so miserable, I was very angry, I would get like little things that would happen, I would flip out, and it was just not me, but it was because I was holding so much angst in all the time, and nobody knew about it. It wasn't like only a few people knew, and I was talking to them on the side or whatever, and they helped me get through it. It's like I literally cut out every person in my life that knew that I was gay when I graduated from high school, slowly throughout my freshman year in college. It wasn't like a one and done, it was like I went to college, I didn't tell anybody there that I was gay or that I had been dating girls in high school, because they met me and I was dating my current boyfriend who I call Max in the book. I keep going to say his name and I don't want to do that to him. So anyway, there was no reason for me to talk about it, and then I just kind of let it be, and interestingly enough where I went to college there were people there that I went to high school with but they didn't really talk about it. I think one person that I wasn't friends with of course, because that's always what happens, the people that don't know you out you to other people, told one of my college friends, and it happened to be one of my Christian God-loving college friends, and she almost- she freaked out and I said to her, "I don't know what she's talking about. I'm with Max," and she was like, "I know, I told her she was crazy." In my head I'm like, 'No she's not, I did date girls all throughout high school, and they all knew it.' And so I started to just kind of get rid of it, and I didn't even talk about it like, "Oh yeah I dated girls." It was like, "No that never happened." Like I literally was like I took the delete button and pretended that whole part of my life just didn't exist. And so that pain and that struggle of thinking all the time like that didn't exist- and for my mom, and my boyfriend, it was a very hot topic for both of them because when he started dating me, everyone was like, "Why are you dating the lesbian? She's gay, what are you doing?" So he would get really angry, and even when I told him that I was gay, he freaked out and was like, "No you're not." Because we were best friends prior to us dating, and my mom, same thing. So it was just this hot button that I just never spoke about to anybody, and I didn't see anybody that knew it, and I moved down to Florida and so just nobody knew. And so it was like okay, I just literally went as far back into the closet as I possibly could, and it was just not good, and it didn't go away, and I didn't feel- I still felt that same way that I did when I was fifteen years old, and I think that- I don't even know what response I was responding to, but I want people to understand that it's like not going to go away. If you're feeling a certain way, you need to trust yourself because nobody is going to understand how you're feeling, and you don't want to be that miserable person. Like you could be something so much better. Where I couldn't bring anything to the world- I had nothing to offer because I was just so miserable, so caught up in hiding myself, so caught up in self-loathing. Gosh the self-hate that I had towards myself was bad, and anything gay that came up; stories, or people, it was just I had to- I couldn't take it. Like I said, I stopped talking to everybody, all my friends that knew. It was hard, I don't know why I did that to myself. And I don't want anyone else to do that to themselves which is why I wrote the book.

 

Jenn T Grace:             Yeah, it's such a perfect way of phrasing why you did what you did. So tell us how you came up with the title, because it's an interesting take on the typical coming out type of book. So 'Walking through Walls,' how- what sparked that?

 

Lindsay Felderman:  So initially actually, this weekend that I had with Seth Godin, right? Godin? I'm going to say it right. I'm just going to call him Seth. Anyway so that weekend literally was like the biggest catalyst for me. But everybody that was there kind of got like a nametag with a little catchphrase about themselves, so there was eighty or so people there, and each person had this little catchphrase and mine was I walk through walls. And I can't remember other people's to give a good example, but everybody- was something about what they were doing. So my friend works with Lululemon and something hers was about like I help- something with yoga, and every person's thing made sense for them. And for me I think they gave it to me because I worked at a software company, and so I'm not sure if they weren't sure what I did, and so it was kind of like firewalls or whatever.

 

Jenn T Grace:             Oh yeah.

 

Lindsay Felderman:  But I'm in marketing so I had nothing to do with the IT thing. So I felt very much a fraud when I was there that weekend because I really didn't know what I was doing there, I didn't really know how I could help my business- my old job there, and I had this thing where I walk through walls. And everyone is doing these amazing things helping children, and creating these like amazing businesses, they all give back to like communities, and I was just like blown away by the amount of people that were there and the work that they were doing, and I just felt very much like I don't belong here. But the whole thing is I walk through walls, and I started- as the weekend went on and I was talking to more people, and kind of telling them what I really wanted to do, they all kind of felt like the walk through walls tagline actually fit me because they were like, "You walk through kind of like these barriers, or you walk through these different ideas of who you are, and what you want to do." So I really actually started to resonate with that towards the end of the weekend, where at the beginning of the weekend I felt very like, 'Oh crap, what does this thing on my nametag? What am I going to talk about? I don't know what to do.' And by the end of it I was like, okay I really like the idea of I walk through walls because a wall is a very permanent fixture, a barrier to wherever you want to go. If there's a wall you can't walk through it, right? You have to find some sort of a door. But what I like about it, and what I ended up kind of playing it into is the whole idea of when you're queer or part of this community is you have to come out of the closet, and it's very cliché, it's like okay everyone's coming out, right? But for me I feel like I spent so much time building walls around myself to hide who I truly was, that at the end of the day I had to break down these walls. I had to actually almost physically walk through these walls that I'd built around myself of how I thought of myself, and I think that that is truly what it is. It's not about opening a door, opening a door is really easy. It's really easy to walk up to a door, hey somebody built this door and it's opening, and you can just walk through it. Where I think the majority of us, and I don't want to speak for everybody in the community, but it's much harder than that. It's not easy to come out, and a lot of times some people have to come out all the time. Like you have to constantly kind of just tell people- when you meet somebody, you like name drop that you have a fiancé that's a girl, or your wife, or whoever. And walking through walls to me spoke much more strongly about what I had to do, just breaking down those barriers that I'd built, took so many years building, to just say, 'Okay this is going to be who I am. I'm choosing to build these walls, and I'm going to do this, and how I'm going to live my life.' And then I realized these walls are trapping who I am, and I need to break them down, and walking through them is the only way that I'm going to be able to be truly happy.

 

Jenn T Grace:             I like it.

 

Lindsay Felderman:  Yeah, that's kind of it.

 

Jenn T Grace:             So what do you think in terms of- so if somebody's listening to this, and they're thinking, 'Wow I feel like I can resonate with her because I totally have sat at my desk and started to write, and then said no I have nothing to write.' Or kind of that stop and start. For somebody listening, what do you think that one piece of wisdom might be to push them out of their comfort zone, and have them just actually say, 'You know what? I am doing this.' Do you have any words of wisdom on that?

 

Lindsay Felderman:  Yeah I think first probably it would be good to just write in short bursts, and not about anything in particular. Like when I first started to like really write, I just would write almost like word vomit, just like what I was feeling, what I was doing that day. Almost like journals, but not. It's just writing, like you just need to get in the habit of writing and like letting your emotions and your thoughts, putting them down on paper. And then I was blogging, and I would share what I was writing for people, and you've just got to do it really. It's like one of those things where it's like, 'What's the great trick?' And like the great trick is just sitting down and writing. Like it's just taking that time and saying- and it doesn't need to be like you're sharing it with the world, but getting in the habit of writing and kind of just like doing what- figuring out what your writing style is too. I think for me the biggest thing too, I always was told I was a bad writer, so I really struggled throughout high school and college, in like English classes they were just like, "Yeah you don't really have great writing skills." And even in my work, my jobs, I had bosses tell me- my last job, he told me multiple times that I didn't know how to write, and it really like shattered my confidence. Like seriously? What are you talking about? And I worked really hard at kind of just like fixing it in business and whatever, but for me it was like you know what? I'm not listening to how you want me to write anymore, I'm going to write the way that I want to write, and I'm going to put it out there, and if people resonate with it, then okay, and they started to. So- but I just think the biggest thing is one, you have to believe in yourself, you really just have to believe that what you are going to say matters. And two you've just got to start writing. You literally just have to- whatever it is. I don't care if you write, 'Hi my name is Lindsay' five times on a piece of paper. Like you just need to understand that it's okay that you can actually do that. You have to have- starting to actually write, and believing that you can do it is like the two biggest things that you have to do. Because I still look at the proof that I have of my book, like when I get the actual book I don't even know what I'm going to do, but like looking at that- there are so many words in it. I still can't believe like I wrote all those words, but you just have to continue to like every day, wake up, 'Alright what am I going to write today?' And it doesn't have to be every day, it wasn't every day for me, but just doing it. Like Seth actually that weekend, he talked about- I can't remember what the name of the author was, but he said he woke up every morning at 6:00 AM, and he wrote from 6:00 until like- I don't know, 12:00 or 1:00 PM every day, and he wrote hundreds of books because he sat down and he did it every day. And that's the kind of thing- if you want to become something, you have to work at it, and you have to sit down, and you have to do it. And that's the biggest thing. And then finding somebody that supports you, I think too. So as soon as I started telling people, like really my fiancé Sam, she was like, "Wow that's amazing that you want to do that." I think she kind of didn't believe me that I was going to do it. Not so much that she didn't think I could, but she was just like, "That's a big thing to do." But having her support, and just like the support of my family saying, "Yeah you need to do that," I think- and I talk about that in the book too. Like as your coming out story- like just finding somebody that's supportive in your life is super important regardless. Whether it's you're writing a book, whether it's you want to become an astronaut or scientist, or whatever you want to do, you just need to find people that support your dreams and are positive. Because if you bring people into your life that don't believe that you can do what you know you can do, they're just going to bring you down, and there's no point in having those types of people in your life. So it's find somebody that's supportive, sit down and write, and just do whatever- you do whatever you want to do. There's just so many things you can do in this world, and you have to follow your dreams, and you can do it is what I would say.

 

Jenn T Grace:             I love it.

 

Lindsay Felderman:  Anybody can do it.

 

Jenn T Grace:             So speaking of anyone can do it, I totally agree. I think anyone if they focus and they sit down to do it, they totally can. So after the writing part, where do you feel like it was the second most challenging? Because obviously the writing- like you can't pussyfoot around that, there's just- it is what it is. But where were those other types of roadblocks, or perceived roadblocks where you were like, 'What the hell is going on here?' Did you have those moments where you were just kind of stressed out because of certain logistical things? Or what did that look like?

 

Lindsay Felderman:  So the logistical things- I guess initially they did. So basically I wrote my book, and then it sat in a Word document, I didn't know what to do. And I can't even begin to describe to you how I think like the universe works, but because I volunteer for- because I met Sam, because she worked for Teach for America, because I then found out about GLSEN, volunteered for GLSEN, because I chose to go to one like random Wednesday night at a business thing, walked by your booth, and I didn't have time to stop because I was leaving, I saw Jenn T. Grace, Professional Lesbian, looked it up on my way home and was like, 'Wow this lady is pretty cool.' Started following you on like social media, responded to you- whatever, got on your email list, and then like two months later got an email from you saying, 'Do you want to tell your story in 2016?' It's like, 'Wait what? Yes, yes I do. I literally wanted to pick up the phone right now, call you and be like, 'I absolutely want to tell my story. Like how did you know? Did you just send this to me?' It was so crazy. But so the biggest thing definitely is the writing, that sucks, but then the logistical thing was scary because I didn't know what I could do. I didn't know anybody in publishing, I didn't know do I just send my book to all these specific publishers? I had friends saying, 'Okay look up LGBTQ publishers, and reach out to them.' And that just all seemed really daunting and scary and I was like, 'I don't really know what to do with this.' And then meeting you, and your class really helped with all that, like I could self-publish through Amazon, great that takes all that away, I don't care what anyone else has to say. No that was fine, but then I think the editing part of the book, and going back and just having to re-read what you wrote is like really, really hard. Especially when it's something like the book that I wrote, where it's emotional and every time I read what I wrote about whatever chapter it is, like it brings me back into that moment of that pure raw emotion, and it's hard to kind of put yourself back in those moments I think sometimes, because it was really emotional. So I think just- I think I remember saying in your class one time I said, "I haven't read it in a while," because it took so much out of me to read it, and to have to go back, and figure out does this make sense? And then I had to go back and do like kind of the so what's at the end of the book- or end of each chapter because I kind of realized I just kind of moved on and I didn't really explain like why that was important. So just all that part is just- I feel like once you do it you feel really accomplished that you wrote it, you put all these words on paper, but you're only really halfway there. Like there's so much other things that go into it, and you want to just be like, 'This is a book, put it on the shelf, this is a book,' but you have to do so much more to get it to be- like I'm literally 99% of the way there. I literally just have to fix some formatting and the way that I fixed the quotes, and make it so it fits so that Amazon will say that my file looks good, and then I'm good. And it's just like I have to do it, but it's just getting there. Picking all the little details, and understanding, and yeah.

 

Jenn T Grace:             And you have a cover now, right? So I believe I saw your cover. Because when I saw the proof it was just plain white, which was like mysterious.

 

Lindsay Felderman:  Oh that's a piece of my cover actually, that's not even the whole thing.

 

Jenn T Grace:             Beautiful.

 

Lindsay Felderman:  The one that you saw on Instagram- or Facebook?

 

Jenn T Grace:             Yeah.

 

Lindsay Felderman:  Yeah it's a piece of it.

 

Jenn T Grace:             I like it. So when- so somebody listening to this, when should they expect your book to be available for purchase? They will be listening to this as of Thursday, June 16th this will be live.

 

Lindsay Felderman:  I am hoping that it will be published- I don't- once you hit the big- I should just ask you. When you hit the big publish button, like what's the waiting period on Amazon? Is it just like- do they need to like approve it? Or is it just like, 'Hey you're good.'

 

Jenn T Grace:             It's within like 24 hours that it's available for other people to buy.

 

Lindsay Felderman:  So yeah, I'm hoping either today or tomorrow I fix those little formatting issues, and then like I'm hitting publish.

 

Jenn T Grace:             Nice.

 

Lindsay Felderman:  So we're pretty much there. I would say by the time this podcast airs, you'll be able to buy it on Amazon.

 

Jenn T Grace:             Good, good. Now there is- you're having to be held to it because now there are thousands of people listening and may want to purchase, which I totally think they should. This was fantastic. I so appreciate you jumping on, and sharing your process, and hopefully inspiring some other people to share their stories too. If somebody wants to contact you directly, what is your- either your blog website, or where you are on social media? How would you prefer people to get in touch with you?

 

Lindsay Felderman:  Honestly I'll give out all my- I guess ways of contact because I know everybody is kind of different in the way they want to contact. So if you want to go to my website it's just www.LindsayFelderman.com, and there's like a form on there that you can submit and it goes directly to my email. My Instagram is LFelderman so you can find me there, I'm not private so you can follow me, or send me a message, or whatever you want to do. And then my Twitter, which I'm not going to lie I don't really use all that often, is LFelderman22. So those are probably the easiest ways to get in contact with me, all of them are hooked up with my email so I'll get it- and it's email that I actually check, so I'll see whatever you send.

 

Jenn T Grace:             Or go to Amazon and type in either your name or Walking through Walls, and your book should come up and be available for purchase. And of course if people do buy the book, I certainly want to know. So if anyone listening to this, if you buy it, please let me know about it so that way we can make sure Lindsay knows it came through here. And then of course leave a review. I feel like reviews are always important, even if you only have a couple, it's really helpful to have some reviews because I have no doubt that your story will help change lives, which is kind of the end goal that we're both going for, which is just so amazing and so awesome. So thank you again for your time, I really appreciate it.

 

Lindsay Felderman:  Thank you Jenn, I really appreciate it more than you know.

Direct download: Epi87_LGBTQ_Interview_With_LINDSAY_FELDERMAN.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:26pm EST

#86: Insider PR Tips with Communications Expert, Jonathan Lovitz [Podcast]

#86 - Insider PR Tips with Communications Expert, Jonathan Lovitz [Podcast]

Jenn T Grace:              You are listening to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast, episode 86.

 

Introduction:              Welcome to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast; the podcast dedicated to helping LGBTQ professionals and business owners grow their business and careers through the power of leveraging their LGBTQ identities in their personal brand. You'll learn how to market your products and services both broadly, and within the LGBTQ community. You'll hear from incredible guests who are leveraging the power of their identity for good, as well as those who haven't yet started, and everyone in between. And now your host. She teaches straight people how to market to gay people, and gay people how to market themselves. Your professional lesbian, Jenn - with two N's - T Grace.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Well hello and welcome to episode 86 of the podcast. I am your host, Jenn (with two N's) T. Grace, and today I have another interview for you. So fortunately in the last episode, episode 85, we had a phenomenal interview with Jacob Tobia who taught us about all things genderqueer, nonbinary, non gender conforming, all kinds of just great information. So that was an awesome interview, but today I have an equally as awesome interview with Jonathan Lovitz who is the VP of External Affairs for the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. If you are a long time listener of this podcast you will know that there's certainly a theme with having a lot of folks from the NGLCC on this show. Today's interview is just fantastic because Jonathan's background is in communications and he has a ton of knowledge around personal branding. So for those of you who are listening to try to figure out how to improve, or start, or amplify your personal brand, the content that we talk about in this episode is just straight up tactical, as well as just really informative to be honest. So I'm so excited to bring today's interview with Jonathan Lovitz, and he has a lot of different ways to get in touch with him, but if you go to www.JonathanDLovitz.com, that's his personal page. And yeah I'm so excited about this interview so if you have any questions for me as a result of listening to this episode, or if you have any for him feel free to hit us up on pretty much any of the social media outlets. If you are interested in hearing more about what we talked, or looking for the links from today's episode, if you go to www.JennTGrace.com/86 for episode 86, that will give you a page with the transcript of the interview, as well as links mentioned in today's show. So without further ado, please enjoy this interview with Jonathan Lovitz.

                                    So let's start off with having you just tell the audience and the listeners a little bit about yourself, and your background, and how you became to be doing what you're doing right now.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         Sure, well hi Jenn, and to all your listeners. I'm thrilled to be here. I'm a big fan of your work, and of your podcast, and the incredible energy you put out in the community, and really exciting to be here with you.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Thank you.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         So I'm Jonathan Lovitz and my official title is Vice President of External Affairs of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, which is based in Washington, but I live in New York City where I'm also the Director of our NGLCC NY affiliate because I'm a masochist. This organization is fantastic as you know, we reach every corner of the country and work with every conceivable type of LGBT and allied business, and I've known them for years. I now- actually next week celebrating one year with the organization after being a friend of NGLCC for at least the last five. My career got started in New York in a sort of bizarre twist. In my undergraduate I did what all the cool gay kids were doing and I majored in musical theatre, and also because I was a big nerd I got a dual degree in communications focusing on politics. And I'm also one of those really rare people that managed to get the job and feeder first. I graduated college and immediately booked a Broadway show that went on tour, and I went around the country for two years, and then settled in New York, and did some more theatre here, and eventually some TV work. And during that time I got picked up by LOGO, you might remember is an MTV network, it's for the LGBT community, and once upon a time it had gay news on Sundays, and I used to help anchor and do some reporting on the gay news, and then some other man on the street interview programs about LGBT issues, and that sort of thrust me into being a sort of professional homosexual in a really positive way. I would asked to come be a spokesperson at a fundraiser for great people like GLAAD, and Human Rights Campaign, and the Trevor Project, and what started off as a one month contract became a three month contract, then a nine month contract, and before I knew it, I was doing far more LGBT community engagement policy work than I was performing, and yet I never would have been able to do any of it if I hadn't been a performer first. The amount of times they threw me up in front of a teleprompter in front of a thousand people and said, "Go, raise us some money," I never would have been able to do it had I not been trained as a performer for almost a decade. And then they found out, "Oh you've also got this background in policy, and you love to write, and you want to talk about these issues to a much broader policy based audience," that's how things really get to flip into this full time professional work in advocacy, and communications, and awareness raising for LGBT issues, particularly around economics. I found it really fascinating when I would attend some of these conferences out on the street, and the NGLCC conference which I went to originally as a guest because at the time, LOGO I was hosting a dinner, and doing a live auction, sort of using the public persona to get my foot in the door. And I was really floored by the work that LGBT businesses and all the corporations were doing around the world to create equity for a community that was doing just fine building equality for themselves, and I thought that that notion was really powerful. So I was really, really thrilled when the first time I was asked to join StartOut, another LGBT organization that helps bring funding, and advice, and mentorship to brand new LGBT companies. I started off as their Communications Director, and shortly thereafter became their interim Executive Director and helped run the ship for a while. And that set me up well with all the skills that I needed to quickly learn about management, and organizational structure, and policy work that set me up well when the NGLCC came to me and said, "We'd like to build a position for you." They'd never really had a VP of External Affairs, and I think what I love most about my job is something that would probably kill most other people, that there are really no bullets underneath my title. It's a really big net that includes everything from public policy, to PR and communications, to affiliate affairs, and to engagement with the community of doing great public work like this, talking to you and your listeners about all the great ways to get involved in the community both personally and professionally. So it has been a wonderful, incredible, organic, and sometimes mind blown journey that's gotten me to where I am today, and I still can't believe I'm here this young, and it's incredible, I love every second of it. I'm really excited for everything that seems to be coming up next.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah, and it's so awesome to be so young in so many ways, and to have made such a mark already because you still have your entire career ahead of you. So I feel like that's so exciting just to see what is on the horizon, especially given our political landscape these days, and all the things that are changing so rapidly, and sometimes for the positive, other times not so much, as we're experiencing right now, but I think that it seriously feels like the sky's the limit. I don't know if that's your impression these days.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         It certainly does, and I'm actually floored, and it seems like every month something is happening where I'll speak to my mother and I'll just drop in, "Oh by the way I'm going to this meeting with so-and-so." "Wait, do you realize what you just said? You're my son that used to sing and dance, and now you're going to meetings at the White House, and making plans at the UN?" I don't entirely understand how it's all happening, but it is very much a powerful gesture and point of pride in my life that I've ended up here. I look at what I've gotten to do, and all the things that seem to be coming when people are asked to be a public servant. The work chose me, I never really sought out this career path, but when the opportunities came to speak for the community, and get involved, and raise awareness for all these issues, and still fulfill everything that I had always wanted to do about being in the public eye for things that I care about; it's really incredible that these opportunities have come my way. I'm so thankful for them, and now I'm really fortunate to be in the position to help others grow their own opportunities, and that's even more special.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah it's interesting that you say that the work chose you. I find that that seems to be the case for a lot of people, myself included, where I remember when I first got involved which was back in 2006 - 2007, I didn't even know what a chamber of commerce was at that time. So and then fast forward, we all know the history. It's just insane sometimes when you're like, 'Okay I would never have predicted that this is where my life would end up,' but you know that you're there for a reason, and sometimes you have to shake yourself at the fact that, 'Oh yeah I have been in the White House.' Like it's not something that everybody gets to experience, and yet you're there on a pretty regular basis.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         Absolutely. And a great Mark Twain quote; there are two days that stand out in your life, the day you're born and the day you realize why. And it's nice to know that it doesn't have to just be limited to one day of realization. I feel like every day helps us understand why, and a lot of it is the people, getting to know you, Jenn, and the people I get to know through this incredible network reminds me every day that we're all doing something bigger than ourselves, and that's really powerful, and it's something very exciting to know that everything we do has an impact on others, even when we don't realize it.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah, absolutely. And so the podcast here is around personal branding, and I truly feel like you've done such an awesome job at personal branding from just kind of a big picture level, whether you were intentionally doing that or not. But we just saw each other in- I want to say it was the end of March, I don't even know, in Boston. And we- if you remember when we were sitting around I think having dinner, and you had said- you made some statement about pitching to the media, and just basically writing what you want to be written. Can you talk about that a little bit? Because I feel like that is such- and I don't know why, that was not my plan to discuss with you today, but it just popped in my head. Because when you said it I was like, that is so genius, why don't more people do that? Could you just kind of share a little bit about that conversation we were having and then maybe give some tips for folks who are just kind of starting out on this journey?

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         Sure. It's all about authenticity, right? It's all about knowing who you are, what you bring to the table, and what you want your legacy- whether it's a message, or whether it's your personal statement, or whatever it may be, what you want that to be, and giving people no excuses and no choice but to take that at its worth. So I think step one is really understanding who you are, what you stand for, what you care about, and what you want to do with your voice. And you don't have to be a celebrity to realize you have a voice that matters. I think that's one of the great things about something like Twitter; it's the great equalizer. A tweet from me, and a tweet from the White House, and a tweet from a Kardashian all show up with the same- the same time and the same place on your feed, it's what you choose to resonate with and amplify that helps decide whether or not that message continues out in the world. So when you and I were having that conversation about just putting out there exactly what you want, I think we were talking a little bit about press strategy and I think it's all related to knowing your voice and the value of your voice. If you're a business owner, you're a representative of an organization, you're either pitching the press, or pitching the PR company, and you want them to know what you care about. Leave as little wiggle room for interpretation as possible, give them what I always call show in a box. Which is the story, here's the headline, here's the quote I'd love you to use, here's the photo to go with it, here's the link to the video, here's all the citations of the research that go with it. I'm trying to make your life- the reporter, the PR company, whatever it may be, as easy as possible because I want you to return the favor sometime if I'm in a jam and I really need the help. It's all about relationships, and it's all about helping each other out. But reporters are busy. They're getting pitched hundreds of stories a day, and maybe only half of one percent are worth anything. And I can tell you from all the blind pitching in the world that you can do, it's the reporter that you've gotten to know by taking them out to coffee and talking to them as a human being, getting to know what matters to them as a person, that will help you when it comes time to extending sort of your personal brand to them, and saying, "I want to work with you as a partner, and help tell an important story. And sure there's a benefit to my employer, or the movement I'm working for, or whatever it may be, but it's about people helping people and telling a good story."

