2023 Proudflare Fireside Chat
In honor of Pride Month, Proudflare is featuring a special Fireside Chat that highlights several Queer community members and their stories. Join host Otto Imken and guests Eric Allen from Cloudflare and J-Wo from AIDS LifeCycle as they talk about what Pride means to them personally and discuss its ongoing impact, both domestic and abroad.
Hi everyone! Happy Pride! Welcome to our Pride Month Farsight Chat, sponsored by Cloudflare and Proudflare.
Proudflare is the longest running employee resource group at Cloudflare.
My name is Otto Imken. It's a real delight to be with you and we want to gather around and make this a warm conversation, inclusive, full of acceptance and celebration because it's Pride Month.
This is a brave space. Throughout the chat, we're going to talk about personal experiences and talk through a bunch of topics as they impact the LGBTQIA plus community.
Before we dive into our conversation, let's meet our guests today.
Thank you for joining our panel.
We wanted to bring a diverse background and unique perspectives. Start off, I'm Otto and I want to let you introduce yourself, J-Wo.
Hi, I'm J-Wo. She, her pronouns.
I'm just an artist here in Oakland, California and also a community engagement rep with the SF AIDS Foundation and AIDS Lifecycle.
I'm happy to be here.
Hey, welcome J-Wo. Hey, Eric. Hi everyone, I'm Eric Allen. He, him pronouns and I am a part of the revenue team on Cloudflare, but I'm also, I have the privilege of being one of the global leads for our ERG, Proudflare.
Thank you for all the work you do, Eric.
It's fantastic. I'm trying, I'm trying. It's a lot.
It's always fun. Cool. All right. Let's dive in a little bit more and I'll ask you to tell you a little bit more about yourself and a couple of questions.
So let's see, we're talking about maybe, so a little bit more, I'm Otto and I'm the head of the customer support team here at Cloudflare.
I've been at Cloudflare and being engaged with Proudflare for over seven and a half years now.
And for me, this is a critical part of Cloudflare being a successful company is really supporting our employee resource groups and letting people be themselves at work.
And so I think that's critical to us being happy as employees and us being a successful company overall.
It's very tied together. So just a couple of icebreakers. What we were talking about is tell me about a favorite vacation you've had or type of vacation you like or destination.
And also if you could have an anthem playing whenever you came into a room, what would your anthem be?
So J-Wo, what's your favorite vacation experience?
Yeah. Thanks. So traveling Southeast Asia, probably one of my favorites, I'd say the Philippines specifically.
Food is amazing. Natural beauty, adventure sports, all the things.
I think there's also a nice bonus to go to a place where everyone looks like you.
So that was super fun and enjoyable. And then for an anthem, coming off Pride Weekend here in SF, I'd say the Sylvester song, You Make Me Feel Mighty Real.
Nice. Always gets the butt moving and get the dance going.
I wish I had a turntable here so I could cue it up right now. We should edit those in later.
Eric Allen, what do you say? Yeah. So I would say I'm big into nature too.
So usually for my birthday time, so I'm a December baby, Sagittarius in the house, you know what I'm saying?
So I actually like to go out in nature. Usually my tradition has been to go to Enchanted Rock, which is one of my favorite Texas parks here.
It's a big rock in the middle of nowhere, but it's like Texas Hill Country.
So you can hike and feel in tune with mother nature, but then also go to some wineries if you want to.
So yeah, I go there every year for my birthday, except last year, I actually got more adventurous and I went out to Big Bend.
So that was my first national park I've ever been to. And I would say, it was funny to know that we asked about this because this week during Houston Pride, one of the drag queens played a song.
I haven't heard it in a while, but it's also one of the most beautiful songs I know.
Actually, it's Beautiful by Christina Aguilera.
And yeah, I just remember, even as a kid, that music video of how it's showing people going through, different unique people.
So she, I think, I think it was a drag queen or somebody who just was really trying to find their inner beauty and all that.
I think that still speaks to me. And I just really am an advocate that everyone is beautiful in their own special way.
So yeah, just to spread the love. That's fantastic.
That's fantastic. I really do wish we should have planned that.
All right, you're gonna have to start playing your anthem whenever we do a Zoom meeting.
Right. Just for me, I guess, I'm a beach person.
I love a good beach vacation. And so the last beach I went to, oh, the West of France.
I highly recommend the West of France.
They have great beaches in the summertime. So this would be the perfect place to be right now.
Is that like Marseille? That's in the South. Marseille is great.
Yeah, around there. The West, we went to Biarritz and Arcachon is where all the French go in the summer.
They come out from the middle of the country and they go out to the West and it's very free.
It's very nice. Very nice. And a good anthem, I would have to say something like James Brown, like a, I feel good or a cold sweat would be a good anthem.
Well, just to circle back, you both mentioned it was a big Pride weekend last weekend.
And what, did you all get up to anything exciting? I think I know one.
Yeah. So I work with AIDS Life Cycle and for the SF AIDS Foundation.
