Tony Ferraiolo Interview for "30 Days - 30 Voices - Stories from America's LGBT Business Leaders" [Podcast] Skip to the content

Storytelling with Tony Ferraiolo for "30 Days – 30 Voices – Stories from America’s LGBT Business Leaders" [Podcast]

Tony-Ferraiolo-30gayvoicesStorytelling with Tony Ferraiolo of  Tony Ferraiolo Coaching


New Haven, Connecticut 

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AUDIO TITLE: 30 Days, 30 Voices – Tony Ferraiolo

Jenn T Grace:

Welcome to 30 Days, 30 Voices: Stories from America’s LGBT business leaders.

Intro:

You are listening to a special edition of the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast. Tune in for the next thirty days as we interview one business leader per day each day in June to celebrate LGBT Pride Month. That’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride month. You’ll learn insights around business and marketing from those who know it best. And now, your host. She’s an entrepreneur, a marketing maven, and an advocate for the LGBT business community – Jenn, with two N’s, T. Grace.

Jenn T Grace:

Hello and welcome. Thank you for tuning in to this special Pride Month episode of the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast. Information about today’s guest and links mentioned in the show will be available on the website at www.JennTGrace.com/30days-30voices. If you like what you hear in this interview, please be sure to tell a friend. And now, without further ado, let’s dive into the interview.

I am pleased to be talking with Tony Ferraiolo today. Tony is a certified life coach, a speaker, a trainer and an advocate for transgender youth and their families. He is the founder of several organizations that support transgender youth as well as the cofounder of the Jim Collins Foundation. Most recently he is the subject of the new documentary A Self Made Man. Tony, I’ve given the listeners a really brief overview of who you are, but why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yourself and what your path looked like that led you to where you are today.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Absolutely. But first, thanks for having me on the show.

Jenn T Grace:

You are welcome.

Tony Ferraiolo:

It’s great to be here. So this is what really happened to me. I’m transgender and I just turned 50, so back in the early 70s when I was a teenager, or actually an adolescent and I was growing up knowing that something was different about me, I didn’t have any support from anyone. And that led me down a really dark path; it led me down a path of suicidal thought, it led me down a path of self-harming. It led me down the path of drug use and alcohol use. And when I realized at a very late age, like 41 years old that I was transgender, it was a celebration for about I would have to say a day and a half and then I got really, really scared. And I went down to a beach, a local beach, and I sat there with every intention to end my life. I could not imagine being transgender and having people support me and having people love me and having friends. I didn’t know anybody who was transgender at that time. But something happened to me in the moment that I was crying and ready to end my life, that something inside of me said, ‘Stop. Wait a minute. You have all the power to create yourself.’ And I shifted instantly. Like I took my power back. And I started going down the path of transition for me, and I always say ‘for me’ because this is my story and everybody’s transition is different. But my transition started off really trying to work on not being angry anymore and being able to face life with a positive thought, not a negative thought. And to do that I had to let go of a lot of the anger that I held for people who were abusive to me in the past.

So I did that, and I did that by realizing that I’m a blueprint of everything that’s ever happened to me, and no matter what it was Jenn. I mean it doesn’t matter if it was abuse, if it was me abusing myself or somebody else abusing me that it really made me who I am today. So I look back and said, ‘I can never say that I wish that never happened.’ That helped me let go of the anger.

So I started on the road to have my medical transition starting and I had my chest surgery, and my chest surgery afterwards the doctor took the bandages off and said to me, ‘You’re going to go look in the mirror.’ And I remember being scared because I didn’t know what I was going to see. But when I stepped up to that mirror and for the first time in my life, my body and my mind matched; my life changed instantly. I stood up taller, I looked in the mirror and said, ‘Man you are a good looking guy.’ I mean it was just amazing, it was amazing. And then I just started thinking about people in my community that would never be able to stand in front of that mirror and feel that sense of wholeness. And I really wanted to help that part of my community so I got together with Dru Levasseur and we started the Jim Collins Foundation.

