Mini Episode 10 Kalyela Josephs
[Elena]Welcome to Out of Queeriosity, your field guide to queer pride. This is a production of Pride and Joy Foundation, and I'm your host, Elena Joy. Pronouns she, her. You have found a bonus episode. Our theme this year is your voice, your power. We are using it to pursue our mission of preventing suicide and homelessness in our LGBTQ plus community by amplifying your voice and your power.
Our bonus episodes feature the voices of the most recent graduates of our Keynote Queers program. This is our eight week online course just for LGBTQ plus participants to learn public speaking skills as well as the knowledge to build public speaking into an extra form of income. Whether our participants were pitching their own small business, or up leveling their presentation skills for their corporate career, or just learning how to effectively move audiences to take action. Our keynote queers gave a hell of a graduation presentation and we are here to share it with you. Can you even imagine squishing an entire keynote into just 10 minutes? This is considered expert level skills in the public speaking world. And it was our graduates capstone project. Check back in the summer of 2023 to hear from another keynote queer graduate.
Now let's get to it. Our next keynote queer is Kalyela Josephs, also known as Coach K. Pronouns she, they. Kalyela is an inspirational speaker, life coach, and LGBTQ plus well being advocate. Kalyela is the founder of Queer On Purpose Coaching which helps individuals unleash their potential and thrive in their purpose and well being.
Her empowering messages come straight from the heart. She digs deep into her own authentic self to connect with others and guide them to a place of personal and professional confidence. They empower queer leaders, LGBTQI resource groups, DEI practitioners, and allies. to build healthier organizations by cultivating purpose, change, and inclusivity. Coach K also serves as a queer spiritual coach, helping queer folks heal from religious trauma and experience spiritual freedom. She inspires the queer community to remain connected, resilient, and purposeful. Please help me welcome Kalyela and their talk, Coming Out to Your Purpose.
[Kalyela] Why am I queer? The constant wrestling with why I am and who I am with no answer left me in a dark place, depressed, and many times filled with a lot of anxiety. Credited to my religious upbringing and my mom had a hard time accepting that I was gay. I can remember over dinner she asked, “Of all the things you can think about being in life, why would you choose a gay lifestyle?”
A gay lifestyle? Are you serious? I can't even use the bathroom in peace before somebody thinks they're in the wrong place. I can't wear the clothes that I want to wear to work, much less go to church and not be judged. Ma, you can't even look at me and be proud. Her only response? “I can no longer look at you like this. I did not bring a gay child into this world. When you change, that's when we can have a relationship.”
I not only lost my appetite, I was losing my mom. This was salt on a wound because I was already having an inner war with my sexuality. I felt lost. Like I had no purpose. Days later, while I was watching TV, I caught Oprah's Super Soul Sunday show where she was interviewing the guest RuPaul. And she asked, “What do you believe your purpose here is on earth?”I believe it starts with me, to experience life and show others how to do it. Oprah added, “your purpose is to be the truest version of yourself.”
That's it. That's what I want to do. I want to help people find their purpose. Why they get up in the morning and have joy. Wait, can't help nobody find their purpose and be gay. I broke down in tears. How can I help others find their purpose? When I don't even feel worthy to live my own? Sitting silently, I realized it was more than me finding my purpose. I wasn't living in my truth. I wasn't out. I was hiding. And I heard something inside me say, tell your father who you are. Now with one eye open looking around the house, because I know I'm the only one here. The feeling grew stronger.
Tell your father who you are. Now years went by without telling my dad. Because I was ashamed of who I was. I was no longer the little girl with the pink bow on her head. But that little girl missed her daddy. I picked up the phone with my hands shaking. I tried to make small talk as long as I could. But I knew what I had to do.
“Daddy, I have to tell you something. I'm gay, dad. I'm gay.”
All I could hear was silence. And the rustling of his beard. “Daddy, are you there?”
“Yes, I'm here. You are my baby. I love you. I accept you. I will never turn my back on you. I need you to be who you are.”
Words I never thought I would hear. A wave of tears came down over me. And it felt like a ton of bricks was lifted off my chest and I can breathe. I could finally be who I am being, who I am was not the message I received. In fact, it was the opposite. After a long year of looking for a job and going from interview to interview to interview, hearing the same thing, we decided to go with a more suitable candidate. I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. Until I had a friend. She had some light. She leaned in. Can I be honest with you? Of course. You're gonna have a hard time finding a job. Because you're Black, you're a woman, you graduated from a Black college, And most companies frown upon that. And then to add to all of that, you're gay and you look gay.
