What skills or talents make for a standout speaker? The kind of speaker where you say, “Wow! How did we ever get her?”
Is it humor? Personality? The ability to tell a good story?
Or sheer magnetism?
While all the above are incredibly important (and attributes that attach to me in one degree or another), I believe the key ingredient to an outstanding presentation is authenticity.
If the audience finds the speaker genuine and authentic, they will more readily connect with the speaker’s messaging.
“Authentic.” “Genuine.” “Open book.” “Compelling.” “Brave.”
I’ve heard all of those phrases after various presentations.
Because my voice (distinctly male) contrasts with my appearance (distinctly female), I can talk about how we humans automatically label and categorize people who are “different,” which impacts the strength of one’s human spirt (for those on the outside) and a willingness for inclusivity and welcoming (for those on the inside). All of my talks offer tangible, readily usable tools and takeaways that increase inclusivity in the workplace and in life generally.
For credentials, I hold degrees from Coe College (Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi) and Boston College Law School. I practiced law in Boston for five years where I was mentored by a brilliant trial attorney and an astute corporate lawyer. In 1988, I relocated to my hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where I eventually founded and oversaw a law firm specializing in high exposure (death and life-changing injuries) trial work. I have more than 100 trials to my credit, many of which were jury-verdict cases. I won far more cases than I lost.
In 2009, I transitioned from male to female. Within three months of transitioning, I became the first Iowa attorney, and one of the few nationally, to try a jury case in the other gender. I believe I’m also the first transgender attorney to argue before the Iowa Supreme Court.
I split my time between diversity speaking/trainings and serving as the executive director of an American Bar Association award-winning nonprofit that helps connect low-income people with legal resources. From 2011 to 2014, I co-chaired the Hennepin County Bar Association Diversity Committee, which launched a number of initiatives to promote racial and other diversity and inclusion in Minnesota.
I’m a monthly freelance writer for Lavender Magazine, through which my column reaches more than 40,000 readers a month. That column, Skirting the Issues, has received Gold and Bronze Medal Awards for Excellence from the Minnesota Magazine and Publishing Association.
My memoir, Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change (Stepladder Press), was published in February 2013. The memoir has been featured in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and on Iowa Public Radio and has been reviewed on Amazon (5 Star rating) and Goodreads by more than 70 readers. My experience as a transgender trial attorney was a subject in the blog, Lawyerist and my story has been featured on the Huffington Post (podcast) and in variou publications. I’ve given many interviews, including to Minnesota Public Radio, MyTalk 107.1, KSTP television, and other media outlets.
I have presented about my life story and the lessons learned many times and my work (utilizing a format that I’ve created called “Gray Area Thinking”) has expanded to general training on diversity and inclusion. I also assist employers with employee on-the-job gender transitions and other related matters. My past or upcoming presentations, trainings and/or clients include Target Corporation (headquarters), General Mills Corporation (headquarters), Wells Fargo Bank, Fairview Health Systems, Thompson Reuters (headquarters), a major federal national banking institution which asks that it not be identified, the state of Iowa judicial system (training judges, magistrates, clerks of court and judicial court officers), the cities of Rochester and Albert Lea, Minnesota, Iowa State University, the University of Denver Law School, the University of Minnesota Law School, and many other educational and nonprofit locations. I have also trained law enforcement students and professionals on how to interact with transgender persons.
A short biography with my picture can be found here.