But then something else happened. I started thinking about the youth of my community. I know that there was a lot of LGBT groups happening in Connecticut but I was mentoring one kid that was at an LGBT youth group in New Haven and he would tell me that he was the only trans person there. And that he didn’t feel- like it was different. You know your gender identity versus your sexual orientation are two different things and two different struggles as far as I’m concerned when it comes to youth or adults. So I said you know what, I contacted a few organizations in Connecticut that do youth work, True Colors being one of them. And so what do you guys think of if I just start this like trans youth group. And everybody was like, ‘Yeah, that’s a great idea, that’s a great idea.’ So I started outreaching to a lot of the counseling centers on the shoreline here and in the New Haven area, pediatricians and just said, ‘Listen I’m starting this group,’ and really started marketing the group for trans teens only. So I think when we started it was between the ages of 13 and 18, or something like that. In the first group, two kids showed up. One trans boy and a trans girl. And that was 2008 and right now we have over 125 kids on our email list. And off of those groups it was really- this is a funny story. You know the kids used to come in and the parents used to sit outside in their cars. And I said to myself, ‘You know what’s going to happen, these parents are going to start talking one day like Al-Anon started. They’re going to start their own group.’ Right? A few months went by, nothing happened, so I went outside one time after group and I said, ‘Everybody, can you gather please? Gather.’ And they’re like, ‘What happened? Who did what?’ They thought their kids did something. I was like, ‘No, no, no, no. Sorry to panic you. But why don’t you guys- I can get you a room in the building, I think you have a lot to talk about. Maybe you should start your own support group.’ And that was 2008, four parents started that group and currently we have almost- I think we’re close to 150 parents and grandparents that have walked through those doors. People don’t just come from Connecticut to come to these groups. They come from Massachusetts, they come from New York, they come from Rhode Island, and we have a family that comes in from New Hampshire actually. It’s a place where there’s no judgment, it’s a place where the teenagers sit in one room, the parents sit in another. We also have an art group for transgender youth under the age of twelve, and they’ll sit there and they play with Play-Doh and they’re able to express themselves and nobody talks about gender with them unless somebody brings it up. But it’s a place where the whole family can come and be educated. We just started a sibling group also, that hasn’t really taken off yet but it’s also offered that if there’s a brother or a sister of a trans kid who’s struggling, come on in and we’re going to listen to you and we’re going to try to help you through your struggles.

So that’s what led me to be a coach, because I know it works. I know when you tell somebody that you believe in them, and you support people and you empower them to move forward; I see the shift in these kids all the time. I have kids that started the group in 2008, in hospitals every other month and cutting themselves. And they started this group and they surrounded themselves with people who believed in them and they made friends who believed in them, and now they’re in college and they’re becoming social workers and they’re becoming graphic designers; it’s just amazing. And it’s all because somebody just reached out and said, ‘I believe you.’

Jenn T Grace:

It seems insane that something so simple as affirming them and believing in them can cause such a difference.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Yeah, I mean think about it. If nobody believed in you and then you walked into this room and this person who has been through what you’ve been through- and that’s really important to me. I know I’m a role model for them, and I want them to know that being transgender is not a disability. Everybody has a gender identity, okay? This is their path in life and they can still be anything they want to be. They can do anything they want to do in life.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely. Why don’t you take a moment for people who are listening, because my audience primarily are business owners or professionals or- and they may be allies to the community, or LGBT people themselves. And they’re looking to improve their communication styles with the community, and educate themselves around the community, and all that kind of great stuff. So would you mind taking a moment and explaining to those who are listening, who may not know the difference between gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation?

Tony Ferraiolo:

I will do my best.

Jenn T Grace:

Because I’m sure you have no idea about any of this.

Tony Ferraiolo:

I don’t have the genderbread person in front of me, it’s unfortunate. That should be on the screen. So sure. Your gender identity is your sense of yourself. Like for me, I always, always felt like I was male. I’d felt like a boy when I was younger; so my gender identity- my sense of myself is male. So that’s gender identity. Gender expression is how you express yourself to the world by your mannerisms, by your clothing, that’s your expression. Sexual orientation is who you’re attracted to. Did I totally confuse the audience?

Jenn T Grace:

I don’t think so, I think that was really clear and what I will do is every one of these episodes- so for anyone listening to this right now, you can head over to the website and you’ll have access to the diagram of the genderbread person; which really does outline what you just said, but it’s in a nice little diagram that you can’t really screw up.

Tony Ferraiolo:

I always try to remind people that it’s not just the transgender community that has a gender identity, everybody does. And when I’m in front of an audience of non-transgender people, and they’ll say to me, ‘Well I just can’t understand you. I can’t understand what it must feel like to be trans.’ And it’s really funny because I look at that person and say, ‘I don’t know what it feels like not to be trans. I don’t know what it feels like to be born female and feel female; I don’t know what that feels like.’ So we kind of have something in common.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely. And it’s a matter of finding that common ground in terms of training and speaking with people.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Absolutely.