 

Jenn T Grace:              I feel like that applies to sales even.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         Oh absolutely.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Just it's really- and I feel like it's becoming more and more obvious, at least in 2016, that is really is human to human interaction. One person to one person.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         You couldn't be more right. I mean think when you're working with someone who's calling you on a sales call. They have an objective, and you in your own business, you have an objective to close that deal and meet that benchmark. You could provide all the fact sheets, and all the ROI in the world, but until you really hit a chord with someone on a truly personal level, you'll never really close that deal because it will just be transactional versus a human interaction. And if you want that sale to come back year after year, you want that relationship to continue growing, you have to have a validation that's based on human interaction, that's based on empathy, and sharing and understanding. And it may just be business development, but it's about how you as people are going to grow your respective sides of that business together.

 

Jenn T Grace:              So would you say that maybe for yourself, you have any type of- I don't know, weeding out mechanism or some way for you to understand that when you're building a relationship, whether it's with a prospective chamber member, or whether it's with a prospective reporter; do you have a way to- for lack of a better phrase, sniff out who would be the person that you should be focusing on building that relationship with? Because I think that a lot of people could spend each and every single day building relationships with the wrong people, and you want to make sure that there's a dual win to that scenario where both parties are getting something from it.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         You know I'm a huge political nerd, so if any chance I can quote the West Wing, I will do it. And there's a great line in an episode about exactly this question. 'I need information but I'm getting the run around from all the secretaries, the agencies.' I said yeah, secretaries have agendas, policy wants to have information, and I look at that in the same way with a sales funnel or anything else. If you're dealing with a most senior person, they're accountable for a certain deliverable and a certain report. But they're not as active in the growth department and the actual interaction with other people, as likely a rowing account executive, or someone who's responsible for the day-to-day operation, because it's their job to make that person look good and that's when they help their own career. So the more we can be building relationships with people one or two rungs down the ladder to help bolster the goals and ideas of the person at the top, that's how we really build those in roads with someone who's going to be there and help us out for a long time. It's helping that junior assistant shine by helping to bring in some phenomenal new business that ultimately helps you, but helps them look like they're bringing so much value to the company. You've now got a friend for life on the inside, and that's entirely a human interaction. You've identified what it is you can do to make each other's lives better, both personally and in business. So do your research, it's incumbent upon you, do a little Googling, who's the Internet machine? Pull up the LinkedIn and find the connections of the senior people you want to be working with, and then look at their orbit, look at their Zeitgeist, odds are you're going to find someone, one or two steps removed who you share another mutual friend with, or a common interest, or a group you're both in, and use that as your point of entry. I get calls all the time from reporters saying, "We've got to get to Tim Cook, we want to talk to Tim Cook, he's the top gay CEO in the world, you've got to be able to know him." I said, "You know contrary to popular belief the gays don't all meet once a week for coffee and a handshake, we don't actually have a secret club." I guess that's what the NGLCC tries to be.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yes.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         What I do say is work your way up, talk to the people who have influence and pull, and get into the conversation not because you need something, but because this conversation means something to you, and that's how you have leverage to make an ask when the time is right.

 

Jenn T Grace:              It's about building internal champions. I find that the most successful client projects I work on, especially within corporations, it's always the person that's a couple of rungs down from maybe the VP who's signing off on the check. But your ultimate goal is to make that contact of yours look amazing. And the more you make them look amazing, the higher chance that that business is going to continue coming to you. Obviously if you're doing the job well to begin with, but understanding that that's an assumption that you're doing the job well. As long as you're making sure that your contact on the inside who put their neck on the line to say, 'Hey this person knows what they're doing, and they're going to do a good job,' then there's no way- at least in my opinion, that that could fail. It seems completely fool proof.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         I think you're absolutely right. Looking at it from with my press hat on, which it's been a bulk of my day, there's a great website that a lot of us use to find out what reporters are looking for, what stories are they trying to find a lead on, and how can I help. It's called HARO, Help A Reporter Out. And I taught that to my team in DC, and I said, "As you're reading the paper, you're looking at the blog, and you're seeing a reporter talking about a really awesome issue, and even if it's not quite a fit for us, it's a fit for someone we know, and when we do a solid for somebody, that gets remembered. And we want to help the community out. There's no prize in being the most selfish in your industry. There is a big prize for being the most collaborative.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Absolutely. So going back to that particular tool- so that's definitely a tool that I've used myself, and helped clients of mine use. What would you say to somebody listening who's never heard of it for starters, what is it, www.HARO.com? It's really simple, right?

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         Yeah.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Okay so if somebody has no idea, they've never heard of this before, what would you say maybe a top one or top two tips might be for making that actually a usable or a viable tool for somebody who really just is just getting started?

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         Sure. Think of it as an eavesdropping tool. I know this may be a strange way to think of it, but think about sitting on the bus or the subway, or sitting at a restaurant and you overhear a conversation, and you know it's killing you that you could answer the question that you just heard someone at the next booth ask. 'Oh my God, I know the person that they're looking for, but I know an expert that could help them out,' and it's just killing you that you can't help. Well here's an opportunity to do that. You go to HARO, or you go to MuckRack or some of the other great places where you can connect with reporters, and they say, 'I'm looking for a personal branding expert to help me reach minority communities.' Sure I could do that. You know who could really do that is Jenn Grace. And now I recommended a friend, and they see not only am I willing to help this reporter out, I'm willing to help out colleagues of mine. And that matters, and that's something that resonates with people.

 

Jenn T Grace:              So using that example, how narrow niche do you feel somebody should try to define their brand around- their personal brand? So if we're thinking about all of the things- because I feel like there are more opportunities for me personally to take advantage of than I have time in the day. Like there's just so much opportunity these days. And I know that that's the case probably for even yourself because there are so many things that you hands down could completely and beautifully articulate some response or answer to, but it may not be directly in alignment with what you're doing. You might say, "You know what? Let me throw that to Jenn, or let me throw that to Sam, or let me throw that to somebody else." How have you been able to kind of I guess define the lane in which you like to travel in, and where those opportunities make sense to help a colleague out, so that way it does end up coming back at some point.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         That's a great question. I think it's a matter again knowing exactly what you bring to the table, and doing your due diligence to know also what you can't bring, and what you can outsource to others. I mean it's the whole point of a supply chain, right? Is I may not be able to do it, but I know someone who can, and we can work together and build a team, and collaborate, and/or just pass off a great lead in the expectation that that's going to pay it forward the next time around. And that really starts with identifying your skillset, and in some cases being super explicit about it either on your website, or your capabilities deck, or whatever it may be and saying, "I do X, Y, Z." And you don't want to say that you are the next iteration- like Judy Garland said, "I don't need to be the second rate imitation of myself, there already is one." It's too early in the morning for a Judy Garland reference, I'm sorry, but it happens. But you don't need to say you're the Uber of community service, or I'm the seamless web of PR, whatever the comparative may be. Say, "I am the next thing. I am here to provide a unique service that you can only get from me, and if I can't do it I am connected to this massive network of-" and then list out all of the organizations you're a part of, or all the certifications you have, all of the awards you've won and say, "If I can't do it, trust me I'm a phone call away from someone who can and will get the job done."

 

Jenn T Grace:              You know what actually? An interesting thing happened to me a little bit along these lines. A couple of months ago, it was back actually in January so it was longer than I thought, I was on a sales call with a Fortune company that I won't mention their name, but we were talking about their Employee Resource Group, and how they just need to help figure out how to make their Employee Resource Group members better kind of sales advocates within the community- so within the LGBT community specifically. And she had reached out to me and I was like, "You know, I don't feel that I'm the qualified person to be having this conversation with. Employee Resource Groups are not my bailiwick but I know a couple of companies that would be perfectly suited to do this for you, but as the conversation kept going on, we were talking about exactly what they were looking for, and it ended up being exactly what I do, but I just have not specifically done it for an Employee Resource Group, but I've done it for a corporation, for a nonprofit, whatever it happens to be. But it was interesting that I started off that conversation saying, "You know what? This is totally not my thing, let me refer you to someone," and then I ended up getting the business anyway, and I think it really had to do with being very clear on what I was good at, and what I really thought my strength was, and it ended up being that it was in alignment anyway. But I feel like if I had gone into it being like, "Oh yeah I'm totally the expert on this particular subject," that I probably wouldn't have gotten the business. It was a really interesting kind of dynamic of what you were a little bit of just talking about.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         I mean that's a great example and there's opportunity everywhere, right? And it may not be apparent in that first interaction, and that's what's the beauty of getting to know someone on a personal level first is all about. If you're constantly looking at someone with the 'what can you do for me' goggle, you'll never actually get to know them as a human being, and you'll never know what they care about, and what their broader network is, and what it is that make them tick. And then you've lost a huge opportunity to find layers of opportunity within. So start with the people, and then build the business on top of it.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Absolutely. Are you familiar with Gary Vaynerchuk to any degree?

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         No but I want you to educate me.

 

Jenn T Grace:              So he has a very confronting style I will call it, like he's just really brash, he's loud, he's in your face, straight up what you would imagine a New Yorker to be stereotyped as.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         Hey.

 

Jenn T Grace:              You're so rough. And he has a huge online following and has for years, like millions and millions of people. And he has a book that he wrote, I think it's a couple of years old now, called 'Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.' And his whole philosophy is you have to give, give, give, and then ask, and then keep on giving. So there has to be a far more likelihood of you giving before you're asking. Because if you just go into any scenario and you just start asking for the business, and you haven't built the relationship, people are going to be completely turned off or ignore you. But if you've been giving, and giving, and giving, when the right time to make that ask comes along they're going to be far more likely to want to do business with you because you've given them so much so far.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         Right, absolutely right. And again, it's not that you're giving for that guaranteed return. It's that you're giving because that's in your nature and you want people to recognize that about you.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yes and if you are coming off as like 'I'm only giving because I'm going to ask you for something in three days,' then I think anyone would see right through that.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         We sure hope so.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah, right? Okay you were talking about strengths a little bit ago. And for some reason Sally Hogshead popped in my mind in terms of really understanding your strengths. And I've been a Sally fan since 2011, and I only remember that because it's when one of her books came out, and having her at the NGLCC conference last year was legit like one of the highlights of my year because she was so amazing in person, on the stage, in the breakout, and then one-on-one. From a personal branding standpoint, I personally think that she’s truly amazing in terms of the framework that she provides to help people understand where their strengths naturally lie. What has your experience been, since I know you were at the conference obviously, what was your experience with that kind of new framework to really just understand what your brand as a person means and feels like?

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         For anyone who hasn't taken it, I highly recommend they go to her website and take the personality matrix test that she has, because it's really eye opening. And if you can, if you're a part of a team, I recommend doing it as a group. We recently did it at the NGLCC office and we now know who has what traits, and some were really shocking. There were a lot of people who possess these stealth characteristics that make them a great program manager, or even a great leader, and are sometimes so unspoken but it's nice to see it articulated in this really visual way, in a color coded way, that helps you understand where everyone fits. For me personally I was really impressed by the real clarity of the questions. It was not a super broad Myers Briggs conversation. It was really about what makes you tick, and what qualities about you make you a strong human being, whether it's for your persona life or your professional life. And the elements about who I was, as a leaders, as someone who likes to take charge, as someone who likes to be- they cleared me out, "You're a talker, you like to be the public face of what you're doing." It was nice because it's also backed up with an understanding of why; it doesn't just drop the bomb and say 'this is who you are.' It says 'because you got these five strengths behind you, that will help you succeed.' And it also outlines some of the pitfalls which is also I think a sign of a great leader and a great business person, is knowing where your shortcomings are and what you can do to actively work around them. I know I can sometimes miss the woods for the trees when I'm really down in a project I'm working on. I'm so mired in the details I forget this can be a little rough around the edges, the big picture is what matters here. And it's nice to be able to be reminded of that. And a trait of mine, and I should most importantly surround myself with great people who are my opposite so that they catch those mistakes, or that they help me execute correctly. I recently had been given some great help and some staff at the NGLCC to work on some projects, and we worked in completely opposite fashions, and it has made us stronger and more effective than we've ever been because we challenge each other. You're your own best yes man, no one needs another one. I can look in the mirror and tell myself what a great job I'm doing, I need the product to speak for it, and I need my relationships to reveal that. So as much as it's about discovering your own brand and your own skillset, allowing yourself to be self-aware enough of what you need to get the job done, the people you need to surround yourself with is just as or more so important.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Do you remember what your archetype was?

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         I knew you were going to ask. If you give me one second I can pull that up and tell you. Because I think it's such a great thing for everyone to know. Let's see, I do have that here.

 

Jenn T Grace:              I think the key is looking as she calls it the Double Trouble. So when your characteristics are doubled up on each other where you're actually acting at your worst. So something that should be making you your best, when you go to an extreme, it just makes it harder for people around you to either work with you, or take your direction, or operate. I feel like that was a really kind of eye-opening thing. Because when I was looking at mine, mine is the Maestro which is power and prestige, and it's kind of the ringleader in a lot of ways of like organizing things, and to me it's all about getting shit done. So it doesn't matter how, I will get it done. And I can see now how overbearing that could be to people on my team when they don't necessarily know what place I'm operating from. So it's a matter of being really cognisant of where your strength can actually become something that's hurtful to you.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         I love that. So mine was the Avant Garde, and it's the person who likes to work quickly and come up with solutions, and be a leader, and if I don't like how the game is played, turn the table over and start a new game, that kind of thing. And I really do love that, but again one of my favorite parts was how it helped me identify what the opposites of that highest and best value may be, which are if I'm not perpetually challenged, I'm going to get bored and I'm going to want to walk away from a project. So being sure that everything I'm doing is new, and innovative, and that certainly served me well, and it's helped me develop unexpectedly I think in my career an entrepreneurial spirit that I didn't know I had. If you had told me ten years ago when I was first starting out as fortunately a solid working actor in New York in Broadway and television that that foundation I was laying, by building a social media platform, and building my own website, and all of those things that I thought were just helping me get a few more roles; that laid a foundation for the rest of my career because now I've converted everyone who ever knew me as a performer into someone who can help me amplify my policy work, and the LGBT stances that we take, and everything begets everything else. And so as it relates to your personal brand, making sure it's positive and flexible, it's all about you and what you want to put out there. And I think it's important for everyone to remember, and I try to teach this when I speak at a lot of universities and I try to remind young people these days you are what you tweet, far more than it used to be when it was your academic record, and your body of work. Now it's how the Internet sees you because people are going to Google you before they meet you, and you want that digital trail of breadcrumbs to lead to something positive that you're proud of, and it's never too late to course correct. So if you want to make that pivot and change your personal brand to be an expert on a certain subject, or a champion for a cause, start right now and get moving, and get help. There are lots of people who know how to do this and you can be that change you want to be.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah and you have to start putting out content that reflects that, and I recently read- it was on LinkedIn and it was some ridiculous number like four out of five hiring managers, the first thing they do is Google your name or go to Facebook and look up your name. And if your profile picture is you with a beer can, chances are you're not getting the job. So it's that severe that I don't think people recognize it, and I actually was looking to hire somebody a couple of months ago, and a colleague of mine said, "My daughter is 22, she's graduating college, what you're working on I think would be in alignment with what she's interested in," and I go to her social media page and everything is her smoking pot with bongs. And it's like I'm not going to be a prude and say, "That's wrong, you can't do that," but for crying out loud, like your social image has to be more professional than that. You really can't be putting that out there, and once you put it out there, even though you think it's deleted or gone, it's still floating somewhere in the interwebs which is dangerous, especially when people are looking for- either looking for a job or just looking to grow their brand and grow their following of people.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         I think that's absolutely right. And making yourself approachable for the things that you care about also matters. It's one thing to just drop the bomb and walk away. It's another thing to say, "I want to have a conversation." So if you're using Twitter, for example, to grow your brand, and you want to start a conversation, be prepared for there to be all sides of that conversation, and be prepared to have a- if you want people to reach you, use a Google voice number so it's anonymous. Or start a Google Hangout where you can keep yourself at an aesthetic distance. But be approachable and don't just throw a bunch of words out either and hope that it sticks. You've got to be able to back it up with passion, conviction, data when you've got it, whatever it may be, because that's also how you validate your brand. The world needs one more YouTube sensation flash in the pan like it needs a hole in the head. But what it does need is someone who's using their voice along with their fame to do something really great.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Absolutely, and I think it's important to be paying attention to sometimes maybe the more subtle cues of where your direction should be headed, because you might start off your personal brand and have- think that you have a really clear idea of what people are looking for, but once you start talking with the people you realize that, 'Oh wow, what I thought they were looking for isn't actually what they're looking for, they're actually looking for this,' and be able to make those short pivots, and not marry yourself to that original concept, of being open to different ideas and different directions.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         Absolutely, and don't let others define your brand for you. It's your brand for a reason, and I certainly remember this well from back in my acting days. Something I don't miss is being told, "You're too this, you're too that," you're at the whim of every director and every casting person saying, "Grow your hair out, be thinner, work out more, do whatever it takes to be the next up and coming star and you're going to take over for this guy when he gets too old." I don't want to take over for him, I want to have my own path, I want to do my own thing, I don't need to replace anybody else, I want to just be Jonathan Lovitz out there. And finally I was able to find that by ironically enough just being myself. It's when I was given that opportunity to be on camera, and do the news, and interview celebrities and such as myself, and speak in my own voice, and talk about my own issues the way I cared about them, that's when I finally began to shine in the way that I didn't know I was destined to.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yes I feel like that is probably the biggest piece of advice is to just be yourself, because when you're trying to fit the mold of what someone else is expecting of you, I feel like that's where you kind of go off the rails. And I can think back to probably 2011 maybe, and this was when I was actually running the Connecticut LGBT Chamber. For some reason I feel like I completely lost my way, and I felt like I had to be what was expected of me to be, and I completely went away from who I was. And if I look at pictures of me from 2010 and 2011, it shows how far from my original core I really was, and then in 2012 I just kind of had this epiphany one day of like, 'Screw this. I cannot continue to try to be something that I naturally don't feel like I am.' And then all throughout 2012 and 2013 I went on this whole weight loss kick, I got healthier again, and I completely re-changed everything that I was doing to just be very much in alignment with me because it's so much easier to just be you than try to be somebody that you're not.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         I could not agree more; the best advice we could put out there in the world for people.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah and especially with personal branding. So one of Sally's quotes, I'm trying to think- it's something of not trying to be others, just be more of who you are. So don't- I'm going to totally butcher it, it's like one of her best quotes. But yeah just be more of who you already are naturally rather than trying to add these characteristics or traits that are very unnatural to you.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         I think that's absolutely right. And when you are most in tune with yourself, you're an instrument that's been primed, and ready, and destined for the spotlight. And that's when your message takes off. When you get given that microphone metaphorically or literally, and you're speaking from a place of groundedness and authenticity, that's when your message takes hold. That's definitely something Sally Hogshead before- it's messages that fail to fascinate become irrelevant, and I think that's right because what's fascinating about someone is their authenticity, not the facade.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Totally. And I feel like you are probably a living example of this as I feel like I am too. Is that I really pride myself on being the same Jenn. So whether you catch me when we're having dinner with a couple of people, whether it's at a conference, or whether we're having a one-on-one conversation or a conversation that thousands of people are listening to, I feel like I really pride myself on always being that same person, so there's never that jarring disconnect. And I feel like you are always the same person regardless of what interaction I have with you, and I would imagine that probably carries out through other people as well.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         Well I really appreciate that, and I'll be the first to admit it wasn't always that way, and that was a major life lesson and journey for me was figuring out that's who I'm supposed to be, is myself all the time. And I definitely see this among a lot of young people, and people starting out in their careers, is trying too hard to please everybody by pivoting. That when you're in the office you're trying to please the boss, so you've got one persona versus who you are with your friends, or who you are with your family versus who you might be when you're networking with your eye on the next job, and that doesn't work.

 

Jenn T Grace:              It's exhausting.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         It's just too exhausting, and for anyone who's ever been through the coming out experience in their professional life, they know about when you can bring your best self to your work by being who you are. Your work has never been better, in fact your whole life gets better because that lead vest comes off. So do yourself the favor and take off a couple extra layers of lead vest and just carry yourself around.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah just being the same person. I just had an introduction from a colleague to a Fortune company, and it was a CMO and it's not typically a recommendation that I'd prefer written an email, but the introduction was, 'You need to meet Jenn, she's whip smart and she gets shit done.' Like that was exactly the line. And I'm like okay, this was to the CMO of a really large company, I'm not sure that that would be the natural way I would like to be introduced, but it actually is who I am, and when I had that first initial call with this particular company, it set the tone so beautifully because I- and I really even with sales calls and high people in larger companies, I'm still genuinely the same person, but it really kind of was very freeing to be like, 'You know what? This is how I was introduced, they still wanted a call with me, so I can really just kind of be who I am,' and it was just such a natural flowing conversation because of that. Even though I wouldn't necessarily want that to be the way I'm referred frequently, but it worked out so beautifully. So I think that it really kind of comes down to that authenticity, and for me having the moniker of the Professional Lesbian, that immediately weeds out people that would not even want to give me the time of day. And to me that's a great thing because I don't have to waste my time or someone else's for them to see if they even want to build a relationship with me.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         Oh I think you're so, so right. We don't have time anymore to have to chip away and figure out what's behind the facade. Leading with yourself is the easiest way to make sure people get what they pay for, literally and figuratively. And I can't tell you the number of times in my career I thought I've gotten to know someone under a totally false pretense, and when the mask came off and I was so disappointed with the person that was really underneath, I wish I had known that from the beginning.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         Because it's wasted a lot of time and energy and frustration, and I came out on the other side more aware of what I don't want in my life, which is potentially a great lesson, but again speaks to the value of your own brand and self-awareness. Be aware of what you're putting out in the world because that's what people are buying. And in a world where we all look to our Yelp reviews before we buy anything, word of mouth is your living Yelp review, and we want it to be a good one for you.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Absolutely. So I feel like we're getting already to almost 45 minutes, we've already been talking that long, and I feel like we could be talking for days because there's so much information to be had, and we both have communications degrees which is why I think it's kind of morphed into what we're talking about. But I want to ask you what is the best piece of advice that you've been given? And not even necessarily related to branding or anything like that, but just kind of in business or in life. What is it and who gave it to you?

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         Well you'll indulge me I'll have to say it's two.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Okay.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         Because in my personal life it came from my parents when I was a teenager and really struggling with who I was personally, what I cared about versus what was expected of me as a teenage boy in the suburbs, and all the things that I was into when I was far more interested in being involved in theatre and school than I was sports and friends and all of that. And all my- and after all the time talking to school counselors, and all the stress of all of that in your teenage years; sitting down and having a good cry with my parents and them saying, "Yeah but do you like you? Good. Stick with that and that's all that matters."

 

Jenn T Grace:              That's beautiful.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         And that has served me well in my personal life ever since. It's just thinking, 'If I'm unhappy with something, all I have to do is change it. I could sit here and rock back and forth and worry about it, or I could make it better.'

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         So that certainly served me in my personal life, and then in my professional life which I am so grateful as I said at the beginning of all this, very bizarrely and organically led me to such incredible experiences, it's all been because I never let a door that was closed dissuade me from a path. And anytime that there was a door, I have been told by so many friends, and colleagues and mentors, 'Build your own,' and that has always served me well. Between the idea of never letting a lack of an opportunity mean that there isn't one, just should inspire you to come up with a creative solution, and that usually leads you to lesson number two which is it's usually better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.

 

Jenn T Grace:              That's my favorite quote.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         Yeah, get it done, wow people, and someone will help you get out of any kind if icky situation that arises with it. But it's better to have done it. Another great Sally Hogshead quote was something to the effect of the world was never changed by people who just kind of cared.

 

Jenn T Grace:              So true, especially in this work, right?

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         Yeah, exactly. And whether it's your personal business, or community service, or whatever it may be, care with all you have because you're only going to get one shot to make a difference.

 

Jenn T Grace:              I love that. I love that. I feel like we should end on that because it's so beautifully articulated. But before we actually end, how do people find you? So tell us all the different ways in which they can get a little bit of loving from you.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         Well if they ever want to know about our professional work, and the great things we're doing to make the world a better place for LGBT people to live, and work, and thrive, get involved in www.NGLCC.org. But for me personally I have a website, www.JonathanDLovitz.com. It's a little bit under construction right now, so anyone out there with some great web skills, do feel free to get in touch. But there's my links to all my social media are there, I'm really active on Twitter, it's my favorite. @JDLovitz. I will always write back and get in touch with people if they use the email link on my website. There's no such thing as a relationship without value, so I hope to hear from everybody listening. I hope to always be a good friend and connection with you, Jenn, I think your work and energy you put out into the world is so inspiring and we need a lot more of you out there, but I'm pretty glad that there's just one Jenn Grace.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Thank you, I appreciate that. We should just start cloning ourselves and just have a little army. Wouldn't that be great?

