I sit writing this on the day of my 60th birthday.
God. I never thought I’d ever be this old.
Coincidentally, I’m also two days away from leaving my position as the executive director of Call for Justice, LLC, a small nonprofit that helps low-income people connect with lawyers. I’ve held that gig for five years; in fact, I was the founding E.D. While it’s certainly time for me to move on, leaving is also very bittersweet.
What’s next for me?
A blank slate; yet another do-over for what will be the last leg of my career. This time, the restart is named Human Inspiration Works, LLC.
As some know, ever since transitioning genders in 2009, I’ve spoken about what it means to be transgender via “Trans 101” presentations. Three years ago, I began developing a generalized diversity and inclusion training platform that builds on the reality that there are relatively few Ellie Krugs running around, people who’ve gone from positions of white male privilege to living as female and part of a heavily marginalized community. While that alone doesn’t give me credentials, it does provide something else that is incredibly important: authenticity.
I find that audiences crave authenticity in a speaker. It allows for connectivity to one’s heart and mind.
What’s most exciting about this next chapter is that I alone will get to decide what happens; it is very much a tabula rasa.
For sure, it goes without saying that I’ll need to attract clients and do a good job. However, I will have no board of directors to report to or please; I’ll not have a boss checking boxes on some nondescript corporate evaluation form; and most of all, I’ll not have to play by someone else’s silly rules.
It’s not that I haven’t earned this. I spent nearly 30 years as a civil trial attorney, and let me tell you, talk about rules. Rules of civil procedure; rules of evidence; ethics rules. That was on top of fighting with opposing lawyers, and, sometimes, fighting with the clients as well. Throw in the stress of 18-hour trial days, and, wow, the trade-off between big six-figure salary and peace of mind sure made sense for me.
My nonprofit executive director stint followed. While that permitted me great freedom to imagine and do things I love (like teaching about Minnesota’s many legal resources), this too came with rules, like always needing to raise money. How tiring.
Now, I’ll get to do things my way.
For the most part, this means using my imagination to create and craft meaningful trainings that challenge audience members to think differently about people who are “different” from “us.” I’ve already taken steps to trademark the name of one talk, Gray Area Thinking, and plan to trademark the titles of other trainings.
More than that, I plan to conduct “community listening sessions” to better understand why much of America circled wagons this past election. Such listening will better inform me about how to fashion future inclusivity trainings that will touch not just a few, but many people.
And, too, I plan to hop in the car and drive across the Midwest and South to speak in smaller cities and towns where GLBTQ “activists” (if a 60-year-old transwoman can actually be called that) don’t usually go. My goal is to remind everyone that we have far more in common than differences; indeed, most of us are afraid of the very same things: change, the unknown, and the risk of physical or emotional violence.
Does all of this sound incredibly naive?
But it’s also quite idealistic. If there’s only one thing to know about me, it’s that I’m hopelessly idealistic, as in a King and Kennedy (Robert, the other assassinated brother) idealist.
You see, I’m in pursuit of something that’s gone missing in our country: hope. I want to find hope and then share about it. Along a thousand miles, in front of ten thousand people, I want to share and spread hope, and if possible, even be hope.
Lest you disagree, I know that real hope is out there; it has to be. I refuse to believe that a single man, even if he’s got a yuge ego, could possibly destroy all hope about what’s good in America, in us.
With the long slog ahead, hope is what will pull us through. Thus, my focus on that one critical commodity.
As I wrote in this column last, I also believe in our collective resiliency and grit. Everyone has both of these things, even if you don’t think you do. In 2017 and beyond, we’re sure going to need tap that stuff too.
I’ll be here, doing my part. I promise.
Call me and I’ll prove it.
Ellen (Ellie) Krug is the author of Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change (2013). She speaks and trains on diversity and inclusion topics; visit www.humaninspirationworks.com where you can also sign up for her newsletter. She welcomes your comments at [email protected].