Empowered by her community of Black trans women, Elle Moxley works to create space for all people to live authentically, including herself. She’s one of two trans women leaders we spoke to who are transforming the nonprofit and corporate industries.
“I feel celebrated when I get to go into every room, authentically myself without any compromise about who I am and what I want,” Moxley tells Tagg Magazine.
Moxley is a co-founding member of the Black Lives Matter organization and founder and CEO of the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, an organization created to protect the lives of Black trans women through racial, gender, reproductive, and gun reform advocacy.
“My work is to utilize my influence to create something different than what exists when most people want things to stay the same,” says Moxley.
For Moxley, she understands that as a Black trans woman, she doesn’t fit the stereotypical CEO image: “I don’t fit the trope that any of us have when we think about what a leader looks like or who a leader is,” she says.
While the number of LGBTQ+ leaders is low, trans women have found a way to transcend norms. For example, in 2013, Martine Rothblatt was the highest-paid woman CEO in the United States, a monumental moment for trans women in the corporate business industry.
While there is still more work to do to create a diverse business field, Moxley notes how revolutionary her position and work are.
“Black trans women, CEOs, and leaders that exist now didn’t exist ten years ago or not even five years ago,” Moxley tells Tagg. “There’s been so much community and opportunity building within the past few years.”
Michaela Mendelsohn, founder of TransCanWork and businesswoman with more than 40 years of leadership experience under her belt, has witnessed both trans celebration and discrimination in the corporate industry.
“The support of corporate America has been, in my experience, the single most important part of LGBTQ+ growth,” Mendelsohn tells Tagg. “When I see corporations start to push back against political entities that are negative, it makes a positive difference.”
However, she said corporate leaders can still be hesitant to be trans-inclusive. Mendelsohn recalled when she asked Steve Sather, then CEO of El Pollo Loco, to install inclusive LGBTQ+ training in the workplace.
“He said, ‘No, don’t tell me how to run my company,’ and he basically ran me out of the office,” Mendelsohn recalls.
Mendelsohn and Moxley feel the most accepted and supported when companies put their money where their mouths are. “I feel celebrated when we are able to receive support financially and when we have the same opportunities for grants as other nonprofit organizations,” says Moxley.
Mendelsohn agrees: “There’s a lot of power in the almighty dollar.”
Support doesn’t only come in the form of money; family and friends play an integral part in their professional and personal achievements.
Mendelsohn hasn’t been fighting the corporate business world alone. She has built a loving family with her partner, giving her a brighter purpose and sense of self. “Raising my children has been the best part of my life,” Mendelsohn says.
Moxley’s found family and friends are the backbone of her success. She said that for any aspiring trans woman activist and leader, they must build a community of support.
“Build a network of friends who you know have your best interests at heart. You’re going to need people to hold you and love you,” Moxley advises . “When people tell you that you’re awful and that you’re doing a horrible job or that your identity is a disservice to humanity, you’re going to need that.”