All Articles Tagged "LGBT"
By Bianqua Hunter
When I hear the phrase “coming out,” I always picture a big, tough, athletic football player whom no one suspects would ever have an interest in the same gender. For that reason, I never thought I had a coming out story. As a child, I was labeled a Tomboy, and it has followed me my entire life. When most 7-year-old girls were playing with Barbies and dreaming of being princesses, I was somewhere playing with cars and dreaming of playing football. It’s safe to say that not much has changed since then. For this reason, you can probably see why I didn’t feel that I had a coming out story. However, after doing some self-reflecting, I realized that I do!
I was only 15 when my mother was confronted with the reality of my sexuality. It was a known fact amongst my peers that I was gay, but it was a “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation in my home. My mother owned a hair salon near my high school. She was loved by anyone who knew her. Anyone could walk into her salon and be greeted with warmth and laughter, and that is exactly what my ex-girlfriend did one day. At the time, we had been broken up for a few months. I had moved on; however, she still seemed to be holding on. One day, out of spite, she decided to schedule an appointment at my mom’s salon. She conspired to end up in my mother’s styling chair, but a boomerang shook up her plan when she learned that my mother was booked on that particular day. Still determined to shake things up, she settled for the next best thing: my mother’s close friend, who was also a stylist.
She walked into the salon that day equipped with just enough information to blow up my world. The day of her hair appointment, I received an odd call from her. I figured something was up because we were not on speaking terms at the time. It was also a little suspicious that she called me from an unknown number, and since I was on break from band practice, I answered. She sounded extremely bubbly and was being super affectionate, calling me baby, and being extra. Little did I know, she was already in the salon chair. Our conversation was brief, but enough to start a conversation at the salon with my mother’s friend.
“Oh is that your boyfriend?” I later learned that my mother’s friend asked her.
“No, I don’t have a boyfriend,” my ex replied.
“Oh, you just have a boo thang. Does he go to school with you?”
“Yes, she does.”
“Ooooh, okay. Let me guess, she plays basketball?”
“She did, but she quit to focus on playing in the school’s band.”
That little bit of information was enough for my mom’s friend to begin connecting the dots, and she began to dig a little deeper.
“Oh, she’s in the band? What instrument does she play?”
“She played the saxophone, but she’s a drum major now, so she doesn’t really play. If you’ve been to one of our games, you probably saw her out there dancing.”
“I think I have. Do y’all visit each other at home?”
“Yes, her mom’s house is beautiful. She has this big fish tank; it’s cool.”
The funny part about that is that my ex had only been inside of my home once. I had surgery on my breast to remove a lump, and everyone came over to visit me, including my ex.
Anyway, with all of the information my ex shared, you can probably guess that my mother’s friend couldn’t wait to tell my mom about their encounter. Later that night, as I was in my room doing homework, I heard my mother slam the front door and yell my name at the top of her lungs. I was a good kid. I went to school, band practice, and then to my job. So to hear her scream my name, indicating that I was in trouble, came as a shock. I walked into the living room. There she stood, so angry she had tears in her eyes, and her lips were clenched. Before I asked what I had done to get in trouble, my 11-year-old sister, who was standing behind her crying as well, mumbled, “Just tell her Bianqua”. I was confused. My mother finally mustered up the words, “Are you a dike? Are you?” I was too stunned to answer. In my mind, I was shocked by how angry she was. I’ve never been the girly girl type, and I had always been a good kid. I didn’t understand. What happened next showed me just how differently my mom and most people view homosexuality. To my shock and horror, my mother told me that she would choose seeing me as a pregnant teen over seeing me as a “dike.”
Several weeks later, I moved with my grandmother to avoid finding myself in the middle of a physical altercation with my mom. Yes, things got that bad. Our relationship quickly withered to nothing and for the next two years, my mother and I barely spoke to one another. I wasn’t even sure if she would attend my high school graduation. Thankfully, she did. As time went on, we were able to grow closer. Unfortunately, it was tragedy that brought us back together. I revealed to my mother that her ex-husband molested me when I was 13, and explained that I intended to press charges. For the first time in two years, she saw me as her child again. She praised me for having the courage to speak out, which is something that she felt she could never do. Despite the fact that my ex-stepfather was monitoring us and continuing to threaten us, I moved forward because I desired to be free in all aspects of my life.
