Your bravery and story is so admirable; when did you first decide that you wanted transition? I knew in high school but was too afraid to do so. It was in NYC while working as a professional that I decided to transition.
Did you discuss this transition with friends and family? I discussed with friends and they all encouraged me not to do it. I knew my family would be against the transition.
In your book you talk about many of the low points prior to your “Rise”, no pun intended. I don’t want to focus on the negativity, but I do want to know when, where, and what it was that inspired said “Rise.” I was at the bottom and remembered Maya Angelou’s poem I Rise.
Did you study under Maya Angelou? No but I attended Wake Forest University and went to all her readings and read all her books.
And then Law School? Yes
When did you first publish your book I Rise: The Transformation of Toni Newman? May 2011
The book has been met with great reviews, what would you say has been the most humbling recognition? Emails from young people saying I can do it and be my authentic self.
What is next for the book, there is a rumor that it is heading to the big screen? Details please…Alton Demore and Keith Holland has produced a short film called Heart of a Woman and we hope to get 3 million dollars for a full 90 minute feature.
For the past several years you have worked for a NPO in San Francisco called Maitri Compassionate Care, what has that experience been like? Working at Maitri was humbling and rewarding. We served the poor with AIDS and provided wonderful care.
Now you have just been appointed as the Executive Director of St. James Infirmary (SJI); what is SJI? St. James Infirmary is a peer-based occupational health and safety clinic for sex workers and their families. We exist to provide free, compassionate, and non-judgmental healthcare and social services for Sex Workers (current or former) of all genders and sexual orientations while preventing occupational illnesses and injuries through a comprehensive continuum of services. We are the only one of its kind in the USA.
As a Transwoman, this new position must be groundbreaking for the LGBTQ community; tell me about this? I am african-american transwoman of color who has worked hard and given 100% of myself. SJI is a million dollar organization providing wonderful service and my background of fundraising, development and management will lead us to establishing ourselves as a leader both locally and nationally. This position states if you work hard, be diligent and keep grinding anything is possible.
What exactly will your new role entail and what is in the pipeline for SJI? My goal is to lead SJI on a national front and to increase our budget to provide top-notch medical and social services.
What is next for you Toni Newman, and where can we find out all that’s going on in your life? I hope to inspire others that being your authentic self is rewarding, to get the full feature of Heart of a Woman completed and write my 2nd book.