Jenn T Grace:

So we have gotten into about ten or eleven minutes already of really good, good stuff. And I usually like to start off the interview with something that’s more of a fun fact and a lighthearted note to get people really interested in you, and I am certain that people are already very interested in what they’re hearing because you have such an amazing story. However, I’m not letting you off the hook. So, why don’t you share with us just one fun fact, a random tidbit just something about yourself that very few people know or would expect from you.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Okay, I was going to say I’m afraid of spiders but I think that’s out now. I think a lot of people know. No matter what size. But anyway, I am a self-taught guitarist and I write ballads, I actually write love songs and a lot of people don’t know that.

Jenn T Grace:

Very cool. That’s good stuff.

Tony Ferraiolo:

It’s cool, yeah.

Jenn T Grace:

It’s a fun fact that’s not embarrassing, that’s good stuff. A lot of the fun facts end up being embarrassing which I think is hilarious.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Do you want me to pick one that’s embarrassing, is that what you’re asking me?

Jenn T Grace:

I wasn’t, but if you’re offering.

Tony Ferraiolo:

No, I embarrass myself all the time.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, that makes two of us. Alright so let’s dive into an ‘ah-ha’ moment. Did you have a particular ‘ah-ha’ moment or maybe a series of them when you realized that this was just your calling in life?

Tony Ferraiolo:

Yes. The first ‘ah-ha’ moment I had was when I was a mentor for True Colors and this trans kid walked into a room, and sat in front of me, and started crying and put her head down and said, ‘You don’t understand, I cut myself.’ And I could get emotional just thinking about this. And I said, ‘I do understand because I used to cut myself too.’ And that kid just lifted her head up and looked at me and said, ‘What? You?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, me. And now I’m going to ask you to make me a promise is anytime you feel the need to cut, I want you to call me first,’ and I say this with all the kids that I work with who are cutters. ‘You call me first, let’s talk about it, and hopefully when you get off the phone you won’t cut.’ And I try to give them- because my artwork, I’m also an artist, and that’s how I stopped cutting was I started creating. But it was an ‘ah-ha’ moment for me because at that moment I realized that even though people might think that my past and my cutting past was a negative thing, if I didn’t cut I never would have been able to sit in front of that kid and shift their life.

So it kind of like- everything in my life that I thought was wrong, isn’t. And that’s made me realize that also.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s really interesting, and you and I know each other really well so I have heard a lot of the stories that you’ve had with individual kids and you really being there in their time of need for lack of a better word. And it’s just to me that’s motivating and inspiring, and it’s actually my next question. Because I can see so many things that you’re doing that are just absolutely inspirational and phenomenal and I will absolutely be asking you questions around your upcoming documentary which gets into this a little bit more. But what does inspire you and just keeps you motivated to continue doing this every day? Because I’m sure on some level, there’s a level of emotional exhaustion that goes into it, especially being that advocate and that champion for so many young people who are looking up to you.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Yeah, absolutely. What inspires me is the growth I see. I see families come in to these groups and they’re not broken- nobody is ever broken, but they’re beaten down. The parents are beaten down by fear, ‘what’s happening, what do you mean you’re transgender?’ The kids are beaten down because everybody’s telling them they’re not who they know they are. And the work that I do, like taking phone calls. Until a kid starts the group, and when they reach out I’m their group. And I have a few kids right now that are reaching out, that haven’t started the support group yet, that will call me almost every night. Because once they know somebody’s out there that believes in them, and that will listen to them, it’s like they have to have it. And I sit here every night and I answer that phone up until a certain time. And that’s how I don’t burn out, I give myself the balance. I don’t get into the emotional box with them, I stay outside of that. Even though it’s very difficult sometimes because my past really almost matches theirs, especially the kids that cut, but I learned in coaching that I’m a better coach and a better mentor if I stay outside of that box. So when I’m talking on the phone with somebody I actually visualize a box around them, and I stay outside. That keeps me from burning out emotionally.

Jenn T Grace:

Wow, I have not heard that before but that makes such perfect sense.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Yeah.