Although our relationship had drastically improved, there’s was still an elephant in the room, a conversation that we were avoiding. We finally confronted that elephant nearly a year later after my mother fell ill. I had been staying with her so that I could take care of her and one day, a “Dr. Phil” episode about a teen who was abandoned by her mother because of her sexuality came on.
“Why are you gay?” my mother finally asked.
Exhausted with the avoidance game, I chose to hit her with the truth:
“I didn’t choose to be gay, mom, I just am. Do you think I would choose to be gay and risk losing my mother during my last 2 years of high school? I don’t know why I’m gay; I was gay before I knew I was gay.”
She didn’t seem to understand, so I elaborated:
“I remember in elementary having a crush on girls, not boys. I saw boys as cool or cute, but I didn’t like them. I didn’t know that my feelings were considered bad until we were in church when I was 8 and the pastor kept yelling, ‘Girls liking girls, being gays, they’re going to hell!’ I wanted to run away because I thought my wrong would send you to hell. I hated my feelings, I suppressed them to fit in and be normal.”
Still trying to make sense of it a ll, she asked if the molestation had anything to do with it. I confessed that it did, but not in the way she may have thought. Being molested didn’t make me gay, but it did cause me to do some self-reflecting and embrace the feelings I had been feeling all along. I braced myself for another mean outburst from my mother, but her reaction actually surprised me. She confessed that she knew that I was different since I was three. She knew I would be gay and many of the people around her said that I would be. But I was her first daughter, and she chose not to accept it. She had my entire life planned out in her head already, so she denied what she knew to be true. We hugged and I just asked her to love me. I face so much judgment when I’m out in the world, I need to be reminded that I’m loved when I’m at home.
That night I came out of the closet and closed the door. That night I found peace within myself. That night I got my mommy back, and I’m glad I did. Nine months later, she passed away. She passed away scared for me in a judgmental world; she also passed away not knowing the outcome of my case.
She didn’t get to hear that her lesbian daughter made state history as the youngest person to file charges on their own and win a life verdict. My stepfather was found guilty on four counts relating to child molestation and sentenced to four years. I’m thankful that my mother and I had our talk, and I believe everything happens for a reason. My mother’s revelation gives me the belief that many parents know the truth, but they choose to deny it. Many of them are more angry that their child is not living the dream that they planned out, than they are that their child is homosexual. Death is real and it is unexpected. Do not regret taking the time to love your flesh and blood over your failed dream. Love your child because more than likely than not, they didn’t change when you found it the truth; the way you see them, and treat them changed.
If you’ve ever taken a psychology class, you know they teach you that sexuality is fluid, meaning very few people identify as 100 percent heterosexual throughout every period of their life, 100 percent of the time.
As we become more honest and progressive in society, people, particularly celebrities, feel more and more comfortable admitting to their own period of questioning or exploration.
“The View” co-host Rosie Perez is the latest celeb to admit to her same-sex attraction when she was in middle school.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Perez revealed this little tidbit during a speech at the TrevorLIVE event in New York City. The Trevor Project, the organization who hosted the event, is a national LGBT youth organization. Perez was there to speak to the importance of teens having someone to talk to about their sexuality.
“Every human being, whether they want to admit it or not, went through a period of questioning. I know I did.”
Perez then told a story about the feelings she had for and the relationship she had with another girl during junior high.
“All I wanted to do was hump her. And I suppressed the urge and suppressed the urge and suppressed the urge until Michelle one day started humping on me.”
Perez said that when she and Michelle broke up, they also lost their friendship. And after the relationship, she felt that she couldn’t speak to anyone about the questions she had regarding her sexuality.
“I’m not the only one that went through this questioning period. I’m not the only one that suppressed those feelings, who hid their story. I know I’m not lesbian, gay or whatever–I’m a quasi-straight person- I still went through that period. And I thought I was all alone.”