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         Absolutely. I don't know the world needs another one of me, I think I'm- certainly my partner wouldn't want more.

 

Jenn T Grace:              I would say the same thing about my wife. Yeah I don't think she wants another one of me either.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         Yeah.

 

Jenn T Grace:              They get the best of us, don't they?

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         They sure do, even at the worst.

 

Jenn T Grace:              For real. Alright this has been great, thank you so much for being a guest, I really appreciate it.

 

Jonathan Lovitz:         It was a real pleasure and an honor, and I hope to do it again. Thanks for all you do.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Thank you for listening to today's podcast. If there are any links from today's show that you are interested in finding, save yourself a step and head on over to www.JennTGrace.com/thepodcast. And there you will find a backlog of all of the past podcast episodes including transcripts, links to articles, reviews, books, you name it. It is all there on the website for your convenience. Additionally if you would like to get in touch with me for any reason, you can head on over to the website and click the contact form, send me a message, you can find me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all at JennTGrace. And as always I really appreciate you as a listener, and I highly encourage you to reach out to me whenever you can. Have a great one, and I will talk to you in the next episode.

Direct download: 86-Insider-PR-tips-with--Communications-Expert-Jonathan-Lovitz.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:05am EST

#85: Jacob Tobia Shares How to Build a Personal Brand Platform with Meaning

Jenn T. Grace – Episode 85 – Jacob Tobia Shares How to Build a Personal Brand Platform with Meaning

 

Jenn T Grace:              You are listening to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast, episode 85.

 

Introduction:              Welcome to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast; the podcast dedicated to helping LGBTQ professionals and business owners grow their business and careers through the power of leveraging their LGBTQ identities in their personal brand. You'll learn how to market your products and services both broadly, and within the LGBTQ community. You'll hear from incredible guests who are leveraging the power of their identity for good, as well as those who haven't yet started, and everyone in between. And now your host. She teaches straight people how to market to gay people, and gay people how to market themselves. Your professional lesbian, Jenn - with two N's - T Grace.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Well hello and welcome to episode 85 of the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast. I am your host, Jenn Grace, and today I am so excited to bring you an interview. It's been a couple of episodes since we've had an interview, and this is going to be the first of probably eight or nine to come over the next couple of months. So I'm really excited, and I'm not going to make this intro long at all, but I do want to let you know that we are talking with Jacob Tobia today who is a leading voice for genderqueer, nonbinary and gender nonconforming people. We discussed in great length what it means to be genderqueer, or gender nonconforming, and talked to some degree about the political landscape that our country is in right now. Jacob is originally from North Carolina, so we got a chance to talk a little bit about the bathroom bills in North Carolina. But what we really focused our time on was really just kind of dissecting this whole spectrum of gender, and the fact that it is a nonbinary spectrum. And I asked a lot of pointed questions and Jacob had some amazing, amazing answers to them. So I really hope that you learn something from this interview, and then also follow Jacob on social media; they're on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram, all over the place, and the website is www.JacobTobia.com and you can get all sorts of information about them there. And yeah, so I really hope that you enjoy this interview, it was really awesome, and I will talk to you in episode 86. Thanks so much, and enjoy.

 

Jacob Tobia:                At a 30,000 foot view, I'm Jacob, I am a genderqueer writer and speaker and media person, and some would even say a personality perhaps. And I grew up in North Carolina and went to school in North Carolina, and now I live in New York City. And my sort of mission right now, and my mission probably for a good bit of my life, is just sort of getting beyond this idea that there are only two genders. Getting beyond the idea that gender is somehow this oppositional exercise, but there are only two options that you can understand yourself within. And starting to see what a world could look like that understood gender as thousands of possibilities as part of the spectrum, as it actually is. You know? And it's something that the idea of sort of like convincing the world of this feels daunting at times, but then other times I also have to remind myself that historically there have been points throughout the world, and across cultures, and across time where people already understood this. I don't think that what I'm saying is necessarily anything new in the context of like people and history. I think it's just something that in sort of the modern world that we live in, and particularly in the context of the United States, is something people need to hear again if that makes sense.

 

Jenn T Grace:              I think so.

 

Jacob Tobia:                I do a lot of different kinds of work around that from- I did like reality TV last year, I was on an episode of MTV's True Life, but I also do a lot of writing, and [Inaudible 00:04:24] and that kind of work, and then do some political organizing, and also I'm working on a book, and all that kind of stuff. So it's a broad range of things, and all that's leading towards I think the idea of gender nonconforming, and gender nonbinary folks being able to reclaim our full humanity.

 

Jenn T Grace:              So if someone's listening to this, and this is a podcast about kind of personal branding for LGBTQ professionals, and if someone's listening to this and they may not be completely entrenched in what it means to be genderqueer or nonbinary or gender nonconforming. How would you give kind of a high level overview of the best way to describe that, to get somebody who may not fully understand what you're saying to really just kind of land the plane for them?

 

Jacob Tobia:                Yeah I mean I think nonbinary gender is really brilliantly simple when you get down to it, right? Every system in nature, every system in the world that we live in has nuance and is built across a wide array of representations, right? Anytime you categorize something, there are going to be things in between the categories that you've created. Especially when you create two categories for a wide array of types of people. So I think a lot about gender like I think about color. The visible color spectrum, if you try to divide the visible color spectrum into two types of color, you're going to have a very difficult time parsing out many of the shades, and figuring out sort of where they belong. And I think what the nonbinary movement, and what genderqueer people sort of claim is that it's okay to sort of say, 'Well we have this world where we're classifying people as warm colors and cool colors, and I'm actually kind of like a yellow green.' Like I'm somewhere in the middle of that, and actually all of us are somewhere in the middle of that, and no one of us really matches the architype of this sort of general thing that we've created. So in short form, I think that's a kind of good way to explain it and a good way to conceptualize it. The idea that lumping people into two categories of gender is sloppy. People fall all over the map.

 

Jenn T Grace:              And just as you were talking I was thinking about how there have been times where my wife and I will be talking, and both trying to- because I feel like there's this stereotype that in any type of same sex relationship, that somebody is going to be the more masculine one, or somebody's going to be the more feminine one. There's just kind of the people want to put us all into these very rigid buckets, and we've had conversations before where neither of us fall in either direction to an extreme. Like we're both in this very much a gray area. So that's for us who are more enlightened to the varied spectrum, if you will. What do you say to the straight folks who may be falling in this gender spectrum somewhere, but don't even recognize that they're falling in it? Have you had audiences where you're talking to folks like this? Because I think of- if I think back to a job I had well over a decade ago, there was a woman who I worked with who everyone made this assumption that she was a lesbian, everyone did, and she was not, she was married to a man and just happened to fall on this gender expression spectrum, and everyone just assumed that that's who she was and she was hiding. So do you encounter people that need education around I guess that type of component to it as well? Am I making sense?

 

Jacob Tobia:                Yeah so I have a few reactions to that, right? I think one feeling that I have increasingly is that there's a really strong degree to which sexuality and gender identity have been conflated in pop culture that's really to the detriment of everybody, right? Because a lot of times- and I think it's really interesting when you look at sort of discourse through the nineties and early 2000's around LGBT rights, or a lot of times in that period, gay rights. A lot of things that we're talked about as anti-gay were actually anti-femme, right? Or anti a certain kind of gender expression. And they used the word gay as a sort of coverall, but like I think it's really interesting talking about this woman at your office who was more masculine and was assumed to be a lesbian. Like the adversity that she faced has probably little to do- like the primary root of the adversity she faced was that she was gender nonconforming, right? Not that she had- the perceived sexuality came secondarily to that, right?

 

Jenn T Grace:              Correct.

 

Jacob Tobia:                So I think that it's interesting when we talk about gay and lesbian folks in the context of gender diversity, and oftentimes there are deep gender issues within the community that impact some people and don't impact others because we aren't good at applying the label gender nonconforming to ourselves and others, right? Because it's interesting when you sort of said like, "Oh well how would you talk to straight folks about this?" First my gut reaction, my initial reaction was like well actually I mean how do you talk to gay folks about it? Like I actually think that in this sort of modern understanding of gay and lesbian identity, most gay and lesbian folks that I know are relatively attached to their identity as men or women. Most people who use the word gay or lesbian that I know don't dis-identify with the gender binary.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Good point.

 

Jacob Tobia:                Don't identify outside of manhood or womanhood. And so I think that there's a lot of education that we need to do within our own community around creating safer spaces for gender expression, and allowing people the ability to express themselves. So I think it's making the imperative for understanding one that only applies to heterosexual folks is really limits the scope is a way that doesn't keep the LGBT community accountable to its own prejudice, because we have a great number of prejudices baked into our community because we are a really wide diverse community, right? Like there have been masculine gay men who have been worse to me as a femme than straight men have been. Like and I think it's important to mark that, that this isn't- like gender nonconformity is not innately understood by people because they are gay or lesbian if their gender identity has always fallen within the lines. So there's sort of that thought. I know it's a complicated kind of like answer.

 

Jenn T Grace:              No I think this is great.

 

Jacob Tobia:                The other thought that I have around sort of how you talk to people who identify in a binary way about the fact that they are also on a spectrum of gender. And I think it's actually not very hard. I don't think it's rocket science to talk to people about where they fall on the gender spectrum because everyone, even people who identify as men or as women, have had moments where their gender was policed, or they've policed the gender of somebody else. And the one thing that's been really cool that I've seen involved in my work over the past year or so, I started doing more and more speaking, more and more public speaking, and talking all kinds of places. I gave a talk at Princeton Theological Seminary to a very religious audience, I've given talks to high schools and middle schools, I've given talks at colleges to radical queers, I've given talks to corporate audience; I've been talking in a lot of different types of rooms, but it's interesting because every room, no matter what the sort of political leanings of the room are, or how queer the room is or not, it's been incredible that kind of the same core message resonates with people in the same way. When I ask people, "When was a time when you were told that you were not good enough because of the way you were performing your gender. When was a time that you were told that you couldn't do something because it wasn't something that boys or girls do?" And every single person I have ever spoken to in my entire life has an answer to that question, and has a moment they remember when their gender was policed. And I think that that's where we can really think about like this is something that's fundamental to all of humanity, right? Like everyone experiences this, and it doesn't take a lot of effort to sort of mainstream the discourse because it necessarily is baked into everyone's experience. So I just got better at tapping into that and talking to people honestly about that. And probably my biggest moment of triumph in that regard was that I spoke to a high school in lower Manhattan actually, and I was talking to this group of high schoolers, and gave my whole presentation, and at the end of it I said, "I'd love to hear from some of you. Like when are moments that you have had your gender policed, or been told that your gender was not acceptable?" And it's easy I think given where we come and sort of how we talk about femininity versus masculinity culturally; it's easier for young girls to talk about ways in which their gender has been policed or their gender has limited them. I think that young women and femmes are taught from an early age to think about their gender broadly, right? I think to think about their gender as a [Inaudible 00:13:20]. Whereas I think that a lot of young boys and young men and young masculine people aren't taught to think about their gender as something other than a static entity. They're not taught to interrogate it or think about it. So in the context of a high school assembly, it's pretty easy for a girl to stand up and socially acceptable almost for a girl to stand up and say, "Oh well I was told that I couldn't play this sport because that wasn't girly enough." Or "I was told that I wasn't allowed to wear my hair a certain way because that's not what girls are supposed to do." But getting young men to stand up in front of their peers in a classroom setting and say something about how their gender has been policed is a lot harder, and one of the biggest markers of success for me, is if I can get men in the audience to talk critically about their gender, then I know that people have really heard me. And I was in this assembly, and I was talking to 150 high school students, and it was the end of the assembly and at the end of it I asked that question, and a few girls answered, and then I said, "Is there anyone who identifies as a guy who would be willing to answer this? Is there anyone who's courageous enough to step up to talk about it? I mean I've told a million examples in my life of when this has happened, but like is someone willing to talk about this in their own experience? Because I know that ya'll have been through it." And this one guy just raised his hand and he seemed to be like one of the cool kids or whatever, and he was just like, "Yeah I'm Brazilian, and in Brazilian culture guys dance a lot. And when I moved to the US, people told me that I wasn't- that it was too girly to dance the way that I dance. But like I'm going to keep dancing the way that I dance because I'm awesome." And I was just sort of like- it was a real moment for me when he felt able to speak to the ways in which the policing of masculinity had hurt him, or had sought to interfere with his authenticity. So I think that this bridge is not that hard to build, we just need to create the space for it. I think you just need to create the time and the place for people to think about these things critically.

 

Jenn T Grace:              And do you find that there are more people or even a percentage of people within the LGBTQ community that are more critical of what you're doing? Because for me personally, I find that there is a very big divide, a little bit of what you were touching on a few minutes ago, between people who identify as lesbian and gay versus even people who identify as trans. There seems to be this divide that not everyone understands each other. And then there's the argument that not everyone should be lumped under the same umbrella. So for you who this is what you're doing for a living, you are out there advocating on behalf of this particular subject, do you find that trying to move the needle within the L, G piece of the community tends to be a rough road at times?

 

Jacob Tobia:                To be frank, I generally have really positive interaction with folks who identify as lesbian. Because I think that within queer women's communities and within lesbian women's communities, there has always been kind of baked in an appreciation for gender diversity, and like you could be butch or you could be femme, and if you're a queer woman both of those are attractive positions. Like I know butch women who date other butch women, I know femme women who date other femme women, I know butches who date femmes, like I know femmes who date butches, and that is sort of baked into the experience of so many queer women that I know. And there's sort of this- I think this real freedom there in queer and lesbian women's communities that I deeply admire. I don't think that most of the queer lesbian women that I've talked to have really had any kind of deep issues with the message that I'm bringing. Because also I'm very quick to note that the message I'm bringing into the community is not really a new one. It's not a new one at all. Like gender nonconforming people have been part of the queer community since the queer community started, and will always be. I think it's just that in the context of the current LGBT movement, one that has focused for a decade now on assimilation and sort of mainstreaming our bodies and ourselves- and making ourselves palatable to the 'moveable middle.' I think that in that context we've really lost a lot of our roots. We've really lost a lot of the natural and fabulous understanding of gender diversity that queer community has always had in the interest of gaining political rights. So the people that I really have issues with are the gay men. What it really comes down to for me is just unresolved trauma. There are so many gay men out there who were just bullied mercilessly, or have felt isolated for their entire lives, and they finally get to a city where they can feel okay, and then they have a very defensive, aggressive and closed minded masculinity that when they see someone who's femme and unashamed and happy about it like I am, it can be hard. Because it's kind of like when you haven't recovered and you haven't healed, and you see someone who's done that healing, it can engender a lot of jealousy, it can bring about a lot of pain, or there's like some trauma that you just haven't coped with that you don't know how to cope with, and you're not ready for someone like me to sashay in the room and remind you of that.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah.

 

Jacob Tobia:                And you know my thing is I'm kind of like- it's hard for me because I want to get angry and frustrated with cis gay men for being so exclusionary, and in the context of political worlds I do. Like I also am a queer historian in my academic community, and the sort of degree to which gay white men in particular sort of whitewashed and masculine washed the gay rights movement, and made gay something synonymous with being cisgender, and with being gender conforming, and with being two dudes in tuxes at a wedding alter. Like the way in which gay men proactively created and then recreated images of the most palatable types of gay men I think is an incredible front against our own community that like one day I think we'll be able to see in its full historical context. Right? Like I think one day we'll be able to understand the fight for marriage equality as a fight that deeply harmed so many within our community, and told so many within our community that they did not have worth or value in the quest of getting those who wanted mainstream worth or value, who had not healed from their isolation as children, who had not healed from their queer trauma, to sort of stay in a place where they didn't have to feel. I don't know, I get all heavy about it, that's where it lives, that's where these things live. And I think that the proof in the pudding is just that like if you go on any sort of dating app, if you look at any gay magazine, like what bodies are there? Who is celebrated and who is excluded? And it's not hard, you don't have to look far. One of my friends, Jamal, is currently directing a film called 'No Fats, No Femmes,' and it's all about exploring these mysteries and these lineages of white supremacy and masculine supremacy, patriarchy and body shaming within the gay community, and how we got to a place where all of those things seem to be so profoundly socially acceptable.

 

Jenn T Grace:              And they're perpetuated in advertising and marketing. Yeah I totally agree. So I am not a queer history buff in any way. I have my own experiences and I have at least my limited knowledge, but my thought now is that I should be looking into it because I feel like if we look at what marketers and advertisers are doing, or large corporations, or even big and small companies that are reaching out to the LGBT community, they're really reaching out to that one segment of the community that you were just speaking so specifically about. Where it's masculine men, white, in perfect shape, and people are like, 'Oh yeah, we're LGBT friendly, or we're welcoming of the community,' and in reality all they're really looking at are affluent gay, white men specifically who are very specific in gender conforming. So I guess maybe that's where all these marketers and advertisers originally got that thought that that's how they should do it, is from what you're describing now.

 

Jacob Tobia:                Yeah and I think the view is just so deeply myopic. Right? And this is something that even in my own work, like right now I'm working on selling a book proposal, and it's interesting because I think that a lot of people who in sort of the corporate world particularly, it's not just that they have so little imagination. It's that they've been taught for so long that these are the stories and the ways that you have to talk about being gay. And I still think using the word gay is important there, or being trans even now, I think there's starting to be some of a discourse around that, that it has to be kind of this very polished, rounded out, self-serious reverent thing. And that like the only worthwhile endeavor than to building a base within the LGBT community are tapping into the rich, white, gay men who buy vodka. Like it's sort of- I think that that's really the approach that people take in a lot of the corporate world, at least when it comes to sort of marketing. And it's interesting because I think that that actually creates this really nasty feedback loop where what we have now is we have this series of corporations that are used to telling gay men- particularly gay men what their desires are, and then gay men learn those behaviors and see those behaviors modeled by others. And then like you have this sort of feedback loop of a company says, 'Oh you want to buy a lot of vodka and fancy underwear and designer jeans, and those are the things that matter to you as a gay man. If you're going to blend in, you need to be able to deal with all of those, right?

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yes.

 

Jacob Tobia:                And then the companies say that to you, and all the magazines that you're reading like if you go to Out Magazine or Advocate or something and look at the ads. And then you internalize that as a gay person, and then create the demand for that to be advertised more. And so I think that we have this way in which the sort of marketing endeavors that have been undertaken by a lot of consumer brands aimed at the gay community specifically have created a specific kind of gay identity that is so bad for us as a group, right? And it's just funny to me because it's like when are we going to sort of disrupt that economy? Right? When are we going to say that we're not playing that game anymore? When are we going to acknowledge that there's an entire generation of young people for whom that has no resonance? There's an entire generation of young people for whom Tumblr and social justice meme, and Gender Fabulosity, and Gender Transgression, and authenticity, and power, and talking about feeling and all those things is much more relevant than any vodka ad could ever be.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Absolutely.

 

Jacob Tobia:                How do we create a broader, more expansive public face around all of that?

 

Jenn T Grace:              So when we're looking at what you're doing. So you had started off saying that you have been in corporate environments talking to people, and just kind of educating them around this stuff, and you've been in environments where it might be a middle school, high school, college. For you personally, where are you getting the most enjoyment as far as knowing that you're making a difference? Because I feel like- so my whole thing is teaching around the LGBT community kind of at large, and I also am in corporate settings as well as speaking with schools. So I have my own frame of where I think you can really make an impact, but I feel like everyone just has that 'I love talking to this particular audience because I can just see the lightbulb moment,' or whatever it happens to be. So for you, like where are you really finding that you're just completely inspired and want to keep giving of yourself, because you can see the impact happening so quickly.

 

Jacob Tobia:                Well I think there are two answers to that, right? The speaking engagements that feel most difficult are often the ones that are most rewarding, right? But the ones where I have to really sort of work where I'm sort of like dodging bullets the whole time, where I'm kind of doing a unique sort of acrobatic to make sure that my message is heard by everyone in the room. Those are definitely more challenging, and certainly aren't as comfortable, but are I think probably the most important kind of work that I do. So for example, if you start saying what is the most naturally energizing, fabulous place for me and the kind of stuff that I do? The most fabulous engagements that I do are definitely on college campuses, right? Because people are at a point in their identity in their development, they're at a point in their lives where they are ready for the kind of analysis that I'm bringing and they're energized about it, and they want to hear it, and we are moving this thing together. So those spaces are really exciting and rewarding but they're also relatively easy, right? Like I'm not scared going in to speak to a college queer straight alliance. Or a queer student union at a university. Or even like a women's studies conference. Like none of those things are particularly scary for me because I know that I'm going into really sort of friendly territory where people are not only like capable of hearing what I'm saying, but they like actively want to, right? The rooms that are a little more challenging are the corporate engagements that I do, and the primary school engagements that I do. So like talking to high schools and middle schools is definitely a unique challenge because you are constantly going back and forth between making sure that you're speaking in a way that isn't going to bother administrators, but also acknowledging that actually the students you're speaking to are way further along in their development than their administrators want to admit. Right? So learning to sort of find a way to make these complicated ideas about queer liberation, and all that stuff accessible to a really young audience in the context of being super biased by teachers and administrators. Figuring out how to do that dance takes a bit of choreography, but sometimes when you're able to pull it off it feels like more of an accomplishment because you're balancing something that's more nuanced. And I think the same thing goes for corporate spaces, right? Where you have to be able to challenge people just enough. Like there is sort of- and you have to be able to have just the right amount of the irreverence, and just the right amount of sort of outside instigator energy without sort of turning people off completely. Because the change in the corporate world matters. Also I can be transparent about the fact that corporate audiences can be a challenge because a lot of times in corporate audiences I may be speaking to an organization where a lot of their structure and what they do in the world is something that I don't- I'm not really here for all the time, right? But do I know that a lot of the bad behavior of Corporate America comes from the fact that patriarchal people with a lot of masculine trauma are running it? Absolutely. And is me being able to be there hopefully a step towards healing some of that trauma for people and creating a space where men are able to interrogate the way that masculinity has traumatized them, and think about how that's shaped their behavior and the way that they feel they must relate to the world? And then will that in turn potentially help them think about how they think masculinity has informed the way they feel they must approach business, and must approach other people, and must approach accountability, and community in the broader context? I sure hope so. It's hard to say at any point if you're really making the transformation that you want, but that challenge too is more rewarding when you're able to do it right because it is such a challenge.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah. So let's go back for a second. How did you decide- because in looking at your bio, and knowing that you're from North Carolina I'm not going to not ask you about the bathroom situation at some point. However, in looking at your bio, you have a lot of places that you've worked, everything's advocacy related. At what point I guess did you realize that you had a voice that could be bigger than you, and that you had a platform that you could stand on and go in and start speaking publicly? And then also the fact that you're working on your book proposal right now. So I guess was there a specific point in time where you just knew that you almost had the obligation to bring your message to the world to help educate people around this?

 

Jacob Tobia:                I don't think that I really came into it with an understanding of obligation really. It was more that like I wanted to be able to be myself and feel good in that, and necessarily had to learn to explain that to other people. It wasn't like I sort of came about all this work necessarily selflessly. I think it's that I sort of tried to enter into the professional world, I tried to sort of like start moving, and I realized how little space there was for people like me, and I realized how hard the world was fighting to keep me in a box I guess. To keep me within sort of a safe, masculine space. And really what that did for me, was I realized look, if you ever want to sort of be able to be yourself, you're going to have to explain this to people, and you're going to have to figure out a way to do it. And you can do that in this sort of bubble, like you can explain that to a small number of people and create a safe space for yourself, and feel good in it, like build your cool queer community in New York where you can feel good, and don't worry so much about everybody else, but that never felt satisfying. I don't like the idea that I can only be accepted or heard, or affirmed, or seen, or valued in one small specific space. Like I don't like that idea at all. And so I think it was also for my own stubbornness, about being like, 'Dammit I should be able to go anywhere and speak with anyone, and be fully validated and heard and understood by them. Like that should not be something that is impossible, or should not seem difficult in the world.' And so I think that a lot of that is what really inspired me to sort of push into this advocacy work, and to take it on in a substantial way which was just a desire to get my humanity back. And a sort of unwillingness to accept a world where I'm supposed to be erased. And so I think it's necessarily gone more public because- the other thing I'm deeply committed to is when I always think about my activism, I think a lot about my younger self. I think about kids growing up in suburban or non-major urban center areas, who have a sort of culture and an understanding of gender that is informed so much by national media, and by what national media is telling them around how gender is allowed to exist. And I want to make sure that my work is able to be heard and seen in those communities, like the ones I grew up in, right? Which is why I refuse to just find my safe community in New York, and stick with that. I want to build my safe community here, and use that as the sort of strength for me to then go out into the rest of the world and really stick it to them.