Jenn T Grace:

And my next question for you is around advice and typically I ask what’s the best piece of business advice that you were given, but I’m going to change that for you and say what’s the best piece of coaching advice that you’ve been given? And if you want to elaborate a little bit more about your experience in becoming a certified life coach, I’m sure people would be interested in hearing that.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Well I went through iPEC Coaching and I would have paid them- for what I learned through coaching and how I shifted through my coaching school and training. I would have given the money without the certification. I mean it was that powerful. And what I learned through iPEC are a few things. Is to truly be my authentic self no matter what. And you and I have known each other and I have a very good sense of humor, and I use that. I don’t hide that no matter what I’m talking about. I’m truly my authentic self and especially when I’m coaching. And when I’m coaching, if it feels like I’m coaching and I’m working, I’m not doing it right. It should really feel like a conversation and acknowledging people. You have to acknowledge and then you have to. And you have to tell people that you believe them, and believe in them. Because what happens a lot of times is people lose themselves. And as a coach the best thing I can do is help my clients rediscover their values and their passions. And then also kind of have them be aware of who they really are because sometimes we lose that. We lose that by really what other people will tell us, and sometimes like tragic things can happen and you can think that, ‘Oh my God, I’m not who I thought I was,’ right? I have one client, of course I won’t name names because it’s all confidential, but was struggling with anxiety really bad. And I said to him, ‘Really, you have anxiety? How did you- were you diagnosed?’ ‘Well no everybody tells me. Everybody’s telling me that I’m really anxious and that since my mother has it, I have it.’ So I really started to try to talk to him about really reframing that and really thinking, ‘Do you really have anxiety issues, or are you just having it because everybody’s telling you you are?’

Jenn T Grace:

Self-fulfilling prophecy.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Yeah. And that’s what happened. He doesn’t have anxiety. And he’s living a healthier life by the way.

Jenn T Grace:

Sure.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Could you imagine that? Could you imagine having anxiety attacks like three times a day just because people are telling you, ‘Oh my God, you’re going to have an anxiety attack. Don’t forget, you have anxiety issues.’

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, that’s not good. That’s not cool at all.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Not at all. But you know, that’s my role as a coach is to just kind of bring people to be their authentic selves and let them know that everybody can create the person they want to be. You have all the power, and to give that power back to a client is so fulfilling when you hear the shift, when they break through an emotional barrier like fear or something like that. It’s just- it is so worth the time that I take with my clients.

Jenn T Grace:

And I feel like this is really a lot of the nature of your personality in general because even when we’re just hanging out and just having a casual conversation that is not related to work that either of us are doing, it’s very obvious how engaged and how much you’re listening and paying attention to what people are saying. And I think that that’s probably something that I would imagine a little bit innate to your personality, but then also the fact that you went through this coaching program to really hone in on those skills.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Yeah they train you to listen. My next girlfriend is going to be very happy. I’m a good listener now.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s awesome. Yeah, that should be on some sort of dating profile. I am a good listener. Believe it or not.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Level one listening.

Jenn T Grace:

Certified listener. Maybe they should have a certification for that.

Tony Ferraiolo:

They should.

Jenn T Grace:

That’d be awesome. Well maybe you can start that in the midst of all of your other business endeavors.

Tony Ferraiolo:

That’s what I’m going to do.

Jenn T Grace:

So let’s chat about business then. I think the most exciting thing of all is your documentary, ‘A Self Made Man.’ And that is premiering in a couple of places in June, this month. So why don’t you just share a little bit about that process of being the subject of a documentary and the promotion of it and all that kind of stuff; it’s such an interesting piece of what you’re up to.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Sure. Well the documentary was made by filmmaker Lori Petchers who is from Connecticut. And she was introduced to me by one of the parents in the parent group, Nancy Moore. And Lori contacted me and said, ‘You know, I’m a filmmaker and I was given your name, and Nancy really thinks that I should be doing the documentary about you, so can we meet?’ And I met Lori in New Haven for coffee. And I wasn’t sure if I was going to say yes to this, I mean who wouldn’t, right? I mean oh my God, a documentary about me. But I know that I would have to put myself out there 150%. Because if I do anything as you know, I do it. I give everything 150%. And when I met Lori, I realized that Lori never met a transgender person before. And she didn’t have this prejudgment on the community. And I said, ‘Yes, you can absolutely do it.’ Because the eye behind the camera was so like, green to the transgender community, I knew that the documentary would be amazing. And she said- I thought, I’m not a filmmaker so I was like, ‘What is she going to follow me around for like a couple of months?’ And she said, ‘I’ll follow you around between a year, year and a half.’ And I was like, ‘What?’

Jenn T Grace:

Yep.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Yeah, so that’s what she did, and she followed me- she came to the groups. But the film itself, it’s amazing and I’m not going to give a lot of it away but it is truly my journey and it really, really showcases the work that I do with trans youth and their family. And it’s just amazing. So we made it into Frameline Film Festival and Providence Town International Film Festival. I know that- I’m not sure of the dates that we’re playing in Providence Town yet but I know that Frameline, it’s June 29th and it’s playing at the Roxie Theater which is really exciting. And I’m going to be going to San Fran- hey, walk down that red carpet.

