An interview hosted by Bailey Richardson and Najva Sol with Ceyenne Doroshow, Founder/CEO of G.L.I.T.S. which stands for Gays and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society. We talked with Ceyenne about how she is creating sustainable, safe housing, and cultivating the next generation of Black transgender leaders in the process.
“In creating a home, I'm creating sustainability. And I'm creating excellence within the people that I'll be housing.”- Ceyenne Doroshow
Ceyenne Doroshow is an author, activist, and the founder and executive director of G.L.I.T.S., an organization dedicated to creating sustainable housing and healthcare for Black transgender people.
Ceyenne has become “the parent that she desperately wanted as a child” for people around the world. At an early age, Ceyenne identified as transgender and faced a world lacking even the language to understand the experience of a trans person.
In June 2020, Ceyenne co-organized the historic Liberation March, a Black Trans Lives Matter silent march in Brooklyn, NY. At the march, Ceyenne announced to a crowd of more than 15,000 people that G.L.I.T.S. had raised more than $1 million to secure stable housing for Black trans-New Yorkers.
Through providing both education and housing, Ceyenne is empowering the next generation of Black transgender leaders. We talk with her about the structure and language she has given to the G.L.I.T.S. community at large to create more leaders.
Highlights, inspiration, & key learnings:
👋🏻Say hi to Ceyenne and learn more about G.L.I.T.S.
✨Say hi to Najva Sol, “Get Together” correspondent.
📄See the full transcript
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Welcome to get together. It's about ordinary people building extraordinary communities. I'm your host, Bailey Richardson. I'm a partner at people in company and a co author of get together how to build a community with your people.
And I'm not going to soul get together correspondent and community builder. Currently I'm helping connect and support founders by building products for Ernest.
In each episode of our podcast, we interview everyday people who have built extraordinary communities about just how they did it. How did they get the first people to show up? How did they grow to hundreds, maybe thousands, more members today. Nudge has brought a really special conversation to the podcast today. We're going to be talking to cayenne Doroshow. She's an author activist organizer and the founder and CEO of glits gays and lesbians, living in a transgender society at the Brooklyn liberation rally, which she co-organized in June. Tie-In announced that glitz has raised more than $1 million to secure stable housing for black trans new Yorkers. And she's now purchased that property and incredible feet. What's one thing you learned from our conversation today with cayenne nosh?
No, despite all the media coverage around the fundraising, the part of splits that I'd never heard talked about till today was the, how, how will let's build a home for their community members who lives there? How do they interact and what does success look like? And so those questions are the very ones, every community builder, just considers and cayenne and blitz have the ambitious vision for the future. They're actually planning to turn the glitz house into a home specifically for black translators and using community created agreements to say, what's okay. And what's not okay as they grow together. Yeah.
You'll get to learn all of the nitty-gritty of Cayenne's plans. And she is very Frank and shares very freely with us. So we get to learn all the details of how she's thinking about such an ambitious project. You ready? Should we jump in?
Yeah, let's do it
Cayenne. Welcome to the podcast. It is as a young, it's an honor to have you here and I've been excited all day to, to be able to interview you and learn from you. And the first question I'd love to ask you is one that we like to ask everyone who comes on the podcast, which is, we like to say that when you're organizing communities, you, you can't fake the funk. People have to have a really deep, personal motivation to serve others and especially to serve others for as long as you have. So I just wanted to ask you, you know, what do you think it is about you? Whether it was your upbringing, your personality, a life experience that motivated you to manifest the glitz community into a reality?
Oh my God. I think my work started because I believed in myself pro and a young
Pro and an old pro I kind of always tried to toe the line of really holding myself accountable. So if I can hold myself accountable, I can do the work, not really getting into everybody's dramas and stuff like that is the continuation of the work. When I created this, I wasn't stopped. I knew what I wanted to do when I knew what direction I wanted to work.
