Get to know ACLU-WV administrative assistant Zaki Michaels. We recently sat down with Zaki to learn more about his background and why he decided to join our team.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your background
A: I was born and raised in Southern California, and moved to West Virginia with my partner in search of our own piece of paradise. As a trans, gender-nonconforming Egyptian-American, many people wouldn’t think West Virginia is the best place to be for my partner and myself. I beg to differ. As one of a handful of transgender Partners on the global streaming site, Twitch.tv, I’ve met literally thousands of gender-diverse and other LGBTQIA2+ individuals from across the globe. One thing I’ve learned by being on Twitch is that just because media portrays a place one way, doesn’t mean it reflects the true full experiences of it. Trans people belong here and everywhere else where we exist. The best way to show people we belong is to normalize our lives, and not always make it about our struggles. We have families, we have hobbies, we work office jobs, we eat breakfast lunch and dinner just like anyone else. I’m so thankful I can use my skills in media relations, record keeping and organization to support a cause that does understand that I am just a person, not a political statement.
Q: What about the ACLU of WV’s mission most resonates with you?
A: Being a trans person of color can be very frustrating, my life is constantly politicized in the media and elsewhere. ACLU-WV is the first place I’ve worked where I’ve truly felt embraced and treated like a person, instead of having to hide who I am to make cisgender white people more comfortable around me. It is an absolute relief and honor to get to work in an environment where I know for a fact the people believe I deserve the right to thrive and have my human rights protected, respected and uplifted. I am not treated as a political token, but as a person with valuable skills that I can contribute to better the lives of other marginalized individuals like myself.
Q: What are you most looking forward to being the Administrative Assistant to the Legal Director?
A: I love that I am able to help streamline important litigation so we can more effectively defend and uplift people who have been wronged on a local, state and federal level.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: I help run three stream teams on Twitch which aim to uplift and support marginalized voices in different ways. The Breadbox, Transtopia and the one I created when I got Twitch Partner, Kind Crafters.
The Breadbox is a stream team my partner, AQuarterGhost created which focuses on raising funds for numerous nonprofit organizations with its team. So far, The Breadbox has helped raise nearly $30,000 for charities including Project HOPE, Rainbow Railroad and the Transgender Law Center.
Transtopia is the second stream team my partner created. It is made up of and exclusively for trans and gender-diverse content creators on Twitch. It was originally created so we could help find our community, since visibility for trans and gender-diverse individuals on Twitch was almost nonexistent compared to cisgender content creators. We’ve just started the team and it’s been an incredible experience getting to find our people!
I created a stream team called Kind Crafters, which is made up of marginalized makers and crafters on Twitch. We uplift individuals who have a joy of crafting and also run small businesses. It’s been an absolute pleasure getting to be a part of these stream teams!
Lastly, I run an Etsy shop, where I sell knitted and embroidered goods aimed at boosting confidence and comfort for fellow LGBTQIA2+ individuals. I’m a KnitPicks Influencer, and one of two gender-diverse individuals in the program. We get to show that crafting- especially knitting- is for everyone. And we can enjoy freedom in what we craft for ourselves.
I also love to meditate and regularly practice walking meditation in the trails of West Virginia when the weather permits.