Setting the Stage - In our very first episode we speak with Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, Deputy Director of Public Engagement at the United States Department of Transportation, about her leadership and allyship in service of others. With Raffi, we begin to explore many of the themes we're going to dive into with Forged in Fire. Raffi's story includes coming out and fighting for civil rights at a young age, understanding a complex set of intersectional identities, self-care in advocacy, shattering stereotypes, her life of service, and so much more!
The Kaleidoscope of Identity - Explore the power of story as a leadership tool with Ross Murray, Vice President at the GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Media Institute. Ross walks us through building powerful narratives for connection. In essence, Ross helps us understand how to use story as a change management tool. We also dive into moments where he faced discrimination, embraced his identity, and turned it all into a panoply of opportunities to help LGBTQ+ people locally, nationally, and internationally.
Found in Translation - Learn how Matthew Rose moved from investigating conspiracy theories about health disparities to leading HIV and vaccine policy education and advocacy efforts around the world. Matt developed powerful communication skills that allow him to translate between different communities of stakeholders, including those representing the most vulnerable and in-need communities. We explore code-switching, inclusive language, cultural competency and much more in this episode.
Jill of All Trades - Naval Officer, Nurse, Lawyer, Educator, Leader. Paula Neira's career spans an incredible set of experiences and professions. She wanted nothing more than to command a ship at sea, but her Naval career was cut short by the need to live authentically well before transgender people could do both. Find out how she developed that still-burning desire to serve into a career in medicine, law, and education that knocked down barriers for others to reach their full potential.
From Languishing to Flourishing - In our first opportunity to speak with a fellow scholar and practitioner of LGBTQ+ development, we welcome Dominic Longo. Dominic is the founder of Flourishing Gays where he helps people move beyond just getting by in the world top open up a world of flourishing. We get to know some of Dominic's personal story and explore some of the tropes of LGBTQ+ leadership from being the 'best little boy in the world' to building bridges across cultures. Listen in as we examine how LGBTQ+ folks develop their leadership superpowers!
No Person is an Island - LGBTQ+ Leaders are everywhere! We speak with Tamara Adrián, a Venezuelan lawyer, professor, author and polyglot advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. Tamara was the second transgender person elected to a national legislature in the Western Hemisphere and has been involved in basically all strategic litigation concerning LGBTQ+ rights in Venezuela and Latin America. She knows that no one does this work alone and stresses collaboration among people, respect, and fighting for our common humanity. Find out how Tamara came to "cherish this idea that everyone is able to contribute to the common good."
Leading with Heart and Heat - There's a fire burning deep within Becky Burke, head coach of the University at Buffalo women's basketball team. From an appearance in the NCAA final four as a player, through a wild rise up the coaching ranks, and now as an authentic leader, you can feel the heat within her. But this is no out of control blaze, Burke channels that fire into developing her players, creating positive environments, and using her platform to inform and inspire. Join our conversation and find some sparks to ignite your inner passion for leadership, be it on the hard court or wherever your journey takes you.
Building a Nation of Inclusion - What do you do when you see a void in an organization, a community, or a nation? If you're Melissa Gumbs, you find a way to fill that gap with ideas and programs that can benefit everyone. In Sint Maarten, she saw an opportunity to build a community for LGBTQ+ folks and a political party for everyone. Now, as a Member of Parliament, her ideas about inclusion seek to reduce the brain drain caused by some Sint Maarteners not feeling welcome. Her authenticity and visibility provide hope to people who thought they might not have a place on the island.
Surpassing All Expectations - An award-winning writer, director and producer of film & television, Scottie Jeanette Madden has done it all in entertainment. For most of her life she fought to live up to and even surpass the expectations of those around her, venturing through many incredible adventures. Yet everything changed in her second act. Now she's creating a plethora of queer content and lifting voices that need to be heard. Discover how Scottie Jeanette's leadership grew, expanded, and shined when she decided to write, direct, and produce her own life.