Perez praised The Trevor project, specifically their crisis hotline fro providing that outlet for people who may be struggling to define or embrace their sexuality.
“If I had other people, specifically adults, if I was just able to call up and they said, ‘Oh, I humped the Michelle-type person, too. You’re normal, don’t worry. You’re either gonna go here, there or in the middle. Don’t worry about it. It’ll pass. You’re just figuring it out,’ even that simple statement, … that would have made all the difference in the world.”
The release of Caitlyn Jenner’s 22-page cover story in the July 2015 issue of Vanity Fair broke the Internet last week and remains the paramount topic of many conversations.
Although Jenner brings celebrity to the word transgender, the trans community is filled with everyday men and women who seek to live their lives comfortably, happily and unapologetically. But they also strive to be open about their journey at the same time. Quite often we hear, see and encounter stories of males transitioning into females, but the stories of women who transition into men are few and far between. Not because they don’t exist, but because their stories aren’t being told.
Allex Knight, 27, is a preacher’s kid. He remembers being very unhappy when he was growing up and equates that unhappiness with being forced into femininity.
“I was born the child of a Baptist Reverend and a beautiful mother, both of whom obviously had preconceived notions of what being a ‘daughter’ meant to them,” Knight said. “I grew up having to wear feminine clothing, and it truly made me miserable. When it came to getting dressed, I used to throw tantrums, play sick and refused to go places, and I didn’t understand why I was always so angry. I just knew I would prefer to wear some pants and a button up to ‘dress up.’”
Knight also recalls being attracted to girls at an early age but not being able to completely identify with the lesbian label. “I had my first girlfriend at 14, but I never felt comfortable being labeled as a ‘lesbian.’ I always felt like I was never truly being myself.”
After graduating high school, Knight went on to obtain a Bachelor’s of Science Degree from Syracuse University and is now a freelance associate producer for a prominent television network. Today, he lives as a man and has committed himself to openly speaking about his journey with others to help inspire change.
“Just as a cisgendered boy grows into a man or a cisgendered girl into a woman, I’m a trans person who is growing into adulthood. So there never was a point where I started living as a man. I’m simply living as who I am. Gender is a beautiful spectrum of different types of genders and people, just like race is not just Black and white. I think once people start to understand that gender is much like race it won’t be such a fascination, just a discourse on how to make trans persons feel more included within our society.”
One way to make this happen is to respect the way a trans man or woman chooses to be identified. Knight expects people, no matter how long they’ve known him, to address him using pronouns that are applied to men.
“I told myself that this year I wanted to be completely happy and that I was going to start living my life more authentically, so that means discussing my transition and pronoun preferences with people. Indeed, it’s tough, especially for people who have known me as she/her all of my life to switch to he/him or my preferred pronouns. I don’t expect everyone to get them right 100 percent of the time, but I do want them to try to respect who I am today and what makes me comfortable.”
One of Knight’s other goals this year is to undergo breast augmentation surgery, also know as top surgery. This is one of the most common FTM (female to male) surgical procedures.
“I have always had an issue with my breasts. From the moment they started growing, I was terrified,” Knight said. “I wasn’t sure how big they would get and how else my body would change because I was born biologically female. I did anything possible to keep my chest flat, from applying duct tape on my bare skin, to ace bandages. That is until I found out that most trans men use what is called a binder to keep a smooth, flat-looking chest. This, too, I found was rather uncomfortable but way less painful than ripping the duct tape off my bare skin or cutting off my breathing by wrapping ace bandages around them. These days I just work out daily, including doing more than 100 push ups to keep my chest rather flat. But ultimately, having top surgery would enable me the freedom to know what it would be like to have my desired chest and finally be able to look in the mirror and be happy. Most importantly, this surgery would considerably reduce my anxiety in terms of passing as male.”
Top surgery usually requires an incision extending from underneath the existing breast fold to the outside of the chest. The nipple and areola are removed, resized and replaced. “Free nipple grafts” are then placed in a new position to give a male appearance to the chest. These procedures range in price from $6,000 to $15,000. According to the Top Surgery FTM Network, U.S. insurance companies are beginning to cover this procedure for transgender men. Also, a few states are now legally requiring these insurance companies to provide coverage for the trans community.