It's one of the oldest HIV advocacy groups in the world. We have a contingent in the SF Pride parade, super fun time.
I always enjoy doing that. I walked in the parade, did some dancing afterwards with some family that's in town.
So that was really nice bringing family to an SF Pride day, having them join in, which was super fun.
And I, you know, I haven't really gone to a lot of the big Pride events for a while, but then coming out and doing the parade is, it's always really heartwarming, especially for all the, to see kids.
And I'm talking like real young, six, seven, eight year old.
We have their school contingents that march in the parade and just being able to see these kids kind of, even if they're not queer later in their life or whatever, just being really comfortable around the difference of people that exist.
Like you're going to grow up to be a pretty cool human being exposed to just the range of people out there.
It's a really beautiful thing.
I'm curious, how long have you been with your organization and kind of like what got you started into that or did it was something that you naturally found or were you kind of like introduced into it or?
Yeah. I was part of the ride.
So AIDS Life Cycle is a fundraiser ride for HIV AIDS services and advocacy.
I started my first ride was in 2016. So I was just a community member when I've been on staff now a very kind of a natural transition from this passion in my personal life.
And now I can work for the org I'd say almost a year and a half. I'm not quite.
Yeah. That's awesome. That's perfect. That's so good. Fun fact. I've been stuck at home for the weekend.
My partner had knee surgery and so I'm taking care of patient zero is what I'm calling.
If you live in the Bay Area, you can turn on the TV and on Sunday morning, they show the Pride Parade on TV.
And so we're like, oh, wait, we need to watch the Pride Parade.
And so we turned it on and we were watching.
And who do I see marching down the street? But J-Wo. There we are.
And our partner, Michelle and our friend Maggie and the whole AIDS Life Cycle crew.
I was like, oh, my God. So we stopped and we were taking pictures of us like, oh, my God, this is fantastic.
That was really, really cool. Look like you all are having a lot of fun.
Oh, it's a blast. Just taking over the streets. Yeah. That's awesome.
Eric, what did you get up to for pride? Yeah. So it was. Yeah. So, you know, I'm based in Austin, but it's kind of weird.
Austin, we don't have our pride until like super late until like mid August.
Yeah. Don't really know. I mean, I'm kind of confused about because August is even hotter.
But, you know, that's kind of it is what it is.
So something like, you know, to do something big. There's always like a big exodus of like people from Austin that go to Houston Pride.
So, yeah, that was actually where I, you know, I got to do all that.
And then I kind of actually made it in tandem with seeing like a group of like my two friends.
It's a, you know, a really great ally couple that I know that I was actually their their minister and got them married.
And now she's like super pregnant and she is like about to pop in like a month.
So I had to, you know, it was kind of like the blessing of the child before, you know, everything starts really rolling.
So it was like a really great time.
I mean, just like a beautiful time seeing old friends and going to like the different you know, Montrose.
They have a really big gayborhood in Houston and just, yeah, meeting with a whole bunch of people and seeing a bunch of drag queens, which is like what I always love.
So that's fantastic.
Yeah. For for people over our audience who aren't from Texas or it's been a lot of time in Texas, Houston has a huge gayborhood and it has for decades.
And it's it was always kind of surprising that it's been there since, I don't know, in the 60s or earlier even and in the Montrose and a huge community and parades for back when I was a kid.
I grew up in Houston when I was young and it was Texas is a weird place.
I mean, it's conservative in certain parts and very open in other parts.
I mean, they got like New Orleans as well as that same kind of open, you know, gay friendly atmosphere.
So Houston is a place that's kind of nice to hear not being in Texas.
Yeah. Hearing headlines and like, oh, a big pride in Houston.
And there's right. Yeah. And Dallas has a pretty big they they're kind of gayborhood.
Oakland is pretty, pretty big, too. So like, yeah, you hear like at least in the big, huge cities.
Yeah, I would say in San Antonio. So like San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Dallas, for the most part, you're not going to get any buffoonery from from folks, you know, so pretty safe places.
So, yeah, that's great.
Yeah. No, I mean, being from Texas, I mean, that's one thing I always I'm much more comfortable living in San Francisco and I live here for a for the culture and for the people.
But in Texas and all over the South, the there's a majority of conservative people, but there's a minority of very liberal people.
And obviously, the queer community is everywhere.
And so when you keep in mind that you see these conservative politicians everywhere, there's still a large minority of people in Texas and 40 percent of the population who are very liberal and very open and they're outnumbered or outvoted or whatever, however you want to put it.
But they're there. So we got to support and represent. And so glad people are out there marching.
OK, let's see, let's dig in a little bit more about your background.
So, I don't know, however you want to approach it, maybe, J-Wo, how is being part of the queer community influenced your perspective on life or your relationships or how you approach the world?
I'm sure it's a huge question, but, you know, have you or maybe a memorable journey, a memorable memory from your journey that you want to share?
Yeah, I can say that when I was younger, this was kind of sophomore year in high school, figuring things out for myself.
One thing that I remember talking to a friend, this was like the first time I had a crush on a girl and I was like, didn't really know what to do.