Jenn T Grace:

Hell yeah, you’re looking for a date.

Tony Ferraiolo:

If they have it I’m walking down it.

Jenn T Grace:

You totally should. And so I was fortunate to get a sneak peak of this, and you were saying how it’s really your journey. And I think it was eye-opening for me to watch it, and I had goosebumps, I was so excited. My wife of course, Andrea was with us too and it was so interesting to see; but when you said just a couple moments ago about how- I don’t know if you said ‘vulnerable’ but you said some word of you really had to put yourself out there. And I feel like that really shows in this film, but I feel like that’s really what makes it. Because it shows you in all of your glory. Like there’s no sugar coating anything about your life, but it’s so genuine and it’s so real. So for anyone who sees it, I feel like they’re going to be able to relate to you as if they know you, because it just really is so you.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Yeah, it was very, very important that I really wanted to just- believe me, in the beginning when there’s- sometimes there was two cameras and a microphone following me around, you’re kind of not yourself, right? So I had to get kind of used to that whole thing. But as you can tell by the documentary, by like probably three months in I forget the cameras are even there. So talk about a blooper show. I told Lori I said, ‘Really, can’t you like pull together some bloopers or something to show afterwards?’

Jenn T Grace:

People love bloopers.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Yeah, I remember walking into her on the streets of New York- I mean just walking right into her. But she used to say to me, ‘Ignore me, just ignore that I’m there.’ So I was walking and she’s like standing right in front of me, I just walked right into her. I was like, ‘Oops.’

Jenn T Grace:

That’s awesome.

Tony Ferraiolo:

That was funny.

Jenn T Grace:

That is good stuff. So this is exciting, and I want to know- switching gears a little bit over to a little bit of marketing. And I’m really curious to hear from your perspective. For anyone who’s listening to this, and they want to market themselves or their products or services to the LGBT community, what type of advice would you give them that you think would help make them successful?

Tony Ferraiolo:

That’s a good questions. To the LGBT community. Kind of through- let your consumer LGBTQ-LMNOP- consumer know that you’re educated about our community. I think that means a lot. Like a lot of times I’ll see things for transgender people, and they’ll use the term ‘transgendered,’ and you know how that is not- you know how that’s one of my pet peeves.

Jenn T Grace:

Mine too, yeah.

Tony Ferraiolo:

So you don’t want any company saying, ‘We cater to the transgendered community,’ because we’re going to know that you don’t. You know what I mean? So I don’t know- that’s just my opinion I guess. It’s to really, really let your consumer know that you are educated. Just by putting a rainbow somewhere on your advertisement doesn’t mean you’re educated in the LGBT community.

Jenn T Grace:

You’re spot on on both of those, that’s awesome. It’s really important to really understand who you’re talking to and I think that goes for any community or any target market you might be reaching out to; but the LGBT community is extra sensitive and extra aware of what is or is not happening in someone’s company. And I think that going a layer further, is that they just- a lot of people have some misconception that they can just target the L and the G and ignore the B and the T in their advertising, and I don’t think that’s okay either.

Tony Ferraiolo:

No that’s not okay.

Jenn T Grace:

And that’s something that we as a community need to work more towards educating people around, but then also making sure people understand that the LGBT community- it’s not a one size fits all. And a lot of people view the community as like this big monolith where we all look alike, sound alike, talk alike, do the same things. When clearly we know that couldn’t be anything further from the truth.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Absolutely, and also depending on the type of business, what’s your anti-discrimination policy? I want to know as a trans person. Does it say sexual orientation, gender identity or expression? I want to know that.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely.

Tony Ferraiolo:

I want to know that not only are you trying to sell me something, but you’re also supporting my community by giving them work.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, and you don’t have anything written in writing that’s specifically going against you saying, ‘If you’re trans, you get fired.’ Like that’s such a backward way of thinking and there’s a lot of companies that make that misstep where they throw a ton of money out there for a marketing campaign and then they’re like, ‘Oh sh*t’ look at that. They back of the house isn’t in order and we actually discriminate against people.’ And it’s like, ‘Well now you just wasted all that money.’

Tony Ferraiolo:

Yeah but let’s sell them something anyways.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, really. Let’s see how that works.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Well we can’t afford it because you’re not hiring us.