Not being able to get the insurance coverage he needs, Knight has sought out donations from his family, friends and those willing to support the fulfillment of his journey.
“I am fortunate as most of my friends and family have been super supportive of this journey. I think it’s because those who know me are aware of how uncomfortable I am with my breasts. I’m willing to have conversations to help anyone understand why this is part of my journey and why I deem it necessary to my survival and my happiness. I’m sure there are going to be some people who will have trouble understanding what this process means in terms of their relation to me and how they will address me. But I think most people are more so just scared for me to undergo such a serious irreversible procedure, so they want to make sure that I am certain about this decision. I’ve spent a lot of time self-reflecting regarding my transition, and I just know in my heart that this decision is what is right for me and that everything will be okay.”
Knight believes that there must be more dialogue about the transgender community and what it means to be a trans man. The lack of knowledge breeds misconceptions and open discussion is the remedy to dispel stereotypes and confusion.
“A common misconception about trans men is that we have to have a complete physical transition in order to be a man. This is primarily thought to include top surgery, the removal of breasts; bottom surgery, creating a penis; and the usage of testosterone. Not all trans men have the financial means and some don’t even feel the need to get surgery or to take hormones, so that is not at all accurate. Gender is not always a physicality and I think it’s important for people to understand that. Society is so stuck on people fitting inside of one box, male or female, and that’s a major issue that I think needs to be addressed and discussed. I think the beautiful thing about being a trans man is that through my visibility, I challenge people into a discourse about the truth regarding the complexities of gender.”
The quest for happiness, fulfillment, and respect while being your authentic self knows no gender. This is not only Knight’s desire, but the desire of all in the transgender community, and all individuals. Our journey getting there may differ, but our aspirations are the same. Still, this journey could be much easier if the human community supported one another.
To support Allex Knight’s top surgery endeavor, visit his GoFundMe site here.
Follow Knight on Instagram @SirKnight_
Follow Knight on Twitter @AllexKnight
In a time where the fear of being politically incorrect stifles the honest opinions of many, I brace myself for verbal crucifixion when I admit to not fully understanding the transition from hypermasculine Olympic champion, Bruce Jenner, to the newly revealed all-American beauty (and Vanity Fair cover star), Caitlyn. I pause even before asking certain questions aloud, confining the inquiries strictly to the safety of my home’s four walls or the privacy of my iMessages.
However, despite grappling with how to now categorize her sexuality, and immediately sweeping up my slip-ups of incorrect pronouns, I still have an unshakable tolerance for her more than 60-year journey to find herself while struggling to sustain a certain image in the public eye. I mean, there are many things to unpack in this one person’s story, but I’m proud of her and taken aback by how stunning Caitlyn Jenner looks as a woman. Yes, I feel for her ex-wives and her kids, but I’m also happy for her happiness.
But as an imperfect person whose spirituality and connection with Christ has been one of the few fulfilling constants in my life, I’m somewhat conflicted about this story. Should I feel so happy about it? It’s human nature to fear what the mind can’t grasp, and, more commonly, to fear the unknown of the future. If Bruce can become Caitlyn, will the world slide into a 2015 Sodom and Gomorrah? Not likely. But from what I gathered in conversations since Caitlyn splashed gender identity in the world’s face back in April with the help of Diane Sawyer, the fear of limitless tolerance for all behaviors and acts––sexual or otherwise––puts the fear of God in folks. This is especially true for those who interpret the Bible in a strict manner.
Months after her exclusive sit-down interview, Caitlyn’s PR-perfect rollout and coming out party still prompts a flood of ignorance exchanged along timelines. Though I celebrate Caitlyn’s strength to put such a heavily guarded burden on front street, I realize that opposing opinions also have a space in this conversation, especially if I myself can’t fully reconcile my spirit to a definitive comprehension about a man becoming a woman. However, it’s the use of religion to justify distasteful commentary and hatred that conjures my feelings of doubt and confusion in organized religion. I’ve never in my life felt in my heart a reason to be disgusted by anyone in the LGBT community. What happened to all the biblical lessons of acceptance, compassion, tolerance and love? Sure, my Christian upbringing––the cornerstone of most black folks’ rearing––defined what behaviors were deemed inappropriate or ungodly. But I gravitated toward the teachings that required us not to pass judgment, that taught us no sin outweighed another, and that love was to be shown just as Christ loved us, regardless of understanding. Cherry-picking the sins of others to condemn while ignoring our own is deplorable at best and doesn’t lend itself to assisting the Christian agenda. It’s supposed to be all about love, right?