And I was, this is all this weird things. And I was on the phone, a landline, with my friends.
And I was trying to explain these feelings I had and they actually said to me, and I still remembered very clearly, they're like, you know, Jocelyn, which I went by at the time, just because you like this girl doesn't mean you're gay.
And I remember that pretty vividly because I think that's what I needed to hear to not be, you know, go from one box to another, because I wasn't really sure.
And I was figuring out, I was like, oh, okay, well, it doesn't actually mean like, from this point on forever, you're just going to be a gay.
I didn't, wasn't there yet. I wasn't comfortable with that yet. So kind of removing that, like, only if situation, it gave me a little bit more kind of freedom to think, well, this could just be a thing that I'm feeling and I could see how that goes.
And it could change later, which made it kind of less low risk, I guess is a good term, less pressure, low risk, allowed me to get more, a little bit more comfortable with those feelings and moving forward there.
And I think that that's sort of a good, in terms of, you know, how it's influenced just my outlook on life, being part of the LGBTQ plus community, is that not having, I guess, a traditional standard, you know, not straight, I wasn't going to get married and have kids and buy the white picket fence house, even though now I am married and I'm in a house.
Growing up without these like rigid lines of like, okay, well, this is what you are.
And this is the life you're supposed to have.
It sort of, I think, led me to explore just different ways of living and different ways you can have relationships with people, different ways you can have friendships.
You know, just you're not confined to one strict way of life.
You know, adulthood doesn't have to look like this because for me at a younger age, I wasn't going to have the husband and the kids in the house.
So then what do you do? Okay, you have to figure out what does growing into an adult look like for you if that's not what you're going to be.
So I think a kind of an opening up of options, which I super appreciate and I'm still figuring it out.
But yeah, it kind of like removes a lot of the, you must be this sort of thing because you kind of from the get-go aren't fitting into those boxes already.
That's amazing. Thank you for sharing that. Yeah, that's, everybody's journey is different.
And that kind of self-discovery is so important to hear other people's stories.
And as an ally, I see the queer community, the openness. I mean, just being open and accepting opens up so many other things.
It's like once you're out of these, for me, these kind of narrow ways of looking at things as a teenager or as an adult or whatever, it opens up so many possibilities.
Oh, okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Eric, what do you think? Yeah, so I think thinking about kind of my journey, probably like the biggest influence in terms of kind of like J-Wo, like your friend, I told you that I think in high school, I hung out with the punks.
So they were kind of already like going against the kind of social grain of it all.
And I think that gave me a lot of confidence to like be able to, one, I guess I got confidence in myself, but then also not to like, I guess not let others like either like push me over, but then also gave me a big part of, you know, standing up for other people when needed.
Just because, you know, it's like kind of like those things.
It's like, oh, you know, especially with the punk friends, it's like, yeah, they can make fun of you, but let someone make fun of, let someone else make fun of you.
No, it's like going to be like ready, you know, and kind of, you know, I kind of like manifested that or I guess internalize that kind of attitude, like, hey, I'm going to be who I'm going to be.
And I'm not unapologetically me.
And, you know, to this day, they're still some of my greatest friends.
And they were the ones like that were really helped me like come out of my shell in that kind of way, just because, you know, I didn't know where to, like, I might have had like, you know, feelings, you know, having crushes and all that kind of stuff.
But, yeah, it really took some really good allies for me to actually voice how I feel, have the confidence to go and talk to people, you know, that I might have had a crush on that I wouldn't have done nonetheless.
So, yeah, it's always been a very interesting journey with that.
And I guess something that even to this day, I guess, teaching me to be an advocate for myself, but also for my community, especially being like a military brat.
They're like the importance of, I guess, like friendship and like kinship kind of have melded into one for me, just because it's always has this been like me and my family unit moving around.
So then my friends do become my family and my close, like, you know, people that I'm close with, I really do want to embrace and make sure that, like, we're all OK, like financially, physically, mentally and all that kind of stuff.
So I think you and that's the beautiful thing about I feel like the queer community is that we it's very much like a forward chosen family kind of group of people.
And so I try to just like spread that love and kind of, yeah, always keep that together.
So, yeah. Oh, man, that's fantastic.
That's fantastic. Always the punk kids, you know, like a really safe space through all of that, like that's like the foundation is like a safe for everyone that do what you're going to do.
But when it comes down to it, like we got your back.
Yeah, exactly. Oh, yeah. They got my back and I'll be OK.
Even to this day, I'll go out with some and they're like, did someone look at you crazy?
I was like, calm down. I got it. And there's a real affinity there.
That's definitely what I identify with is I grew up with the punk kids in high school and college and that whole approach of creating your own identity and doing what you want and being accepting is where I came from.
I'm a bit older than you two. So I was born in 1969. And when I grew up in Texas in the 70s and 80s, I grew up in a racist, sexist, homophobic culture.
And that was the culture.
And it's a that was the accepted culture in junior high and high school.
