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LaLa B. Zannell

LaLa B. Zannell

Award-Winning Advocate, Organizer, Artist, and Trans Justice Leader & Campaign Manager at the ACLU

LaLa B. Zannell

Award-Winning Advocate, Organizer, Artist, and Trans Justice Leader & Campaign Manager at the ACLU


To say that life was tough while growing up in Michigan for LaLa B. Zannell is a massive understatement. It was so hard for the prominent activist for transgender and human rights that her mother, who deeply loved her and always had her back, knew the world was not ready for the greatness LaLa had to bring to the world. She was also afraid life would never be easy or safe for LaLa in the Motor City.

Although LaLa had to leave Michigan and everything she knew, she found joy and an escape from the world through her entertainment career in drag. She was a show director of a local LGBTQ nightclub. It was a space where she was able to express her gender and use music as a tool of healing through artistic expression.

LaLa was also a part of and a member of the then underground ballroom culture under many houses, another safe space for her to be free to find and discover herself. It was the love of LaLa’s chosen family that made her create her own to help other LGBTQ youth who have been put out by their parents.

Despite the move, many hard times followed, and violence against her, too. She was also forced to become a sex worker. But eventually, LaLa found her way. And her way was a deep belief to help others in the transgender and LGBTQ communities, especially trans people of color. She began inspiring others to take action and make a difference in the world.

Today, she is a national advocate, organizer, writer and artist working towards liberation for transgender and nonbinary communities, with a particular focus on trans women of color and trans sex workers. She is the Trans Justice Campaign Manager at the ACLU and is paving the way for the transgender and LGBT communities to not be marginalized and have the right to live a safe, loving and fulfilling life. She is also working with the stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race, helping them use their voice and platform to raise awareness and defend drag, as well as fight against horrible anti-trans bills and upcoming threats.

Before her work at the ACLU, LaLa had years of experience working in organizing and advocacy spaces, including the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) where she served as a Lead Organizer doing advocacy, outreach and networking on behalf of LGBTQ New Yorkers who have experienced violence. She has also organized and held a vigil for national and local trans community members. LaLa helped found and fight for funding for the organization’s first Trans and Non-binary Leadership Academy to teach New Yorkers how to fight for change and be advocates in their community while helping build AVP work.

Through her work with the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), she was instrumental in how the lives of trans women of color are talked about in the media today and worked with media outlets to change how to report on trans lives stories in the media. Having served as a former chair of the policy and working group committee for Communities United for Police Reform (CPR), LaLa was part of passing Intro 541, which addresses unconstitutional searches by the NYPD.

Alongside her policing work, she lobbied the NYC City Council for a policing bill and created the first Trans Discrimination Survey in New York City to collect data on trans people’s experiences in employment. The findings were released in City Hall Park alongside City Council officials and transgender & gender nonconforming support leaders.

LaLa is a gifted public speaker and speechwriter. She spoke at the White House for the first Women’s History Month briefing that included trans women, the last briefing on transgender people under the Obama administration and testified at the first Congressional forum on violence against transgender people.

In 2015, she was featured on the Trans 100 list. She has also published her writing in USA Today, NBC News, Out magazine, Ebony magazine, Leisure Studies and many other publications. Her many television appearances include Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, Democracy Now!, Trevor Noah and more. She has been interviewed on various podcasts, such as Translash, The LGTBQ Nation, The Takeaway, Let’s Get Back to Queer, Marsha’s Plate and Politically Re-Active. LaLa also has many awards and government official proclamations under her belt as well for her long-time commitment to the liberation of her community and supporting everyone's right to bodily autonomy.

She is a co-producer of her feature film and documentary LaLa’s World. LaLa is also an entrepreneur. She is the founder of T Times Three Jewelry company led by Trans activist and author Cecilia Gentili and fashion designer Gogo Graham, who are also trans women of color. LaLa currently leads the ACLU’s advocacy and organizing work to support and empower transgender and nonbinary people.

Speaker Videos

LaLa B. Zannell | Finding Community

How Can People Support the Trans Community

A Short History of PRIDE ft. Lala Zannell and Patti Harrison | Full Frontal on TBS

Speech Topics

Empowering Others: The Journey of a Trans Activist

Lala B. Zannell shares her incredible journey, from growing up in a loving, religious family to the bullying and violence she suffered as a trans woman to making her way to New York City and becoming a prominent activist for transgender and human rights. Deeply inspiring, you’ll learn the importance of family and chosen family, how to heal from trauma and build sustainable self-care and why it’s important to never give up. She’ll also share tips on community organizing to support and empower transgender and nonbinary people, from fundraisers to planning and organizing protests to vigils for falling community members to court support and outreach. This is a keynote you soon won’t forget.

Creating a Trans-inclusive Company Culture & Leadership Development

Although companies and organizations have come a long way in creating inclusive cultures, there is still much work to be done—especially when it comes to hiring and retaining transgender people for leadership positions. It’s virtually non-existent. LaLa B. Zannell is on a mission to change that. In this talk, you’ll discover how an inclusive workplace that includes trans people will create a richer, deeper culture and in the long run, help boost creativity and productivity; what needs to be changed to give trans people the same opportunities as their colleagues; how to create an inclusive trans and non-binary working environment; and tips on how to help a trans person who has joined your team as an employee or leader.

Building Power and Fighting Back Against Hate

The last few years have been nothing short of horrific for transgender and LBGTQ communities. Violence against them continues to rise, and the largest recorded wave of anti-trans legislation at the state level passed in 2022. And yet, LaLa B. Zannell says, she and many others will never give up the fight to stop the hate. A prominent activist for transgender and human rights, LaLa will show how corporations can help; how everyone can support the trans community; why open and honest conversations about changing systems of oppression and getting to the root cause of violence can benefit everyone; and how using storytelling as a tool can heal, as well as get people to take action and create culture-shifting narratives.

The History of Pride and How We Can Improve It

LaLa B. Zannell, a prominent activist for transgender and human rights, discusses the long history of Pride, its importance and how we can improve it for the future. She shares the right way for brands to approach Pride month and leverage their connections to reach communities; the significance of telling the truth about its history; how people can support the trans community; and how it’s possible to have a celebration and protest at the same time.