So yes, for some, older generations especially, Bruce becoming Caitlyn is simply an action outside of their mental wheelhouse. It’s going to take time for some to fully accept this metamorphosis. And, again, my Millenial mind doesn’t completely compute the breadth of it all either. But in light of such public fanfare, there should be several conversations and some healing that takes shape without the desire to eradicate whole groups of people, shame them, or throw around despicable adjectives in comment sections.
I know for sure that I’m a believer in people being able to fully self-actualize––as long as they’re not harming themselves or others––and live as they feel God intended them to live. And I have no say in how that evolves. My only obligation is to share how I feel honestly and with respect while allowing others to do the same. I can’t nail others to the wall for their thoughts and choices, just as I don’t want to have to bite my own tongue.
I don’t always know whether my beliefs are blindly leading me to accept what’s wrong or what’s right, but I’m happy that Jenner now feels “free” and others like her are afforded that same opportunity. And for now, I can safely rest my faith on that.
On Brittney Griner, AzMarie, And Girl Crushes: Are We Moving Away From A Dependency On Sexual Labels?
I was recently listening to one of my favorite podcasts, The Read, and they were playing the game F**k, Marry, Kill. This lighthearted social icebreaker game, usually played over a few spirited beverages, asks players to choose whom they would f**k, marry, and kill out of three people. Usually, players are given a list of celebrities, but with added alcohol consumption, over time the names listed can shift from celebrity eye candy to people everyone in the group knows.
Crissle, The Read’s female co-host, was made to choose between Brittney Griner, AzMarie Livingston, and Queen Latifah. Of those three names I was only familiar with Queen Latifah, so I did what any inquisitive mind should do: I turned to my trusty friend Google. I searched for Brittney Griner first and was directed to her Facebook page. Griner, 24, is the 2014 WNBA Defensive Player of Year, stands 6’8” tall with an 88-inch wingspan, and a wears a men’s size 17 shoe. She is the author of the memoir In My Skin: My Life On and Off The Basketball Court.
I went on to search for AzMarie Livingston. Born Ashley Marie Livingston (she has fused her first and middle name together), she is a model and actress standing 5’10” tall. She appeared on America’s Next Top Model: British Invasion and was known for her elaborate tattoos and androgynous style. She recently appeared on the hit Fox show Empire as Chicken, one of Hakeem Lyons’s homies and his designated driver.
Both women are openly gay. Griner is engaged to fellow WNBA player Glory Johnson, and Livingston has been rumored to be in a relationship with actress Raven-Symoné.
Reading about these two women, their accomplishments thus far, and their fearlessness to be who they are while standing firm in their beliefs, was inspiring. What baffled me most, however, were comments that alleged heterosexual women posted under their pictures:
“I would go completely gay for this woman!”
“Laaawd have mercy.”
“#WCW hell #WCE” which means “Woman Crush Wednesday” and “Woman Crush Every Day.”
“She is so fine she’s making me sexually confused.”
“You are so hot, my boyfriend would kill me if he saw this.”
“I would date you and I’m not even gay.”
“Big crush on you.”
“porqué eres tan hermosa?” which translates to, “Why are you so beautiful?”
“These women looking like men will have you all messed up mentally. Mmmm.”
“Only if I was a lesbian…she’s sooooo…”
“Just give me one gay night!”