Yes, you look gay. And you're going to have to turn that gayness a little down to get a real job. Okay. I was convinced that I needed a makeover and I rushed to JC Penney’s clearance rack and bought me a corporate gray skirt suit. With some heels that I can barely walk in. The next day I would determine that my power suit was going to land me a job. I knocked on every company door that would accept my resume. And today was my lucky day as a manager invited me in for an interview. And guess what? I nailed it. I got the job. My power suit landed me the job. Now I wore that suit more times than there was days in a week. I thought if I maybe appeared a little bit more feminine, held back my voice in meetings and made no affiliation with my jobs prior to ERG, that my gayness would get a pass.
After months of almost poking my eye out with mascara, I started to realize that the clothes would slowly put me back into the closet. I had a co worker that later became a friend, that noticed that the clothes that I wore outside of work, I was a little bit more comfortable than what I wore to work. She challenged me.
“I need you to throw away those heels and wear something that expresses who you are. Be yourself.”
At our next team meeting, I now had a new makeover. I came in with a fresh haircut, fly bow tie, a men's blazer, and some slacks. I am now who I am. I'm no imposter. I'm in my skin. I am confident. Now this is my power suit. My power suit and my queer power suit at that would help me prepare and support our LGBTQ folks. I started to realize that I wasn't alone. I would hear the stories of my co workers of what it means to come show up as your best self or your full self at work and come out and come out again and move to a different department, but come out again and I joined my Pride ERG.
It was a safe haven. It was a place where I can be vulnerable, be myself and feel seen. It invited me to step into this new way of leading leadership and being there for our queer professionals. In the moments when we were facing uncertainty around the potential LGBTQ plus legislation with our Supreme Court, Down to the moments where we cried and grieved of the loss of our loved ones in the Club Q shooting. I coach LGBTQ leaders, DEI practitioners, and allies. We are the change makers. We are on the front lines of policy change, whether that is advocating for gender inclusive bathrooms, equitable healthcare, and even trans rights. And when we are creating the change for our communities, It's more than data, It's more than numbers and pronouns training one on one. It's about stepping into courage and helping those that do not look like us, don't identify like us. Understand there's power and there's purpose in one's queer identity. Little did I know that the challenges with my identity would lead me to creating the greater good for humanity.
I had a leader that was inspired by religion in the workplace session that I did, where I talked about faith, work, and allyship.
“Thank you. I just love how you live your life out loud. You go by they, she? I have an employee that just came out as trans and I don't get this whole pronouns thing. It's my faith. How do I honor my faith in my employee at the same time?”
I shared with the leader, “We come from all different backgrounds, spiritual walks, and even principles, but there's a universal theme. Love thy neighbor. How can you show that same compassion to your employee?”
“I never thought about it like that. Love thy neighbor. I'll work on it.”
Weeks went by and I got an update, “Coach K, I got an update. We are, my employee and I, are having a great time. We are having more one on one time. I'm getting an opportunity to learn how I can better support them and I joined the Pride ERG. I thought about what you said. My employee is my neighbor and loving them through their journey is what my faith calls me to do. Thanks.”
Now, it was years before I was able to accept that my queerness is my superpower and no longer question why I am who I am and just be myself. Throughout this entire experience from coming out to my dad, finding my queer superpower, my bow tie and reconnecting with my chosen family in a pride ERG and leading and inspiring allies to lead with compassion. I was reminded of Oprah's guidance. Our purpose on this earth is to be our truest version of ourselves. When we step into the truth and the light of our transness and our queerness, that's when we're able to come out to our purpose and share our gifts with the world. I'll leave you with this. In those moments when you are filled with doubt and you're questioning, why [00:13:00] am I queer?
Know this. You are created queer on purpose with a purpose. Thank you.
[Elena]I hope you enjoyed this bonus episode featuring our keynote career graduates. Coming this fall is the companion course, OUTWrite Authors. This online six week course is a path to publishing class for queer authors of nonfiction books.
If you're a thought leader, a business leader, or just have some amazing nonfiction words that the world needs to hear, we want you in this class. Visit outwriteauthors dot com for more info. That's outright, O U T W R I T E author dot com. A limited number of scholarships will be available. Thank you for joining us, Pride and Joy fam.
Until the next episode, be good to yourselves. I appreciate you.