Honor, Courage, Commitment - US Navy Commander Blake Dremann epitomizes the Navy core values. His career has had so many shocking turns that it deserves a full length feature film. Brought up in a faith environment and attending bible school, Blake found the military. He was in the first group of (perceived) women to integrate submarines and then became instrumental in opening up the military to transgender service. He led SPARTA, a non-profit advocacy organization, when President Trump attempted to fire all trans service members via tweet. Through it all, Blake won performance awards, changed perceptions, and fought to be the best version of himself. His journey is an inspiration.
Leading at the Edge - In our most wide-ranging interview yet, we speak with Jennifer Brown, a DEI thought leader, author, and entrepreneur who explores the boundaries of where we can go to ensure everyone has the opportunity to succeed. Classically trained in performance, she harnessed the courage it took to perform on stage and dance in the fire of the spotlight and cultivated that into standing for others and creating cultures of inclusion. She's spent years finding ways to elevate voices that need to be heard, shine a light on those that need to be seen, and create institutions that pull people to success. For more, visit https://jenniferbrownconsulting.com/ and https://jenniferbrownspeaks.com/
Bending the Moral Arc - From the family dinner table to his current role as Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, no topic has been taboo for Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen. When he emerged from the fog that separated him from others by coming out as trans, one of the first challenges was telling his family, including his mother, a long-time Republican Congresswoman. His ability to not make assumptions about what's in a person's heart and a desire to build bridges has enabled him to lead in a way that builds momentum towards persistent, pervasive, positive change. Learn how he took the 'third option' to take action and get involved as we discuss issues of leadership in the face of backlash to bend the moral arc of the universe towards justice.
Lighting the Way - Everyone has a story. Danica Roem's advice, "Don't let other people define your story for you." Her book, Burn the Page, talks about setting fire to the stories that don't define you in a way that we believe lights the way to a brighter future. Danica's journey, and the hurdles she overcame along the way to become the first openly transgender state legislator in the United States, put her in a place where she was primed to tear down barriers for others. Her example opened a door for many others to walk through and lights the way towards a more inclusive future for all of us. Danica is currently running for the Virginia Senate, you can learn more at www.danicaforstatesenate.com
A Future Worth Fighting For - Non-Commissioned Officers are the heart of the United States military. Their skill, leadership, and ability to seize the initiative is what creates such a dynamic force. Master Sergeant Sabrina Bruce (Space Force), Technical Sergeant Alexandria Holder (Air Force), and Sergeant Zaneford Alvarez (Army), are shining examples that junior service members can aspire to take after and they just happen to be transgender. They serve and excel as their authentic selves, having transitioned while serving, despite shifting winds that could see a future administration attempt to throw them out. Their example of dedicated service is changing hearts and minds every day as to why transgender people belong in all places, in all jobs, and wherever their hearts can take them.
Discovering the Future in Past Stories - When invited on our show, Kai and Jackal, hosts of Stealth: a Transmasculine Podcast, both asked "Are you sure you have the right people?" We can assure you we do! Kai and Jackal discuss what they've learned from interviewing transgender men who transitioned more than twenty years ago and the implications of doing so in a time where trans people did not have the visibility they do in the 2020s. We also share the wisdom they've gleaned from their personal journeys, how non-binary thinking has evolved, and how leadership is about influence. By elevating the stories of others, and providing hope and inspiration to future leaders, Kai and Jackal have proven again and again that they're very much leaders themselves.
A Culture Worth Celebrating - In his new book, The Souls of Queer Folk: How Understanding LGBTQ+ Culture Can Transform Your Leadership Practice, Dr. Joel A Davis Brown uncovers the cultural values and leadership dimensions of the queer community. He also examines what we can all learn from LGBTQ+ leadership wisdom and how to avoid critical missteps. Sound a lot like what we're all about on this show? It is! Join us as we explore how Joel developed into the leader, researcher, and storyteller he is today and as we get to 'nerd out' about LGBTQ+ leadership development!