And I was more the geek or the nerd or later on the punk.
And I was like, why? Like, why are people saying these things?
Why are people saying these homophobic things? Like, what is this?
You know, the jock versus the nerds and and it took me a while and I was like, that's this is wrong.
And so how do I identify with the queer kids and with the punk kids?
And how do we get out of this? And it was kind of a long, you know, through my life of moving more and more in that direction.
And it's, you know, once you start questioning all those basic assumptions of a crappy culture, it'll lead you into openness and openness leads you into the queer community and acceptance and, you know, building just like you said, you know, finding your own family and your own, you know, supporting your friends and your community.
And that's been a fantastic part of my life.
So, yeah. Cool. So I saw so I was thinking, like, I feel like this kind of segues into something here that, but I'm curious, like, what kind of like, misconceptions, especially like, you know, out of you grew up in, you know, I feel like the racist, racist, sexist, you know, all that.
I think this also leads to the point of, like, certain misconceptions and stereotypes that we have within, like, the LGBTQ community that we wanted to address.
And I think part of that, I think, leads away, at least for me to hopefully, to let other people know, and y'all can let me know how you agree.
And actually kind of goes on to the point that J-Wo was talking about that it's not so binary on what you are like, just because you're just because, yeah, you like a girl doesn't automatically make you gay one way, black and white kind of thing.
And I think that's something that should be addressed to everybody, like, okay, just because, yeah, I'm gay does not mean, I don't know.
I mean, although, yes, I'm a queen, you know, but you know, not necessarily everybody is like that.
But you know, there's, like, there is.
And I think that's also the beauty of the community is like, it's not so binary one way.
So like, you know, hopefully people don't realize like, oh, like, yeah, maybe I don't watch a lot of sports, but it doesn't mean I'm bad at sports, you know, or so I don't know what other kind of like misconceptions of stereotypes y'all think kind of, do you want to dispel out there?
Yeah, go ahead, J-Wo.
Yeah, a big one is, you know, as you're mentioning, we're not, we're definitely not a monolith.
And there's a lot of intersectionality that comes through.
You get the stereotypes of the, you know, effeminate guy, the drag queen, the really butch lesbian, the, you know, right now, it's actually really nice to see a lot of trans people more in media or non binary people in media.
But I think the stereotypes of like, behavior, mannerism, things like that, those are very visibly associated with queer people.
But there are queer people everywhere, and they might just be in a suit somewhere, but not like super outwardly showing that they're queer.
That can be just who they are, or for personal safety as well. And because there's the visibility of, you know, the drag queen, that's going to be the stereotype.
And yes, they're there. And we love them. They're amazing. You know, part of the beauty.
But if you go into, I'm sure, parts of Texas or Montana, Wyoming, like, they might not be quite so forward and out like that.
But that doesn't mean that queer people aren't there.
We've been around, you've been around, whether you see us or not.
And I think also, like, there's some assumptions people make that, yeah, we're not all bad at sports, we might not all be.
I mean, there are conservative queer people, there are racist queer people, there are sexist queer people, there are transphobic queer people.
They're out there too. And, you know, maybe not in the same percentages as other demographics.
But we all still have work to do, whether that's, like, for our own self love, and, like, making sure we're not internalizing all of that, or just, like, you know, I've definitely had, like, sexist gay men interact with me, or racism is pretty, pretty prevalent in some queer communities.
Fat phobia, body shaming, all of that. It's still there, just might not be, that's not what's on the surface, or that's not the louder voices.
But we're also trying to amplify voices that aren't that. But we can't ignore that, you know, within the queer community, there's still these, like, intersectional issues.
And people, people across the rainbow, of all types, even in the queer community.
Yeah, absolutely. Getting rid of preconceptions is so important.
And I've seen a lot of progress in the recent past. Just people saying LGBTQIA+, in the past five or 10 or 15 years, is really important for me.
I think it's getting the message out there.
It's, you know, changed over time, historically, as people had, you know, we're just starting to talk about queer community.
And it was very much male or female, or very, you know, stereotypical.
And just talking about it was basic.
And now, really starting to talk about so many different intersections is really critical.
And I don't want to stereotype, but in, you know, growing up in San Francisco, through my adulthood, I've seen, you know, what you're talking about, of, you know, you think everyone in the queer community is gonna be super accepting of everyone.
And most people are, but some aren't.
And specifically, the bi community and the trans community in the past have been perhaps second class citizens.
And, you know, I think that's changing, especially in San Francisco and Houston and places like that.
But it's a struggle.
And it wasn't just like all or nothing on one day, like everybody's, you know, happy friends.
It's been a struggle to build that. And so people should take it more seriously, the QIA plus.
And I think that's super important. And finding it where you least expect it.
Actually, you can't see it, but I'm wearing my Tokyo transgender pride shirt.
Tokyo is like my favorite place. And when I was there in November, you know, you kind of look and see what's going on.
It's like, oh, my God, there's a transgender pride parade.
You know, let's go. And it was fantastic, you know, and it's Tokyo and, you know, surprise, there's gay people everywhere.