Jenn T Grace:

Which we laugh about it but unfortunately it’s not even really a laughing matter.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Yeah.

Jenn T Grace:

It’s terrible. So this I feel like is a pretty easy question for you, because you- just like I call myself a professional lesbian, I feel like you’ve built yourself around who you are and how you can help others. But the question is as a member of the LGBT community, have you been able to leverage that status in any way?

Tony Ferraiolo:

Well yeah, I mean I call myself a professional trans man. A lot of times when people ask me to speak or keynote speak, or they’re looking for somebody to speak, and I say, ‘Well I’m transgender’ and I tell them a little bit of my story, they’ll hire me. And I think a lot of times people who seek life coaches will look at someone in my position and say, ‘Whoa, talk about creating yourself.’ I remember when I was in coaching school and it was kind of scary for me. I kind of knew the odds were that I was going to be the only trans person in the room, in the class. And we had a class of about fifty people. And I was the only trans person in the class. But I wanted to get 100% out of it because I was going to put 100% into this. So during the first exercise of my first weekend in New York, we were told to tell a story about ourselves, and then ask the little group that there was like five of us in a group, if they thought it was true or false; we could make something up. So my story was I work with kids, and then I said I was actually born with the assigned sex of female and I transitioned. Truth or false? And they all said, ‘False, false,’ they were laughing, they though it was a joke. And I said, ‘No actually, it’s true.’

Jenn T Grace:

Bam.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Bam. And it spread like wildfire throughout the class. But you know what was really cool Jenn, is that I was surrounded by people who were compassionate and caring. And the feedback I got from cisgender men, they came up to me and they were like, ‘Dude, I can only wish I was a guy like you. If you can do what you did, and get through what you got through, I can accomplish anything in my life.’

Jenn T Grace:

That’s awesome.

Tony Ferraiolo:

So I take that very seriously, Jenn. I mean I know that being out as a trans man and educating people and being a public speaker, that when I am faced no matter if it’s in a supermarket by somebody who used to know me and says some really mean stuff to me, or I’m standing on a podium in front of 1,200 people; I am representing my community. So I have to always be like, ‘Okay,’ and move on. Do you know what I mean? Because if I lose it, no matter where I am, they’re going to look at me and say, ‘Every transgender person is like that.’

Jenn T Grace:

And it’s almost like carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders at times because I can relate to that just from being the professional lesbian that I am. That you have to always be putting your best foot forward, or people are going to categorize you and stereotype you like, ‘Oh she’s just another dumb lesbian,’ or some inappropriate phrase that doesn’t even really apply just from one misstep. And I’m sure for you that is magnified on so many more levels because not everyone knows someone who’s trans, and you really are that first encounter for a lot of people.

Tony Ferraiolo:

And I take that very, very serious when I decided to do this in like 2006, I had my chest surgery in 2005. I knew that this was a big commitment, but you know what’s funny also the work I do with the trans youth and their families, is my life’s purpose; that’s what I was born to do. And when you find that- and that’s why I try to help my clients find, is reallywhat’s your life purpose? And do it and be happy. You know it’s a misconception that you have to hate your job, right? It shouldn’t feel like work and you can live a life of abundance, nobody get guilty about it, money is energy, everyone out there. So as long as you’re giving something back it’s just the energy rejuvenating itself. A lot of people look at money and say, ‘I don’t know if I can charge that much, oh my God.’ Coaches do it all the time. We’re like, ‘We’re going to charge people to help them? Wait a minute we’ve been doing it for free.’ No, it’s money. Money is energy; it’s all it is.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s really valuable wisdom. And I want to back us up to almost five minutes ago when you were talking about cisgender. My question to you is for those who are listening, can you explain what cisgender is; because I guarantee there’s many people listening that do not know what that is.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Okay so I could have said non trans person.

Jenn T Grace:

You could have.

Tony Ferraiolo:

But I thought I would confuse everybody. No, that’s exactly- a cisgender man is- I don’t like to say born male, because I was born male. I didn’t want to say biologically a male, because I’m biologically a male. So I will say a non trans man.

Jenn T Grace:

And cisgender is really just the politically correct way of saying that.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Today.

Jenn T Grace:

Yes.

Tony Ferraiolo:

I can’t tell you what it’s going to be like tomorrow or the day after; it changes all the time so I try to stay on top of things. And thank God my best friend is Dru Levasseur because he makes sure of it.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely, somebody has to. And it is changing all the time which is why it’s really important for people who are listening to this, to really know what’s happening and what’s changing and what the right terminology is and all that kind of stuff because it could change tomorrow, and if you’re changing with it then it’s going to show that you’re there for the right reasons and you’re keeping up with it.

