CREATRIX | For Talia Johnson, Sensitivity training and Sh*t Disturbing go Hand in Hand

Talia Johnson’s story is one hell of an inspirational read. A trans-woman working as a “sensitivity editor” primarily around queer, trans, and autism related issues, Talia wrote a poem documenting her experience training to be a Kohenet Jewish Priestess that is part of an anthology that has been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award.

Talia is autistic and navigates living with chronic pain and is an advocate for defining a life that fits the needs of your body, mind, and soul. She shares her story with us below.

 

by Annisha Lashand


 

What identities do you inhabit?

 
Over the years I have embodied many identities. The ones that are current are: A woman, trans/transgender, queer, lesbian, autistic, spoonie/disabled (using social model), Jewish, feminist, and shit disturber.

What is your work in the world?

At its core, I bridge three primary areas, faith/religion/spirituality, mental health, and queer/trans/LGBTTQIA+. I am a writer, poet, sensitivity editor, public speaker, blogger, activist, educator, workshop facilitator, ritual leader, service leader, mentor, coach, and more.

My sensitivity editing is primarily around queer and trans issues, as well as from an autistic perspective. I’m only one person, and don’t represent all trans, queer, and/or autistic people. I offer these services to writers, publishers, and anyone with content that talks about these issues, perspectives, and/or has  characters that fall into one or more of these groups.

Workshop facilitation, public speaking, and education tend to fall into one category. When I provide these services what I present, how I present it, and the discussions that I facilitate are all based on the needs of the group I am working with. Going over basic level information with a group that has already done that work is not helpful. At the same time, not doing the basic work and jumping to advanced topics does not help those who have not done the initial basic work and education.

Ritual leadership and service leadership encompasses a wide range of practices and services. I have led services for larger groups, such as a Friday evening Kaballat Shabatt service, to a ritual for someone about to go for Gender Congruency/Confirmation Surgery (GCS). Again, the service or ritual is designed with the needs of the community or individual in mind. Rituals to mark important points in one’s life are deeply meaningful for many people. When planning rituals for a person or small group, the planning and writing of the ritual is made in full discussion with them. These rituals focus on the beliefs and needs of the individual or group.

My writing and poetry is an offshoot of my work and is informed by my own lived experiences, as well as what I have witnessed through my work and ongoing reading. My current large poetry project is to write poems based on the Netivot, or Archetypes, that are part of the studies and learning in the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute program. 

The Novel I am writing is an SF novel that takes place in the mid twenty-first century and explores what a theocracy based on conservative evangelical Christian theology would look like. My non-fiction project is a sort of memoir using my blog posts over the past nine years as its base. It discusses wider queer, trans, and autistic issues using my own experience as the focal point.
 

Tell us about the “WHY” that drives your business.

 
Any work I do has to have meaning for myself and others. I have never fit in with corporate culture, to a point where I’ve never had a traditional full-time job. In order for me to work best my brain needs to be engaged, and have multiple things to be working on. At the core of what I do is the idea that I can help make the world a slightly better place and help people with their struggles.
 

So many of us learn from each other’s processes, can you share a little about the steps you took to get started?

 
In the past, I have tried to use “self-help” books and guides to starting a business, managing work, etc. For me, they were all mostly useless. They don’t work the way my brain works. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People sent me running in the opposite direction. After finishing my undergraduate work and moving back to Toronto I needed time to work on my health. I took the time I needed, but had to get back to doing things. To get started I examined where I was at physically, mentally, and spiritually. With this baseline I gave myself permission to do what I can do and redefined what “success” means for me.

 

If work is a journey of the soul, what is the most important way your soul has developed through your work?

 
I would say that my soul informs the work I do, and is thus further shaped by interactions with people and meaningful work. Getting out of IT was probably the single healthiest decision I made for my soul when it comes to my work in the world.
 

What does being a feminist entrepreneur mean to you?

 
Being a feminist is part of my core being. I was raised as a feminist, something unusual in the late 70s and 80s. My mum was, and still is, a grassroots feminist and has more academic understandings of it as well. In my work this expresses itself through how I approach the work. I examine things, and act through a mindset of being aware of the nuances and complexities of issues. This means being constantly aware of my own perspectives, biases, and internalized crap. I am white, I know that systemic racism shaped my perspectives. To me part of being feminist is consistently challenging myself to do better, to be aware when I screw up, and do better. Everybody fucks up, some people make it a lifestyle choice. Don’t make it a lifestyle choice. Acknowledging when one messes up is difficult, I try to be honest with myself and others when I do, and take appropriate actions to avoid it in future.

 

Tell us about a collaboration, connection or experience Shecosystem has facilitated for you.

 
With most of my work being independent, and having chronic pain, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and not leave the house. Working at Shecosystem allows me to more easily connect with others and gets me out of the house. For me, at the moment, this is critical for my own work and well-being.

 

What mindset, mantra, or truth about business/entrepreneurship has helped you along the way?

 
There’s no one right way to do it. To set my own definitions for success, and to allow myself to do what I can do, and not beat myself up if I have to turn something down because my health won’t allow it, or if it doesn’t align with my values. I am constantly working to not overthink, and not overthink my overthinking.