And it was a fantastic parade.
And it was really cool. And so all kinds of crazy stuff.
And it's everywhere. So as soon as you open your eyes, it's like, oh, you go to America, you know, they're gonna have a great queer community there.
So just got to keep your eyes open.
Yeah, yeah, cool.
Okay, so unexpected things. What about role models? Any shout outs you want to give of people or, you know, voices or people that have had an influence on you and helped you understand yourself for the world better?
So I think a big role model for me, quite honestly, I would say, I know this is gonna sound so typical, but Lady Gaga.
I mean, just because of how just like one talented, unapologetic, and just, yeah, just unrelenting she has been for the community, I think it's something I'm truly like, it's like inspirational.
And she's not let and she's never let like what has been, I guess, like the industry kind of standard, really like affect who she makes music for.
So, yeah, I do. I love Gaga.
She's a great actor, too. Yeah. Yeah, very multi-talented, multi -hyphenate for sure.
Yeah, I mean, strong women have always been a good one in terms of just like kind of the no F's given.
Madonna, for sure, from the beginning, knew what she wanted, and she was gonna get there, whether you wanted her to or not.
So big respect on that. And even now, I mean, I see her now. And yeah, okay, she's older, and she is still kind of doing exactly what she wants.
And it's that same like middle finger attitude, which I really, really respect.
You know, lately, I've been kind of digging into some of the past queer icons and from the anthem song, but Sylvester has been a huge, just like hold them up.
I mean, back in the day when, you know, race, gender, fluidity, music, artistry, I mean, Sylvester was like an icon for sure.
And I think kind of unrecognized, but very much in that same way.
Sylvester was who they were. And whether the time was right, or the time exactly didn't matter.
Not at all. So I love that. And I, you know, strive to live in that same kind of authenticity.
That's one thing.
Can you imagine? I've seen a couple of documentaries, but can you imagine what it was like in San Francisco in the 70s?
Oh, my God. That would be amazing to see.
Yeah, it's like a good time. I guess as far as role models, one shout out I would give would be to, I'm involved a lot in the dance community.
And so a couple trans DJs are really I've been listening to a lot lately.
Honey Dijon, you might know from Beyonce's last record and Black Girl Magic, fantastic records.
And DJ Sprinkles, another fantastic underground house DJ. She's fantastic.
So people out there, you know, making their own reality, making their own music.
So really cool stuff. Kind of interesting we all chose musicians. Multi -hyphenate.
Music's the key.
Music is the key, baby. Everyone can dance it out, OK? It's very healthy.
It's very healthy. OK, I'm going to make a transition. You get that? I'm going to make a transition to a new topic.
And I wanted to talk a bit about culture and the Internet and the queer community influence on those things.
How to put it? So we are all on the Internet all day long.
We're on the Internet right now. Hey, surprise.
And it's really been a great tool for the queer community to connect around the world and get our voices out there.
But there's also a big tension between the tech community and big business and how engaged and supporting are is the tech community and big companies.
And so how what do you think would be a good step forward for, you know, big tech?
And, you know, we're here at Cloudflare, so feel free to talk about Cloudflare as well.
But, you know, how can the tech community as a whole be more supportive of the queer community?
Or what are some things that it's doing wrong that should change, perhaps?
Do you two have a strong opinion on what's going on out there?
And we can name names about, you know, Zuckerberg or Elon or whatever.
But kind of beyond that, like, what can the tech community really be doing more to be supportive?
Well, I think, well, at least the big thing that comes to mind, at least like within Cloudflare, which was like a big step forward for us was whenever the whole thing with Kiwi Farms, and us no longer, you know, giving them like, you know, supporting or giving them services, kind of for those out there, I think, on the account, so I might not know fully what's going on.
But from what I like, understood, like Kiwi Farms was like, kind of like a forum, a base that docks people, basically, especially targeting those within the community.
And, you know, we made the decision to like, because I guess we, like, Cloudflare, we kind of try and stay pretty neutral with like the different kind of like, customers that we support, you know, I mean, it's kind of like, to an extent, there's like a freedom of speech, or, you know, kind of autonomy of the Internet.
But at the same time, where's that level of, like, okay, do we actively support certain, like, you know, really, you know, more egregious kind of things versus like, allowing people to say what, like what they want to do.
So I think that was like a really great stone for stepping stone for us to really, you know, be an example of that.
And I guess just in general, kind of like a step forward for like, big tech in general, while I feel like one tech is pretty good at like representation, like within like, you know, Pride Month, and, you know, different, like supporting the different communities for a different ERG.
You know, I'm an accountant. So kind of before I actually more or less came from, like a bit more traditional kind of accounting backgrounds.
Unfortunately, I was with Big Four beforehand, which they're pretty, like open and all that, but they also deal with clients that are kind of like, traditional and all that.
So you kind of have to do like code shifting, code shifting within certain spaces.
But I feel like within tech, it's like, definitely, like my tradition to Cloudflare and all that it's been like, you come as you are.