Reading such comments had me thinking, have society’s sexual labels officially been broken? If women are openly fawning over other women, do such labels really matter? Religious author Michael W. Hannon discusses this concept in his article Against Heterosexuality, which gives an in-depth overview of the historical construction of sexual orientation. Hannon writes:
Such thinkers echo Gore Vidal’s LGBT-heretical line: “Actually, there is no such thing as a homosexual person, any more than there is such a thing as a heterosexual person.” True, the firm natural division between the two identities has proven useful to the “gay rights” activists on the ground, and not least of all for the civil-rights-era ethos such power dynamics conjure up. But most queer theorists—and, for that matter, most academics throughout the humanities and the social/behavioral disciplines today—will readily concede that such distinctions are fledgling constructs and not much more.
Writer Rebecca Vipond Brink counters Hannon’s argument in her article, Why Labels for Sexual Identities Are Useful For Everyone. In it she discusses the importance of accuracy when labeling sexual identities. Brink says, “It is accuracy we are looking for when we decide to label ourselves with increasingly complex and specific terms. My feeling is that having a word for our sexual feelings helps us to feel less weird and alone.”
I have no way of knowing if the women who commented under Griner and Livingston’s photos would act on their desires or if their comments were all smoke and mirrors shared anonymously behind a keyboard. Still, these “girl crushes” seem to blur the lines when it comes to how stringent people have been when it comes to sexual labels and orientation.
However, I will say that there were far more disrespectful comments towards these young women than positive ones filled with swoons and lust. Women complimenting and uplifting each other should be the norm. No matter one’s choice of sexual identification, or the choice to be labeled by one’s sexuality, being respected regardless of choice is an inherent right.
“When Black People Tell Me They Don’t Believe In Gay Marriage…” Kerry Washington On Uniting With LGBT Community
During her acceptance speech from the GLAAD Media Awards for her work as an ally, Kerry said that although her speech may be preaching to the choir, she knew that on Monday morning people were going to “click a link to see what that woman from ‘Scandal’ said at that award show.”
And here you are this morning. Kerry be knowing.
In the opening moments of her speech, Washington explained why the title of ally is one she’s proud to hold.
“There are people in this world who have full rights and citizenship – in our communities, our countries – around the world. And then there are those of us who to varying degrees do not. We don’t have equal access to education and healthcare, and some other basic liberties like marriage, a fair voting process, fair hiring practices. Now you would think that those kept from our full rights of citizenship would band together and fight the good fight. But history tells us that no, often we don’t. Women, poor people, people of color, people with disabilities, immigrants, gay men, bisexuals, trans people, intersex people. We have been pitted against each other and made to feel there are limited seats at the table for those of us who fall into the category of ‘other.'”
And there’s a problem with that.
Washington continued, speaking about the ways in which we have become afraid of one another and engage in unnecessary competition and even betrayal. Then she said telling the stories of underrepresented groups is still, sadly, seen as a radical act. Which is why people constantly complain about all the “gay scenes” in Shonda’s shows. So, she called for more LGBT people in front of and behind the camera, telling and sharing those real stories, until they no longer seem odd.
But lastly, and perhaps most pertinent to this audience, Washington told the audience how Black people fighting against gay rights is counterproductive to our collective struggle for justice and equality.
“In 1997 when Ellen made her famous declaration, it took place in an America where the Defense of Marriage Act had just passed months earlier and civil unions were not yet legal in any state. But also remember, just 30 years before that, the Supreme Court was deciding that the ban against interracial marriage was unconstitutional. Up until then, heterosexual people of different races couldn’t marry who they wanted to marry either. So when Black people, today, tell me that they don’t believe in gay marriage… *gives a fierce side eye* …the first thing that I say is ‘Please don’t let anybody try to get you to vote against your own best interests by feeding you messages of hate.’ And then I say, ‘You know people used to say stuff like that about you and your love. And if we let the government start to legislate love in our lifetime, who do you think is next?’ We can’t say that we believe in each other’s fundamental humanity and then turn a blind eye to the reality of each other’s existence and the truth of each other’s hearts. We must be allies. And we must be allies in this business because to be represented is to be humanized. And as long as anyone, any where is being made to feel less human, our very definition of humanity is at stake and we are all vulnerable.
Amen Minister Kerry! Preach that good word! This message was and is so needed and I’m happy she was the one to give it.
You can watch her entire speech in the video below.