 

We’re all about celebrating each other at Shecosystem, care to share an accomplishment with us?

 
Does getting out of bed count? Seriously, though, sometimes that is an achievement in and of itself when one has chronic health problems/chronic illness, and/or mental health struggles. All of which get intertwined.

Being still alive counts as an achievement as well. The suicide rate for trans people is almost 50% with serious ideation higher than 80%.

My big point of brag and accomplishment at the moment is that my poem, “Holy Love” is part of the anthology, Resilience: surviving in the face of everything, that has been nominated as a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award.

 

 

Connect with Talia at taliacjohnson.ca or on facebook.

 

Check out Talia’s online course starting later this month, Writing Trans Topics & Characters

 

Read “Holy Love” in The Resilience Anthology 

 


 

CREATRIX is a blog from Shecosystem highlighting the people in our community who are giving life to new ideas and innovative businesses. We are the authors of our own identity. Each of us draws from deep, generative wellsprings of inspiration, and we have wisdom to share.

 

ANNISHA LASHAND

Freelance Writer | Editor | Social Media Manager | Brand Strategist Website Builder | Inbound Marketer | Digital Guru
ANNISHA LASHAND

Freelance Writer | Editor | Social Media Manager | Brand Strategist Website Builder | Inbound Marketer | Digital Guru

CREATRIX | Or Har-Gil

Or Har-Gil is an Art Therapist who works to help people express and embrace their whole, imperfect, authentic selves. Or starts her day by walking her dog, drinking tea and choosing a tarot card from a crystal laden altar near her desk. She grounds herself with some stretching, pulls a card and journals on any questions that arise, or guidance the card can offer for her day.

Or works from a space of honouring wholeness over perfection and values connection and collaboration— it is, afterall, how she met Emily and became one of the first members of Shecosystem once it opened in 2016.

Or discusses her journey towards Art Therapy and how she is devoted to running her business with feminist values that support and celebrate women. Read my interview with Or below.

By Annisha Lashand

 

What is your work in the world and how are you innovating?

 

As an Art Therapist, I use art and creativity as tools for helping people explore and witness their inner landscape. I combine that with elements of mindful self-compassion and narrative therapy to help people relate to themselves in kinder and more loving ways.

I’m innovating in small, ongoing ways by weaving new ideas or approaches into my work, testing them out, and seeking feedback to help me learn and evolve my offerings. I’ve always been a big reader and learner, so part of the fun for me is connecting the dots between different concepts and trying to apply them to my work.

 

So many of us learn from each other’s processes, can you share a little about the steps you took to get started?

 

I started small, running my first workshops while I was still working in a full-time job. That took a lot of encouragement and support from my husband and friends, because it felt like a huge step at the time. But it allowed me to get my idea into the world in a way that felt manageable, and to see that I already had a lot of the skills I needed to do what I wanted to do. It gave me the confidence to keep pursuing this path, and some outside confirmation that there was interest in what I had to offer.

 

If work is a journey of the soul, what is the most important way your soul has developed through your work?

 

Probably the biggest way my soul has developed is in becoming more compassionate towards myself. I’m a recovering perfectionist, which means that my inner monologue was often incredibly harsh and that my fear of failure and judgment kept me from doing, saying, and going after the things I really wanted.

Having to consistently put myself out there to keep my business going has required me to drop the idea that everything I do has to be (or can be) perfect…and even change my mind that perfection is such a worthwhile goal anyway. I’ve come to be a lot more concerned with creating content and offerings that are real and vulnerable, that express my soul, and that show people that being your whole, messy, human self is way more interesting and beautiful than a two-dimensional illusion of perfection.

 

What does being a feminist entrepreneur mean to you?

 

Being a feminist entrepreneur means running my business in way that aligns with my values: compassion for self and others, authentic and brave self-expression, and meaningful connection.

It means supporting the sh*t out of other women entrepreneurs by hiring them, collaborating with them, and amplifying their work. It means believing that there’s more than enough for everyone, and that being generous and loving is not only the “nice” thing to do, but the thing that’s going to build a thriving business and community for all of us.

Importantly, it also means staying humble and being open to learn about how I can do better in terms of how I communicate about my work and how I make my work accessible to people. It means reflecting on how my privilege allows me to do this work and to move through the world in ways that others cannot and doing what I can to acknowledge and minimize those gaps.  

 

 

Tell us about a collaboration, connection or experience Shecosystem has facilitated for you…doesn’t have to be business oriented!

 

So many connections, experiences and collaborations! I was super lucky to find Shecosystem early on in my journey, when Emily was hosting co-working and wellness meetups at Artscape. Finding a community of supportive, badass women at different stages of their life and business helped normalize what I was going through, reassure me that I wasn’t a total mess up, and introduced me to people, tools, and systems that I otherwise wouldn’t have found.

 

What mindset, mantra, or truth about business/entrepreneurship has helped you along the way?

 

Progress, not perfection. It’s better to get a rough version of your concept out there (whether it’s a website, a program, a workshop…), get real world input on it and make changes, than to spend ages creating the ‘perfect’ version of that thing and never getting it out there, or taking too long, at which point it’s irrelevant or doesn’t meet a need.