To learn more about Joel and his work, check out his company at pneumos.com
To learn more about Joel and his work, check out his company at pneumos.com
Coming Home - Before becoming a Senator in Aruba, Miguel Mansur considered himself a citizen of the world. Leaving the island at 14, and living in multiple countries, it felt like an escape from homophobia and stigmatization. Yet, he still faced struggles with depression and substance abuse even in more accepting places. Even then, there was still a draw to return home and an economic article he wrote during the COVID pandemic was the spur for a dramatic return. Miguel founded a political party, Accion 21, and won his first election to the Aruban Parliament. Listen to his inspirational journey to authenticity where he rises to meet 21st century challenges in order to build the world he hopes to see.
Ad Astra Per Aspera - She's not yet on a Starfleet recruiting poster, but Leah Lauderback's journey to the stars has not been without hardship either. As the first out LGBTQ+ person to achieve the three-star rank of Lieutenant General and having been instrumental in the stand-up of the United States Space Force, Leah has boldly led teams into new frontiers and shattered barriers everywhere she's been. Getting there wasn't easy as she had to hide a major part of her identity for years under Don't Ask, Don't Tell and risked everything whenever she confided in someone she thought was a friend or ally. Listen in to find out how she became the humble leader she is and how she's pushing for continuing change and a brighter future.
Attack of the 50ft Chicken! - Storytelling is an art and Ron Oden has mastered the craft in a way that draws you in. Ron was the first gay African American to be elected Mayor of an American city when he won in Palm Springs in 2003. He has many identities: professor, administrator, pastor, public servant. There's no doubt service to others is a theme in everything he does. You might not expect a story about an enormous chicken to be in the midst of a grand sweep of history, with Ron weaving a tale more than 150 years long in the interview, but it connects so many elements of racial injustice, speaking out, and creating a better future. Ron was recently elected to the LGBTQ+ Victory Institute’s Hall of Fame for his long history of activism and service. Don't miss this conversation!
Look Me in the Eye - Colorado's first transgender state legislator, Brianna Titone, is now in her third term. Recently, in a moment that blended her leadership and personal journey, Brianna's authenticity and the power of her representation shown through in a moment where she dared some house colleagues to look at her as they advocated for anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Her presence, and her ability to listen, build bridges, and get results, has led her to be the first transgender legislator elected by peers to a leadership position. Brianna's story is one of an inspirational leader who serves as a link in the chain, building off the accomplishments of other leaders and creating the conditions for future LGBTQ+ leaders to be far more commonplace and to reach far greater heights.
A Very Visible Man - In a storied career across many fields, Jamison Green has impacted countless lives, particularly those of transgender men. His 2004 memoir, Becoming a Visible Man, became the publisher's bestselling book of all time and was updated to a second edition in 2019. Jamison has successfully led nonprofit organizations, changed anti-discrimination laws, reformed insurance exclusions and diagnostic protocols, and published articles and books on many aspects of transgender health and rights. His indefatigable energy motivates his writing and speaking engagements and spills into his storytelling. The sum of all that work is Jamison delivering hope for a better and more just existence to the lives of so many.
In It To Win It - As the first Executive Director of the Human Rights Campaign Fund, Vic Basile led a significant coalescence of the LGBTQ+ rights lobbying community during the AIDS crisis and fought prejudice and bigotry on Capitol Hill. In his new memoir, Bending Toward Justice: A Memoir of Two Decades of LGBT Leadership and the Founding of the Human Rights Campaign, he tells the story of those challenging years and sets the stage for the continued growth of the organization into today's Human Rights Campaign. We dive into his lessons learned and how he grew into the roles he needed to fill in order to create an effective organization that addressed both the needs of the LGBTQ+ community and the legal voids that drove those needs.
Season 1 Recap - Featuring returning guest Blake Dremann as our host for this episode, the Forged in Fire team looks back at our first season. There we so many insightful guests, amazing storytellers, and heroes on the show this season. Learn what surprised us, what we learned about making a podcast, and what our light-bulb moments were! We also ask for your feedback as we look to make Season 2 even better than the first.