One quote that I read from you that really moved me was you said that you, this, this was describing actually you was, it says that she has become the parent that she desperately wanted as a child. Do you feel like that's an accurate description of the work you're doing still or
That's very accurate? I literally have children all around the world. I love each and every one of them, I cry when they cry. I breathe when Avery I help them whenever they needed. I literally push education down near the road. That's what my parents tried to do with me. And I just feel like you have to be that family that sometimes we don't have
As an older person. And as someone that has lived a couple of decades, I realized that there were laxing gaps in education because I was transgender because I identified at an early age, there really wasn't education on both halves or in my parents behalf. And my teacher's behalf, there was no connection to a trans child. There was no language to being a trans child. There was no word being trans, so we didn't even have a name there.
I didn't really see trans gays and lesbians. So you started blitz in 2015, but I don't know if that was like formally the beginning of that kind of organizing, but like what was happening in your life? What did you, what did those early days look like? Did physical lifts look very different? You know, now than it did at the beginning, I'd love to hear more about the beginning.
Debbie beginnings was a lot of tokenization. It was working for an agency that didn't really value my Brown scan, my black body, my mind. They just use me because of my notoriety. And they subsequently, literally made me want to never work with community or organization. Again, I was heartbroken by the process abandoned and raw, that kind of change. You know, the body of work when your work is to deal with humanity and deal with a specific community. I was robbed of that. So, you know, my, my focus was always on our community as a whole, not specifying one gender or this or that sex work is an LG or a T LGBTQ community because as a whole sex work, yes, that was my platform. That's how I grew up. That's how I learned a lot about organization, but community is who I am and people would like at, at the time, people literally wanted me to say their words.
They wanted to monitor and sensor my work and what I had to say. So this work began because I didn't want to do that and knew that wasn't the thing to do as a black person. I should never have a white person telling me what I can and can't say, so I took value and notice in my work. And I spoke up, I fought for myself and I started my own work when I was abandoned by this process, realizing that I didn't have to work with any of these people. My work starts with me and no one. So I took ownership in what my vision was going to be, what my platform was going to be, who I'm going to help. And the way I'm going to this, this actually has been a 20 year dream to do what is actually happened today, maybe over 20 years. But when you're, when you're thinking things inside a light and it actually happens is because there was focus all the time.
One story that you tell a lot is a story about a woman who reached out to who I believe lived in Uganda, Aliyah, Leah Adams.
She is amazing. She is thriving. She is going to nursing school. When she came here, she could barely speak English. Well, now she's driving. She's thriving. She is gorgeous. When she made the call to me from Uganda, it was in the middle of the night. And I thought it was a joke. And clearly and quickly, I learned that this was a serious case and she needed to get out of Uganda to save her life because a newspaper had put her down along with 50 other community members, more like a hit list because in Uganda church overrides politics and their ignorant beliefs would, would have led this girl to death. So immediately I finagle that I did anything I could to get Aliyah inside the country. And then the day happened when my next door neighbor Kim got married, Leah actually landed that day on a plane.
I was so emotionally drained, but also so happy. Like our first embrace, we were crying. Everybody was crying. I will never forget that day. Also, never forget that feeling of her shaking in JFK and realizing she is home. She has a home. She doesn't have to run anymore. She can, she can strive to be who and what she wants to be. And now she is a full grown trans woman living an extraordinary life. That's the work that's, the work is actually getting somebody to safety and just not giving a what anybody says doing that you called. And I answered that's it.
She, I think was described at least by Vogue as maybe the first for sort of member of, of glitz. Is that, is that true? Or how do you see that?
