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Inclusivity

How one road trip began a thriving Facebook group helping hundreds of trans people find jobs

trans job connect facebook
Photo by paje victoria on Unsplash
brown vehicle on road under white sky
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Technology brings us together in the most innovative and powerful ways. We can see the faces of loved ones from miles away. Online classes make learning more accessible than ever. Entire communities sharing common interests and passions are built virtually. Though it can distract us, and disconnect us, technology also has the potential to remind us that we are not alone.

That was the case for transgender activists Jim and Kat Blake.

using facebook to create groupsJust two people in love and trying to live their best lifeAll images by Charles Ommanney, used with permission

Before they created the Trans Job Connect Facebook group, to say life was lonely would be an understatement. Both grew up in Mississippi, and after coming out were met with anything but a welcome embrace. Instead, their families ostracized them, friends stopped returning their calls, and fellow employees harassed them. Kat was even assaulted at work – a much larger co-worker knocked her on the back with a shovel and threatened to murder her if he ever saw her again. It was clear that this was no longer their home.

Finding belonging wouldn’t be easy. Their adventure began when they packed up their belongings (along with their two kiddos) and hit the road in a camper van. Little did they know that it would evolve into a 10,000 mile, three year journey. Along the way, they soon realized that Mississippi – or the South for that matter – wasn’t the only place where transgender people were refused resources. Even institutions designed to offer humanitarian support like churches, charity organizations, and homeless prevention programs denied the Blake family help in their time of need.

Securing a new job proved to be a near insurmountable obstacle. Jim would commonly receive the generic response of, “We’ve decided not to move forward” or “ We don’t feel you’re the best fit” following an interview. That is, if he heard anything at all. Many times, it would just be crickets. But the message was still clear: he wasn’t wanted.

Knowing they weren’t the only ones experiencing these kinds of hardships, Jim and Kat were determined to not just create a supportive, affirming community for themselves, but for as many transgender folks as possible.

Kat began working with Trans Lifeline, a peer support group call center, talking to multiple people a day, while Jim researched job discrimination, finding some pretty overwhelming statistics. Helping others relieved some of the isolation, but not all. And it didn’t spread any education for finding work.

Then Jim had an idea that would set them on a brand new path. “What if we made a Facebook Group?”

Facebook’s platform allows for super specific, ultra niche interest groups. You’ve seen them: “Millennial Women Who Love Ducks,” or “Marathon Runners Who Only Listen to EDM.” Facebook Groups make it easy to form friendships based on common interests from anywhere in the world. It can also make it easy for specific (and often underepresented) demographics like transgender, queer, and non-binary people to access a support group made just for them.

And thus Trans Job Connect was virtually born.

trans job connect

The first thing people receive at TJCnis a warm welcome

Trans Job Connect, as the name implies, helps transgender people gain access to all the tools they might need to find secure employment. And for many, the major challenge is the interview. Namely, in interview clothes. As Jim notes, 34% of transgender people have a yearly income of less than $10K, and aren’t able to afford a wardrobe that expresses their new gender.

Couple this with gender dysphoria (the sense of unease a person may feels when there’s a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender), and it’s a recipe for low confidence. As anyone who has bombed an interview due to not feeling your best knows, being comfortable in our own skin is crucial. Trans Job Connect partners with an organization to provide binders and transition specific clothing, so that candidates can present themselves authentically and self-assured.

inclusivity for trans

One (of many) sweet messages sent to TJC members

In addition, the group holds resume workshops, matches candidates to trans-inclusive businesses, and hosts in-person and virtual job fairs. Though Jim noted that the first bit of the virtual fair was a tad wonky (as in, the awkwardness of first time dealings with technical issues), the group still succeeded. 100 people were interviewed. 10 moved onto a second round. 13 were hired on the spot.

Using Facebook Group Insights, an analytic tool that tracks member engagement and post performance, Trans Job Connect has been able to curate content that its members are interested in the most, making it an invaluable resource. Delivering potentially life-changing knowledge to those who often receive very little in “the real world”, it’s no wonder that TJC now boasts a total of over 1600 members. And since it’s humble beginnings in 2017, the group has assisted 348 trans/queer individuals with their job search.

Jim and Kat have nothing but pride for their virtual community, and they have no plans to stop growing it. They currently use the group to recruit volunteers, set appointments, converse with clients, and announce events. For them, Facebook remains a “great hub for organization, recruitment, fellowship, and support.”

jobs for trans people

This is what inclusivity looks like


When the Blakes set out on their road trip back in 2015, it might have been for survival. But now, they are fearless – and on a mission to help others reclaim a sense of belonging. They might have not expected Facebook to play such a large part in that endeavor, but it’s helped make their vision a reality. When we use technology to connect us to our humanity, great things happen.

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Making new friends as an adult is challenging. While people crave meaningful IRL connections, it can be hard to know where to find them. But thanks to one Facebook Group, meeting your new best friends is easier than ever.

Founded in 2018, NYC Brunch Squad brings together hundreds of people who come as strangers and leave as friends through its in-person events.

“Witnessing the transformative impact our community has on the lives of our members is truly remarkable. We provide the essential support and connections needed to thrive amid the city's chaos,” shares Liza Rubin, the group’s founder.

Despite its name, the group doesn’t just do brunch. They also have book clubs, seasonal parties, and picnics, among other activities.

NYC Brunch Squad curates up to 10 monthly events tailored to the specific interests of its members. Liza handles all the details, taking into account different budgets and event sizes – all people have to do is show up.