Tony Ferraiolo:

And also maybe we can post the problematic terms when it comes to the transgender community for your audience; because that might help them also.

Jenn T Grace:

Yes, I will make a note to make sure that is included in the show notes of this episode. And I also have a chapter in my new book that is- yeah so one of the chapters-

Tony Ferraiolo:

And what is the name of your new book, Jenn?

Jenn T Grace:

Oh are we plugging me? Sure.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Yes.

Jenn T Grace:

So my new book is called, ‘But You Don’t Look Gay.’ And I actually had somebody tell me today that I should do a sequel that’s, ‘Oh Wait, You Do Look Gay.’ Which I think that’s hilarious and I may do that. She’s like, ‘You don’t even have to have any content that has anything to do with it, but just to have the title.’

Tony Ferraiolo:

Yeah, absolutely.

Jenn T Grace:

But yeah I believe it’s the third chapter is all around transgender equality and the fight for transgender equality and how much further behind the L, G and B in many instances it is. And I do include the problematic terms because there are so many of them and I hear ‘transgendered’ like you said before, and it just- it’s like nails on a chalkboard to me. It drives me crazy. And then I just usually- because I’m a bit sarcastic if those listening haven’t picked up on that yet. But it’s interesting because I’ll be like, ‘Well I’m lesbianed, so what of it?’ And people look at me like I’m nuts, and it’s like, ‘Well that’s how you sound to me.’

Tony Ferraiolo:

It’s like being ‘gay’d or lesbianed.’

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Transgendered. And let’s also just, while we have this topic up there. Transition- not transgendering. It’s transition. Some people will say, ‘transgendering.’ I don’t know, it’s crazy.

Jenn T Grace:

Transgendering, come on people.

Tony Ferraiolo:

That’s a whole other chapter.

Jenn T Grace:

So speaking of books, this is actually a really good segway to books. Is do you have a book, whether it’s a business book, maybe it’s just something personal that you’ve read, or any type of maybe a program or a tool that you use that’s just helped you go about the way that you do business?

Tony Ferraiolo:

Do business?

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, just- and when I say business I mean business more broadly because you have- you are not very narrowly defined, it’s not like I’m talking to you and you’re a realtor. That’s a very narrow business focus. You have a lot of things going on that could all be lumped under the umbrella of business. So do you just have some sort of book or- like thinking of a program, you going through the iPEC certification. Like that’s really something that was powerful for you.

Tony Ferraiolo:

That was powerful. And if anybody wants to know more about iPEC, I’d be more than happy to take their emails and talk to them about it if anybody’s interested. Because I mean they have a really good leadership program there; it’s just amazing. So sometimes I touch base on my materials from iPEC. But you know I’m all about like the Dalai Lama’s Little Book of Wisdom- I mean I know it’s not a business book people, but it keeps me in check. It keeps me to realize every day what I’m truly grateful for. And if we can realize what we’re grateful for, I meditate every morning on this, who am I, what do I want, and keep all the positive stuff in us; our lives are going to be better naturally. And if you’re happier and you’re relaxed, you’re a better business person. You’re more focused.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely.

Tony Ferraiolo:

So anytime something negative comes in, we try to replace it with something positive. So that’s what keeps me going as a business person and believe me, I’m going, going, going. Is really staying mindful, trying to stay in the moment, and know when you need to take a break.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah when your body is telling you to just go to bed and it’s 7:00 at night, if you have that opportunity, take it. Because your body is telling you to slow yourself down.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Yeah, you’ve got to listen to it. Absolutely.

Jenn T Grace:

I’ve definitely learned that over the years. And just like you, I put 150% into everything that I do and I just go and then all of a sudden I just hit that wall and I crash.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Yeah, absolutely.

Jenn T Grace:

But I allow myself to crash. And fortunately my wife is amazing enough that when I hit that crashing point, she allows it to happen as well without things erupting into chaos.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Yeah, that’s cool.

Jenn T Grace:

So I have one more question for you and then we’ll say goodbye and you can let people know how they can find you. But what is one thing right now that is just really exciting for you?

Tony Ferraiolo:

Well I’m writing a book.

Jenn T Grace:

Woohoo!