That's 100% true because I had just started the agency. I had done this work forever, but this was now my work. It was my body of work and nobody else had ownership or governing over my work. How did she find you? She called me through Facebook messenger. You would know the time frame is really off. She called me in the middle of the night and you know, one of the things I remember is her not saying ma'am. She said, mom, please help that, that hit me. I went back to sleep and I woke up in the morning and I call the Uganda and cancel it. And I probably made some mistakes in conversation because I didn't know the language of how to describe a trans woman in Uganda. They quickly gave me the backdoor conversation of what I could and couldn't say, so I remade their phone call. And then we started the process of getting her asylum. This broken spirit became a whole woman lady when she came to the U S and did it all independently on her own. I was just a vessel to get her here, her progress and her journey and how work was all her.
One of the things I know you've said is that housing is healthcare, and that really underpins your recent work which culminated over the summer, you raised more than $1.3 million. And recently used that money to close on a 12 unit building in New York, which to me is just such an incredible dream and such an incredible accomplishment. And I'm curious. Yeah. How did that vision show up for you? How did you come to dream of a building a 12 unit building? And when did you start to believe that this could be possible?
I never thought I I've always believed in equity that we have equity so many years and decades of me trying to find sustainability. You start with you first. When this happened, when I gave that speech and when my sister real Sophia I was trying to raise money for my own sustainability and Ooh, I don't want to cry. And my sister called me, said, what if I'm make you cry? And we just go for a million dollars and I never thought this what happened. And the community showed up in such, Whoa, it rocked me to my core. It, it literally, I, like I said, over 20 years, this was my vision to buy real estate, to have equity, to build housing, connected, to education, always a dream. I remember my attorney saying when this had happened, you're moving too fast as a black trans woman.
I'm you never moving too fast when it comes to sustaining a community. Now I moved at the right time. The market sucks right now because the Corona, I was supposed to jump into this ideal building resource, which is a 12 unit building right across the street from a state park, a state park. There's a tennis court in their front yard, basically what, yeah, this is beautiful. It's in a quiet, safe neighborhood in the neighborhood I live in. So I know they're going to be safe. Two blocks away from public transportation right now, contractors are putting up chandeliers and all the hallways. And that's the views because I want our community to live. I want them to get that essence of what excellence looks like, but I also need them. This is not ordinary housing. This is housing to create leader. This is housing to give people scholarships and education and a home with, they can pass this on.
When they leave, they'll be able to buy property housing and healthcare should be something that coincide because we have been boxed in as people of color as, as minorities, but definitely as community as the LGBTQ and all of that stuff, but definitely is trans women. And I would like to put transfers because still we're fighting. We're fighting to be trans. When now we have a whole world of they, them, us, I, it Zim Zig you name it, who cares. But once again, it puts black trans women at the back of a fight that we originated. Stonewall did not start with just them. Two women. There were a lot of people's lives that were lost. That fought. There are elders that are still living. That was a part of that movement movement that are not acknowledged. Society has created that platform where we lose them, forget the people that did the work before us.
Tell us a little bit about just housing and how powerful it can be and why you start there. Any, anything else to just sort of bring that to life?
When I think of housing, I think of my home. I think of what I've created. I want people to have more of that. I think as community, we deserve that we have been iced out in boxed, out of life and society forever. When I think of housing, I think of how my parents had this dream of owning property and building these homes. We had a black history room. We had lots of art, but in the beginning of my transition, they suck this parent. And I, I lived in fear constantly. So you know, me as an adult now, knowing how those gaps in my teenage years, how running away was an essence. And there was nothing, there was no program I can go to for myself because there was nothing for a trans child. We didn't even have a word. A name and housing to me is for all it's for all.
Why not? My community. First, we have been last on the totem pole, unless you're a white gay man of privilege or a white lesbian of privilege. If you're in this community, then you can afford that type of housing, housing with excellence housing that looks beautiful housing without roaches and rats, I think all deserve to live like that. I'm not one of those people that believes in projects or I don't the fact that I bought a 12 unit building. I've never liked collective living ever, ever. And, and when you are creating for community, is it really safe for a black trans woman to live in a project now, but it would be safe for gay white men in those projects. Then it would be me. And that's just all the way around the world. That's in the South, that's everywhere. So in creating a home, I'm creating sustainability that looks like excellent. And I'm creating excellence within the people that I'll be housing. I'm not just renting apartment. I'm renting apartments with the chance to get certifications, education, a college scholarship, because I want people that thrive. I want your, I want my work to be their work. And I want their work.