And I think like, embracing that is something that we need to, at least should maintain to be like the spearheads of that and try, you know, it shouldn't be a thing that, oh, you know, tech is just so like, kind of liberal, it's like, well, shouldn't it just be like that anywhere?
Like, it doesn't matter.
Like, oh, you don't need to go to tech to get this kind of work experience and all that kind of stuff or, you know, X, Y, and Z.
So I mean, that's kind of like my thoughts of it in general.
And well, I'll say that for tech. And then I guess kind of like helping like the overall community, I think at least something that I saw like a couple of weeks ago on TikTok, or whatever, was like, I think people were protesting, like a drag event and everything.
And someone, instead of kind of matching that energy back, they actually led with empathy, and invited the people and actually like, three or four of the protesters actually decided to like, hey, because I think they're like, no, I just actually come and see what we're doing, see what we're trying to advocate for, you know, I guess it kind of goes on to like, like addressing the stereotypes and misconceptions that people have, and everything like, you know, trying to break that, like, it's not, you know, all like the crazy stuff that people say that drag queens are trying to do, and like actually invited the people and and kind of leading with empathy to really help influence like the other side or shaping points of view of people within the LGBT community.
So I think that's something that we that we're in the position to do within the tech industry, is to kind of, yeah, I guess, have doors open to Luli and fighting misinformation.
I think that's probably the big thing too, is finding misinformation.
And especially with like, either like, you see it kind of teeter tots on like, you know, when can when is regulating too much?
But you know, it's like really fighting misinformation, or, you know, just crazy statistics, or letting people rant about things that are completely wrong, that didn't spread like wildfire.
It's like, okay, there needs to be some kind of advocacy within, like the companies to prevent active harm to like other communities.
That's my two cents. Definitely. And to build on that, I mean, combating misinformation is something that the Internet has really been best at and, and making connection with people who are by themselves in Montana, or Argentina, or China, or wherever, being able to see on the Internet, oh, my gosh, there are other people like me.
There are other ideas besides my small town or whatever, that's been a critical component of the Internet, for sure.
And what you said about TikTok and drag queens inviting in the protesters is amazing.
And that's something I wish I could be better at.
Because I personally have it's so hard to build those bridges. And my first reaction is always very visceral and negative.
And, and, and you've got to, and that's fine for that to be your first reaction, you've got to get beyond that to that openness and acceptance.
And everybody could, you know, be filled with love if they only understood better.
And that's so hard to do that.
Share those TikToks. I'd love to see that. That sounds amazing. I need to get better at that myself.
Because a lot of times I'll shut down when somebody's being a jerk.
It's like, oh, forget it. You know, you're right. And nobody's a lost cause.
That's one thing I always have to keep in mind is everybody can grow. Everybody is flexible.
Everybody can learn. But making the time to teach them is hard.
Right? What do you think? Yeah, that's a hard one. Definitely that line between don't want to bury my head in the sand.
But, and, you know, I want I think people can change.
But then who puts in that effort? Because then a lot of times I don't want to put in that effort.
I don't feel like I should be the one to put in that effort.
Fortunately, you know, I'm able to live in a place that I feel really safe.
But not everybody can up and move from where they are to a safer place. So that's, that's always a hard balance.
Like, I care and I want to do stuff about it.
And there's self preservation. And I kind of need to like not pay attention for a while or step back.
In terms of your question about the Internet, and tech, I'm not to preface, I'm not a techie.
I am a technology consumer, consume a lot of technology on the Internet all the time.
I think the misinformation that you know, it's great, we can connect people on the Internet, but then there's this like flourishing of just outright just completely false wrong information.
And that seems to be it spreads quicker, the more wrong it is.
What can be done about that?
I'm not really sure. But there's probably something in a technology company, there's ways to do that.
I think a user perspective, money does run everything.
So anger is a lot of money. You know, things like that make a lot of money for a lot of companies, trying to step back from that.
And then, you know, having people that are making the decisions, if we want to have an Internet and tech that is supportive and really helpful, and like actually like truly allying the LGBT plus community, just having those folks making decisions along, you know, there are companies where you'll see, they can do all the things during pride month, but then who makes all the decisions 12 months a year, it might still be a board of cishet white guys that are all born into affluence.
So that's, you know, decision, those making the decisions will ultimately create how a company goes and how policies go and culture goes.
And I'd love to see that not so dominated by anger and quick clickbait.
Right. And I think just to even go on that to like that, like it is like where the money is, because then you see like, especially on YouTube, like these big kind of conservative channels.
I mean, I have part of the time, I'm like, I don't even think these people really believe like what they're really saying, but they're paid so much because they can reach such a large group of people and then get sponsorships from X, Y, and Z, like, you know, companies.
So it's like, well, it's profitable for us just to like, maintain this like consumer base so that we can like, you know, the trickle down of like advertising, blah, blah, blah, and reach out to that, you know?