 

Jenn T Grace:              So in talking about the media, what do you think those messages- at least from your vantage point, do you think that young queer LGBTQ, gender nonconforming, however we're defining that; what do you think those messages are that they're getting in those suburban areas? Especially when we look at the really heated political landscape that we're in right now, and the fact that even our Attorney General made such a profound declaration just a couple of days ago as we're recording this in May of 2016. What do you think- do you think that younger people are getting- I guess it doesn't even have to be younger people. Do you think people are getting mixed messages? Or are they getting a really kind of clear cut message that's not inclusive? What is your kind of take on that?

 

Jacob Tobia:                No I think they're definitely getting mixed messages. I think that in most of the country, MSNBC and Fox are seen as two legitimate sides of the opinion. And in that context, like what the hell are you supposed to think as a young person, or as any person, right? When both perspectives are seen as fully valid, and one is deeply transphobic and the other is deeply supportive of the trans community? I think that trans people right now are in this moment of visibility that is healing and builds awareness to some extent, but also creates as many challenges of actually living as trans, as some of the invisibility did, right? Like I think that as a community we have been flying under the radar for a long time, and now we're out in the open and that's a vulnerable position. I think that vulnerability is starting to come out, and that's what all this bathroom bill stuff is about. Like when you come out of the shadows as it were, although I would argue that trans people have never been in the shadows, but when you come into a kind of mainstream visibility there's going to be a reaction because you're putting yourself out there in a major way for the first time. Or at least for the first time in recent memory. And so I think that what's happening right now is that half of the world is telling young trans people, 'Oh there are all these role models and icons, and trans people are making progress, and you should be proud of who you are, and you should own who you are, and that's wonderful.' And then the other half of the world is telling young trans people that there's nothing to be happy about, and that they are abominations, and that they don't deserve the same rights and freedoms as everybody else. It's definitely a step forward from where we were, where most trans people prior to this were just told by everyone that their identity was an impossibility. Right? So it's better to have conflict than nothing, certainly. But I think it's also important to remember that like that conflict is real for people. It takes a lot of emotional energy to navigate, and it's not going away anytime soon. Like this is a much, much longer, more prolonged conversation, even than gay rights or LGB rights were, right? Like I think that if we think that the trans community is going to see progress at the same rate as like the sort of gay and lesbian community has, I'm not even sure about that because we're talking now about gender, and not one aspect of gender nonconformity, but about all of it. And so the other thing I think about too is I worry that right now particularly the visibility of trans people, there's only a certain kind of trans person who's very visible right now. And for the most part, the trans people who are visible are passing gender conforming trans men or trans women. And those are who are held up as sort of the icons of the community. And while I don't see gender conforming and gender nonconforming trans people as in opposition, I think that the desperate visibility that's imposed on our community gender media is a challenge that we're going to have to overcome and think about, right? And think about how do we respond to this as a community in a strategic way, not just sort of like accept that it's an inevitability and move along. Because right now the most marginalized trans people are not even close to visible. Because I think about the bathroom bills issue. Like think about whose selfies have blown up, like whose have gone viral, or who's been the big spokespeople around this bathroom bill stuff; most of the spokespeople have been passing trans folks who actually aren't in a lot of risk when they use a public restroom anymore, right?

 

Jenn T Grace:              Correct.

 

Jacob Tobia:                And the people who this bill is mostly targeting, and the people who have issues in the bathroom, and have issues in either bathroom no matter which bathroom they go into, are gender nonconforming people, genderqueer people, and lower income trans folks who cannot afford to transition in a way that 'allows' them to pass. So I think that that's kind of the conversation we need to be having in this new media landscape around trans identity, is which people in the trans community are being heard, and which people in the trans community are being silenced, and who is imposing that silence, and who is granting that visibility, and how do we engage with all this?

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah, how do we engage with the folks that are being silenced, and have their voices recognized? Because no one's recognizing them currently.

 

Jacob Tobia:                That's a tough question. I'm not going to act like I have all the answers at this point.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah and I don't think we can compare it completely apples to apples between the L and the G of the community to the T in terms of covering and passing and all that. But I do see that there is a parallel within the L and G specifically when the conversation comes up of people who are passing as straight. So the perhaps masculine looking man, or the feminine looking woman who doesn't 'look' gay. So there is that- I feel like there's that perception that the media kind of continues to portray as well, which is also harmful. I don't think it's nearly as harmful as what's happening within the trans community, but there's definitely that happening as well.

 

Jacob Tobia:                Well it's ironic, right? Because actually what's happening now in the trans community is the same thing that the gay community did to the trans community in like the eighties and nineties and 2000's, right? The people who are gender nonconforming are being pushed to the back, and that's what's been happening in the LGBT community and the queer community for decades now, right? In the nineties, the logic was like God forbid we put a gay man with a lisp as a spokesperson of anything. Or a gay man who has like slightly more fluid wrists as a spokesperson for anything. God forbid we put an actual stone butch woman as a spokesperson for anything in our community, or ever as sort of a focus of media attention. And the same thing is true- and that was about gender conformity or gender nonconformity, right? Gender conforming gay and lesbian people were picked to sort of be the voices. They were the only voices that really 'made sense' in the time. And now we have the trans community doing the same thing to itself that was done to it by other people, where we are only preferencing the voices of gender conforming people and pushing gender conforming and passing trans people to the front of the line, and ensuring that anyone who's gender nonconforming- like God forbid you wear lipstick and have facial hair. Like we're pushing those folks to the back, and so I think the very radical proposition of genderqueer and nonbinary activists right now is just sort of refusing two things. A, refusing to be pushed out of the trans community or silenced as a member of the trans community. Like ensuring that we don't sort of have to create this world where trans is seen as trans people are trans binary people, and nonbinary genderqueer people are something else. Right? Like sort of rejecting that logic, and also just rejecting invisibility. Just refusing to be invisible and using all the tools within our power to refuse that. It's an exhausting fight, sure.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Of course.

 

Jacob Tobia:                But it's the most worthwhile fight that I've participated in in a while.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah, absolutely. And where do you think- and I'm trying to figure out what the best way to phrase this would be, but where do you think the folks who are part of the trans community who have 'assimilated,' and they truly want nothing to do with the fight for equality within the trans community? So the people who are passing as gender conforming, the person that you 'would never know' that's part of the trans community, and it is the people in the media right now that you were just saying are getting the most attention when they're doing the selfies in the bathroom. It's the folks that you would just never guess. So where do you think- and those people are obviously advocating because they're taking selfies in the bathroom to prove a point. But what about- and I don't know what percentage of the trans community people would fall into in this, but I know plenty of trans people who have no desire to be labeled as such, or have any involvement in moving this equality needle, moving forward?

 

Jacob Tobia:                I mean my view about that, it's an issue of coming out. It's the same question of like, 'Oh do all gay people have the responsibility to come out?' It's that sort of same interrogation, it's just in the life cycle of a trans person you have two opportunities to be in the closet. In the story of the binary trans man or trans woman who has access to the resources necessary to transition in a way that allows them to pass. You have two choices about being in the closet. You have to come out of the closet when you decide to transition, and then you have the option to go back into it, and then sort of go stealth after you've transitioned and you are able to sort of embody the gender in a way that doesn't flag for others your trans experience. And when it comes to coming out, like I'm not going to prescribe for anybody what they should do. I'm not going to tell anybody that it's wrong to want to finally live your life and feel happy in it. But I am going to say that like we need to not kid ourselves if we act like a world in which trans people have to be invisible [Inaudible 00:42:03] after they transition. Like let's not kid ourselves and act like that's a world where we're free, right? But let's acknowledge that people have an incredible amount of hurt and pain, and sometimes after a long journey you want to rest a little bit, you're exhausted a little bit. And you know I think I do something equivalent to that, but it's on a more day to day basis, right? You know there are definitely moments when I'm just like, 'I don't have the energy for this right now. Like I'm not going to wear a dress. I kind of want to, but I'm not going to because I'm exhausted.' When I travel, I almost always wear like jeans and a tee shirt and I look like just a normal dude. Because I just don't- I'm like traveling is so exhausting already, I don't want to have to deal with TSA in a skirt, I just don't. You know? And so I have my own moments when I sort of re-assimilate in order to just like feel okay for a little bit. And so I think those moments, we're allowed to have them, they're an important part of healing actually. But for me it's about I do that so I can save my energy for a longer fight, and for bigger battles, right? Because it's like I don't need to engage in every small battle every day. I don't need to advocate and explain everything to every person who stares at me or catcalls me on the subway, or whatever, right? Like I need to save my energy for the real battles, and for the big battles that I can do. Like I need to save my energy for my activism, and my advocacy, and my broad structural work. Because if I try to fix every little thing every day, then-

 

Jenn T Grace:              You'd be exhausted.

 

Jacob Tobia:                Yeah, and I think the same thing goes for gender nonconforming or for passing trans people, right? The idea of whether or not to sort of disclose or live into the fullness of your identity is a daily decision that you have to make based on kind of like where you're at, you know? So I just don't want to moralize about it. I don't want to act like one position is this really moral high ground, and the other is somehow shameful. I think it's about us being exhausted, and I think it's about us having struggled for a very long time.

 

Jenn T Grace:              It's about finding a balance.

 

Jacob Tobia:                Yeah and sometimes just wanting a release from struggling for a little bit. You know? I'm not going condemn any trans person for how we curate our identities and think about them, because it's tough. It's tough out there.

 

Jenn T Grace:              I think that was very well put. So I know that we're getting close to an hour of recording, and I honestly feel like we could record for five days because there's so much to talk about. But one of the things in your bio on your website I thought was interesting, and I thought maybe you'd share a little bit. Is that you have worn high heels twice to the White House. I'm more curious- less about the high heels and more curious about what brought you to the White House to begin with.

 

Jacob Tobia:                So every year since the Obama Administration started, the White House has an annual LGBT pride reception that happens in June during Pride Month. And so I've been to it twice, once when I was a little baby queer in 2012. It was the year of Amendment 1 in North Carolina which was an amendment that banned all legal recognition of same sex relationships in the state, and it passed in 2012. And so the White House extended a lot of invitations to North Carolina activists who had been fighting it. And so I got to go as part of that. And I wore a big pair of like- they were black, leather five inch heels.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Jeez.

 

Jacob Tobia:                I was like if I'm going to do this, I'm going to do this.

 

Jenn T Grace:              All in.

 

Jacob Tobia:                And then last time I went this past June, and that time I had a really cute pair of slingbacks that were I think only three inches. So a little bit more modest. So it was fun though. It was cool sort of like strutting around the east wing, and all that stuff. Like looking at all the pictures, and sort of being in that space, and being like as queer and as fabulous as I am. But also it's not like- that certainly doesn't- I think everyone has complicated feelings about the White House as an institution, but I think that there's been some incredible work that's been done. So it was certainly really fun to go, and they had lovely snacks.

 

Jenn T Grace:              It's all about the food, right? So if someone who's listening wants to reach out and connect with you, I know you are available on a lot of different social media outlets, but where would your preference be to have people connect with you?

 

Jacob Tobia:                If you want to reach out to me, just go to www.JacobTobia.com and there's a little contact path that you can send a request to, and we can get in touch that way. You can also email just info@jacobtobia.com and that should go too.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Perfect. Well thank you so much, I feel like this was such an enlightening interview for my audience, and I really appreciate all of the work that you're doing for the community, because we know that it's not easy day in and day out. So I feel like you're onto something amazing.

 

Jacob Tobia:                Well thank you, it was great talking with you, Jenn.

 

Jenn T Grace:              You are very welcome, I appreciate it.

Thank you for listening to today's podcast. If there are any links from today's show that you are interested in finding, save yourself a step and head on over to www.JennTGrace.com/thepodcast. And there you will find a backlog of all of the past podcast episodes including transcripts, links to articles, reviews, books, you name it. It is all there on the website for your convenience. Additionally if you would like to get in touch with me for any reason, you can head on over to the website and click the contact form, send me a message, you can find me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all at JennTGrace. And as always I really appreciate you as a listener, and I highly encourage you to reach out to me whenever you can. Have a great one, and I will talk to you in the next episode.

 

Direct download: Epi85-LGBTQ_Interview_with_JACOB_TOBIA.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:05am EST

#84 - Build Your Personal Brand by Learning from the Experts

 

Jenn T Grace:              You are listening to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast, episode 84.

 

Introduction:              Welcome to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast; the podcast dedicated to helping LGBTQ professionals and business owners grow their business and careers through the power of leveraging their LGBTQ identities in their personal brand. You'll learn how to market your products and services both broadly, and within the LGBTQ community. You'll hear from incredible guests who are leveraging the power of their identity for good, as well as those who haven't yet started, and everyone in between. And now your host. She teaches straight people how to market to gay people, and gay people how to market themselves. Your professional lesbian, Jenn - with two N's - T Grace.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Well hello and welcome to episode 84 of the podcast. I am your host, Jenn with two N's T. Grace, and today is going to be a much shorter episode than usual, and the reason for that is that I am in a transitionary period, if you will, of lining up a lot of interviews for you over the next coming couple of months.

 

So at this moment I have a lot of interviews planned, but I don't have them recorded to bring to you yet. So we are in the second week of May at this point, and I have interviews lined up that will bring us all the way through the end of August. So it's going to be an action packed end of spring and into the summer, in terms of talking to really, really amazing people. So I figured in this episode, like I said it will be really short, but I want to at least give you a preview of who is to come on the podcast, so that way you can make note to tune in to one of these many guests that are going to be really awesome for you to listen to.

 

And yeah, so let's just go through the lineup I have so far of planned recorded interviews.

 

So I have one, two, three four, five, six, seven- so I have seven interviews planned, and it's a great mix of people doing different things, and personally branding themselves in really different and interesting ways. So I'm not going to tell you all about them, because that's going to be their job to tell you how awesome they are and what they're up to. But at least I'd love to give you a preview of who's to come.

 

So the first, and this doesn't necessarily mean this is the order in which they will come out, but the first on my list is Jacob Tobia. So Jacob is a genderqueer advocate, writer, speaker, and artist dedicated to justice for the transgender, gender nonconforming, and LGBTQ communities. So Jacob and I were introduced to one another through a mutual friend, and just the conversations that we've had together, I've been so excited to have him on the podcast. So that will be happening soon.

 

Also we will be having Gloria Brame who is an American Board Certified Sexologist, a writer, a sex therapist, and I believe she's still based in Georgia. So I'm excited about this one as well. She's written a lot of books and we're connected on LinkedIn, and since a lot of what I'm doing lately is helping individuals with their personal branding, but through creating a book, she's just a perfect fit to have since she's written so many things. So we'll talk to her.

 

Also we have Jonathan Lovitz who is regularly speaking at conferences, and to the media about LGBT economic empowerment, and the vital roles that businesses play in creating equity for the LGBT community. So he's regularly commenting, or being interviewed on MSNBC, CNBC, NPR, The Advocate, Out Magazine; so he is a very strong advocate and champion for LGBT equality from a business economic level. So it's going to be really interesting to hear his thoughts on kind of the lay of the land of what we're looking at in our country today, and just all the great things of how much advancement we're making in terms of moving forward from an economic standpoint. So I'm excited to have him as well.

 

And then we will be talking to Michaela Mendelsohn, I believe that's how she says her last name, I'm not 100%. And she is a transgender activist and the founder of the California Transgender Workplace Program. So I'm really excited to talk to her, especially having founded a workplace program, I think that's going to be really interesting. And she, like all of the others, has a strong personal brand within the space that she works in.

 

And then we will be talking to Jag Beckford who is the founder and producer of Rainbow Fashion Week, which is tied to New York City Pride, and if I'm not mistaken, Rainbow Fashion Week has a lot of people who come to it in terms of- like you would any other type of fashion week. So this should be really interesting, and both Michaela and Jag I do not know personally, whereas the other few I know at the very least through emails, and some of them I've actually- I know much better. So these two folks came from Mona Elyafi if you remember her from- I don't even remember what episode she was on, but she was on one of the episodes quite a while ago, and she's a PR person in Los Angeles. So she sends me amazing people on a regular basis that she thinks I should connect with. So both Michaela and Jag were both great finds from Mona, so I'm really excited about that.

 

And then we have two others to go. So we have Robbie Samuels who is a speaker and a consultant, in addition to doing a whole bunch of other things. One of his known things is the Art of the Schmooze which is an interactive fast-paced and fun training that helps hundreds of people yearly gain the confidence they need for networking, and raising their consciousness, and basically just helping them be better networkers. So I'm really excited because he's really done a good job building his personal brand, the Art of the Schmooze, and he has a podcast as well, and I think he'll be really great to talk to, especially if you're listening to this and you haven't really built your personal brand yet. So you'll be getting there but you might need a little bit of help, and you might need somebody to kind of push you out of the nest, and I feel like what Robbie will talk about will help kind of push you out of your nest if you will.

 

And then finally, I don't want to say I'm more excited about one versus the others because I'm really excited actually about talking to all of these folks. But the last one on my list is Lindsay Felderman, and the reason I am so excited to have Lindsay as a guest- and hers will definitely be airing sometime in June would be my guess, it's probably going to be the latter half of June, and Lindsay is one of the graduates from my recent author program which is now called the Purpose Driven Authors Academy. So she and six other amazing people started working with me in February of this year, 2016, and she is the first of the seven individuals to have a book created from this program. So the program is called the Purpose Driven Authors Academy, and you can go to www.PurposeDrivenAuthorsAcademy.com, you can go to www.PurposeDrivenAuthors.com, www.PurposeDrivenAuthor.com, or you can go to my website and click on the button on the home page.

 

So regardless of how you get there, you'll see what the program entails, and so Lindsay and six others just went through this program, and I seriously feel like a mother hen, or some kind of like mama bird who is just so excited to see her babies fly, and Lindsay is the first of seven who is having her book fly out into the world, and I cannot be happier. So her book is really- so the way she describes it is that she wrote this book because she wishes she had had this book when she was coming out. So that's kind of a good teaser of what this book is all about. And oddly enough I actually have the proof copy sitting on my desk right now. I just read it for her and made some thoughts, and changes, and just giving her a little bit of feedback which I will be recording after I'm done recording this podcast.

 

So the Purpose Drive Authors Academy is really for a specific type of person, and I changed the title- it was actually just called Group Author Program before, which is so blah and doesn't really say much, but I still had seven amazing people come through it. And when I started to really look at the seven people who were in the group, and figure out what they were all trying to accomplish, and what they were trying to do, some of them are writing about LGBT specific stuff, some of them are writing about overcoming cancer, and overcoming obstacles, and working in the disability rights movement; so there's a big kind of spectrum of what everyone is writing about, but the commonality is that they are all so incredibly purpose-driven. So I feel like a lot of people hear the phrase of mission-driven, but purpose-driven I think is even more important. So it's great to be driven by a mission, so my mission is to help LGBT people, it's just really at the core of what I'm trying to do. But I feel like saying that I'm purpose-driven is a much better descriptor of that, because I want to help more people. So in the last- no it wasn't the last episode, it was one prior to this so it must have been episode 82, I spoke specifically about how to impact a million people, and how that's my goal, is to impact a million people. And I recognized not that long ago that my way of doing that is to help the people who are helping the people. So if we look at the seven people who were recently in this author program that ended on April 30th, all of them are people who are helping the people. They are all super purpose-driven, they are all trying to make an impact in this world, they are all trying to make a difference, they're all trying to make the world a better place, and it just gives me so much joy and excitement because of all of the authors that I've worked with in the past, most of them have had a purpose-driven component to it.

 

So you probably remember me talking about Tony Ferraiolo, and his book, and which is called Artistic Expressions of Transgender Youth. And he and I worked really closely on that book together, and I cannot express how much joy I get knowing that every child who picks up that book, or every parent who picks up that book, that almost everyone's reaction is some form of tears. Just some form of tears, whether they're happy tears or sad tears, there's definitely tears always involved. And it just means that it's making an impact. So if I can help more people like Tony, and more people like Lindsay who's all about making an impact, and the other people in my group, then why wouldn't I, right?

 

So I bring that up because I do have a second round of this program starting, which starts on June 6th, which is a Monday. The first class technically is on June 7th which is a Tuesday, and it really is going to be an action packed thirteen week program, as it was this first time, that really is the soup to nuts of personal branding, writing a book, and marketing the book. So it is not one dimensional where it's just here's ninety days, let's put words on a page. It's great to put words on a page, but ultimately you have to know exactly what your plan is for the book. So what is your vision? What are you trying to accomplish? If you want to write a book because you want to have best seller status, that's one type of way of going about it. Or if you want to write a book because you want to save one young person from committing suicide, that's another type of approach. And both of those goals are amazing, but you have to have a really clear strategy of how you're going to market your book, and how you're going to position it, and all that great stuff. So this program really dives deep into all of that, and also gives a good amount of spotlight time. I don't really have a good name for it, but we'll call it spotlight time where it's laser coaching. It's hey, alright we have ten minutes live in front of everybody, let's laser focus on what your particular problem is. Is it writing, are you blocked on the title, are you blocked on your outline? Whatever it happens to be. And there's a lot of that kind of built in throughout the program.

 

So I know that when I had talked about this program, I don't think it was the last episode, it must have been episode 82 when I was talking about it, I had a handful of people actually reach out to me which is always exciting. So if you're listening to this, please reach out to me, I love hearing from you. I just had a Twitter conversation with a fellow professional lesbian the other day and I was super excited about it, who said that she listened to this. So please, always reach out to me, I know that you're probably- you're a silent participant just listening to this maybe at the gym or in the car, but I always love to hear from you, and I always try to adapt my materials to be in alignment for what you're looking for. So please, if you have any thoughts or questions, hit me up.

 

So a couple of you have reached out to me, as I mentioned, and wanted a tentative outline if you will, of what this program entails. So I want to run through week by week, and just give you kind of a high level overview of what you can expect to see if this program is a right fit for you.

 

So the program title is Purpose Driven Authors Academy. I can tell you that one out of the seven people in the current group- or actually the recently graduated group if you will, that one of the seven people wasn't necessarily 'purpose-driven.' Her book is around communications tips and helping people who- I'm trying to think what her tagline is. Helping smart people sound as smart as they are. It's some kind of catchy tagline like that. So hers isn't about overcoming cancer, or working with the disability rights movement, or any LGBT focus. But the value that her book is going to bring to the world is equally as important because there are a lot of people, especially corporate people, that she works with and trains on helping them sound as smart as they are, and really kind of prepping them for presentations, and all that kind of stuff. So while the title is called Purpose Driven Authors, and it certainly attracts a certain type of individual, if you're a financial advisor, or a lawyer, or a travel agent, or anyone who has a business that's looking to write a nonfiction book to help increase their business; so whether or not you're trying to use it to increase sales, or to give it away to your customers, or to use it to build your platform which is what I usually recommend, so that way you can charge more for speaking engagements. All of those things are 100% still relevant to what's covered in this course. So while I'm trying to draw in purpose-driven people, it's really my way of weeding people out, and I think I've said this in the past as far as even calling myself a professional lesbian, it really weeds out the type of individual who would want to work with me, or give me the time of day. And that just saves me time, it saves them time. So it's kind of the same thing with this purpose-driven title.

 

So even if you don't consider yourself to be purpose-driven, I don't want the title to scare you away from considering this if you really are looking to write a book. So let me explain the course outline, and I'm just going to go week by week, and if you have questions, reach out and ask. Like I said I'm going through this lineup because I had a couple people reach out after episode 82 asking me if they could have more details. So it occurred to me that when you have thousands of people listening to something, usually only a couple of people are the ones that raise their hand and send an email. And I know I'm guilty of this too, I listen to a lot of podcasts and I've never once tweeted, never once gone on Facebook, never once reached out. But yet I love their podcasts, and I listen to every single one. So I am just as bad as the next person in terms of not following the 'call to action' on a podcast, but regardless I'm doing this because it was requested and I'm sure other people out there are interested too. We'll just go through this for a couple of minutes and then we'll get back on topic, and probably close out because again, this shouldn't be too long of an episode.

 

So the tentative schedule begins on June 7th as I had said, and that is a Tuesday night, and it goes through August 30th which is also a Tuesday night. So each Tuesday evening at 8:30 Eastern Standard Time, we will be doing a live webinar presentation. And if for some reason you are not able to make the webinar presentations live, that's actually not too big of a deal because I do have them recorded and they are available within an hour after the session has ended, so you can certainly catch up at a later date. One of the participants in this last go-around missed the entire first month and didn't skip a beat. So she just followed along in the Facebook group, she watched the recording the next day, she was perfectly caught up to speed by the time I think the fifth or sixth week when she finally joined us, she was still completely in the loop with everyone. So it's not really a big deal if for some reason Tuesday evenings or a couple of your Tuesday evenings over the next three months are a little bit screwy.