It's not just that you're giving people a house. You're giving them a home and a family and just like a whole ecosystem to tap into when they get into those rooms, right? Like a project is just,
It's 12, one bedroom apartments. They will not be in the room. I will not do that to anybody. The Sr Diane saw Rose says them in New York city is a melting pot of drugs, sex rock, and roll crystal meth, heroin. Why would they build a system that can ruin you? I am probably the first black trans woman to do what I'm doing. And I hope more people do this. I hope more black trans women do this because this needs to be done on every level. We need the pilot, this program from state to state to state. We need to find a way to help if we can help our own. We ain't got to worry about that.
What goes into making someone into a leader? I'm sure you've done this before with members of the community, but what does it take and what makes someone able to be a leader?
It won and takes the ability to know what a leader looks like. And you pretty much know if people are fellowship. You're pretty much enough.
I'm gullible as hell.
I try not to be, but I try to lead by example. And I look for those diamonds in the rough and I have gotten a cappella sour eggs. Let me tell you, I look for diamonds in the rough we're living in horrible odds this day with that Tangerine person in office. But we're able to look for the leaders that want to do the work. And those people are the people that come to me, the, our application process is going to be like no other. I'm going to want to ask, say to what leadership looks like. I'm going to need you to write 500 to a thousand words. What's your work. And your path is going to be, while you're living in housing, I'm going to need you to sign that contract saying, you will go to school. You will abide by a community agreement developed by a community.
And not me, this community contract is going to be off the chain because they just think every way we can possibly fail ourselves, we will. So having the community actually designed with this contract, they look like it's going to be Epic. It takes it out of my hand. If they sign it, I am not a three strikes. You're out kind of burden. If you make the first mistake, you'll probably be on your way out. I'm looking for excellence in human beings. I'm looking for excellence in community, and that's a lot to ask, but I'm required those standards, my own self. So why wouldn't I want it for everybody else? You've got to embody what it is to help somebody and get somebody to the place of giving and learning and breathing and love. And if we have that kind of stuff going on, we can push people to a better place.
I was on a panel yesterday with a lot of amazing people. Germana him. Jamani Henry. I think it was Wednesday Jamani Williams did this wonderful panel. And there was some wonderful people on the panel, including my daughter, twinkle Paul, who is a fabulous little chick in college. So trans woman and fabulous and smart. And there was another person whose name I shall not mentioned at that trans liberation March. She tried to threaten me if I didn't work with her, that's not a leader. She has her own organization. Think of the behavior. I'm not leading that way. I'm trying to take people out of that. Mindscape will be enough thug and having these ghetto instincts and taking things to where it needs to look with the class and dignity. I've been able to raise myself with that's what I'm going to leave with.
I love that. I'm curious too, you talked a little bit about some of the boundaries that you're going to have in the house. Some firm boundaries, and you know, with any kind of community, there are people like that are those diamond in the roughs who push the community forward and give so much to it. And then sometimes there are people that go through times where maybe they disrupt the community or they take more from it than they give. How do you approach like those dynamics, those harder dynamics with people, or how do you see that happening in the house?
