🏳️🌈 Pride Month: Breaking Barriers & Binaries
Breaking Barriers & Binaries: Queer Folks Empowering Community: Join us on Cloudflare TV for a heartfelt, down-to-Earth discussion as we hear from queer folks who have made waves in their respective communities, so we can inspire queer folks everywhere.
Hi, my name is Shannon Colin and I've been on the business team at Cloudflare for over three and a half years.
I am so grateful to be the moderator of today's panel for 🏳️🌈 Pride Month.
Cloudflare is an Internet security company and I joined this company because I see how powerful the Internet is as a platform for community building and self-expression of all forms.
As a queer person myself, I love that Cloudflare has a queer chief product officer and an active LGBTQ employee resource group called Proudflare.
It really just feels good to show up to work knowing that other people really care about making the world a safe place for all people, regardless of how we identify, express, or experience life.
So as we close out 🏳️🌈 Pride Month, we have organized this panel to share stories from queer folks who have made waves in their respective fields so we can inspire humans everywhere.
In the LGBT community, we talk a lot about chosen family, the redefining of mother, father, sister, brother, and everything in between.
This group of humans right here that you see on the screen is part of my chosen family, a group of people that I love and respect who are all doing amazing work to make this world more equal.
This panel is an open space to explore queer expression, empowerment, and equity work.
We'll dive into some introductions and questions in a moment and we welcome the community to submit your questions by emailing livestudio at Cloudflare.tv.
So let's get started. Let's have each of you introduce yourself.
Who are you? How do you identify? And what are you up to? Daniella, we'd love for you to start.
Hi, thanks Shannon.
Wow, that was such a heartfelt and warm and touching introduction and I noticed some emotion come up as you were speaking on chosen family and I really feel that deep connection with you as well.
So thanks for naming it and happy and grateful to be here.
So yeah, I'm Daniella and I identify as they them and I'm currently connecting and sharing from Coast Miwok land, which is in North Bay, California.
And the work that I do is to be in service to the mamas and the families of the world.
I am a postpartum doula and I am supporting families to tap into their innate wisdom and their primal instincts and tune into their babies and into each other and share authentically and vulnerably as a way of creating a strong foundation in the family system and just honest conversations, creating deeper relationships and more meaningful relationships.
And also supporting families to find more ease and joy and play because sometimes the threshold phase of transitioning from one way of relating and identifying in the world to a whole new experience can feel really overwhelming.
So it's my honor to remind parents to feel playful and to giggle at poop explosions when they happen and yeah, so that's a little bit about me and the work that I'm here to share and thank you.
Thanks for listening. Oh Daniella, thank you. I needed you at my house this morning when my dog had an accident in the house.
That would have been good.
You're such an intentional communicator and it's incredible to just have deep conversations that are so honest and authentic with you on all topics, whether it's hard or soft.
So just imagining you as a doula impacting families and helping them to be really intentional is empowering.
Jay, let's have you go next.
Thank you both for sharing everything. Obviously feel super connected to you, Shan, as chosen family for me and Daniella, the groundingness that you bring to this space.
I'm so grateful and I'm so happy that you went before me because I'm really benefiting from this space that you're making as well.
Hi everyone, I'm Jay.
I use they them pronouns. I am queer, trans, non-binary, Latinx person who grew up on a lonely land in the Bay Area and still live here with my partner and my tiny rescue dog.
I'm on the leadership team at Out and Tech, which is one of the largest non-profit organizations in tech for queer folks.
And I'm also on the leadership team for the Latinx, Latine employee resource group at Pinterest where I work currently.
But I also have a hand in creating inclusive spaces wherever I go.
That's kind of my whole vibe, which definitely some resonance with Daniella already so much, but just trying to make more space for folks to feel safe and bring their authentic selves specifically within the QT BIPOC communities and folks from historically excluded groups.
That's why I find myself in tech in recruiting, just hoping to help folks change the narrative for what they've been told.
As someone who's a first generation college student, it's definitely all about paving that way and ending certain cycles and beginning new cycles that are healthier and lighter for us.
So thank you so much, Jan, for having me in this space. I'm grateful to be with you all on the panel.
I feel like I'm just, I'm so excited to learn more about y'all as well.
Yes, Jay. And it's been so empowering to watch you grow and evolve as we've kind of gotten to know each other over the years.
We used to be in an employee resource group together when we worked at NerdWallet.
So it's been wild and amazing to watch you just continue to make such waves in this space.
And I can't wait for our dogs to meet.
It's gonna be great. Tiny Mikey and Chatho.
Here we come. Eric, I would love to have you go next. Hi everyone.
My name is Eric Henderson and I use he him pronouns and I identify as a gay man.
I currently work at UCSF at San Francisco General Hospital, which is the city safety net hospital.
And I work supporting the education of surgeons. Prior to my role at UCSF, I worked for quite a few years advancing criminal justice policy and advocacy at the state and local level.
A lot of work in San Francisco and a lot of work in Alameda County.