So, I mean, yeah, that is kind of, I don't know. It's, yeah, it's hard to, it's like part of you wants to like, maybe education for like the users being like, hey, like, I don't know, they need to realize like, like how they're being manipulated by these larger outlets, especially like, like the online media outlets, like for, I don't know, like Daily Wire and all that kind of stuff.
So, I don't know. That's, yeah. That's a big, I mean, that's a big, big question, big conversation, all of that.
That's another panel. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Things like this I love, though.
You know, we can do this online and we can connect and share ideas online and then people from, you know, we're in different states and people from different countries can all participate as well and view and receive ideas differently, especially like if they do work for this company, there's always already sort of the vetting of this trusted source being their employer or a company that they're part of, of people that they know and they work with.
So, it's like always like a good, easy intro for some folks to different ideas.
Yeah, one thing, I mean, to put a positive spin on it, what, so you're fresh out of the Pride parade and one thing I always worry about is corporations kind of whitewashing during Pride and who, so, and J.
Will, you work for a non-profit and are deep into fundraising and working with corporations.
Who does it well? I mean, who's, how do you, I'm sure you can see who's authentic and who's less authentic.
You don't even have to name names, but who, how do they do it well?
Who shows up for the queer community month in and month out?
How do you, how do you see that? Well, for, in terms of businesses and fundraising, you know, the main point is dollars, right?
There are some companies where they will sponsor their own employees to volunteer with you, to donate their time.
That's huge. Straight up giving your money to organizations that are led by and for the communities you want to support.
That is like a very direct way.
But then also companies that allow, you know, there's some companies where they want to provide sponsorship and support.
They need their name out there.
It's, you know, with certain strings attached. And then there are some where they really want to support a mission or an organization or people, and they can put trust in you that this organization or these, these people have their own best interests in mind.
So in my opinion, personal opinion, companies that want to support, give you time, resources and money, but without wanting to control your decision-making is like the most like pure form of support of like, I have these resources.
I want to lend my support to you through these resources, but I trust that you, the experts, you, the persons being affected have the best ability to make a decision in your own interest.
And that that's what I see as like the purest form of support.
Yeah. That's great advice. That's really cool. I think you're totally right.
We haven't talked much about it. Give us, tell us more about AIDS Lifecycle and what it is and what you do.
Oh yeah, love to. AIDS Lifecycle, super fun event.
It is a seven-day bike ride, bicycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
This year, technically Santa Monica, but it's about 545 miles. It started back I think 29 years ago as the California AIDS ride.
It was a response to the HIV AIDS epidemic that was occurring.
To raise money, it was a fundraiser raising money for HIV AIDS services, education, outreach.
It is a joint event between the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
So every June, it's the first full week in June every year, about 2,500 to 3,000 people will form this moving city, up to 2,500 cyclists going, riding down California.
It's a really fun event.
Not everybody cycles. So we also have volunteers called roadies who are kind of the backbone making this happen.
They make sure everything actually happens, setting up camp, running rest stops, support vehicles.
But this year we raised $11.7 million for two organizations. It's an amazing, we have people from all over the country.
We have people from other countries, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, people from Dubai and China.
It's a really fun event.
Even if you've never been on a bicycle before, we have people that have never ridden a bicycle before.
They don't have a bike. They sign up for this crazy event.
We can support you with getting geared up, training. So we just ended a couple weeks ago and it was fabulous.
It's amazing. We call it the love bubble, which is just, you know, a really great example of what community can be where people come together from all different backgrounds and life experiences, supporting each other, making sure we all make it together safely in service to these wonderful organizations that provide medical testing, medications, housing support, counseling, substance abuse support, all sorts of supports and resources for folks that are at risk of HIV and AIDS, either protecting them from contracting it or those living and surviving with it.
And, you know, it's a big, it's a big fat gay bike ride.
It's really fun. There's costumes. So if you don't ride your bicycle, there's kind of better costume options you can go with.
You have any highlights from this year?
I know you just got back a week or two ago. Any highlights from this year?
This year was great. You know, the weather was a little bit different here in California.
Kind of a cold, wet spring and summer. I think that was better for the cyclists.
I did have a full oversized cardboard lobster outfit that I think was my favorite day because I jump at the chance for a big costume anytime.
But yeah, it was really lovely. I really love talking to some of the elders on the ride.
I recommend anybody that does it talk to some of the older people involved with the ride, hearing their stories.
There is kind of a lost generation of folks that were, you know, that died during that era.
And so those who are still around are these like wealth, just a wealth of information and experience in life history.
And as an engagement rep, I'm here in the Bay Area. I work with a lot of the people in the East Bay and Sacramento area.
And my favorite is always the new rider that signs up, doesn't have a bike yet.
And you kind of see them and you train with them the whole season.
I think training season really kicks off in January, but we have rides throughout the fall as well.
And then seeing them actually in June on the ride with smiles on their faces, like doing it, you know, they're riding down the state of California, this thing that they never thought possible.
That's like one of my favorite bits. I'm just kidding. You all have like, kind of like reps or like, you know, like in Austin or like in different kind of like big cities, like do people kind of?