I'm looking for excellence so we can create excellence together. That's why my staff are doing like community focus groups to build that template and tool guide because each and every tenant in there we'll have a booklet of what not to do. And they will have to sign on set and anytime they mess up, they can reference back to that book and we can reference back with them. But when I say we're contracting, yes, I'm, I'm a very stern person. And I believe in great leadership. So we're going to sit down with you when you sign your contract and read it step by step. And for every rule or convention that's in there, you're going to have to sign your initials. So you'll know exactly what you're signing on for
Sit down with people and like, go through,
Let me stop right there. Let me stop you. This is what I pay staff for staff. We have to do that because I know our community. This is not a home for just sex workers. This is not a home for sex workers. This is a home for a community that want to be the leader. So I have to be real clear that a lot of reporters are talking that this is just a place for sex workers. That would be called a brothel stuff. You know, there's a language you have to tell when you're having these conversations. And, you know, report is just like, no bids. Don't get me arrested. We have to keep our community safe and for girl, or boy is in that building, doing sex work and they get arrested. The whole building gets flagged in a wonderful neighborhood. So you can best believe as community. We're going to be under the radar.
One question one of our, our frequent listeners, Lisa asks that we submit to you that I loved is Lisa says that she knows, notice that you're constantly celebrating all young folks in your life, on social media. What does it mean to you to be celebrating so many young people?
Cause I, I didn't have that and didn't have a lot of that. When, when I was coming up and my, my children, all of them, no matter what nationality they are, I celebrate them. Three weeks ago I lost my neighbor and right before he died, he died in his sleep. I'm 34 years old. He literally the Saturday before he died, he said, what do I have to do to be one of your kids? And I say, Andrew, you already are. And then that Wednesday he died. And you know that there's such power when you lead. And you're a parent and here it is, this cis-gender man asked me to be his mom and his mom and dad are so much a part of my life now. And mind you, I just moved in here three months ago. Wow. And his dad, we went to the beach last night to let like those water bottles of water candles out in his honor.
And his dad held my hand and he said, I love you. And I don't know how to thank you. Oh my gosh, these kids give me the reason to fight, to see my children Excel, to see my niece in UCLA Excel, she's going for her master's and doctorate. I'm supposed to celebrate that greatness. She's doing a combined come by and a black trans woman twinkles Paul's has gone to school to become a social worker in lawyer. This is though work. My son, Shane used to be copying Diana. And, and because he was community was almost killed in Guyana vis he's here, he's thriving. He is working. He is beautiful. These are lives. I'm celebrating because these kids are invested in me and I'm deeply invested in them. And my staff, my staff are young. A couple of them are young young men and they're learning tolerance and they're going to school and they've given me everything.
I need to do this work. And I'm teaching them how to work with our community so they can tell their friends and teach their friends tolerance in order to break this cycle of ignorance that parents have taught. We must teach these young people how to do this and do it in a way that doesn't harm us. So that, that's what it's about. And you know, in some of this, I take a beating. I have no private life. I don't have a love life, but I have lots of love around me. Do I feel lonely? A lot of the times. Yes, but I don't give a I do. I really want somebody in my life right now. No, cause, I may not see it.
Right. You got to think if I had a relationship right now, who would want more retention my community or, or my partner. So I, I go with community and this is why I keep these people around because they keep me vibrant and they keep me present and they keep me at active, but they keep me humble. And that humbleness is what this work should be built on. When people get to a certain level, they get so big headed and so stupid that they're untouchable. You get to a certain level where you believe you are. God, I have nothing like God, I have a hole in the center in my back slot and we can just keep going and going and going. But I have God in my life. And my God has taught me to do the things I'm doing. And that's something not even our commissioner. Our governor, our mayor in New York city is doing with all the privilege and the Scott world who stepped up to do exactly what I'm doing. I'm not looking for rewards. I deserve many. I deserve a Nobel prize for what I'm about to fart out my head, which is housing.
But I believe in our community. And that's better than prizes. I believe in these young people getting scholarships and getting degrees. Cause that that's my present. You get that. You graduated. I just got a diamond ring because that's the diamond. That's the Pearl. That's the source. That's the food that feeds my soul.
