Through humor and heartbreak, Michaela draws from her own personal story to share how she learned to navigate the world and all it's challenges. From growing up in New York, surviving bullying, to deciding to become the perfect man and husband, and then, after 30 years of marriage and three beautiful children, finding the courage to become the woman she always knew she was, Michaela tells the story of the unique challenges along her journey to womanhood, professional achievement, self-acceptance, and finally, love.
You might not be transgender, but perhaps at some point in your life, you struggled with your identity, your opinion of yourself, felt like you were a little on the outside looking in. Through her own personal narrative, Michaela takes audiences through her own journey – from a bullied young boy, to a strapping man, to finally, courageously becoming a woman and feeling at home in her body and soul. So many people today struggle with feeling at home in their bodies, struggle with self-acceptance and love. Michaela talks about how anyone can use the tools she’s learned to cultivate and find their authentic selves and finally feel HOME.
Michaela was a born CEO – starting a car wash business at age 12, building the largest coin operated game company in California out of her parents garage at 21, and going on to operate a group of 18 highly successful restaurants. After spending nine years as the President of a National Franchise Association, Michaela left the business, to retreat into solitude as she transitioned from male to female. Returning to the corporate world as a woman, with fresh eyes and a new perspective of discrimination around her, she was determined to make changes, to end violence against women and the LGBT community that she witnessed in the workplace. She founded the California Transgender Workplace Project and speaks to corporations all over the state on improving conditions, creating a safe, LGBT-friendly workplace, and creating opportunities for women.
Michaela can speak so eloquently on the topic of bullying because she was bullied.
As a child who felt different in ways she did not understand, she was bullied mercilessly, until she snapped one day after an ugly altercation with the class bully, and decided to become the toughest, strongest man she could be. It worked. President Lyndon Johnson himself commended her for her fitness exploits. But there was a price. Decades later, having built the “perfect life” as a man, with a loving wife, three beautiful children, and a successful career in business, she still couldn’t understand why, deep down, she felt like a failure and a fraud. Finding the courage to confront her true nature, her honest gender identity, she made the courageous transition from male to female. It felt like a victory until rejection by her family compounded her doubts and challenged her will to live. At her darkest, she contemplated ending her life. But she survived and the tools she discovered by learning to be herself and to ask for help, ultimately turned her life around and set her on a path to help others do the same.
Like so many people, Michaela spent much of her young life feeling like she was on the outside, that she didn’t belong, looking for that feeling of security and home. Even as a child, she was a seeker, pouring through books on different religions, on spirituality, always searching. As a man, she married a woman, had three beautiful children, and built a life, hoping that gnawing feeling would go away. It didn’t. Until she went on hormones. Once Michaela began the process of acceptance, of transitioning, of finally feeling she was in the “correct” body for her soul, a surprising spiritual transformation followed. Everything fell into place. She felt drawn back to Judaism, the religion of her ancestors. It was b’shert. Attending an LGBT-friendly temple, she began the process of converting to Judaism, meeting with her rabbi, studying texts. For the first time, everything started to connect. Michaela speaks eloquently on the tremendous power of self-acceptance and how it opens the doorway for the path to transformation. Once she accepted all of the different aspects of herself, change happened. For her own Jewish naming ceremony, Michaela chose the middle name Irvi, Hebrew for “one who crosses over the river Jordan.” She learned that she wasn’t just becoming a woman, she was a Jewish woman. Finally feeling home.