 

Additionally I recognize that this is in Eastern Standard Time, so if you're in the UK this would not be an ideal time either, or maybe if you're in Australia, so I know I have a good amount of Australian listeners, so I know that the timing may not be ideal. So if that's a concern of yours, please just let me know and we can certainly talk about what we could arrange to make it easier for you.

 

So week one, which would be June 7th, and the theme of this one is vision and writing. So it's introductions, making sure everybody knows who each other are, and the group will not contain more than twenty participants. It's probably going to be closer to ten, but I have a cap at twenty. And even if I have- I already have four people ready to roll so even if it were just those four people, then I would just roll with those four people. So it really- the size doesn't matter too much, I had seven in this last group, I know that we could fit in more without it messing up the group dynamic at all, and I think the more we end up having eventually is just going to help everybody else because one of the big benefits is that we're building a community here. So the seven people who've gone through this already, they now have each other to lean on, so when they do launch their book- so when Lindsay launches her book in June, she has six other cheerleaders and me, so she's got seven people who are all going to send emails out on her behalf, going to put social media out on her behalf to say, 'Hey Lindsay wrote this book, I really believe in it, you have to check it out.' So it's almost like you get this built in cheerleading crowd for you, and built in sales force if you want to call it that too, because it's going to be- the people in your group are going to help you because they want to help you succeed. So I have a whole structure set up as well for the alumni’s as well. So we have seven alums of the current group will be helping the people who are in this next group as well when it comes to launch time. So it's kind of cool and I want to make sure that everybody really builds a relationship outside of me facilitating it, which seems to have worked this first go-around.

 

So okay, back to the topic, introductions. And then we go through a program structure just explaining what to focus on, what the homework is going to be, things to remember kind of going forward. We'll talk about action items and how many we have to have per week to make sure we stay on schedule. We talk about having a contract with yourself. So I literally make you print out a contract with yourself and sign it and put it somewhere where it's visible, so when the going gets really rough, you know that you made this commitment to yourself, and that you'll keep on moving forward. And then talking about your vision. So what is your vision and how does that actually dovetail into writing a book.

 

So that's week one. Week two is June 14th and the theme for that is also vision and writing; you'll see that vision and writing is the theme for the first five weeks. So week two is all about starting with the end in mind, knowing what your goals are, narrowing in on your idea. So you might have a dozen different ideas of what your book is going to be, it's a matter of like really narrowing in and picking a pony and riding that pony. Understanding how long your book should be, that's a big- that was a big kind of topic last time. And then mind mapping a book outline. My mapping is the hands down best way to figure out what should be in your book.

 

So we go into that in a good amount of detail in the second week, but then the third week we actually do a live laser coaching for everybody on what their mind map looks like, and helping them kind of dissect it, and figure out what to keep and what to get rid of. So that's all of what week three covers.

 

Week four ends up putting us at June 28th and it's all about writing techniques, and what to be working on while you're writing. So this is only a thirteen week program, and we want to make sure that everything that you're doing, every day that you're focused on writing in some regard, which we identify how much you should be writing based on what you want your book to look like and all that kind of stuff. But while that's happening there are a lot of other things that you should be working on at the same time, so we cover that in week four.

 

Week five is themed vision and writing still, and this is individual spotlight. So at this point we are going into our second month together, and people are in various stages of the writing process. So in this last round I had someone who had 50,000 words written before we even started on the first day, and I had someone who didn't start writing until like the second to the last week. So if you are listening to this and you're thinking, 'Jeez I don't even have anything written yet, I have an idea but I don't really know what to do with it,' you would fit right in. So there will be somebody like yourself and then there's going to be somebody who comes to the table with a lot of words but no organization for what to do with those words. So regardless of where you are in that process, this program can totally work for you.

 

So week six which is July 12th, it's all about marketing and personal branding, and that is understanding your personal brand, assessing your existing marketing. So we go into really deep detail on how to understand what you stand for, and I give a lot of exercises, and worksheets, and some kind of peer accountability of building your personal brand. And again, some people come to the table really clear on what their personal brand stands for, and others aren't entirely sure, or they want to transition or change the focus of their current brand. Again, regardless you'll totally fit in so it works out really well.

 

And then week seven which is July 19th is also personal branding. So there's a lot of homework that I assign in week six, and so week seven, part of that is an update and explaining how people did, coming up with the three ways to describe yourself, and then we go into a marketing audit about and around your website and your blog if you have a blog. This is a really big one because as a writer or as somebody who's building a personal brand, your website is the most critical resource to make sure is in check. So that is covered in detail as well.

 

And then week eight which is July 26th, it will be how to choose a title and a subtitle that work. And now this is a really fun- I think it was a really fun week within the program, because picking a title and subtitle that work is actually really hard. You might think you know your title, and then as you start talking about it, all bets are off and it's like, 'Wow I really need to change that.' So it's really interesting for sure.

 

So week nine is August 2nd, and that is choosing a launch date, reviewing our titles and subtitles, and then how to acquire testimonials and get a forward written by somebody that you admire that would make sense to write the forward of your book. So it's very tactical, very hands on, and I should have mentioned that the theme of these weeks are all publishing logistics. So this is all the logistical stuff that is a pain in the ass, that no one tells you about before you decide to write a book, and then all of a sudden all of these things start to fall out of the sky and you have no idea what to do with them. So the whole program is just trying to make all of that overwhelm, less overwhelm.

 

Week ten which is August 9th is also publishing and logistics. This goes into deep detail on the cover, as well as print and eBook formatting. So there's a lot of different nuance around the print and eBook formatting, and the differences, and we cover this in good detail as well.

 

And then week eleven is more publishing and logistics, which is August 16th, and this is harkening back to your number one goal, making sure that we're staying on track here. It also goes into finding your ISBN number and your Library of Congress number. So that is a beastly pain that a lot of people overlook, so we talk about that. Pricing your- retail versus wholesale, pricing strategy and how to price yourself properly. Learning how to leverage your network of people when you come to the time of launching. Getting advanced readers lined up and ready to roll to help you when your book is finally available. And then generating buzz, which is kind of a preview for the final week.

 

And then week twelve which brings us to August 23rd is an individual spotlight week where we go in- this is the second to the last week, everyone's nerves are a little bit on high, and we just want to make sure that everything is squared away and covered. So we'll go into detail on everyone's kind of consensus the lay of the land. And mind you each week starts off with kind of a quick check-in as well, and there's a very active Facebook group where people are asking questions, and getting answers from each other as well as me. So you never have to wait an entire week to get your question answered, but it really helps to come prepared on the Tuesday nights with your questions.

 

And then the final week, which I was told was the most exciting week by a few of the participants in this last go-around, is marketing and your launch. So it's all well and good to have your personal brand platform built-ish and then having a book written, but if you don't know how to market or launch your book properly, it might become a paperweight and that's the last thing we want. We want your book to impact the audience in which you're serving, so we want to make sure that the launch is really carefully thought out. So in this one, it's going through kind of an inventory checklist which we cover in a previous week, and just making sure that you have all your ducks in a row for when you actually do the launch.

 

And then ways to generate buzz. So this was also kind of previewed in week eleven and it goes into more detail as well. And then the theme of the whole thing is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, because when you launch anything, even including this course for me, launching it, there are plenty of times where it's just uncomfortable. Like there's no two ways around it, it's just uncomfortable. So it's a matter of being okay with that and making peace with that. And then the big part of this is the ten day book launch strategy. So pre-launch, launch, and post-launch.

 

So I know that that was a lot of information, but that is the lineup for the thirteen week Purpose Drive Authors Academy program, and I know that there's probably a ton of you that this makes perfect sense for, and I truly want to help you bring your message to the world, because I feel like it's so important and such a missed opportunity for you to be sitting on your story that could be really impacting others. So I wanted to go into detail on that because it was asked for, and because I think it's helpful for you to understand. So again if you're interested you can go to www.PurposeDrivenAuthors.com or go to my website, www.JennTGrace.com and on the left hand side there's something to the effect of Become an Author Today, or something like that.

 

That I believe wraps up episode 84. So we're probably about 30- less than 35 minutes and these episodes are usually 45 to an hour, so it's a little bit shorter than usual. So I hope you're excited for all of the guests that I have lined up through at least the end of August, and of course I'll be working on getting other guests as well. So if you're listening to this and you think that you would be a good guest, please feel free to reach out to me. Just go to my website and you can go through the contact form, just give me a couple sentences on why you think that you would be great, and your website, and I'll go check you out and see if you'd be a good fit. But you can see that it's all about personal branding, and how to take your brand to the next level, and sometimes that has to do with writing a book, sometimes it doesn't.

 

One other thing before I let you go, is that I am working on a new webinar which is about personal branding specifically. So I will let you know when that happens. It's going to be probably any time soon, sometime in May is my guess that I will have this webinar up and running, and it's going to be just a ton of information on some of the foundational things to be thinking about when building your personal brand. And again, a book may or may not be part of your future. But if it is, of course I have this program that I can help you with, and if it's not I have tons of free information regardless.

 

So that is that my friends, I so greatly appreciate you continuing to listen to this podcast. I feel like I've been doing this podcast for a very long time at this point, and I genuinely, genuinely, genuinely appreciate you listening. And I love that I'm getting new listeners every day, and that some of you are reaching out to me. So even though I said I'm just as bad as anyone else, I would love to hear from you if you are listening to this for the first time, if you're looking for advice or information on anything, please let me know. I try to go out of my way to be accessible and I don't ever want to lose sight of that. So if you need something, don't be a stranger, feel free to reach out to me, and I will talk to you in episode 85 where we will have one of the guests that I mentioned. I don't know who yet, but we shall see. Thank you so much and I'll talk to you in 85. Have a great one.

 

Thank you for listening to today's podcast. If there are any links from today's show that you are interested in finding, save yourself a step and head on over to www.JennTGrace.com/thepodcast. And there you will find a backlog of all of the past podcast episodes including transcripts, links to articles, reviews, books, you name it. It is all there on the website for your convenience. Additionally if you would like to get in touch with me for any reason, you can head on over to the website and click the contact form, send me a message, you can find me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all at JennTGrace. And as always I really appreciate you as a listener, and I highly encourage you to reach out to me whenever you can. Have a great one, and I will talk to you in the next episode.

 

 

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#83: Religion and the LGBT Community - Can't We All Just Get Along? [Podcast]

#83: Religion and the LGBT Community - Can't We All Just Get Along? [Podcast]

Jenn T Grace:  You are listening to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast, episode number 83.

 

Introduction:  Welcome to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast; the podcast dedicated to helping LGBTQ professionals and business owners grow their business and careers through the power of leveraging their LGBTQ identities in their personal brand. You'll learn how to market your products and services both broadly, and within the LGBTQ community. You'll hear from incredible guests who are leveraging the power of their identity for good, as well as those who haven't yet started, and everyone in between. And now your host. She teaches straight people how to market to gay people, and gay people how to market themselves. Your professional lesbian, Jenn - with two N's - T Grace.

 

Jenn T Grace:  Well hello and welcome to episode number 83 of the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast. It is about the end of April in 2016, and if you are paying any attention to the news whatsoever, you are certainly seeing that there is just a lot of activity as far as the religious freedom bills go in regards to kind of spreading across our country, and it's kind of a mess these days if you will. So we all had the beauty and the joy of having marriage equality passed in June of 2015, and since then it's just kind of been bill after bill after bill kind of being introduced into different communities to do everything in their power to do something that takes away protections for LGBT individuals.

Now today's episode is not going to focus on talking about all of the nuance of that, because I am by no means an expert in any way, shape or form. So I bring this up today, and it's not because I have intentions of going into detail on any of these particular laws or bills, or anything like that, because I am the furthest from an expert. I stay on top of the news, and I have a general sense of places to avoid doing business in currently, such as North Carolina or Mississippi, but I don't know the ins and outs. So perhaps at some point I can get an expert on the show to talk in better detail on what all of that means. And if you are listening to this and you happen to be that expert, please reach out to me and let me know, because I'd love to have you on, and just kind of explain all the lay of the land to my listeners.

But what's been on my mind lately, and I was driving the other day and for some reason this just kind of was in my head, of it seems like such an unfortunate state of affairs in regards to how many people that are coming from religious backgrounds are getting lumped into this group of hate mongers, and I feel like it's completely unfair to so many people who have religious beliefs who do not believe what the media is hyping about, and I just feel like it's completely unfair to both sides; to the LGBT side who are getting discriminated against left and right, but additionally from the side of people who do have religious beliefs, and they aren't these hate-filled people, but now they're being cast as such because of a minority of people who are using religion as kind of a weapon if you will.

It's just been on my mind, and I am not going to go into great detail on just the politics of religion or anything like that, but I was thinking about an old interview that I had done with Candice Czubernat who founded The Christian Closet. I believe it was back in late 2012 she founded this organization, and it's still doing well, it's still thriving. I just noticed that she has started a new podcast which is in iTunes now, and if you just type in Candice Czubernat- if you go into iTunes you can certainly find that information, also I'll put it in the show notes. I haven't talked to Candice in a while, but I was just recalling an interview that I did with her which was episode 24 of this podcast, and this is a bi-weekly podcast so episode 24 came really early on now that we're in episode 83. And I believe it aired sometime I'd say in November of 2013; so it was in my first year of podcasting, and it might have been my last episode of that first year. And it's The Christian Closet, but she talks so much about the intersection of Christianity and being LGBT, and the struggle that so many people have with that, and I'm adding this kind of commentary at the moment, but it's just when you have people who are struggling to come out, and struggling to bring their LGBT identity to the forefront, being shamed from a religious perspective is not helping anybody. So it's one of those things that I found, you know what, I should replay this episode for the new listeners especially since we are in episode 83, and this was back in episode 24, so there's a good chance you haven't heard it before. And even if you did hear it then, I'd listen to it again just to kind of re-bring that fresh perspective that not every religious person is coming from a bad place. It sounds so crazy, and I shouldn't even have to say those words, but it's so not the case at all. I have such a great respect for what Candice is doing, and I think her service is tremendous, and I really enjoyed the conversation that we had quite some time ago. And maybe I can do a follow-up interview with her at some point soon, but because this is on my mind, I wanted to put it on your mind to basically note that what the media is showing you is not necessarily an accurate picture, and I feel like you're a smart group of listeners, I'm sure you know that, but I feel like I need to reiterate that point because it becomes so much more clear by the day that the media is really just kind of putting out very small pieces of what's actually happening, and I'm just tired of all the people that I know that do have some religious affiliation kind of getting a bad rap for it because it's not their fault.

So that's all I have to say about that, so we're just going to dive right into the interview with Candice, and if you want to find any information from this show, any links that we talked about, you can go to www.JennTGrace.com/83 and that is for episode number 83. I hope you enjoy it, and of course please feel free to reach out to me with your thoughts on this episode, or Candice for that matter. So thanks again for listening, and I hope you enjoy the show.

So I am delighted to be talking with Candice Czubernat today of The Christian Closet. Candice is a licensed mental health therapist and has studied both theology and psychology. She supports Christians who struggle to hold onto their faith as they come to terms with their gender identity or sexual orientation. She founded The Christian Closet just under a year ago to be a support system to those who are struggling. So Candice, I’ve given the listeners a really brief overview of who you are and a little bit about your company. But why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your story, and essentially what your path looked like that led you to where you are today.

Candice Czubernat:

Yeah, thanks Jenn I’d love to. Well you know I grew up in a really loving Christian family, pretty typical, and had a pretty great life. And then you know off to college I went, and I actually went to a really huge party school university, and was lost there actually. It was really difficult, and had such a huge desire to connect with God, and learn more about theology and the bible. And so halfway through that I transferred to a bible college in the Midwest. But I had no idea what was in store for me in a couple different ways. In one way of just the conservativeness of the school and the people that went there. I had not experienced that level before. And also I had not struggled with my sexuality previous to that, and it was literally as if one day it wasn’t there, and then one day it was there. And so that’s really where the beginning of my personal story of how do I- how can I be gay and Christian? And which one of these can I get rid of if at all? And if I can’t, then what do I do? I mean while studying the bible, and studying counselling, and so I kind of just was in that process and took a break after I graduated, and then ended up going to grad school to study psychology. And had a practice, and it was really wonderful, I loved it. But had a supervisor that was constantly telling me like, “Candice you’ve got to have a practice that just focuses on people that come from conservative backgrounds who also are gay.” And really loved and hated him for that, because I knew he was right, and I knew that was my calling, but I wasn’t ready for that at the time. And so it was really torturesome to know that I wasn’t comfortable or ready to really tell the world that I was gay. And so from that point it’s just been a process of you know, building my therapeutic skills throughout the years, and also coming to a place of being okay, having really the world know that I’m gay and a Christian.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s so inspiring, and I have to imagine that there are so many people who have had this struggle. And I come from a Catholic background, and I know that I rebelled against organized religion at a very young age. And as I’ve been getting older I’ve been thinking more about just different types of religions and how people process being LGBT within those religions, because I feel like you see a lot of people who part of their coming out story is somehow they were shamed or pushed out of their family based on that religious view alone. And I think it’s really unfortunate. And then I know when you and I had connected on Twitter I was thinking, ‘I have got to get you on the show so that way you can help get this message out,’ because I feel like you’re providing such an important and much needed service to so many folks. I think it’s fantastic what you’re up to. And it seems a little bit shocking that you’ve only been doing it for- your anniversary is coming up in December of doing this, which is so exciting.

Candice Czubernat:

It is exciting, yeah it’s been great to actually think that there’s need for it, but then also see that wow there really is. You know I have- part of what helped me is actually meeting with a therapist, and he himself was not gay, but really walked me through my own homophobia and my own fears of not wanting to be gay. And so I know how helpful it can be to meet with a therapist, and then to have someone who actually understands, ‘Wow what is life to come from these conservative places?’ But also not wanting to let go of your faith. Sometimes it seems that that’s the only option. Like okay I guess I’ll become an atheist or something else. And that’s really tragic because then there’s another piece of you that’s missing from a full life.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s really- that’s really, really important. So we’ve already gotten into some really good stuff, so I’m excited about this. But I always like to start off the interviews with asking a lighthearted question if you will. So I like to ask is there something about you that’s just completely random that very few people know or would expect from you?

Candice Czubernat:

Yeah, something- you know when I had a practice where people would come into my office and see me face to face, of course I always looked professional. But I am a beach girl at heart, and so something that I do that I really enjoy when I see my patients now, is I wear flip-flops.

Jenn T Grace:

Nice.

Candice Czubernat:

And so I just get to have my beach flip-flops on, and be comfortable, and so I don’t think actually anyone knows that.

Jenn T Grace:

That is awesome. And that’s- I feel like that’s a good way to bring yourself into the equation. Just some simple thing like some flip-flops. That’s good stuff. And for a random note that you are actually at the beach today as we’re recording this interview. So how perfect is that?

Candice Czubernat:

It is and I’ve got my flip-flops on.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s awesome. Okay so let’s dive in and my first question for you, and you may have even already started to touch upon it, is what was your ‘ah-ha’ moment when you just realized what you’re doing now was your life’s calling?

Candice Czubernat:

Yeah, you know I think it had all these little messages along the way. Like I talked about that supervisor who continued to encourage me through the years. And it was actually a year ago this last May that- my birthday is in May, and it was the night before my birthday and I was really feeling really reflective and thoughtful about what the next step for me was going to be. And I went to sleep thinking, ‘Gosh I just feel so kind of lost in this moment, and not sure what’s going to happen.’ And I woke up the next morning on my birthday and I sat up in bed and I looked at my wife and I said, “Oh my God, I know exactly what I’m supposed to do.” It was really- I don’t know if I’ve ever had such an intense ‘ah-ha’ moment, but I will never forget what that was like. And the clarity of it.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s so important, you just saying the clarity of it. Because I find that there are so many people who kind of just make the motions going through life and they’re not really clear on what they want to be doing, or maybe what they should be doing. And they’re kind of missing all of those signs that I feel like life just kind of puts out different signs in front of you, kind of like breadcrumbs if you will, just leading you down the path that you’re meant to be down. And so many people I feel like just miss that. So for your ‘ah-ha’ moment to really just have that clarity around it, I think it’s incredible.

Candice Czubernat:

Yeah, I think it was a real gift and I feel really grateful because I don’t think everybody gets that. That moment. And it also- it takes courage to listen to it I think. There can easily be followed by a lot of doubts. And so to keep moving, even though there’s doubts is an important part of that process. So you must have experienced that as well with what you do.

Jenn T Grace:

I have had- I’ve had several ‘ah-ha’ moments, and one of the ones that just triggered in my mind as you were saying the whole doubts thing, is when I had the ‘ah-ha’ moment that I need to be having a podcast to help share other people’s stories; it just hit me like a ton of bricks that I am meant to be delivering and sharing other people’s stories, but at the same time I was like, I listen to podcasts often, I am a nut about them, but I don’t know the first thing about anything technology related in terms of mixers, microphones, recorders, anything. So that was like the scary part of my ‘ah-ha’ moment, was I knew I had to be doing this, and I knew this was the medium in which to be doing it. But I had no idea what the hell I was doing to be perfectly honest. So it was just a matter of a little bit of education, and training, and I’ve gotten myself pretty well squared away. But it’s interesting when you just know that this is what you’re supposed to be doing, even if you have- you know you have no experience in it. You just know. And it’s weird when you just know. It’s hard to describe to people who haven’t had that.

Candice Czubernat:

Yeah, it’s very true. And it does mean sometimes learning something new like you’re saying.

Jenn T Grace:

Mm hmm. So what inspires you and keeps you motivated to do what you’re doing every day? I would imagine that just being any type of mental health professional that you must have some days that are just really exhausting. So what’s that source of inspiration and motivation for you?

Candice Czubernat:

You know it’s a couple different things. One, it’s remembering- it’s remembering what it was like for me. Remembering the real stories, because my life has really- I’m so blessed now, and it can be easy to forget really what it took to get here. And so I remember my own stories. The other thing that inspires me is the stories of other people. My current patients and then just stories of other people that I know personally, and read online, and just the hope that I have for them because I know what could be ahead for them. If that makes any sense.

Jenn T Grace:

It does, yeah. I’m sure it must be reassuring to your patients that you’re not just preaching something, but you are actually guiding them down a path that you yourself had to go down yourself- like had to go down as well. So I feel like especially when we’re talking about two really big topics like religion and sexuality, that it’s probably really reassuring for these folks to be able to listen to you, knowing that you’ve actually gone through it, walked the walk, and come out on the other side far, far better than you probably ever thought you would. So it must be inspirational for them even.

Candice Czubernat:

Yeah, and I know that our stories are all very different, but I think the level of hopelessness and not knowing how it’s going to work out is really the similar factor. And hope that it will work out. So it’s- I’m glad that I can relate to them on that.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely. And I want to talk about business a little bit. So before we dive into the second half of the interview with Candice, I do want to make sure that you hear form www.MentalCompass.com, sponsors of this podcast. They’ve been sponsors for a long time now, and their website and their podcast is filled with awesome information. So please just have a listen to this fabulous short commercial and then we will dive right back into the interview with Candice.

Alright now let’s get back into the interview with Candice. So I’m curious on a number of levels, because I know that you recently- you are just hitting your one year anniversary which is super exciting, so you’re still in that start-up mode. But a couple of things hit me, and I have my list of pre-prepared questions that I usually go off of, but as I warned you I do tend to go off script. So do you feel that you’ve had that entrepreneurial- I’m trying to think of the right framing of it. Like the entrepreneurial itch if you will within you growing up that made you realize- Because you had the ‘ah-ha’ moment that you needed to be helping, but I feel like you could have been helping in a number of different fashions. And you chose the route of starting a business. So do you think that that- you know you had that in you all along? And now it’s just kind of coming out at this time?

Candice Czubernat:

Yeah, that’s actually a really interesting question. I think it was kind of- I was born and raised with that. I think about- especially my dad or my grandfather started a family construction business that my dad now helps run. And so growing up with this idea of you can start these things that you want to do. And I always love the story, my brother and I wanted to make a little extra money one summer, and so my dad said, “You know you guys should start a business where you go around and ask people if they want you to spraypaint the numbers of their houses on their curbs. It will be really cheap startup costs because we just have to buy these few things, and it’s mostly all just sort of making money, and people will probably really respond to you guys because you’re so young.” And sure enough we spent the whole summer doing that, and it was really exciting for us to learn how to have that conversation with someone, just knocking on their door and kind of cold calling them, and providing a service for them, and learning how to make it look the best as possible on their little curb there. So it was kind of instilled in me growing up.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s such a great story, how old were you guys at the time?

Candice Czubernat:

Gosh I should probably as my dad, because we were so young, I really don’t remember. But elementary school.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s awesome, that’s really funny. It’s interesting how those things that you’re doing so young just are- they’re just principles that are instilled in you whether you like or not really, it’s just kind of- it becomes a part of who you are.

Candice Czubernat:

It really does.

Jenn T Grace:

That is pretty funny. I love that he was even referring to startup costs to some elementary schoolers. That’s awesome.