 

Take a moment to brag – we’re all about celebrating each other, share an accomplishment with us!

 

I’m proud of running my business in a way that makes space for the fullness of my humanity, and the humanity of my clients and collaborators. That resists the idea that being successful is only measured by money and productivity. That creates spaces for self-expression, for feeling all of our feelings, and for lifting each other up.

 

Check Or out at www.orhargil.com

Follow her at @orhargil  on instagram & @orhargilarttherapy on Facebook!


 

CREATRIX is a blog from Shecosystem highlighting the people in our community who are giving life to new ideas and innovative businesses. We are the authors of our own identity. Each of us draws from deep, generative wellsprings of inspiration, and we have wisdom to share.

 

ANNISHA LASHAND

Freelance Writer | Editor | Social Media Manager | Brand Strategist Website Builder | Inbound Marketer | Digital Guru
ANNISHA LASHAND

Freelance Writer | Editor | Social Media Manager | Brand Strategist Website Builder | Inbound Marketer | Digital Guru

Creatrix: Sulafa Silim

I meet with Sulafa Silim in the jungle room against the backdrop of a lush, imaginary rainforest I can only dream of exploring. Sulafa has been hunkered down in this space for almost five hours without moving, filling her role as Project Manager for a Digital and Social agency based in BC. She chomps at an apple, “I think I forgot to eat lunch!” she declares. Like most women here, describing Sulafa as hardworking is an understatement.  

We get to talking about self-care and the importance of listening to your body, a conversation I find common in this beautiful space. Caring for the self, and others is at the core of Sulafa’s other gig as Founder of DAWA Apothecary. With DAWA (derived from the Swahili word for medicine) Sulafa runs health and wellness events and workshops for women of colour in Toronto and abroad.

These workshops are centred around the idea that we have 3 ways of engaging: conversation, moments (moving, doing something, dance etc), and connections (creating community). Read my interview with Sulafa below.

By Annisha Lashand

 

What identities do you inhabit?

 

I identify as a Black, Arab African woman

 

What is your work in the world?

 

My work has brought me into the forefront of my life’s purpose in bringing women of colour to be noticed and being valued as worthy of love, care and understanding. This work has really allowed me to unpack how I identify, how I can build on this journey and be aware of my own feelings, ambitions and needs – again making myself aware that I am worthy of love, care and understanding.

 

Tell us about the “WHY” that drives your business.

 

DAWA is 5 months old, but has been in utero for 5 years. The story started in the UK where I used to live with a roommate, both of us working in the field of outreach with young people and teaching resilience. Living in a big city you start to realize there are not a lot of spaces for women of colour to unpack the things they were going through.

Part of it was body inclusivity was lacking, we all straddle different identities there, for me it was a conscious decision to bring forth some of the intersections we exist in. Not as simple as race and gender, there’s also cultural ties.  That kind of venn diagram is something that makes up a lot of women of colour’s experiences. I would say race is something you experience on the street, but in the household it’s culture. When it comes to holding space for these things in community, it was a question of access, but access is not only whether you can afford to do it, but also do you feel welcome?

Whether you’ve experienced being the “other”, or the “token”, a lot of these self-care, healing spaces replicate those experiences even though they are supposed to be a space that is healing me. It eliminates the ability to be honest and vulnerable and have real conversations.

 

DAWA was originally going to be a brick and mortar space, but has evolved into more of a community. It’s a safe space where people can have conversations about the real challenges they’re experiencing. Talking about anti-black oppression, or shadism within people of colour. Talking about perceptions of each other. We’re having those hard hitting conversations.

 

What does being a feminist entrepreneur mean to you?

Being a feminist means that I root equity throughout my work – it means that I center empathy and access to building capacity within women. It means that I am committed to improving my peers’ lives but also being a conduit to the conversation about women of colour in the context of feminism

 

Tell us about a collaboration, connection or experience Shecosystem has facilitated for you…

 

Shecosystem has allowed me to feel sisterhood in a new way – it has opened relationships and support that I haven’t expected from women/identifying who are on similar journeys.

 

What is the one tool you can’t live without?

Meetingbird! Allows me to auto creates meeting invites from emails.

 

Celebrating Black History Month this month, what is meaningful to you that you’d want to share about being a black, female entrepreneur or black woman in wellness?

 

Being a black women entrepreneur working in wellness is important to me because it is focused on improving access and opportunities and showcasing that we have dynamic stories and needs. We are not a monolith.

DAWA Apothecary has a calendar full of events and workshops leading right up to the summer, if you’re curious check them out here.

 


 

CREATRIX is a blog from Shecosystem highlighting the people in our coworking community who are giving life to new ideas and innovative businesses. We are the authors of our own identity. Each of us draws from deep, generative wellsprings of inspiration, and we have wisdom to share.

ANNISHA LASHAND

Freelance Writer | Editor | Social Media Manager | Brand Strategist Website Builder | Inbound Marketer | Digital Guru
ANNISHA LASHAND

Freelance Writer | Editor | Social Media Manager | Brand Strategist Website Builder | Inbound Marketer | Digital Guru