Making a new normal: 5 things about Michaela Mendelsohn
In celebration of International Transgender Day of Visibility, we came up with with a list of five things about trans activist Michaela Mendelsohn you may not know about.
The Human Rights Campaign noted that March 31 is recognized as the International Transgender Day of Visibility, about “celebrating the courage it takes to live openly and authentically, while also recognizing the leadership of transgender and gender nonconforming trailblazers who have led the charge in the fight for equality.”
In this case, the 63-year old Mendelsohn is the perfect example of that day.
1. Michaela Mendelsohn is the first transgender board member of The Trevor Project
Okay, you’ve probably heard mentions about this item. However, we wanted to include it here because it means a lot.
As a board member, Mendelsohn will not only lend her skills to The Trevor Project, she’ll also serve as an ambassador for the organization.
This is a big boost for the national organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people.
Speaking on the matter, she said, “It’s important that we all celebrate our uniqueness. My struggles have made me stronger and happier– that’s the message.”
2. Michaela Mendelsohn protective about her people
As the CEO of the Pollo West Corp, one of the largest franchisees for El Pollo Loco restaurant in the Western Region of the United States, Mendelsohn manages a lot of people– and some of them are trans.
So it’s no surprise that she can be quite protective of transgender people. She also founded the California Transgender Workplace Program, which promote trans-friendly job conditions. She passionately advocates for working transwomen through her efforts with various California trade associations.
Speaking of one her trans employees who had previously encountered discrimination and is now the general manager of one of their restaurants, Mendelsohn said. “We… need high profile lawsuits to let employers know there will be severe punishment for gender discrimination in the workplace.”
“In the end though, it is possible that the transgender success stories told by employers, will bring about the greatest change,” she said.
3. Michaela Mendelsohn looked up to her sister, who guided her during her transition
Mendelsohn’s stepsister, Michele Kort, died after a bout with cancer in 2015. A senior editor of Ms. magazine for 14 years, Michele had was a source of strength for Mendelsohn during her transition.
“I looked up to Michele. Her support meant a lot to me, as it did to so many others. During my transition, I was struggling with family rejection and was out on my own for the first time in over 30 years,” Mendelsohn said.
She added: “I never felt judged. Only seen and validated. She called me “little sis.”
4. Michaela Mendelsohn wants transgenders as the new normal
As part of The Trevor Project, Mendelsohn will be giving strategic direction and ensures the organization has the resources to fulfil its mission.
However, she’ll also focus on outreach to youth, speaking on issues specific to the transgender community, and informing the community about the work of The Trevor Project.
“My vision for our community is normalizing lives, which means we’re totally socially acceptable, and not just accepted but celebrated, and that we’re on a level playing field as far as having jobs and raising families,”
5. Michaela Mendelsohn has an autobiographical play
Yes, she has, called Making Michaela and was produced by LA’s Celebration Theater as a staged reading. It was supposed to be put into full production this year but she put it on hold because she was so busy.
“Having my life on stage is not an issue for me. I have told my story about 200 times in my speaking engagements. After a lifetime of keeping secrets it is cathartic to not have any,” she said.
If you want to read more about Michaela Mendelsohn, check out this month’s issue of LesbianNews where she not only graces our front page, she also has an extensive interview.