As someone who's been affected by the criminal justice system in so many ways, I feel that my calling and my passion is to affect large scale change to break down oppressive systems.
And that's mostly been through criminal justice, but really exploring other policy areas.
And this fall, I will be pursuing an advanced degree in public policy and getting back into CJ work and just a whole bunch of work to better our community and our state and our society.
Thank you, Eric. It's so amazing to have you in this space and just really appreciate you always teaching me and everyone around you so much about the policies that are put into place around mass incarceration and helping with re -entry.
So really excited for you to step into that next level of education and keep making waves over there.
Andy, let's have you round it out. Sure. Good afternoon, everyone.
Hi, my name is Andy Marshall Buselt. I use he, him, and they, them pronouns.
I identify as white and I have unearned privileges as a queer white person.
With this, I humbly seek to learn and contribute to dismantling white supremacy and cisheteropatriarchy.
I just also want to plug during pride that it's the efforts of queer and trans, black and brown leaders who have allowed my very existence here.
Let's see. I'm originally from a conservative community in Southern California, but for the past seven years, I've had the privilege and honor to live in Oakland, which I want to acknowledge is unceded Ohlone land.
And for the past seven years, I've worked in special education at a charter school in East Oakland.
I've worked as a special ed teacher, a program lead, a student government advisor and instructional coach for teachers.
And most recently, I'm a founding organizer for our teachers union, the East Bay Educators United.
And I probably live with my partner and husband, Cody Marshall Buselt.
He is a queer black man and also an educator, a big fan of Nintendo and an amazing plant-based cook.
And we live in our home in Oakland with our Pitbull Bubbles and our kitty named Diddy and our ever-expanding collection of house plants and garden.
And I'm really grateful to be here today.
Yes. Shout out Cody, Diddy, the kitty and Bubbles. I love your household.
It's such a warm, vibrant place. And I'll never forget meeting you, Andy, at 9 a.m.
Monday morning, freshman year, fall quarter of college. It was poly 11 comparative politics class led by Professor Karen Burry.
It's crazy to think like that feels like two minutes ago that we met just at the footsteps of college.
And now here we are.
And you have continued to just really evolve and grow so much over the years.
So I'm so honored to have you all here together. Thank you for those beautiful introductions and for sharing a little tidbit about who you are, how you identify and the work you do.
So we want to inspire young people to truly express themselves.
I would love to hear you all tell us about a time when you discovered your queer identity, whether it was years ago or recent.
Andy, let's have you start.
So I first want to preface, it can never be said enough that, you know, questioning, exploring or coming out is a nuanced, complex process and there's no one way or one experience.
And with that, some things that come to mind for me with this question, I think of my high school self and how I came out at the time as gay in a way that, you know, didn't involve me examining too much of my identities.
And I think I naively thought I had arrived at who I was.
But it was a time during high school at a pretty homophobic and hostile environment that I was able to find relative safety and empowerment in coming out.
So high school was a formative time. And I think I understood my identity as a way to take action to make the world more welcoming or more supportive for queer people and organized a queer straight alliance and a day of silence event as a high school student.
Yeah, but as I sit with this question, and I think about discovery with my queer identity, I also think about being an educator and ways that my experience have echoed back in other ways now in my life.
And yeah, I think about starting my first year with having a predecessor in my job who was gay, but told me that it was impossible to come out in the environment and context in which we taught and there was steep homophobia and it wouldn't be okay or possible.
And so my first year in the classroom, I was closeted about who I was and really awkwardly and clumsily so, but had a lot of barriers for how I showed up and how I connected with my students.
My second year though, as an educator, kicked off with a circle with my students where I came out and I was vulnerable and real with students and they were of course lovingly accepting and great with me, which was just awesome.
But yeah, those are two memories that first come to mind, but I'll just also end with again, exploring identity being a process.
And so, you know, I'm on a journey with my own gender identity right now and I'm proud to embrace this being a process.
So those are a few thoughts that first come to mind.
Thank you for sharing that. That's very resonant around the identity experience being a process and that we don't ever just arrive and that's the end.
It's a continued evolution with a lot of moving and shaking along the way.
And just really appreciate you paying homage to people who came before you and around you and kind of pushing past the barriers of predecessors saying, you can't be a certain way in this space to thrive.
And just questioning that and redefining what your role is as a teacher and then being embraced by students.
You have to be vulnerable to open others to vulnerability. So very powerful.
Thank you for sharing that, Andy. Jay would love to have you go next. Yeah, thank you for ending there and thank you for sharing, Andy.
Definitely brings me into what I wanted to share, bring into the space.
So the first thing I wanted to share was that coming out was a privilege.
This is something that I learned later in my queer journey or my queer identities that are intersectional as I exist in this world.
One thing I actually discovered or learned from my current partner, Zane, they shared with me because of their upbringings that like coming out is not something that some people from other communities get to experience.
And something for me, I thought was like, I don't know, just something if they're not willing to come out, then what will I do?
What does that mean for me and my identities?
Will I go back in the closet if someone I'm seeing doesn't have the privilege to come out?
