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Silver Fork Culinary Arts Program Impacts
Transgender Employment

Did you know according to the “2015 U.S. Trans Survey”, a report by the National Center for Transgender Equality, transgender people experience unemployment at 3x the rate of the general population?

Disa Jusay, a fall 2017 Silver Fork graduate in Cohort 22, exemplifies the impact Silver Fork has had with increasing employment for our LGBTQ community, and in Disa’s experience, increasing the rates for transgender employment. Disa shares, “All my trans brothers and sisters face employment difficulties because of living their truth and it’s not right.” She adds her biggest challenge with job applications included, “Finding my courage to be ‘out’ as a transwoman and having to explain my immigration status in the process. When I started Silver Fork, I had been unemployed for almost 10 years and denied employment numerous times because I am trans. Employers communicated they were not comfortable with hiring me because of their moral standards, even though I had years of experience in the exact position prior to my transition.”

Disa admits, “I had a dark point in my life where I wish I didn’t transition and I began to think my life would have been easier to navigate if I was not trans. I am thankful I recovered from thinking and feeling this way. Center on Halsted’s Silver Fork Program helped me to embrace who I am.”

Disa remembers when she first heard about Silver Fork and how the application process showed her there was light at the end of the tunnel. She experiences the benefits of the program on a daily basis, and it expanded her knowledge in what she was already passionate about, food! “FOOD is my passion”, she expresses loud and clear with a glimmering smile. The 10 years of employment rejections lowered her self-esteem and Disa was nervous about getting into the program. However, the sense of community and support she felt both during the application process and training was pivotal to her success. She reflects, “I trust and respect my mentors, Chef Altieri and Chef Sean. They took me into this nine-week culinary boot camp and I have gained an immense amount of wisdom, as well as a higher respect for myself.”

Upon graduation, Disa joined the culinary arts workforce as a cook for a personal chef here in Chicago. Her work includes supporting the chef, organizing private parties and helping with the preparation of weekly meals specific to a variety of dietary needs and requests. She now looks forward to everyday and recognizes the light her accomplishments are shining upon her due to her Silver Fork experience.

What would Disa like to share with the upcoming Silver Fork Cohort 23 beginning in January 2018?

“We must stay committed to do the work and apply ourselves 100%. We must be humble with ourselves and grateful we are granted this scholarship to turn our lives around. I encourage our LGBTQ community, and my trans brothers and sisters, to apply for this opportunity and pay it forward to the people who really need it.”

Center on Halsted needs you to persist with us to continue providing our Silver Fork Program. $500 provides a Silver Fork participant with 1 of the 9 weeks of training toward graduation and employment. Consider a donation today.

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Center on Halsted is the Midwest’s largest community center dedicated to advancing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Movement.

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