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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
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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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Scientists tested 3 popular bottled water brands for nanoplastics using new tech, and yikes

The results were alarming—an average of 240,000 nanoplastics per 1 liter bottle—but what does it mean for our health?

Suzy Hazelwood/Canva

Columbia University researchers tested bottled water for nanoplastics and found hundreds of thousands of them.

Evian, Fiji, Voss, SmartWater, Aquafina, Dasani—it's impressive how many brands we have for something humans have been consuming for millennia. Despite years of studies showing that bottled water is no safer to drink than tap water, Americans are more consuming more bottled water than ever, to the tune of billions of dollars in bottled water sales.

People cite convenience and taste in addition to perceived safety for reasons they prefer bottle to tap, but the fear factor surrounding tap water is still a driving force. It doesn't help when emergencies like floods cause tap water contamination or when investigations reveal issues with lead pipes in some communities, but municipal water supplies are tested regularly, and in the vast majority of the U.S., you can safely grab a glass of water from a tap.

And now, a new study on nanoplastics found in three popular bottled water brands is throwing more data into the bottled vs. tap water choice.

Researchers from Columbia University used a new laser-guided technology to detect nanoplastics that had previously evaded detection due to their miniscule size. The new technology can detect, count and analyze and chemical structure of nanoparticles, and they found seven different major types of plastic: polyamide, polypropylene, polyethylene, polymethyl methacrylate, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene, and polyethylene terephthalate.

In contrast to a 2018 study that found around 300 plastic particles in an average liter of bottled water, the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in January of 2024 found 240,000 nanoplastic particles per liter bottle on average between the three brands studied. (The name of the brands were not indicated in the study.)

As opposed to microplastics, nanoplastics are too small to be seen by microscope. Their size is exactly why experts are concerned about them, as they are small enough to invade human cells and potentially disrupt cellular processes.

“Micro and nanoplastics have been found in the human placenta at this point. They’ve been found in human lung tissues. They’ve been found in human feces; they’ve been found in human blood,” study coauthor Phoebe Stapleton, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Rutgers University’s Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy told CNN Health,

We know that nanoplastics are making their way into our bodies. We just don't have enough research yet on what that means for our health, and we still have more questions than answers. How many nanoplastics does it take to do damage and/or cause disease? What kinds of damage or disease might they cause? Is whatever effect they might have cumulative? We simply don't have answers to these questions yet.

That's not to say there's no cause for concern. We do know that certain levels of microplastic exposure have been shown to adversely affect the viability of cells. Nanoplastics are even smaller—does that mean they are more likely to cause cellular damage? Science is still working that out.

According to Dr. Sara Benedé of the Spanish National Research Council’s Institute of Food Science Research, it's not just the plastics themselves that might cause damage, but what they may bring along with them. “[Microparticles and nanoparticles] have the ability to bind all kinds of compounds when they come into contact with fluids, thus acting as carriers of all kinds of substances including environmental pollutants, toxins, antibiotics, or microorganisms,” Dr. Benedé told Medical News Today.

Where is this plastic in water coming from? This study focused on bottled water, which is almost always packaged in plastic. The filters used to filter the water before bottling are also frequently made from plastic.

Is it possible that some of these nanoplastics were already present in the water from their original sources? Again, research is always evolving on this front, but microplastics have been detected in lakes, streams and other freshwater sources, so it's not a big stretch to imagine that nanoplastics may be making their way into freshwater ecosystems as well. However, microplastics are found at much higher levels in bottled water than tap water, so it's also not a stretch to assume that most of the nanoplastics are likely coming from the bottling process and packaging rather than from freshwater sources.

The reality is, though, we simply don't know yet.

“Based on other studies we expected most of the microplastics in bottled water would come from leakage of the plastic bottle itself, which is typically made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic,” lead author Naixin Qian, a doctoral student in chemistry at Columbia University, told CNN Health. “However, we found there’s actually many diverse types of plastics in a bottle of water, and that different plastic types have different size distributions. The PET particles were larger, while others were down to 200 nanometers, which is much, much smaller.”

We need to drink water, and we need to drink safe water. At this point, we have plenty of environmental reasons for avoiding bottled water unless absolutely necessary and opting for tap water instead. Even if there's still more research to be done, the presence of hundreds of thousands of nanoplastics in bottled water might just be another reason to make the switch.

Image from YouTube video.

What is your biggest regret?

"Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh."

—Henry David Thoreau

No one escapes this world without a regret or two.

Time and time again, when we hear the final regrets of the dying, they're not about wishing they'd made money or worked more hours.

They're almost always about wishing they had the self-confidence to pursue their dreams or the time to stay in touch with loved ones.

community, culture, honesty, collaboration, art

Here are some thoughts on the subject.

Image from YouTube video.

Recently, A Plus in partnership with Strayer University's Ideal Year Initiative, put up a chalkboard on a New York City street and asked passersby to write down their biggest regrets. The people who wrote on the blackboard were from different walks of life, but their regrets were alarmingly similar.

Watch the full video below:

This article first appeared on 9.16.17

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via Analysees Consulting / Twitter

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Sure beats wasting time playing video games.


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