We thought we knew all about these A-list stars. We bet you can’t name all of the celebrities with gay parents either!
You don’t even have to have read Terry McMillan’s How Stella Got Her Groove Back to know her story. The art inspired by her life that was in a book, on the big screen and then all over television for the world to see when things went left. Most of us remember the episode of Oprah where McMillan confronted her gay ex husband Jonathan Plummer for the deception and betrayal of marrying her when he knew–or at least had an inkling–that he was gay.
The encounter was not exactly comfortable. You may remember that McMillan’s head was on lean the entire interview and there were more eye rolls than a little bit.
Obviously, the dissolution of a marriage is not easy on anyone but the circumstances behind the ending of this one and the way it played out in the public presumably made it even harder to get over.
But in this Sunday’s upcoming episode of OWN’s “Oprah: Where Are They Now,” McMillan seems to have gotten to that place.
In the video below she talks about the process of forgiving her ex husband.
“People do a lot of things to hurt each other but it takes a different kind of energy, positive energy to forgive someone. And I think mostly, It’s forgiving yourself because being angry is stupid. It really is stupid and it weighs you down and everybody around you feels it. I was not fun for three years.”
McMillan’s episode of “Oprah: Where Are They Now” airs this Sunday, July 6 at 9pm.
For many women, the technology world can be both a rewarding and cutthroat terrain. It’s no secret that the high-growth industry is run by white, straight males (many hailing from Ivy League institutions), which makes it challenging—if not impossible—to thrive in today’s ecosystem.
However, there’s been an immense movement to change the current stats and fill the tech-talent pipeline with more women. One organization is working to do that and create an inclusive environment for queer women in tech. Founded in December 2002 by Leanne Pittsford, Lesbians Who Tech works to build visibility and the number of queer women in tech and tech-related fields, as well as connect women to socially aware organizations.
Several months after the inaugural Lesbians Who Tech Summit, which gathered 800 queer women and allies, took place in San Francisco, it arrived in New York. More than 140 Indiegogo contributors and the leadership Pittsford helped bring the summit to the Big Apple last weekend. Taking place from June 20-22, attendees gathered at NYU Law School’s Tishman Auditorium to hear speakers such as digitalundivided’s Kathryn Finney, Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani and Politini co-hosts and power couple Aisha and Danielle Moodie-Mills address gender inequality in the tech industry.
“I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a world run by men, “ said Saujani, during her “Social Good Pitch.” That sentiment was reflected among attendees and speakers, and why Lesbians Who Tech’s mission is crucial to changing the way women in tech are perceived.
The diversity data from big tech firms like Google, LinkedIn and Yahoo reveal the lack of African American, Latino and women across the board, but there’s no official reporting of discrimination or numbers acknowledging the LGBTQ community within these firms. But it’s that very reason the Queer Women Who Tech Summit is in existence and working to shift the paradigm.
Guests and speakers both received major takeaways from Queer Women Who Tech.
“This is really essential, and I’m glad that this conference is happening,” says Cheyenne Cook, audio visual content manager at Politini. “We really need to focus on the intersectionality of everyone’s identities and how they shape everything that we do… I’m glad this conference exists because it opens up conversations to talk about women, queer women, to create change and innovation in technology.”
Maureen Erokwu, founder and CEO of Vosmap, who pitched her company that is bringing Google’s Street View technology to businesses across the country, echoed the summit’s value. “I’d like to see more women of color in tech,” says Erokwu. “To increase the level of involvement, we’d simply have to get involved and support these very initiatives that promote the influence of women in tech.” The entrepreneur made sure to connect with attendees, speakers and sponsors, and walked away with meaningful connections, and even secured a meeting with a leading NYC-based tech organization.
Techies also had time to connect during the summit’s after party, sponsored by Gawker, brunch on Saturday, a day-long hackathon held at Etsy’s headquarters in Brooklyn and a sailing excursion on the Hudson River.
Y’all seemed to love the gay or bisexual celebs who play straight roles story so much we had to do another one to let you know about the other bisexual celebrities out here, some of which are our favorites and some of which might just shock you. Check out the list and let us know who shocked you.