“We have members who met at our events and became friends and went on to embark on international journeys to celebrate birthdays together. We have had members get married with bridesmaids by their sides who were women they first connected with at our events. We’ve had members decide to live together and become roommates,” Liza says.

Members also bond over their passion for giving back to their community. The group has hosted many impact-driven events, including a “Picnic with Purpose” to create self-care packages for homeless shelters and recently participated in the #SquadSpreadsJoy challenge. Each day, the 100 members participating receive random acts of kindness to complete. They can also share their stories on the group page to earn extra points. The member with the most points at the end wins a free seat at the group's Friendsgiving event.

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It's not just an exhibit; it's an immersive journey through the heart of winter's magic. Whether you're a fan of the whimsical, the nostalgic, or just looking for a unique holiday experience, the ICE event at Gaylord Hotels promises a dazzling fusion of art and festivity, genuinely making it a standout holiday destination.

Artisanal Mastery Behind the Scenes

The magic of the Gaylord Hotels' ICE event doesn’t just appear out of thin air. It’s the handiwork of over 40 master ice artisans hailing from Harbin, China – a city celebrated for hosting the world's largest ice and snow sculpture festival. These artists travel thousands of miles to bring the stories to life, dedicating over six weeks to sculpting over two million pounds of ice.

Each stroke, carve, and chisel is a testament to their unparalleled skill. They transform colossal 300-pound ice blocks into delicate scenes, capturing the essence of holiday classics with astonishing precision. This intricate art form is more than just sculpting; it’s a way of storytelling that these artisans have perfected, turning ice into a canvas for holiday wonder.

The Magic of Ice Sculpting at Gaylord Opryland

At Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, the beloved holiday tale "The Polar Express™" springs to life in a frozen panorama. Imagine wandering through a world where the storybook train, the North Pole, and the enchanting characters are all intricately carved from ice. This isn't just viewing art; it's like stepping into the book.

The artisans' mastery shines in every detailed sculpture, capturing the warmth and wonder of the story in a paradoxically cool setting. Each scene, from the steam train's billowing smoke to the twinkling lights of the North Pole, is crafted to draw you deeper into the magical journey, making the Gaylord Opryland's ICE event a spellbinding experience that goes beyond mere spectacle.

A Christmas Story Comes to Life at Gaylord Rockies

Step into Gaylord Rockies, and you're stepping into a scene straight out of "A Christmas Story™." This Colorado location turns the timeless holiday film into an icy reality. Imagine gliding down ice slides beside Ralphie's house or peeking into the frosty windows of Higbee's department store, all sculpted from ice. It's an interactive playground where the story's most cherished moments are frozen in time, offering a unique twist on the traditional Christmas narrative.

The ice tunnels, resembling the streets of a snowy Indiana town, add to the immersive experience. Each slide, tunnel, and sculpture invites you not just to see but to actively participate in a winter adventure, capturing the essence of the beloved classic in a way you've never experienced before.

Whimsical Winter Wonderland at Gaylord National

At Gaylord National in Maryland, the timeless charm of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer™" is brought to life in a whimsical winter wonderland. As you wander this icy marvel, you'll meet Rudolph, Clarice, and the entire gang, all beautifully carved from ice. It's a scene that ignites childhood memories and creates new ones for families.

Picture the joy of snapping photos next to a life-size ice sculpture of Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster or standing beside the glowing red nose of Rudolph himself. This Maryland extravaganza is more than just a visual feast; it's an interactive experience where every corner offers a new opportunity for families to bond and capture memories that will last long after the ice melts.

Dr. Seuss’s Classic at Gaylord Texan

At the heart of Texas, the Gaylord Texan transforms into a Dr. Seuss wonderland with "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" Each sculpture in this icy expanse brings the whimsy of Whoville and its quirky inhabitants to life. Visitors are invited to wander through scenes straight from the beloved book, encountering the Grinch, his loyal dog Max, and the cheerful Who-folk, all expertly captured in ice.

It's a place where Seuss's playful rhymes meet the magic of the holiday season, offering a delightfully unique spin on festive celebrations. From the Grinch's cave to the bustling streets of Whoville, these sculptures are not just impressive in scale but in the joy they bring, creating an unforgettable holiday adventure deep in the heart of Texas.

Holiday Nostalgia with “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at Gaylord Palms

In the sunny setting of Florida, Gaylord Palms takes a nostalgic turn with "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Here, ice transforms into a sentimental journey back to the simpler joys of the holidays, as seen through the eyes of Charlie Brown and his friends. As you stroll through the exhibit, the beloved Peanuts characters, from Snoopy's doghouse to the iconic sparse Christmas tree, are all vividly recreated in ice.

This Florida spectacle taps into the heartfelt essence of the season, reminding us of the warmth and joy that come with holiday traditions. It's a place where each frozen scene, from Charlie Brown's quiet contemplation to the jubilant group gathering, resonates with the timeless message of holiday spirit and togetherness.

Beyond the Ice - Additional Attractions

But the wonder at Gaylord Hotels extends beyond the ice. Each resort turns into a holiday hub, brimming with activities for all ages. Think dazzling light shows, snow tubing adventures, and even encounters with Santa himself! Culinary delights await at various dining venues, offering everything from festive treats to gourmet meals. And let's not forget the captivating live shows, ranging from acrobatic performances to heartwarming musicals.

Each Gaylord Hotel becomes a comprehensive holiday destination, offering an array of experiences to make your festive season truly unforgettable.

Experience The Magic

Don't just dream of a white Christmas; click here to learn more about the Gaylord Hotels' ICE event – your new holiday tradition awaits!

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