Candice Czubernat:

Yeah, you know we’re sort of like, “Yeah, okay.”

Jenn T Grace:

“Sure.”

Candice Czubernat:

“I never thought about that but you’re right. We’ve just got to buy the spraypaint, and the stencils, and that’s not very much so.”

Jenn T Grace:

That’s awesome. So what is the best piece of business advice that you think you’ve ever been given?

Candice Czubernat:

Well that actually came from my dad as well. He’s a great business guy, and he is actually the one that came up with the idea for Skype. And he was like, “You know Candice, I have been praying for you, and I’ve been praying for God’s direction in your life, and I really think that you are supposed to do therapy over Skype.” And the first time he said it I thought, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. How am I going to do that?” Like it just felt so overwhelming and I really disregarded it. And then it wasn’t until that morning I woke up with my ‘ah-ha’ moment of realizing how it was all going to come together, and actually my dad was right, that Skype was the way to do this because you know, I have lived in all kinds of amazing cities where there’s a lot of resources, and knowing that actually the majority of the country doesn’t have the resources of a therapist who is well-trained, who understands what it is to be gay, and to be a Christian. And so thinking about all those people out there who either are one, maybe too scared to even have their car be seen outside of a therapist’s office. Or people who you know, they’d have to drive hours to see someone. And realizing gosh, Skype was the way for me to reach all of those people.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s really interesting. And how do you attain clients now? How does that happen? Since I would imagine since you do do it via Skype that you can have clients all over the country or the world for that matter.

Candice Czubernat:

Yeah, and I actually do have clients all over the world. And the way that- it’s really through relationship, it’s through getting to know people out there who are already doing the work of you can be gay, and you can be Christian, or have lots of different kinds of faith. There are so many awesome people who have been doing this work for a lot longer than I, and so I’ve been able to just reach out to them and they’ve been so gracious to spend time getting to know me, and giving me advice, and giving me opportunities to meet other people, another thing that’s been awesome is to have opportunities to write, and that’s been a big surprise for me because I never considered myself a writer before. But that’s really helped me reach a larger audience and tell them about my resource.

Jenn T Grace:

Definitely. I would definitely classify your business as a resource. It seems fantastic, and I know that you have some good resources on your site. And all of the interviews that I do, I make sure that I have a post that goes with them, so anything that we’re talking about here I can have listed, so someone listening to this rather than getting yourself in trouble by trying to write things down while you’re driving, you can just go to the site after and all of the information will be there for you. So I’ll make sure that I include a link to your website, and maybe some of your most recent writings as well.

Candice Czubernat:

Thank you.

Jenn T Grace:

So let’s see. I know one of the questions that I ask all of my guests is around LGBT marketing. So the primary audience typically for the folks that are listening to this, or perhaps reading my blog, a lot of them are allies to the community that they’re really just trying to understand how to successfully do business within the community. And a lot of that usually comes down to them not necessarily knowing the right phrases or words or stereotypes that they shouldn’t be perpetuating, or just really having a lack of understanding about how to communicate with the community. So one of my pre-planned questions is, you know for someone who’s looking to market themselves to the community, in your own experience would you have any advice that you would give to someone who wants to do this? That you think would actually help them be more successful?

Candice Czubernat:

Yeah, I do. I really- it really comes back to the importance of relationship. For me I really think it’s- everything is central around relationships. And so I would tell that person they need to get to know some gay people. I think it would be awfully difficult to market to someone or a group of people when you actually have no connection to them. And not the need for you to yourself be gay, but really try starting having conversations with people that are gay, and ideally have close relationships, and really get to know them and allow yourself to make the mistakes of, ‘Oh gosh I said something that’s offensive,’ and ‘how could I say it better?’ within the context of relationship I think would be really helpful.

Jenn T Grace:

That is definitely fantastic advice, and that was really the premise of my blog starting, was I have a friend of mine who’s a physician, and she would have LGBT patients come in and she would find herself in these conversations where she didn’t really know if she was saying something that was actually being really- you know coming across really offensive or not. And so she would just start sending me texts saying, ‘Am I allowed to say this? Can I say that?’ And it just was like on an ongoing basis. And it wasn’t just her, it was other friends as well, and I just kind of became that central hub for all things like, ‘Jenn must know the answer because she’s a lesbian.’ And you know it takes some research, it takes looking into things, and so I can provide a really thoughtful response to these things. But then I’m thinking, ‘Well if I’m emailing her this, why wouldn’t I just create a blog, and provide this information to thousands of other people who have the exact same question?’ So I think that what your answer was is very similar to the impetus for me even starting this blog, which is interesting, which then of course translated to this podcast.

Candice Czubernat:

Well we’re right on track with one another.

Jenn T Grace:

We are, it’s fabulous. So I have another question, and this one’s interesting and I always love asking this question, especially with somebody who’s really putting themselves out there almost as a professional LGBT person. And I jokingly call myself a professional lesbian all the time, and I would imagine that you might be able to take that crown as well. So have you been able or how have you been able to leverage your status as an LGBT person in the context of business?

Candice Czubernat:

This might not be an interesting answer, because I’ve sort of already said it, and it really goes back to relationship. I feel so grateful, people that I didn’t know, I would have reached out to them- like I said people that have been doing this for longer than I have, and they’ve just been so gracious to give me opportunities. Especially to write, and you know kind of risking knowing, ‘Gosh this Candice person, I don’t know what even if she’s able to write well, or anything,’ and giving me opportunities to put myself out there in these blogs, and also talking to other professionals, other pastors, things like that in their own communities. And so really my success has been in the graciousness and generosity of other people, allies and other gay people.

Jenn T Grace:

And I find that when you’re in a position like I think both of us find ourselves in, is that in order to- I really feel like to be really effective, you really have to put yourself out there. You have to put your whole self out there; the good, the bad, the ugly. So instead of always just talking about how things are so rosy and so great, you really have to be able to share your story, and articulate your story where people are going to resonate with what you’re saying. And I felt that way when I was reading your blog post, which I believe was titled ‘The Hidden Shame of Secrecy.’ And I think that was a guest post, right?

Candice Czubernat:

Yeah, and that’s really- I do most my writing as a guest post on other blogs.

Jenn T Grace:

Excellent. I just know when I saw that, you really just exposed everything about your story, and your past, and how it led you to being the now founder of your organization, The Christian Closet. So I think it just- it goes to show that you kind of have to put all of that out there to really resonate with people and to be successful, even though it almost seems counterintuitive.

Candice Czubernat:

Yeah, it really does and honestly, you know every time before I hit that send button I kind of take a breath and, ‘Okay like this is a piece of me that I’m putting out there,’ and I kind of do a little- I have to do a little pep talk, you know? Like it’s okay if people don’t like it, that it’s the truth of my story, and that I’m happy to give it to others, and to share, and just really also you know have people around me that are loving and supporting me no matter what, which also gives me confidence to risk so much.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely.

Candice Czubernat:

But I think you’re exactly right. I mean unless you’re willing to really risk the realness of who you are, people can’t connect with you if you don’t do that.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah. Yeah, it’s so true. And sometimes it can be a little bit scary, but I think that the payoff is far greater than that little bit of nervousness before you hit the send button.

Candice Czubernat:

I agree with you, yeah.

Jenn T Grace:

So do you have a business book, or not even a business book necessarily, but just some sort of book or program or tool, or just anything in your life that you utilized that helps you effectively go about your business? So whether it’s streamlining your business, or it’s just giving you new thoughts or new ideas. Is there anything like that in your business?

Candice Czubernat:

You know of course Skype has been huge for me. I mean that’s the main format of which I do everything, connecting with people through. And so Skype has been huge. I don’t necessarily have a business book. Another little piece of technology that has been awesome is an app on the iPhone called Venmo. And it’s a way that actually a lot of my patients pay me is through- it’s so easy because you know, if you think of traditional therapy, you know after the session you’re writing a check out to the therapist, and there’s time, and maybe some awkwardness involved in that. But with this app Venmo it’s really easy for the person to just you know, connect it to their account and send me their payment when they’re able. So those are two pieces of technology that I use every day.

Jenn T Grace:

Interesting. And how is that- the app spelled?

Candice Czubernat:

It’s v-e-n-m-o.

Jenn T Grace:

Venmo, interesting. I will make sure that I put a link to their website in the blog post as well. I feel like- I think almost all business owners can probably relate with wanting to have payments come in on time, and not have that awkwardness that sometimes occurs in transactions. So that seems like it could be a good resource for many, many listeners.

Candice Czubernat:

Yeah, it’s a really great one.

Jenn T Grace:

So I have one last question then I’m going to ask you to give yourself a plug and let everyone know where they can find you. And that one question is what’s one thing in your business right now that is just really exciting for you?

Candice Czubernat:

Well the whole thing has been really exciting. It’s been really awesome to get to meet lots of different kinds of people. But I think about just I love the individual stories of, ‘Hey how did you hear about me? How did you hear about The Christian Closet?’ Because they’re always really unique, you know? It’s like, ‘My sister’s friend’s cousin sent her your website, or sent her your blog,’ and it’s really this person sent it to this person to this person. And so that’s so exciting for me to hear just how word is spreading. And so like I said, I have patients all over the world which has been also just so exciting. People that are in the armed forces, and you know live in rural parts of- you know way out in the boondocks of Montana. You know just wherever. So it’s just so exciting to really see there’s this great wide huge world out there, but through technology we’re able to connect in these really meaningful important ways.

Jenn T Grace:

And let me ask you another off script question. When you set out to do this, and I’m asking because I had this recent revelation myself. Is when you set out to do this, were you expecting to have a global impact of any kind? Or were you really just thinking that this was something that you could deliver to people that are within your local community, or maybe even just some- you know maybe just in the United States? Or were you really aiming to try to hit a global reach, and hit anyone where you could?

Candice Czubernat:

I mean I never thought about the global reach. I think I probably would have been maybe a little too overwhelmed if I had have thought that. So it really was like, ‘Well I’m just going to put this out there, and see if anybody needs it. I have no idea.’ And so to have the response has been really exciting. You know another piece that’s been surprising is the need for straight family members to have a place. And it’s been really wonderful to talk and walk with them through their own feelings. Because part of- a huge part of the process as you know is, okay so it’s your individual how do I feel about this thing- being gay. And can I be gay? Can I be Christian? But then the other piece of my family and- family members go through their own grieving process and coming out process. And it takes a lot of time. In fact sometimes it takes almost even longer for the straight family members to get to that place. And so I also meet with straight family members who need a space to process their own feelings and thoughts without kind of sort of verbally throwing up on their daughter, or son, or niece or nephew, or something like that. So that’s been a unique direction that I’ve gone as well, that I did not anticipate but have really enjoyed.

Jenn T Grace:

That is excellent. It’s so great that you’re inclusive of everybody. I think that that’s really important in the work that you’re doing. And I think you’re doing some fabulous things, and I want to make sure that everyone can find out how to get in touch with you. So why don’t you just give yourself one last plug and let everyone know what the best ways of getting you are.

Candice Czubernat:

Sure. Thanks so much Jenn. You know the best way to get ahold of me is really two different ways, and that’s through my website which is www.TheChristianCloset.com. And you can learn more about me on there, and there’s actually a tab that is a Contact Me tab on my website, and it has my phone number, my email address which is ChristianCloset@gmail.com. But there’s also this really nifty super easy contact me little thing, and you can just fill out your name and message, and submit it to me and it gets sent directly to my email. So that’s several different ways to get ahold of me.

Jenn T Grace:

Perfect and I will make sure that I include all of those ways in the blog post that goes with this episode.

Candice Czubernat:

Thank you.

Jenn T Grace:

You’re welcome. Thank you so much, I appreciate it and hopefully you and I will stay in touch.

Candice Czubernat:

Yeah, I really would like that.

Jenn T Grace:

Well I hope you enjoyed that fascinating interview with Candice Czubernat of The Christian Closet. I personally had a great time talking with her, and I learned a thing or two, and I’m hoping that that was the case for you as well. So definitely head on over to the links that she provided, check out some more of her material, she’s got some great stuff happening. And as always if you want to leave a review I would highly love that, and you can do so in iTunes by going to www.JennTGrace.com/iTunes and that will bring you right to the podcast page, and the more reviews we have there, the more other people can find the show. So I would highly recommend taking a moment to do that if you could, that would be wonderful.

And let’s see, so the thing that I alluded to in the beginning was the fact that I have a new sponsor of the podcast. And this is my first time talking about them on the air because they are a brand new sponsor to the show. I have known the ladies of Teazled. It’s T-e-a-z-l-e-d, www.Teazled.com. And they are an LGBT specific greeting card company. So they provide- and this is their company’s slogan, or one of them. They provide traditional greeting cards for the nontraditional family, so that they might be able to also celebrate those meaningful moments. And I think it’s just pretty awesome that there are LGBT inclusive cards available. Because I know for myself when I was getting married, we had a pretty large wedding shower, and then we had a decent sized wedding, and honestly we got- I think it was three, we got three cards repeatedly. So it was just basically the most gender neutral card that all of our friends and family could find when they went into CVS or they went into Target, or wherever they happened to be. So it was, you know it stinks essentially because you get three of the same card over and over again, because everybody’s trying to do the same thing, which is try to find the cards that don’t have a man and a woman, or a husband and a wife on them. So it’s really great to see that Teazled has found this as an opportunity to kind of jump in and really help provide LGBT families to have cards that really resonate with them. So I know that if I were redoing my wedding, which I obviously have no intentions of doing, but if I were going to a friend’s wedding now, I know that I can actually go and find cards that have two women on it, or have two men on it. So it’s really, really awesome, and I’m totally pleased to see them really kind of kicking ass and taking names these days. So it’s pretty fun.

And I believe if I’m not mistaken that they already have about 200 different types of everyday cards, holiday cards, et cetera, and the thing that I want to mention to you is that they actually offer customized business to business type of greeting cards. So if you want to have a tailor made photo, if you want to have your logo or some kind of your branding on it; they really can do all of those things, and it’s really to me- and this is the best way I can put it, is that it’s just going that extra step, just one extra step, that will say so much about you as a business owner when you’re providing an inclusive LGBT card to one of your customers. So I think that there’s a lot of opportunity here, which is why I’m absolutely thrilled that they’re now sponsoring this podcast. And you can find information about them by going to their site. You can definitely go to my site which is what I would recommend doing, I just want to make sure that I can somehow show and track the people that are going to their site. So if you can head on over to www.JennTGrace.com/cards that will actually send you right on over to their site, and it will show that I sent you there. So I would love for you to check them out. Just go poke around, see what there is, but there’s a lot of customization options. So if that’s something you’re interested in you can always shoot me an email or contact me via my contact form, and you know we can go from there.

So that is that with Teazled, I’m thrilled this is the first time you’re hearing about them, but it certainly will not be the last. So that is my exciting news for today. And the next podcast that will be out on December 26th, I am thinking right now- and this could change, but I’m thinking it’s going to be some sort of year in review. Perhaps discussing what’s happened with LGBT this past year since there’s been a lot of changes in the LGBT landscape. And then maybe let’s see what we can look forward in 2014. And then as always, I always like to do an end of the year kind of a wrap-up, and what else I might include is something around maybe some of the lessons that I’ve learned this past year. I did it last year and it’s one of my most read blog posts, and it’s probably because I’m just- I was really, really honest and kind of really open with some of the struggles that I had last year, and I want to make sure that I’m providing you with value. So if you can save a lot of time by learning from a mistake that I’ve made, and I can show you a shortcut or way around it, then I would love for you to be able to take advantage of that. So that’s what I’m thinking will be the last podcast of 2013. It will be the 55th podcast episode that I produced in 2013 which is kind of crazy when I’m saying it out loud, that’s a lot of shows. But that’s also a lot of content for you to consume. So all of the shows, all of the past interviews that I’ve done, they all have what I would consider to be evergreen content, which is basically you could listen to it the day it comes out, or you could listen to it three years from now, and the content in there is still going to be relevant. And I really try to make sure that my shows have that type of sense to them, so that way you can get the most value out of it regardless of when you happen to be listening to the show.

Thank you for listening to today's podcast. If there are any links from today's show that you are interested in finding, save yourself a step and head on over to www.JennTGrace.com/thepodcast. And there you will find a backlog of all of the past podcast episodes including transcripts, links to articles, reviews, books, you name it. It is all there on the website for your convenience. Additionally if you would like to get in touch with me for any reason, you can head on over to the website and click the contact form, send me a message, you can find me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all at JennTGrace. And as always I really appreciate you as a listener, and I highly encourage you to reach out to me whenever you can. Have a great one, and I will talk to you in the next episode.

Direct download: Epi83_-_Religion-and-the-LGBT-Community-Cant-we-all-just-get-along.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:05am EST

#82: How to Impact 1 Million LGBT People [Podcast]

#82 - How to Impact 1 Million LGBT People [Podcast]

Jenn T Grace:              Well hello and welcome to episode number 82 of the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast. I am your host, Jenn Grace, and today I am going to do a slightly different episode, and I think this one's going to be pretty short compared to past episodes. And I know for those of you who've been listening for a while, guaranteed every time I say that it ends up being a longer episode. So we'll see if that happens today.

                                    So as you know for those of you who've been listening for a while, I recently rebranded the name and the artwork, and kind of the approach of this podcast back last episode, episode 81 when I did an interview with Kimberly Vaughn of www.LGBTWeddings.com. So I really had the same focus for a really long time, which is talking to amazing LGBT business owners and allies who are really awesome in the community as well, and I decided to just go whole hog, change the name of the podcast to attract more people who are really looking for personal branding type of advice around being an LGBTQ professional.

                                    Now I said it really briefly in episode 81 because I really wanted to get Kimberly's interview out, and honestly this episode probably should have come before that one, where I spend just a couple of minutes just explaining the new direction of the podcast in more detail. So as you know, this used to be the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast, and now we are talking about Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast. So there's a couple of changes kind of even within the title. Most of the people that I've had on here as guests- and while this is episode 82, I've actually recorded 112 podcasts, so I had a special series that aired quite some time ago at this point, that was 30 Days, 30 Voices: Stories from America's LGBT Business Leaders, and I released a podcast a day for thirty days, talking to some really amazing people. And I did that probably back in 2013, and every June I relaunch all of them because most of the information in all of them is still pertinent to today, and it's kind of an evergreen topic if you will where it just kind of lives on forever.

                                    So in talking with those thirty people, and then probably I'd say another thirty to forty in the just day-to-day podcast, I've learned so much information from so many really amazing leaders. And the thing that I started to realize is it's really about personal branding, and it's around how do you as an LGBTQ professional, or a business owner, or somebody- I think between professionals and business owners regardless, you're working for someone or you're working for yourself, but being LGBT is such a leg up, and such an advantage I think in so many ways, that I really just wanted to change the name of the podcast to be directly in alignment with how to show you how to really use this to your advantage. And rather than me being the one that's delivering this information to you, I want to bring on more guests to have these conversations with you with. Because there are some pretty amazing people in the world right now doing some really awesome things, and I think that that's the end goal, is to really just continue to inspire and help other LGBTQ people, and regardless of what settings, just kind of be your best selves. And I feel like that's kind of a phrase that's quasi-overused, but I really believe that there are so many opportunities to truly be your best self.

                                    So I want to share with you just a small kind of mindset shift that I have had over the last- I would say maybe the last six months, yeah I would say six months or so, to kind of explain to you the direction that I'm headed in, as well as maybe share with you a couple things that I'm doing right now because everything that I'm doing ties directly into LGBT in some form or fashion.

                                    So for as long as I can remember, my goal for myself whether I was planning on running a business, or honestly I had no idea what my plan was. My goal was always to make a million dollars by the age of 35, and honestly I can think back until like my teens when that was my goal. So I have had that goal on the back of my mind, I have it on a post-it note written inside- I don't want to call it a vision board because it's certainly not, it's just post-it notes with goals that I have hung up so that way I can see them regularly. And they're goals of all different kinds, that just happens to be the really big crazy one. The BHAG if you will; the big, hairy, audacious goal.

                                    So I've had that sitting on my- sitting inside my cabinet on a post-it note for as long as I can remember. And I've really started to be thinking about what does that actually mean? So when I created that goal for myself, it was very arbitrary, no rhyme, no reason, just kind of like a 'hey I want to do this by 35.' It is now April of 2016, and I will be 35 in June of this year. So a while back I updated my goal to say I wanted to make a million dollars within my 35th year. So that way I was really buying myself an extra 364 days of time to meet my goal.

                                    Now as I tell you this, my goal is not that far off in the future. So it is completely an attainable goal for me at this point. My business is doing quite well and it continues to kind of grow, and succeed, and I'm venturing into new and different areas, and it's just really exciting because I'm still sticking to the core of my mission which is to help LGBT people.

                                    However I joined a Mastermind group in September of last year, and we went around, and we were talking about like what our goals are, so a year from now what do we want our goals to look like, and how is that going to impact the way that we're doing business, and all that kind of stuff that you sometimes aren't really thinking about, and when you have a goal sometimes you're operating with blinders on if you will, you're just head down, focused on 'I need to attain this goal.' Now for me going back to one million by 35, that is a goal that I know I'm going to accomplish, and it's exciting that I'm going to accomplish it, but I've been busting my ass for ten years at least in the LGBT space trying to get to that goal, and then previously a lot of experience in marketing getting here. So I definitely chip away at that goal every single day.

                                    But one of the things that has really recently come to light is I don't necessarily care about the monetary aspect of the goal. I've always thought that I want to make a million dollars just because. Seriously it's not like I'm thinking about upgrading homes, cars, anything. It legitimately was just a goal that was very arbitrary and had not a whole lot of meaning to it to be perfectly honest. My business is doing well enough now that I'm perfectly content where I am, I don't need to be making giant sums of money, we live a very modest lifestyle. But what I've recently learned is that my goal to make a million really has nothing to do with making a million dollars, but rather how can I impact a million people? And I will share with you why I'm bringing this up today.

                                    So I really started to see that shift, because I've heard people talking about it all the time. I read a lot of Inc. and Entrepreneur, and a lot of different blogs and websites, and really just information, I'm always consuming information listening to audiobooks, reading books, I have a lot of books that are on my to-do list or I'm currently reading. And in looking that, so many people, so much sage wisdom is around don't focus on the money, focus on how many people you can impact. And I for a long time I'm like, "Yeah, yeah that sounds fine but is that really true? Or is that really the case?" And I honestly had- it wasn't an epiphany because it didn't just kind of spring upon me overnight, but it really just started to become so much clearer over the last probably between like four and six months. And that clarity is around that I really do want to impact a million people. And then it starts to break out of like how the hell am I going to do that? Because I can make a million dollars I think a hell of a lot easier than trying to impact a million people, especially when you work with large companies that will spend $90,000 on one project, and that's one company that might have four or five points of contact. So to me, reaching the million dollars actually seems much, much more simple than reaching a million people.

                                    So I bring this up because I've had a just kind of a complete mindset shift to hell with the reaching the million dollar goal, however I'm certain I will get there at some point; when the exact specificity of that is, I don't know but I'm confident that I will get there eventually. But in looking at how the hell am I going to impact a million people, that's the goal and that is the nut that I'm trying to crack currently. And I do think I have figured out a way, but that certainly involves all of you, my amazing listeners, you've been on this ride for going on four years with this podcast, and I know that you have audiences, and I want to talk to you about let's find a way to join forces is really what it comes down to.

                                    So before I get into the logistics of that, the one thing that I want to mention- and I say this all the time, and I really need to create a video, or something, some kind of infographic, something to put on my website to explain this whole concept because it's honestly my guiding principle and it's the motto I go on of knowing whether or not I should say yes or no to something. So I look at this as a pyramid in terms of who I will do business with, how I'll do business with them, et cetera. So for me, I need to have- it's basically a triangle where there's three sides of it; there's me, there's you, and then there's the LGBT community broadly. And if you come to me and say, "Hey I want to do business with you." Maybe we'll do individual coaching, maybe you sign up for a program I'm doing, maybe you need an LGBT marketing strategy created. Whatever that kind of scenario might look like. There's me and you who are doing business together. Now I weed out people based on authenticity, based on how sincere I think they are, and what has to happen in that relationship is that my working with you, I have to win. So whether I'm winning because we're exchanging money and I'm growing my business, or whether it's something that I'm doing pro bono, I'm doing some kind of volunteer work, whatever it is I have to personally feel like I am gaining from this whether it's monetary or otherwise. The gain is kind of variable.

                                    Additionally you have to win for the same exact reason. So you're working with me will increase your business, therefore you're winning. Or us working together is just kind of some merging of some kind of harmony, and we're both really excited, and we're energized about working together additionally. So we have two pieces of the pyramid. We have the 'I win,' and we have the 'you win.' So that's two pieces of the puzzle. But the third, and I think the most important piece, is that the LGBT community has to win as a result of us working together. So that creates a whole added layer of some kind of happening here. Because if I win from a- I'm going to get paid, or I'm going to feel good about doing this, and you win because you're going to increase your business, whatever that kind of scenario looks like, those are two great things, right? So I'm getting something, you're getting something, we're both happy.