Yeah, we have two folks on the team up here that are strictly for outside of California.
So we do have, there's training groups in Texas as well.
And there's some teams there. So there's training groups all around in California and outside of California.
We have AIDS lifecycle training groups you can join.
And then we also, people also form their own teams.
So there's corporate teams, people that have social teams. They don't, you know, they can be kind of whatever you want, whether you want it be with your company or there's, you know, your region, you have something just like a group of friends want to do it.
They can be multi -state international teams. Yeah. And then we have folks that they'll help you get trained up.
Or even if you're not sure you can come to a training ride just to see it's a really good way.
It's a really supportive way.
Also, if you're not super avid into cycling, that it's a good goal ride.
There's support all along the way. So even come in June, there's support vehicles should you, you know, have to call it.
There's bike tech, medical folks, there's catered food.
Really, really fun experience and a safe environment to get into the sport of cycling as well.
So if people hear a Cloudflare or just anybody watching this wanted to get involved, what's the best way for people to find out more about ALC or get involved?
Yeah. Our website is AIDSlifecycle.org. That'll give you all the information.
You can send us an email. Happy to share my email as well. I'm a rep here.
I can answer questions or connect you to the rep for your area, for Texas, East Coast, DC, Florida, wherever.
And there's also folks that live in those areas, other participants, teams if you're interested.
So yeah, visit the website. You can see more about the ride.
There's some really beautiful videos of the events.
You can kind of see what it's like throughout the week. Yeah. We're happy to answer questions anytime.
Yeah. If anybody here wants to get involved, let me know and I'll hook you up with JO and we'll talk about doing more.
That'd be awesome. Okay.
We're just about out of time. I wanted to close out with something positive.
Pride is 12 months a year.
So June is almost over. What do you want to see? What kind of positive change are you hoping for, for the second half of the year?
What would you like to see, JO?
Think small, think whatever. Yeah. I think just moving forward, and we've been seeing this, but I just want more of it of people just being able to say, you know, speak their truths and speak like who they are, express themselves without repercussions.
I mean, there's repercussions, right, but without like unjust repercussions to them.
So just people like being comfortable with who they are and exploring who they are.
And I think it'd be nice if, you know, we allow for the space to change.
So even if you say something next month, this is how you feel and you identify, we can all change.
It might not be the same in a year or 10 years.
And allowing people to have that space for growth and change is really important because for queer people, for non-queer people, being held to something that maybe the person you were five years ago, I don't think any of us are the same person.
We're always constantly changing. So being allowed to like break out of that history of yourself, I mean, that's really powerful for people, give them comfort to, you know, just because you like a girl now doesn't mean you're gay.
I think I need a t-shirt.
Yeah, exactly. Eric, that was fantastic.
Eric, what are you looking to see in the second half of the year?
I think this, my second half of the year is protecting our Queens, protecting our drag Queens and all that.
I think recently, I think either like the Supreme Court or some higher legislative judicial body actually is deeming like the stuff with Tennessee as unconstitutional.
I think there's something going down in the progress that people are actually analyzing that.
And it's like, like, and once again, I'll say I'm a military brat.
I love America. I really do. And it's like, I feel like we're going in such an un-American way of like, you know, hello, the whole point of why we, who we became, of who we become is to be able to, you know, practice our own beliefs, be whoever we want to be.
You know, that's what makes the beauty of America.
And I think hopefully now, like the people like our government and people in like, in the power of privilege right now are recognizing that and making sure that our rights don't get infringed upon because it's like, they're, it's like the same old thing.
It's like, all right, they're going to start coming.
If they start coming for one group, best believe they're going to start coming for all the others.
Like, first it's going to be the drag queens. Then it's going to be all the gays.
Then it's going to be black people. Then it's going to be like, we do not need to make this Gilead.
Okay. This is not going to be animated style.
And we need to go as far away from that as possible. And hopefully, you know, people really start to realize that things are getting a little bit out of hand.
So. Totally agree. I totally agree. Yeah. I'm hoping to break down some barriers and more inclusion and stimulus tech talks.
I want to learn how to be more accepting of people I disagree with and that's what they need.
You know, it's going to help them.
It's going to help if we can get them into that drag queen brunch.
Our time is up. J-Wo, thank you for joining us. Welcome to the Cloudflare community.
Thank you, Steve-Otto and Eric. Thank you, Cloudflare. I'm very happy to join.
All right. We'll invite you to our next event. Trust and believe. We like to have fun here.
Eric, I'll see you in a meeting soon. And thank you for leading our Cloudflare.
You're doing a great job and keep up all the good work. Thank you. Thank you.
And also just wanted to say a big shout out to RACF TV producers and then also really big shout out to Gregory who really helped get this organized together.
Super kudos to him. And once again, you know, it takes a village to get this all together.
And I'm really glad and really blessed to be surrounded and empowered, really, to do these kind of events and to really advocate for our community.
So thank you, everybody. And happy Pride Month. Yeah. Happy Pride. Happy Pride.