Tony Ferraiolo:

Woohoo! And the book has actually shifted. It was going to be a coaching book. But then I realized I love coaching, but I really, really want to share and help educate people on trans youth. So I have this program that I do with the teenage group and the art group, that I will ask them a question and have them draw the answer. And I probably have about seventy drawings right now. But it’s questions like, ‘What does sad feel like?’ ‘What does dysphoria feel like?’ And it’s amazing the way these kids communicate through drawings how they feel; they’re powerful. So the book is going to be Artistic Expressions of Transgender Youth; it’s a workshop that I do now, I’m turning it into a book. I’m really excited about it. And part of the proceeds from that book will go, and I’m saying it and I mean it because this is just what I’ve always wanted to do, will go to some type of transgender youth organization. I am not a non-profit; I’m just a trans guy that knew there was a need and I opened up these support groups for the families and their children, there’s no cost to these groups at all, people volunteer to help facilitate, the space is donated, supplies is out of my pocket or they’re donated. So I want to give some of that money to a youth organization and I’m going to have the kids help me pick it. So that’s exciting though, the book is going to be great.

Jenn T Grace:

I’m excited for it, I can’t wait.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Yeah, it’s powerful. And it’s really going to be geared towards parents, educators, medical providers; learn about your patients, learn about your students, know what they’re going through. This is not something that they’re just making up. This is when Jenn, as a parent, when your child says, ‘I’m transgender,’ this is when unconditional love is tested. So if I can help a parent get over that initial shock and build that bridge between the child and the parent, so it’s a smoother transition, I’m all for it and I think this book is going to help parents understand what their kids feel.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely and I feel like that’s such a need. Such, such a need. Because it’s- I’m trying to figure out the way to phrase it. But you’re getting ahead of a potentially very problematic road for some of these kids if you’re able to catch the parents early and say, ‘Listen, have this book, look at this book together, and really see that your child- you just need to validate them,’ like you were saying earlier on.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Yeah I mean it’s amazing because I get at least – at least – four phone calls a week on new parents and new families starting the groups. A lot of people ask me, ‘How are your groups so successful?’ You know a lot of times support groups, they just don’t make it. There’s been quite a few people who have tried to start youth groups for trans kids, I encourage it, I think there needs to be ten more in the state. I don’t take ownership- like this is not my group; it’s the kids’ group, I’m just there facilitating. See what I’m saying? I’m not the type of person that says, ‘You can’t have another trans group because I have one in New Haven.’ Please, please, there’s enough to go around. But the reason why our groups are so successful is that there’s no judgment. I am there since 2008, I have missed four meetings, and three of those meetings was surgeries that I had, I just couldn’t get there, and one was my final in my coaching certification. Since 2008. Because they need to know that somebody is there for them.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely.

Tony Ferraiolo:

It’s a commitment, it’s a commitment.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, and it just goes to show that you put 150% into everything that you do.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Absolutely. I feel good about it.

Jenn T Grace:

You should, it’s awesome. The stuff that you are up to at all times is really inspiring and fabulous and I really appreciate you carving out some time to talk with me today and talk with the audience so they can get a better understanding of what you’re up to. But I want to give you one last plug, just throw out whatever you’re interested in throwing out to people; one last chance here. And let everyone know where they can find you, what’s the best method to get in touch with you?

Tony Ferraiolo:

The best way to get in touch with me is through my website, www.TonyFerraiolo.com. And you can reach me through there, that’s the best way. And something I want to say is like, I’m a life coach that- I have clients who are not transgender, or who are not parents of transgender children. So I really coach anybody, so if anybody is looking for a coach, give me a ring- not give me a ring. Visit my website, and my phone number is on the website.

Jenn T Grace:

So if they really want to give you a ring, they will find you.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Please go ahead.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s awesome, thank you again, this was great and we will talk soon.

Tony Ferraiolo:

Alright cool. Thank you, Jenn.

Jenn T Grace:

Thank you again for listening to this special Pride Month episode of the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast. To see a full lineup of the thirty guests featured throughout this series, visit www.JennTGrace.com/30days-30voices. And if you liked what you heard here, consider leaving a review in iTunes or telling a friend or colleague. You can do both of these easily by visiting www.JennTGrace.com/iTunes. Thanks again and stay tuned for the next interview by another amazing LGBT business leader.

About Jenn T. Grace

Jenn T. Grace (she/her/hers) is an award-winning author and founder and CEO of Publish Your Purpose (PYP), the acclaimed hybrid publisher of non-fiction books. Jenn has published 100+ books written by thought leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs who are striving to make a difference. Jenn T. Grace’s work elevates and amplifies the voices of others—especially marginalized groups who are regularly excluded from traditional publishing.

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