I really do sound like a proud parent. Sometimes
I could be tough, but I don't try to stay in the top. I try to remember that we have all been through a process of some kind of pain. I've seen it all. I've slept on a train. I slept in a park, but I've had miss major Griffin Gracie to catch me. Sharon Grayson, Jack Duracell, flawless Sabrina. I've had guidance, Coco Chanel Rodriguez. I've had the guidance of a lifetime and all of them have a different aspect in their leadership, in their presence in my life. And I've literally embodied some of all of them, especially miss major, the salty in me. That's this nature. That is a mama. Mama gave me that salty side. Flawless Sabrina gave me that love every child and open your door, create a door, build a door, a buildup, build a window that people can walk through, you know, break the glass feeling. She taught me a lot. She gave me a lot. Cocoa gave me all my street sense and taught me everything about crack Life lessons. And, and you know, I needed that. I needed to go through every bump and bruise that I went through. And especially my parents cause denial in their lives, created a mogul today. What I am doing is I conic and I'm still a help. So let's not, let's not remove that.
I want to ask about, you just talked about some of the women in your life who were leaders to you and left you with something. What is like a message or a trait that people you want to share with people who are listening about, you know, what, what the world needs more of or the work that needs to be done? You know, what do you want people to show up with in the world?
I want them to show up. I want them to wake up. People are saying that people are well now they're not stupid. They're still asleep. They need to wake up. They need to wake up and be present, do something different, inspire yourself to inspire others. That is my mom. When you can lend an ear to someone in need, you have just lymph in your life. When you can make someone smile or laugh, you have just the length in their life. You have stretched out their life span. And I try to do that. And I think if we're all as parents, as, as someone who loves people and as someone who often gets disappointed by people, I'm still creating and still creating, I'm never ending. I'm always believing that there is a better part of humanity and it's in us. It's that little.is that little dim light that you can turn into a bright light. It's all in us. We just have to believe that we have to let go and let God, because there's something in letting go that gives you the strength to do everything.
If we had a magic wand and we could kind of conjure anything for your community or just for the glitz community, the work you're doing what would you ask for, what do you need more of
More equity, about $10 billion to buy all bud nice spots in New York city for my community and literally $5 billion for scholarships. If we're going to have, if we're going to have our just rewards for everything society's taken from us, we all need to have scholarships to go to college, to go to school and it needs to be free. The government should have did this. 32 black trans women have been killed since January last year, 27. How, how much long and too wow. A lifetime. How many of our community has been murdered have been homeless, have not had we deserve it. If they're going to build all these, these mutual AIDS and stuff like that, we need our government to invest in us. Billions of dollars will educate and trans people and, and put that at the forefront of education. So they can be at the forefront of sustainability, which is the forefront of creating housing. Because if you can have sustainability and housing, you're able to do it all. You're able to actually grow and watch yourself growing. And in net growing is creativity and you're figuring out how to capture your star and move forward.
Cayenne, thank you so much for sharing with us and also thank you for your leadership in your own community, but it's also, you know, reached out to NAS and I, and so many others. So thank you for all of the work that you've done and for spending an hour with us today, we really appreciate it.
Thank you very much. I'm still a messy old mother, but I'm just in, and that's all I am. And I'm somebody that believes in all of us.
You want to connect with cayenne and Glip, which I'm sure you do. Visit glitz Inc Inc org or follow cayenne on Instagram at Dora show D O R O show. And thank you to the team. Thank you for sauna, cabana for engineering and editing Greg David for his design work and Katie O'Connell from marketing. This episode, you can find out more about the work Kevin Kai and I do. As people in company, helping organizations get clear on who their most important communities are and how to build with those people. By heading to our website, people and.company. Also, if you want to start your own community or supercharge one, you're already a part of our handbook is here for you. Visit get together book.com to grab a coffee. It's full of stories and learnings from conversations with community leaders like this one with cayenne. And last thing, if you enjoyed the podcast, please review us or click subscribe. It helps get these stories out to more people. Thank you, everybody. Talk to you next time. Thank you.