                                    But the LGBT community has to gain something from us working together for me to know if that makes sense for me to work with somebody. Now let me give you an example of how this would go south. It could be a scenario where a- and I had this happen years ago and I'm sure I have talked about it on the podcast probably many, many episodes ago. But I had a financial company reach out to me here in Connecticut and they wanted to market to the LGBT community, and they were very- it's very hard to describe, but they were just a bunch of jerks, let me just be blunt. They were a bunch of jerks. And they were so inauthentic, they were very sleazy feeling, it wasn't good. So I could have taken that project, and this was at least five years ago. I could have taken that project, or they could have engaged with me, so they might be gaining business. There's a whole other can of worms around that, about just their approach not being good for the community. But regardless, so they might feel like they're winning because I'm helping them gain business, I might feel like I'm winning because I'm making money. But guess who doesn't win in that scenario? The LGBT community doesn't because they were really sleazy. They were not authentic, they were not in it for any genuine sincere reasons, they were just thinking how can I get money from this community while saying inappropriate things and making derogatory comments? So clearly there's one giant piece of the triangle missing, and it was the LGBT community. So I easily could have felt like I was winning because it would have been a very large contract. But to me, I have to win, they have to win, and so does the LGBT community. So I have this very specific kind of triangle that I am always looking to, to identify whether or not I'm going to do something. So whether that's conducting a focus group, or speaking somewhere, or developing a marketing strategy, it has to be one, two, three. Across the board, straight up, I win, you win, LGBT community wins because of what we're doing together.

                                    So that's kind of been my mantra for many, many years. And I've really just kind of gotten to a place where I can describe kind of my weeding out mechanism to people in a much more succinct way. But it's definitely how I've been operating for many years, and it works really well because I can decide whether or not something's going to make sense for me to work on, or spend my time on, et cetera.

                                    So in looking at that, and in looking at this type of approach, I started to look at the types of businesses that I work with, and the types of people that I work with, and realizing that they have a very, very similar mentality and mindset of they win, their customer wins, and their LGBT community in which they live, or are working, or whatever the parameters are wins as well. So I realized over the years I've started to kind of draw in people that are like this, which is amazing because we're all in it together is kind of how I see it. And I had somebody recently ask me about competition and who I viewed as competition, and my statement back to them was while yes, there's direct competitors out there, I feel like there's more synergy and more harmony and more opportunity for us to be working together, and doing things that are bigger and better for the community based on us working together rather than fighting with each other because we're competitors.

                                    So that's kind of the mindset that I'm talking about. So going back to the whole concept of how on earth can I impact a million people, it occurred to me that I have a program that I'm doing right now, and I have seven people in it, they started in the beginning of February, they will be graduating in just a couple of weeks at the end of April, and they are amazing people. Seriously, amazing. And I cannot wait until they graduate, and until they have the core of what the deliverable is for this program which is writing a book. I can't wait to have them produce and publish their books because I'm going to have them on the show to just let you hear them, because they're amazing.

                                    So the program is a three month program and it's designed to help the business owner or professional- it's mostly business owners who have a story to tell, who have a message, who want to build a platform. It's a course for them to just kind of get all of their stuff together, understand what their personal brand stands for, understand what their goals are, what they want to accomplish out of having a book; so do they want more speaking engagements? Do they want to charge higher amounts for speaking engagements? Do they want to do book signings? Do they want to create online courses? What is it that they want to do? So when I first started this course it was really around let me help you write a book. I've written two of them, I have a couple of others in the works, I know all of the traps, the pitfalls, all of the BS and the drama that you can get sucked into in trying to create a book. So I came up with this course, and it's for ninety days, and the whole plan is to help people walk through all of that muck so they can focus on what they do best, which is their topic, their expertise, and they can write their book.

                                    So what I've incorporated into this entire program is the whole personal branding aspect of things. So let's not just say- it's very simple for me to say this is how you write a book. Go here, this is how you pick a title, this is how you pick a subtitle, this is how you get it printed, here's how you find an ISBN number; all of that stuff, that's easy, that's all the logistics. To me- and I would imagine they might not agree with that statement of it being easy, but to me that's the easy part. The hard part is digging deep and understanding why you are writing a book to begin with, what your plan is, what your vision is, what your personal brand stands for, and how are you going to impact the world?

                                    So I am in the throes of a course right now with seven people which is amazing. It's seriously amazing, I love every one of them in there, they all have really interesting kind of niches within niches, and I'm really excited for the impact. So that's kind of where I recognized that I personally don't have to work with one million people. I need to work with people who work with other large groups of people to then impact them. So here is basically my new vision for how I can impact a million people. So if I have these seven amazing people in my course right now, and the seven of them have audiences of 1,000 people. My helping them and coaching them and guiding them through understanding what their brand stands for, and how to write a book, and how to get it all done, that's impacting 7,000 people. By me working with seven people, I'm impacting 7,000. So that's the whole new mentality and mindset and the train that I'm on in terms of how I can continue to make a difference in the lives of LGBT people. So some of the people in the course right now, one of them, their focus is on helping younger LGBT youth, and kind of those who might be struggling with coming out, and coming to terms with their identities, et cetera. Another person in it is focused on aging LGBT baby boomers. So they're totally different audiences, but it serves my mission of impacting a million people, because the more people they impact, and the more tools and resources I can provide them, the more amazing it is for everybody. So I personally don't have to make money from a million people, it's not a transaction where I'm trying to figure out, "Oh if I reach a million people and I can say I get a dollar from each one of those people, then yay, I make my million and I reach a million." It's not that at all, not even close to that. It's more of how can I work with a select group of people who have amazing stories to tell, who just need that boost of confidence, or that kind of kick in the ass to get them to that next stage of their evolution, and how can we find a way that they can impact more people?

                                    So right now if we have these seven people and they each have an audience of 1,000 how can I help them grow their audience from 1,000 to 10,000? Because now I'm impacting not 7,000 people but I'm impacting 70,000 people. And how can we go from impacting 1,000 people to 10,000 to 100,000? So in looking at the math from that standpoint, it's really easy to impact a million people. But that means I need to be working with more people like those that I'm working with now.

                                    So I do want to share with you- and this is not meant to be a hard sell or anything like that, it's more of just my excitement for the second version of this course. So the course that I started as of February 1st, it goes through April 30th, it's been so rewarding, it's going to be done in a few weeks and I'm going to be sad because I really have been enjoying working with these- it's all women in the program right now, and we meet every week for one hour on a webinar, and I provide customized learnings around everything having to do with building your personal brand and writing a book. So the book to me is kind of the foundation of your personal brand. It's the bottom of your platform to stand on. So if you have a book, you've written a book, a small percentage of people in this world have written books, so it makes you stand out alone by just being a published author. So I like to use that as the foundation on which we can build so many different things. So how to be a better speaker, how to position yourself, what does your brand stand for? What is your brand positioning statement? All of that kind of stuff.

                                    So that's what I've been working with them on now, and that goes until April 30th, and then I'm taking a month break, and then I'm restarting a next version of it on June 6th. So if you're interested in poking around and seeing what it's about, you can go to www.Author.LGBT. Not dot com, but dot LGBT. So that's probably a whole topic for another day over the fact that there are domain names out there that end in .LGBT. So I highly advise you to check it out. You can also just go to my website which is www.JennTGrace.com and on the home page under the picture on the left hand side, there's something to the effect of telling your story, and you can click on that and get more information. But basically the course starts on June 6th, it will run for three months as well. It will run in the summer months which I actually think is a benefit to many people because it might be a good opportunity to be able to fit something in in a month where maybe it's a little bit slower, unless you are a seasonal business where summer is your busiest.

                                    So in looking at that, my goal to share completely directly with you is to get twelve people in this course, and that is not a lot of people, and I have a very large network so getting twelve people shouldn't be too difficult. But I want twelve of the right people. So you might be listening to this, and you might be one of those right people. So I'm looking for advocates. I think that's the best word to summarize the seven people who are in this course right now. I think the best description of them is the fact that they are all advocates. They're advocating for something different, but they're all advocating for something that's bigger than they are. They're all looking to leave a mark in this world long after they're gone. And it's really exciting to me to think how I could find twelve new people that I don't know personally, or maybe we've talked on the phone once, or maybe you've just been listening to this podcast for years. I really want kind of a diverse mix of people of any type of business, any type of anything where you're just looking to get the message out more.

                                    So I wanted to share that with you today because I'm so excited about the people I'm working with right now, and I am going to start going on some kind of blitz in the next probably month or so, so starting I would say in May. All of May I'm really going to be focused on getting the message out there to get more people into this course that starts on June 6th. And this first go-around of people that have been in the program has been a lot of a learning curve because I've been able to- I had a structure set up in advance, but as we go through, and as they're asking questions, and they're needing more information on things, I've been able to kind of adapt and tailor the course quite a bit to make sure that it's really exactly what they need in this moment. And I imagine having learned from this first go of it, the second go of it I think is going to be amazing, and I think it's going to be so easy to adapt on the fly based on those of you who are in the group. So I guess one of the biggest benefits that I see of joining this group is you only meet once a week for an hour, and there's a private Facebook group where everybody can kind of talk and bounce ideas off of each other. Right now where we are in the program, everyone's in there kind of talking about their book titles, and their subtitles, and kind of bouncing ideas around there, and that's super exciting to see. Just being able to chime in here and there saying, "Oh my God I love this title, you should totally do that." Or "The title's great but the subtitle's off." It's great to have a bunch of other people who are in the same space you are in terms of- I should say the same mental space of like, 'I said I'm going to write this book, I have to write this book, I need some help, I need some guidance.' You have kind of an unbiased party of at least in this case seven other people where they're all just trying to help each other. And one of the things I'm super excited about, it's going to depend on who launches their book first. So there's seven of them, so someone's going to be the first one to do it. I can't wait to have the person who launches first, the six other people and of course myself, rally around them and help them launch their book to reach even more people. So to me I see this as a way of everyone's audience growing. So if my goal is to impact a million people, and in reality I might only need to reach a hundred people to reach that million people goal. You know that I'm not just going to stay steady at, 'Oh I reached a million people. Ho hum, now I can say that I've done it.' I'm going to say, 'Now I want to reach two million people,' and continue to be upping the ante. But I think it's going to be great because now if you're coming to the table and you have a really tiny audience, maybe you only have fifty people that are in your network, or maybe it's 200 people, maybe it's just a small amount. Coming together with other people who have established brands, or who have established audiences, it really creates this interesting dynamic where everyone can support the other. So whether I have an audience of 200 people, and you have an audience of 10,000 people, if you believe in me, and you believe in my message and my book and what I'm advocating for, there's nothing saying that you wouldn't post on social media something about my book being released, or send it to your email list maybe. Obviously it'd have to be kind of in alignment with your audience, and there's parameters around it, but that's the thing I'm so excited for for this group of people, is that once they start launching their books, they have a built in audience to help them launch their book, which is amazing and something that when I first launched my book in 2013, I wish I had that kind of- I did my own version of it, but I wish I had seven people that were committed to helping me succeed in getting that book done.

                                    So that's one of the biggest benefits that I see of this program. I do hope that when the program does end at the end of April, that I will get some testimonials and have some case studies and let them tell you what they gained from this program. Because everyone seems to be very happy right now, and I'm thrilled, and I'm so excited to think that even if they all just have an audience of 1,000 which is just a complete random number, I know that the audience size of those in there now definitely varies. But just knowing that I've been helping seven people for three months, and they're impacting I would say at a minimum of 7,000 people with their enhanced message.

                                    To me I feel like it doesn't get any better than that. Like it seriously doesn't get any better than that. So I wanted to share all of this information with you, and just try to describe my whole I win, you win, LGBT community wins. How my plans are evolving into impacting a million people. I'm sure based on what I'm doing right now with this program, which I'm really loving doing, I'm sure that's going to evolve into something more, or some kind of branching off doing different things, who knows. But my end goal is to impact as many LGBT and ally people as humanly people to help spread the word of equality. Really I just want basic equality for all of us, and I think the more advocates we can help kind of raise and bring into this world, the better off all of us are. So if you are listening to this, and you think that this something that you'd be interested in, I would love to talk to you. You don't even have to- you can definitely go to the website and check out the www.Author.LGBT or going to the home page and clicking on the Tell Your Story. But you can certainly just pick up the phone and call me, it's 860-281-1583. Or if you want to send me an email it's Jenn@jenntgrace.com. Either way I would love to get on the phone and talk with you, and just hear more about your brand. Because as I shared in terms of the pyramid, I want to make sure that it's the three way win. So I really want to weed people out very carefully to make sure that you are a right fit for the program. Just because you think you are, you might not be, who knows. I want to make sure we talk through it, and I want to make sure that everybody gets the most benefit and value from this. So I'm being very picky right now, and I am only looking to get twelve. I believe I already have three commitments so that kind of brings us down to nine already, and we still have a couple of months before it launches.

                                    So at any rate, I wanted to share that with you because I wanted you to see how that direction in my business actually is in complete alignment with how the podcast is kind of changing and morphing. So really focusing on personal branding, and really focusing on how to get more advocates in the world who can impact more people. So that is kind of it in a nutshell, and it actually is a shorter episode than usual which is great, because typically I'm a liar when we get to this point, it's usually well past the normal time.

                                    But yeah, I wanted to just kind of give you the rundown of that. I really, really appreciate you. I would love to talk to you, so again my phone number, 860-281-1583. You can certainly call and we can connect on anything really, it doesn't even have to be related to this particular program. But if you are kind of in the stages where you're looking to create a book, and you really want to build and maximize your audience, and there's some tie to the LGBT community, I would love nothing more than to be the one to help you do that.

                                    So that's all I've got. I really enjoy that you're listening to this, I really appreciate it. For any links to today's episode you can go to www.JennTGrace.com/82 that's for episode number 82, and yeah that's all I've got. Again, I appreciate you and I will talk to you in the next episode. Thanks so much, bye bye.

Thank you for listening to today's podcast. If there are any links from today's show that you are interested in finding, save yourself a step and head on over to www.JennTGrace.com/thepodcast. And there you will find a backlog of all of the past podcast episodes including transcripts, links to articles, reviews, books, you name it. It is all there on the website for your convenience. Additionally if you would like to get in touch with me for any reason, you can head on over to the website and click the contact form, send me a message, you can find me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all at JennTGrace. And as always I really appreciate you as a listener, and I highly encourage you to reach out to me whenever you can. Have a great one, and I will talk to you in the next episode.

Direct download: Epi82-How-to-Impact-1-Million-LGBT-People.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:05am EST

#81: Growing Your LGBT Business with Kimberly Vaughan [Podcast]

#81 - Growing Your LGBT Business with Kimberly Vaughan [Podcast]

 

Jenn T Grace:              You are listening to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast, episode 81.

 

Introduction:              Welcome to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast; the podcast dedicated to helping LGBTQ professionals and business owners grow their business and careers through the power of leveraging their LGBTQ identities in their personal brand. You'll learn how to market your products and services both broadly, and within the LGBTQ community. You'll hear from incredible guests who are leveraging the power of their identity for good, as well as those who haven't yet started, and everyone in between. And now your host. She teaches straight people how to market to gay people, and gay people how to market themselves. Your professional lesbian, Jenn - with two N's - T Grace.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Well hello and welcome to the show. For loyal listeners, I'm sure you've noticed that I have rebranded this podcast. So this podcast is now called Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional. So you might be wondering why I decided to do this, so I'm going to share that with you super briefly, and then we're going to get into an interview with Kimberly Vaughan of www.LGBTWeddings.com.

                                    So let me just address real quickly that I was doing some marketing planning of my own, and doing a little bit of research into the listenership of this podcast, and trying to figure out who's really listening to the show, and what they're really looking for. And in doing so I realized that a strong majority of listeners are part of the LGBT community, and in thinking about where my business has been coming from, I've got a handful of pretty large corporate type of contracts as of late, and asking them- they've never heard of my show, they aren't really listening to anything in iTunes, they're not really podcast listeners. It occurred to me that I'm going to change the focus of this podcast to really just focus on the LGBTQ professional, or the LGBTQ entrepreneur; people who are part of the community who are growing their careers, growing their professions, growing their brands, growing their businesses, and really just make that my focus. So starting today in episode 81, that's my new focus.

                                    Now don't get me wrong, if you go back and listen to the overwhelming majority of the 81 podcasts, or the 80 podcasts I've already done, you will note that I talk about marketing and branding as it relates to being an LGBT person. So I've already basically been doing this, and it's kind of evolved into having been doing this probably since maybe the mid-60's episodes. So going on probably a good twenty episodes, I've really already been doing this. So it was really just a matter of finally putting the flag in the sand and just changing the name of the show to truly reflect you, the listener, and really kind of amplify the whole idea of personal branding.

                                    Personal branding to me is such a critical thing to be doing as an LGBT person, because being LGBT is such a benefit. And I know that some of you listening to this might not necessarily feel like it's a benefit right now, but I can assure you that it's totally a benefit. So with that being said, I'll probably be introducing more things around personal branding as we go through, but I did just want to make note the fact that I did change the name, so you're not listening to this thinking, 'What the hell? This is so not what I was expecting.' I just want to make sure that you knew that.

                                    So now that that's out of the way, today I have an episode for you with a person who's been in the wedding industry for a long time who is a wealth of knowledge around LGBT in the wedding industry, and she's the founder and creator of www.LGBTWeddings.com which is a huge resource for businesses within the LGBT community, but then also businesses that are not part of the community who are looking to serve LGBT couples in a better fashion. So without further ado, I'm just going to dive right into the interview today with Kimberly Vaughan.

                                    So I am really excited to have you on the show today. So for those listening, we're talking with Kimberly Vaughan of www.LGBTWeddings.com. And I told Kimberly before we hit record that she can shamelessly plug www.LGBTWeddings.com at the end of the episode. But to start us off, I'd love to hear a little bit about your background, and I guess how the LGBT community comes to play in what you're doing right now.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    Good morning, Jenn. Thanks for having me.

 

Jenn T Grace:              You're welcome.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    So let's see. I've been in the wedding industry for about fifteen years now on the west coast, and the past ten years I've been producing consumer trade events, wedding expos, we operate the international wedding festivals here on the west coast. It's a very vivacious, fun, exciting place to plan a wedding. And unlike other bridal shows, or wedding expos, I think that we bring a lot of entertainment value, we have a lot of information planning their event. So it's a little bit different. I also work with a lot of wedding professionals helping them fine tune their marketing, and create marketing partnership opportunities for them. And that's my entire background has been HR, marketing, and events planning.

 

Jenn T Grace:              And you say it in such a succinct way that no one would realize the length of time that you've been doing this.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    It has been a lengthy, long time, and here on the west coast, the wedding industry- it's got the same ups and downs as the entire LGBT community as we were battling Prop 8. So we had a lot of time to prepare, and then no, and then prepare, and then no. So it's always been part of our industry culture here, as well as our community culture here, preparing for equality. And we were so excited when it finally happened for everyone across the board, but it also gave a great opportunity for the businesses who were preparing to really put into action the things that we've been talking about for so long, and we're finally able to let it roll, and get cracking.

 

Jenn T Grace:              So how did you decide that www.LGBTWeddings.com and what your company does, because you're more than just a .com website. How did you decide that this is something that you felt you had to tackle?

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    A lot of it had to do with communicating with the wedding industry, and a lot of the companies and players, mostly the smaller base businesses, as well as larger base businesses expos, they had a lot of questions. Going through the motions back and forth, the questions had much to do with how do we refer to couples? How do we refer to the wedding party? What's okay to say? What's not okay to say? What do we need to know? For 85% of the wedding industry, they're straight-owned businesses. And so clearly there was a disconnect of how do we provide services to the LGBT community, and really shine with our services? We've got florists who've got twenty years plus experience who have no idea how to service the community. And the media made it frightening I think for a lot of straight-owned businesses to want to provide services. They were concerned that they were going to get sued if they said the wrong things, and it really scared, frightened business owners. So I think the more that we start to see silly things that are being said by a lot of business owners, it's been more so a lot of concern. I felt that it was time to put together a program that would help develop their skills, and help build their confidence. If anything for the community to have more choice for everyone to connect. I mean what we're after- we're after a wedding of the wedding of the wedding in many respects, and the only way that we're going to achieve that is through education. So what started out as like a bridge between industry to community led into www.LGBTWeddings.com, it just kind of grew. We really wanted to have support services for the community that would have online tools, and articles, and how-to's, and seminars, and all kinds of fun things; education on both ends. So that's really what started it, and I think that for the 85% of the straight-owned businesses, they're probably going to find more information that is unknown to them than LGBT-owned business. But I also think that LGBT-owned businesses would find good information in there as well in terms of marketing. We all need to strengthen our marketing, things change, technology has changed, and so it's always good to stay abreast of those things.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Interesting. So now how would you say you're differentiating those two audiences? Because I know for me I also have kind of the straight audience, and I have the LGBT audience. So how are you finding that balance I guess on your website and in the marketing to those different and distinct different audiences, but at the same time there's so much overlap between them.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    Absolutely and I think that for LGBT business owners, it's almost like they're going, "What do I need to know, really? We know our community, we know our craft, so what do we really need to know?" For other business owners it's like they wonder why. That truly is the differentiation. I think that for LGBT business owners, this is an opportunity for them to really shine, and they know their craft and they know their community, so this is a great opportunity for these business owners to really put their best foot forward. I think that through education, and through inclusion by gay-owned businesses to straight-owned businesses, inclusionary practices, we're going to find the love so to speak. We're going to have a more inclusive industry if that makes sense.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Absolutely. And have you found that any LGBT people have reached out to you and say something like, "Wow I wouldn't have known that." Like something that you feel like it would have been obvious that they would know, but yet you're even educating within the community.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    So yes, actually- and for a few business owners that have called me to say, "You know what, actually I did learn something that I didn't know, and a lot of it had to do with providing services to transgender individuals." So for the transgender community, there were just some other things to think about. I know one of the bridal gown owners, one of the sections in the certification talks about accommodating transgender clients for fittings, and things like this. And just kind of giving the POV I think really helped this particular owner, and she was eternally grateful, and I think it's changed her business and her point of view.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Awesome, that's really exciting. Can you share I guess maybe some of the highlights of what your training covers? Because I know that there's so much overlap in terms of the type of information that you're providing and a lot of the stuff that I talk about, too.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    Yeah Jenn, and I love your work.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Thank you.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    I love everything that you talk about in terms of marketing, and the community, and I think you recall the first time that we talked it was like talking to a rockstar for me. So thank you for having me here today. There is a lot of overlap, I mean we all know that marketing is a key part of our business, and our business would not flourish without it. So a lot of the marketing focus for the community is going to overlap and be the same. However, part of our certification has to do with trends that we're seeing in our industry specifically, wedding trends and new traditions. The great thing about what's happening in our country with equality for our industry, for the wedding industry, is that there are new tends and traditions being created while we're talking here today. So we all know that the LGBT community is vivacious and very experiential in terms of wanting to reflect our lives, and our experiences through meaningful ceremonies. So for the industry, we're watching this unfold right before our very eyes. Two aisles, for example. Two aisles coined by the LGBT community. There were no two aisles prior to LGBT weddings. So same sex marriage brought that to the industry. There are a lot of other things, a lot of other little traditions and ceremonial traditions that are coming into play that we're able to share with business owners. And each year I think the plan is, is that through re-certification we're going to share what we're seeing in the industry with these weddings. So that's the difference that I think most people might experience.

 

Jenn T Grace:              So can you talk a little bit about the coined phrase the two aisles? For somebody who's not part of the- I guess wedding industry, what that would actually mean?

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    So I love this part. Weddings have a lot of old historical ceremonies and you kind of go, "Now why did the bride stand to the left of the father giving her away?" And that had to do with way back in the day, you wanted to have the man's right arm free to grab his sword to protect the bride because usually marriages had to do with merging two clans together to stop the war.

 

Jenn T Grace:              That's interesting.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    Who knew?

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah, seriously.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    That's why you have the bride's side and the groom's side, was keep the clans separated long enough to get to the honeymoon so that the war would end and peace would begin. So things like that really started the one aisle to separate the two clans. Well to modern day, we don't have fighting war and clans coming together, and we would like to think that the people who are coming to our ceremony, they're coming there out of a place of love for us, uniting as one, and helping us celebrate the love that we've found for an eternity. And now two brides, or two grooms, a couple will enter in on two equal sides and meet in the middle which I think is so beautiful. Why it wasn't done a hundred years ago, I'll never know, but it's here now and I love it.

