Waking at 4am after going to bed at midnight is not fun. Unless you’re waking up to catch a plane to one of your favorite cities in the world to be among your people. That was me this morning.
The reason? The 6th edition of the Lesbians Who Tech Summit — a gathering of 6,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and ally women and woman identified humans. The brainchild of Leanne Pittsford, a woman who I’ve had the distinct pleasure of knowing for years, and with whom I remember sitting in a cafe talking about her vision for what this event could become.
Her vision was big. Her vision was audacious. Her vision was inclusive. Her vision has come to life — and is even more magnificent. The speaker roster — entirely female. Also, and if that weren’t monumental enough, the roster was 50% women of color, 15% transgender.
Let that sink in for a second — an array of speakers — I think close to 50–60 of them over the course of three days — ENTIRELY women … and more than half representing minority groups. That ANY tech, tech adjacent or business conference claims an inability to “find” such people?
I call bullshit.
A rant, however, is not the purpose of this. The purpose of this isn’t to talk about the remarkable session with Senator Tammy Baldwin or the even more mind blowing session with Stacey Abrams. This, rather, is about the deeply moving and important moment I had during the session with transgender actress, Angelica Ross.
When this remarkably stunning woman stepped onto the stage, the young transgender woman sitting next to me put her hands to her face. I watched as she lowered her eyes and I could see a tear slip from her eye and down her cheek. From the stage Angelica was talking about having access and how critical it was for those with access to use it — whether they be part of a community or an advocate — and to use it in a way that lifts up all.
Moved by this young woman’s experience, I reached over and put my hand on her arm, giving it a gentle squeeze. That touch of kindness apparently was all she needed. The tears began to come faster. Thick, hot tears, the kind that erupt more than well from eyes, coursing down cheeks as though a dam has burst. In my experience with these kind of tears it is as though a dam has burst, because it has. An emotional blockage, logjam, gridlock — use whatever stagnation metaphor you prefer. The result is the same. An eruption of tears washing away lengthy periods of repression. Without a pause I put my arm around her and she crumpled into my shoulder, head bowed, slight shoulders trembling with each sob.
We stayed that way for nearly a full five minutes — an eternity of emotional release, especially with a stranger. As her shaking subsided she sat up and looked at me. Eyes red, mascara smudged, she gave me what felt like the most grateful smile I’ve ever been blessed to receive.
“Thank you,” she said, as she pulled out a Kleenex and began to collect herself.
I don’t know her name. I don’t know her story. I cannot say that I know her experience — as a cis-gendered female, the transperson’s journey is not one that I know. What I do know is the pain of being invisible in a room of people. What I do know is the pain of feeling isolated and cast out even when surrounded by others. What I do know is that feeling of remarkable relief and bone-shuddering sobs of joy at finding my people.
To be seen. To be a part of. It is all any of us really want — a sense of belonging to … something.
I came here for a reconnection to my technology industry roots. What I got is a reconnection to my people and the reminder of how vast and beautiful that community is.
Today’s Gracious Gratitude. I am grateful for:
- How the Universe places me precisely in the path of the people I needed to see today
- Reminders about connection and community
- Being with my people
- Philz Coffee
- The roasted chicken at Zuni Cafe
- Seeing a small child
- Warm socks