 

Jenn T Grace:              I would not have- I don't know what I thought that that meant prior to you explaining it, but that makes perfect sense. So I had the pleasure of being on a panel this weekend that you and I set up at the very last possible minute for the New York LGBT expo. And one of the things that we talked about on the panel was wedding trends as it relates to the LGBT community, and you just talked about wedding trends a little bit yourself. What would you say that you're seeing- because it was interesting, because I'm not a wedding expert, I'm more of the marketing, and I can help any business with their marketing who's looking to reach the LGBT community. But some of the things that I was hearing on the panel, I'm like, 'Wow this is really interesting.' I would love to- instead of me regurgitating that information to my audience, it makes more sense to have the expert, yourself share maybe a couple of the trends that you're seeing currently with- in regards to maybe a lesbian- what the lesbian wedding trends are versus the gay wedding trends, or even transgender. Like what are you seeing right now? Because as we're recording this we're in March of 2016 and I'm sure the trends will be even drastically different six months from now even. I don't know, I'm not sure how fast the wedding industry moves.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    Absolutely, and most businesses in the wedding industry follow these trends season after season. We know when the Great Gatsby movie came out, boy we saw that in weddings. There was a period where every wedding had this espresso brown, and either pink or aqua, and after a while you kind of get sick of the colors because you see them at all the weddings. So these are trends that us in the wedding industry are used to, they're defined by movies, they're defined by fashion. The Tiffany blue was so huge in the nineties. So it changes, definitely, for sure. And that's true specifically to the LGBT community. When the ruling happened in each state, state by state, as soon as marriage equality became legal, there were a lot of rainbow weddings, we saw that to be true. We saw a lot of smaller, more intimate weddings, we're just going to get through this. And we all know a lot of this had to do with celebration, yes of course. But legalities, and let's get this done as quickly as possible, especially here in California because we were going back and forth with Prop 8, and it just seemed like everyone was running out before it could be taken away. So we saw a lot of quickie weddings, a lot of quickie planning, a lot of small, intimate events. And now it just seems like people are spending a little bit more time planning, everyone's kind of moved away from the rainbow wedding theme, and are moving more towards what's trending in the industry a little bit. There's always going to be a level of individualistic planning, we all want to have our own signature on our event, and at the end of the day- I'd just like to share this, and I know everyone in the wedding industry agrees, this is about two people. This is about two people expressing their love for each other, and it's about two individual people coming together and expressing their love. So we've seen everything under the sun. I just received a wedding story from a couple down in Dallas, two ladies, and one of them is a huge horror story buff. Absolutely loves horror films. So her cake had horror figurines on top of it.

 

Jenn T Grace:              That's funny.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    That's not indicative of a trend that's going on, it certainly expresses to everyone that it's okay to let your individuality shine in your ceremony. So that's what we want to see in the wedding industry. And I think most professionals really want to pull that personal experience into the event. There is no right or wrong. There is no you should follow champagne fabrics when champagne is trending. While it's very gorgeous and fluid for many people, that's just not the expression of that individual couple. So those are some of the things that we're seeing. I think that the size of the wedding- for wedding businesses who are listening, when equality first went national last June, the average number was about 85 in terms of guests. And now we're seeing that number increase. So I think that now that kind of the fear of reversal is gone, people are looking at like, 'Okay maybe we did just get married real fast, we want to plan a wedding now.' And so we're seeing people extend their planning out nine months, a year, and putting more emphasis and thought into the nuances of the day.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Interesting. So are you finding that LGBT couples generally are more open to having weddings that are more individualized to them? So rather than them following just straight up mainstream trends?

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    I do see that, and I think that that has to do with- straight couples, brides especially have grown up playing with the Barbie dolls thinking about their wedding, knowing that there's a 90% chance that they're going to get married, and what is that going to look like. And I also think that there are more traditional pressures in terms of, 'I want it to be perfect for my family.' Not that gay couples do not feel that way, but certainly the traditional pressures of carrying on traditions, wedding traditions. 'My father is going to walk me down the aisle, we're going to go down one aisle, I'm going to wear a white dress, my flowers are going to look like this, we're going to use this minister, bride's side on the left, groom's side on the right.' I think that straight couples still think they have to carry on these traditions, and a lot of times I don't know that couples really know what those traditions represent, just like we were talking about why the bride walks on the left hand side. I mean does anyone really sit there and go, "Oh because my dad needs to grab his sword."

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    I think that in terms of same sex couples, that is kind of removed. That pressure of following traditions is certainly removed, and I feel like there's so much joy around just being able to marry, that all of those pressures are taken away happily, and replaced with much more celebration. So I think that couples are like, 'This is our day.' Not that there isn't meaning for straight couples, but it's just got more universal meaning and equality meaning for couples. And they just want to celebrate and express, and I love it. We're enjoying all of the trends, and the vows. Boy if you're not at one of these events and bawling your eyes out because you can feel real love at these events, you're not human, I'm sorry. Your heart is black. Not to say that straight weddings aren't beautiful, but there's just a different level of expression of love going on in same-sex couples that I don't think could be duplicated anywhere. So if these businesses are pro equality, you really feel like you're a part of something incredible, and I think that that's something that I wish for all wedding professionals. Even the ones that aren't pro, even if they're just coming to witness and not work at the wedding because I think it might change their hearts and minds. I did want to tell you that some of the negative responses to equality in our industry, I don't think that it all comes from personal belief. I think much of it comes from- I'm going to get heavy hitting here, Jenn.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Hit me.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    I think a lot of it actually comes from fear because they don't know how to service the community. I think a lot of it has to do with media, and when you don't know something, you're afraid of it. And when you don't know how to respond to something, or be a part of something, you're afraid of it. And so I think that sometimes when couples are going through the screening process of finding a photographer, or a venue, and they get an uncomfortable response on the other end, I don't know that the person on the other end really has taken a lot of time to have personal thought about it. We all see the responses from people who have fanatical personal beliefs that are against equality, but I think the larger part of negative responders have more to do with, 'I don't know what I feel about this. So I'm going to reach for this first.' And I think that that's where the education comes in and really helps them guide their feelings, and look at it, address it. So I think that if more businesses are invited to participate, obviously friendly businesses that are interested in participating because nobody wants that negative nilly at their event, I think that it's going to change so many hearts and minds because you cannot escape the love. You just can't. You can't help but feel it.

 

Jenn T Grace:              So somebody was on this podcast awhile back, Michele Wierzgac, I don't remember exactly what episode she was, but it was probably in the sixties. And she was sharing how she came to New Haven, Connecticut, which is not far from where I am, from Chicago to get married. And she was talking about what a good experience it was, and how where the reception itself was, was great, and she had good hospitality. But she had made a reference to a limo driver making some kind of comment about where the husband is when the two of them got into the limo on the way over to where they were getting married. And how that put just kind of such a damper on the day.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    And I'm sorry that she had that experience, and there's no excusing professionals from knowing their craft, knowing their client, and being better professionals than they are. We all want to grow, we all want to evolve, we all want to be better and provide the best possible service for our clients, that should be everyone's benchmark. And I also do seminars with couples and helping same sex couples to go through the planning process; let's talk about vendor selection, let's talk about budget, let's talk about timeline, and checklist, and things like that because if you haven't done this, and this is true for every couple, you don't necessarily know where to begin. But every couple isn't having the same challenges of the screening process and finding people who are accepting of their love, who are excited about their marriage, who are excited about providing services on their day. I mean that's just not the truth for every couple. So part of what I'm doing when I'm working with couples is talking with them about how to manage and handle and identify great providers. Certainly utilizing services who are doing screening, that's great, but also understanding that for many of these providers, they may not be trying to be offensive. They may just be so used to saying the same things for the past fifteen or twenty years that they've been a limo driver, or a florist. They're presuming to know their clients, and to ask appropriate questions for their craft, and by saying the same things for the past twenty years, it just comes out. So sometimes when I'm talking to couples it's you may have a wonderful, terrific, fabulous florist with all this great experience, and you've looked at the options, and they're fabulous, and you get halfway through the service and they say something like, "So is your groom coming to the next meeting?" Without even thinking, it's just something that they've been saying for twenty years. So we try to one, educate the wedding professionals on what to say, what not to say, and how to get out of these assumptions, and out of the ritual of what they've been doing for twenty years, and be excited, and re-formulate their questions with gender neutrality in mind. You know, some people just fall back. And so what I'm asking couples to do also is to just not always be on the defense, and instead correct. It's okay to say, "You mean my wife?" It's okay, and maybe not let a silly comment that may not have been intended in a negative way ruin your day. You know wedding days are really joyful but they're also very stressful for couples. There's a lot of emotion going on, and that's true for everyone. There's a lot of anticipation of having the perfect day; people strive for that, they want that, they want everything to go off without a hitch. And so sometimes getting a negative comment, even from our family and friends who know us, and adore us, and love us, in these situations they say the wrong things. And that's going to be true for everyone. I always just tell couples try to rise above some of the things that you think are important at the time, because at the end of the day it's the two of you expressing your love together that is the real important key element of your wedding day, and so let this other stuff roll off your back. There's always going to be an aunt or someone who says something stupid. A little bit too much wine, and they regret it, they know it, so just let it go.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah I get you.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    Focus on what's important.

 

Jenn T Grace:              So as a wedding planner, is that part of their jobs to help educate any ancillary service that's going to be needed? So it's obvious that you'd want to prep the florist who has a big part of the day, or prepping the Justice of the Peace for example. But in terms of like a limo driver, which is obviously a big part of the day, but it's really kind of a small part in the grand scheme of things. Is there somebody that's kind of trying to pre-educate to avoid those types of faux pas?

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    Absolutely.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Okay.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    Absolutely. So if couples are utilizing wedding planners, and that's a wonderful service. So wedding planners can do the screening for you, they can help you with your timeline, your budget, take your vision and really kind of mold it into your budget, and figure out what's the best course of action to go into. A really, really wonderful profession and underutilized I think in our industry by couples. Most of the time couples think that they can't afford one because every time you see a wedding planner in the movies or on TV, it's for these big elaborate events, and so people have the mindset that wedding planners are only for the rich, and only for high dollar events, and that's just not true. So that's a whole other conversation but that is definitely not true. Your average wedding can accommodate in the budget to have a great wedding planner. So I highly recommend them. And wedding planners should be the person that is doing screening, that is helping to educate providers. Typically wedding planners have a circle of providers that they call upon all the time, and refer because they believe in their work, because they know that they're going to show up on time, provide a great service, communicate well with their couples, those kinds of things. So that should be that person's role, and sometimes when you're working with a planner who's doing day services and they have not been part of the selection process, they're just there to kind of tighten everything up, and make sure everything runs smoothly so that a couple can focus on each other, and their family, and not on little dumb details like- not dumb, but you know what I mean. When's the cake going to be here, when are the flowers arriving, where's the minister, things like that. Those are the things you don't want to think about on your wedding day, you want to leave that to professionals. So sometimes you're just hiring a planner for day of services, and they haven't been part of your screening process, so they don't know. But you hope that they're having a conversation prior to- day services typically start ten days to two weeks prior to a wedding, so you hope that they're picking up the phone and going over these things. But if you've got the wrong hire, and the wedding planner realizes that you've got the wrong hire, it might be too late, and you might just have to make the best of it and run with that person, and really hope that your planner is tightening things up.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah, that makes sense. Do you think that there is any benefit that you as someone part of the LGBT community may gain versus someone who's not for doing the same type of role for a client? In terms of I guess-

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    So this is a really great opportunity for LGBT owners to put their best foot forward. You understand your client base, you understand maybe some different ways to express ceremonial wow so to speak in these weddings. And sometimes that's half the battle, especially in terms of marketing and reaching the community. Well you know how to reach the community, you have a good idea of how to network within the community, it's a very tightknit community. So what we're finding though also is just as- and any wedding owner whether you're straight or gay knows this. Marketing within the wedding industry is niche marketing. There's a way to go about it, and there's a way not to go about it. So whether you're gay or straight-owned, you have to understand your marketing inside of the community. That's a must. But I think that the advantage that LGBT-owned businesses would have here, is that you already understand your client base. Straight-owned businesses are really struggling in understanding how to accommodate the community because of media hype, because of their own fears, because they just haven't had the opportunity yet, and many of them want that opportunity. So I think it's a good way, especially if you are gay-owned businesses, to put that on your website, market that, promote it. I think it's a really good idea.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Would you guess that LGBT people might be more comfortable doing business in regards to their wedding with other LGBT people who are service providers?

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    I do think that there's probably a preference; we all know, we see it all the time, there's certainly a preference to work with LGBT-owned businesses because of the feeling of comfort and understanding of needs. There's a couple that we're working with down in Texas, they're actually getting married on the 20th next Saturday right after the LGBT Wedding Party and Expo. So they're getting married in Dallas, they don't live in Dallas, they live in a very rural area in Texas and they were having a very hard time finding a venue that they felt comfortable at, that was welcoming. So they were very excited to have this opportunity for them. It's happening, it's happening all over the place. There aren't always gay or straight-owned businesses that are rolling out the welcome mat for couples. And it's the sad truth that the community is experiencing. So would a couple prefer? Probably. That could very well be, but there are also in many other providers who are straight-owned that can do a fabulous job and might match their vision of what they're trying to achieve, or might be available on the day of their wedding. There's only so many Saturdays in a year, and there are only so many providers, and there's not one LGBT-owned, gay-owned florist in any city who can accommodate every Saturday for every wedding. So having that diversity is going to be- it's needed, it's wanted, I think everyone feels that we all want to see inclusion across the board.

 

Jenn T Grace:              And so if there's somebody listening to this, because as you were talking I was thinking about the media hype, and how things get blown so out of proportion whether it's in our favor or against us, it doesn't matter, it's just everything is to an extreme, it's not helpful. So in thinking about the bakery who refused to bake the wedding cake for an LGBT couple. Like yes, so there's a piece of that, and I feel like I'm very pragmatic and I always look at things from both sides of the situation, and to me if someone doesn't want to bake me a damn wedding cake, there are 1,000 others that will bake the cake. I don't need to throw a shitfit about this particular vendor not wanting to do business with me. So there are people who have that train of thought, and then of course there are people in the community that have a completely different thought of like, 'I want you to make my cake, you're going to make my cake.' So there's extremes again. Now in terms of an ally listening to this, because I do have an ally audience as well, if there's one thing that you could say to them that might get them to feel more comfortable? So maybe there's somebody who has some kind of service that they could work with the LGBT community, not even necessarily weddings. What would you tell them? Like if there was just that one little nugget of wisdom that you think might help them take that first step in saying, 'I feel comfortable enough to try this. It doesn't mean I'm going to do it right the first time, but I'm going to try it.' Is there something that you can think of that might make that a little more digestible?

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    Well a couple things popped into my mind. One is for couples, if there's someone that you're just not feeling it, this is your wedding day. This is not a time for politics, this is not a time for social justice, that is not the expression that you want on your wedding day. Your wedding day is personal, it's about the love that you share with your partner, and that should be the reflection. So if you've got someone who is gruff on the phone, making comments, I mean this really just is not the time and place to push the equality button and push for the rights. I really feel like there are plenty of other instances in life that could support that, there's certainly opportunities every single day, but I kind of feel like weddings should have a special no pressure zone of just let's not push the equality button. I just want people to focus on the love really. And nobody wants somebody at their wedding that's going to provide bad services, or if it's a pro, it's like a no-fly zone for crappy people. We just don't want them at these weddings. So I think that for businesses who really want to be a participatory business for couples, I think just being honest and expressing your experience and your intention. So we have a lot of businesses who want to provide services, who don't necessarily know how, and it's okay to say, "Your my first same-sex couple, and I'm really excited about your wedding, and I don't know that I know all the right things to say. So I know how to make a great cake, and I know that I can take your vision and put that into the best cake that I can possibly give you, and I'm excited, and honored that you've selected me. So thank you for that. If I do something wrong, kick me under the table, correct me, help me be a better professional." That's what we're asking of couples as well as providers.

 

Jenn T Grace:              I feel like at least in my experience, and I think that you do bring up a good point that your wedding day probably isn't the day to take some kind of activist road, and cause chaos that may or may not be necessary. I know for our wedding, and I was actually thinking when you were talking earlier about the benefit of having a wedding planner, and we did not have one, and I don't know why we chose not to. I don't think it was a conscious decision to do or not to do it. And I was thinking about all of the logistical stress that since I run events I'm like, "Oh doing my wedding just might be just the same as any other event," and obviously that is not true. And I managed to pull it off because I knew enough people who were already active in the LGBT community, whether they were allies or actual LGBT vendors, which I tried to get as many as I could, and we even had the Lieutenant Governor of our state, who's still the Lieutenant Governor, marry us because she has a sister who's a lesbian and it was just kind of a passion for her to be able to marry- like we were her first lesbian couple to get married, which I think is so fun. And so I was thinking like I am stressed out about the fact that the frickin Lieutenant Governor is here, and I need to be like trying to like keep my shit together. So I feel like I was totally-

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    It felt perfect, and everything's perfect.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah, I was like kind of all over the place.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    No pressure.

 

Jenn T Grace:              No, not at all. My wife on the other hand who is a saint in many regards, she was just very calm, cool, collected, like 'just chill, come on, just relax.' Her dress was like falling off of her back because something got sewn wrong, and yet she was still like, "It's fine." She was so passive about the whole thing. But I know for us, we didn't take a political tact necessarily, but we did make sure that we- of course having a politician officiating, that clearly adds a political element. But having all these LGBT vendors, and then having the allies who are properly in the know, I feel like it worked out really well. But that was a very conscious and deliberate, and it took awhile. So I can totally see how if something at our wedding had kind of gone off script if you will, I probably would have been- I feel like I would love to say that I wouldn't have gone down like some kind of activist road, but I feel like I may have gone down that road because you're so wound up when you're getting married. Like it is what it is. So I think generally most LGBT people aren't necessarily wanting to go from zero to sixty, from being just this calm rational person to irrational and an activist without something kind of happening in between to push them there. So do you think that that's- and I'm trying to figure out the question.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    I don't think that people are setting out- I just think that if you're facing- during the selection process, if you're facing some push, move on, these are not the right people for you. These are not the people that you want on your wedding day. You want to feel supported, you want to feel the love, you want to feel- even if it's due to the proprietor, I mean we can all sense it when we've got someone who's embracing us. That's what we want on our wedding day. We want to feel supported, and loved, and that that provider is there to make our day as beautiful as they possibly can within their abilities. And it's deserving, and it's the way things should be. So all I'm saying is if during the process you're feeling some pushback, like it's just not the time to pick it up and turn it into a legal issue. Like just move on. I'm not saying let people trample right, I'm not saying let people treat you like dogs or anything bad, I'm just saying that it's probably just not the time or place to pick up a fight. You've got a wedding to plan.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah you don't have time for that.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    You've got celebration in your midst, and it's time to really grasp onto that and not let anybody rain on the parade. So move on.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah I know for us the only hiccup we had was filling out our marriage license. So we got married in 2011, and marriage was legal in 2008 in Connecticut, and the marriage license paperwork was still not up to speed, so I had to do some crossing out on that, put two brides. But that was like I feel like it is unreasonable for me to think that in a matter of- and while yes, it was three years, I feel like maybe it could have moved a little faster, to think that everything's going to be up to par and immediately, like overnight in terms of LGBT equality. And I think most people, most LGBT people understand that and realize that it's going to take some time. So I think that if people are thinking about doing business with the community broadly, or if they're thinking specifically about weddings, I think most LGBT people are coming from a place of recognizing that they don't expect that vendor to be perfect. And if they make a mistake, if that vendor kind of owns the mistake saying like, "Oh I'm sorry I said groom, or said bride," I think it's a completely two way open dialogue between the LGBT person and the vendor, because most of them are not out there to criticize and chastise, I think it's just what the media makes it look like, it's not really the reality.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    Exactly, and I agree with you, and I think that those are things that we discuss when we're talking with, and working with companies, businesses, is let's just fine tune and go down through your forms, let's talk about gender neutrality on your website, let's talk about it in your forms. It's really important that if your intention is to provide services to the community that you are really demonstrating that; that you have taken thoughtful preparation, that you're rolling out the red carpet, that people feel welcomed, and accommodated and loved. So that's certainly a place where businesses can express their understanding, or at least their desire to understand the community. And it's funny because in many ways I feel like a lot of the businesses have been a little bit more proactive, and they don't want to be anti-government than maybe some of the forms that we're seeing at the state and local levels. And it's like guys, come on. I get that you've got probably 50,000 of these forms already printed, and it's going to require you to reprint all this stuff, but it is what it is. Time to get the printer going.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah I feel like-

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    For some of the smaller businesses it's probably an easier task than for the large government entities to revamp every form under their umbrella. So all of this is going to take time, and I think we all had hoped that it would move along a lot faster, and that it would have been enveloped a lot faster, but this is not easy stuff. It was long overdue, as much as the community would have liked that everyone prepared beforehand, it didn't happen, and in many respects the world is scrambling to be to par. And I like the process. The process means we get to take an opportunity to educate, to train, to understand the community. I think it's really an opportunity, and not- it's frustrating but this is an opportunity for more people to understand the community, and see the beauty. It's all good stuff.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah I'm in complete agreement, and I don't want to quote the right wing necessarily, but we have changed the institution of marriage. Like we can't expect because it was legalized last year that suddenly hundreds of years of what marriage was thought to be is just going to change overnight. So we do need to be I think a little more realistic about how long things take.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    And let's embrace the process, because this is going to change and evolve for many, many years to come. I mean this is just like a starting point, and we in the wedding industry just as we see trends change by season, whether it's the colors of weddings, or symbolism; we have a whole new culture and community contributing to how weddings are going to look going forward. And that is extremely exciting for wedding professionals, I mean everyone is just kind of like, "Oh my goodness, what's going to happen this season?" It's exciting for everyone to watch all the symbolism and the changes in trends. We're all on bated breath trying to see where this new direction is going to head into design wise, aesthetically speaking and symbolically speaking.

 

Jenn T Grace:              Yeah, definitely. Well we're already pretty much at the end of our time. It went by so fast, but I want you to share how people can find you, how they can find more information about LGBT weddings, and just kind of hit them with all the information to get in touch with you.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    So you can find us at www.LGBTWeddings.com, that's our URL. You are welcome to call our 800-number. 844-899-LOVE, and we've got a lot of seminars developing for wedding industry businesses to learn about the current trends, how to express gender neutrality, and change their forms, and change how they approach their business for the community, and how to market to the community, and at the end of the certification process there's this free badge, and the badge I think is a good way to express to the community that you know what? I'm doing due diligence, I'm learning how to address my marketing, I'm learning how to address the community, and that you've got a provider who's really trying to be a great performer for you. So look for the badge of course, and we're also developing some online seminars for couples to go through the planning process just like you and your wife had experienced, there's now some online planning tools specifically for the community; bride/bride, groom/groom, bride/groom, bride/groom. So we've got some great tools like seating charts, and timeline, and checklist, and budget list, and things like that that will help couples through the planning process. So we're doing good stuff, and I'm really excited about where the world is taking us. We got to experience that at the expo last weekend, and we did a workshop with couples, we did a workshop with businesses. Jenn, you and I shared Kimberly [Inaudible 00:50:33], you had Kimberly [Inaudible 00:50:35] on stage, you had Stacy at Foxwoods, you had-

 

Jenn T Grace:              Louise.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    Louise at Cafe Louise. And these were all great contributors in our industry that are providing services within the community. So that was really wonderful. So we're trying to incorporate programs like that across the nation to really be the bridge between industry and community. So We love to hear from wedding providers, we love to hear what trends are being seen in the area because we all know the east coast trends and traditions are very different from the west coast, and the south, and so these are the exciting things that we're looking at on an industry level, and it's going to be true within the community whether it's by location, time of year, we're going to see a lot of seasonal changes. So we love hearing from wedding professionals what they're seeing, and we love receiving stories from couples, and sharing those online as well. So we've got our real weddings where couples can go on there, see what other couples are doing, see what's trending, what's happening, and I think it's a fabulous site with a lot of educational value as well as a lot of- for both couples and for businesses. So it's a fun place, and wedding planning is a joyful process. It's supposed to be a contingency, and so taking all of the politics out of everything and focusing on having fun with the planning process. That's what www.LGBTWeddings.com is a site that's all about, and really helping everyone to have the tools that they need whether they're a business or a couple in the planning act.

 

Jenn T Grace:              I love it. It's an all-around fantastic resource. So thank you again Kimberly, I'm so happy that you were on, and I know that we will continue to stay in touch.

 

Kimberly Vaughan:    Thank you Jenn, thanks for having me today. Everybody have a great day!

 

Jenn T Grace:              Thank you for listening to today's podcast. If there are any links from today's show that you are interested in finding, save yourself a step and head on over to www.JennTGrace.com/thepodcast. And there you will find a backlog of all of the past podcast episodes including transcripts, links to articles, reviews, books, you name it. It is all there on the website for your convenience. Additionally if you would like to get in touch with me for any reason, you can head on over to the website and click the contact form, send me a message, you can find me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all at JennTGrace. And as always I really appreciate you as a listener, and I highly encourage you to reach out to me whenever you can. Have a great one, and I will talk to you in the next episode.

 

Direct download: Epi81-Growing-LGBT-Business-with-Kimberly-Vaughan.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:05am EST