But I think we come out in all different types of ways to ourselves, to people, strangers even by existing, whether it's sometimes through gender expression, how we express ourselves physically, what we wear.
So I think to that end and also want to call out that coming out as a privilege is also like very much a Western ideology.
I would be remiss if I didn't touch on that as well.
And that's something as we like decolonize our language and everything that we've been taught in all different spaces, definitely something I wanted to bring in because it's been huge for me and decolonizing a lot of parts of my life as I make that journey through.
And yes, it's a process and very much a journey. I love this question because it allows me to go back and reflect on my life and little pieces where I like these aha moments about myself.
I've come out like three different times as like in different with different identities.
So in terms of like sexual orientation, sexuality, gender identity, and then also like another piece of like gender identity.
So very much still coming out to folks, even some folks that might be tuning in today.
I'm coming out to you all as well. And for folks that I don't know that we're just continuously coming out.
Yes, Daniel. But like what I really wanted to share, because for me, when I read this, I felt like very seen and very like, oh, I wish I had this quote a long time ago.
But it's from queer activist and writer in the UK, Alexander Leon.
And this one went viral. So all the folks on this panel might have heard this.
But when they shared this quote, queer people don't grow up as ourselves.
We grow up playing a version of ourselves that sacrifices authenticity, to minimize humiliation and prejudice.
The massive task of our adult lives is to unpack which parts of ourselves are truly us, and which parts we've created to protect us.
This for me is extremely powerful, because it is all the unlearnings and all of that.
And therapy helps, obviously, but the more you can be in community with folks that may have some resonance, the more we can suss out those things that are us and feel truly like us.
So for me, these are the things that really come up, not so much in the like very little details, but things I wanted to share.
And maybe hopefully, some parts resonate with other folks on the call.
But for me, I'm as someone who's physically transitioning, I am coming out to myself with myself every single day, and something might be new.
So that TBD, but very much to what people will probably speak to, fluidity in our journeys.
And we are moving in cancer season, we are vibing on these water waves.
So yeah, thank you. Yes, Jay, thank you.
So much resonance right there. I mean, when you quote Alexander Leon, it reminds me of listening to Alok speak on the Laverne Cox podcast, Eric and I had both listened to a similar podcast.
And they talk about how when you're closeted, you don't have to call it being closeted, it's being strategic, because you can't always, you can't necessarily express who you truly are, if you want to survive in certain spaces.
So it just really ties back to what you said at the start that coming out is a privilege, and how amazing to see you continue to build on your coming out story and re-identify, re-identify, re-identify.
It's almost like an unfolding, like a peeling of the onion or a de-layering to get to that core.
We have so many layers up, and it's just about shedding till you get to that like authentic center point.
So yeah, you teach me so much about ways to continue to really push past the surface and unlearn and decolonize every system that we have in place that continues to invoke oppression.
So thank you so much for sharing that.
I'm just so excited for your journey that you're on. Eric would love to have you go next.
I'm feeling so, there's so much coming for up for me from what Andy said and Jay said, and I think a lot of what I wanted to say is very similar.
I also have come out so many times in so many ways, but also really feeling like I never had the privilege to come, like not come, not be seen as a gay man.
So there was a lot of ways that I could not hide. And so I think that a lot of it was more so fooling myself versus fooling others, but also feeling that protection for myself, that wanting to be safe and for my safety and not expressing my true self.
I think that I really embraced my queer identity in high school.
It wasn't until senior year of high school that I came out, but I think I would have come out much sooner, but when I was a freshman in high school, Matthew Shepard was murdered.
And that case really has stuck with me in so many ways, even after all of these years, because my mother grew up in Wyoming.
So like, I just felt like that connection to him because he grew up in Wyoming and was living in Wyoming.
And it was really like the first time that a really concrete way that I felt like I became an adult and grew up and like was forced to grow up because I knew that my being my true self meant harm.
I could be harmed for being who I am as a person.
And so in my senior year, I eventually, or I came out to others.
I honored my true self, but it was really because of a friend that I had in high school.
He was so fearless. He was so fabulous. Like he just was like everything that I always wanted to be.
And I felt so safe and so seen with him that he created this sense of safety for me to come out and to express myself and to really embrace who I was and paint my nails.
And when I had hair, color my hair and all of these other things that I wanted to do.
And then also just be honest with myself and be honest with others.
And it was so incredibly liberating. And I think also like part of the second question was also like, how do I practice my self-expression every day?
And I think I practice my self -expression by just like showing up who I am as a person every single day.
And some days it feels very incredibly revolutionary and radical because we enter spaces where folks don't look like us or not like us.
And then other days it feels really normal, but I feel like the days where it feels normal are the ones that I like the most because we have this privilege to exist as who we are in our jobs, in our community, in our households, and just be.
You can't have harmony without harm, I guess. We've seen so much historical harm done to the community of folks who just want to express a different way of being outside of the status quo.
And now it's a time to re-establish the balance of power toward true, free self-expression.
So it's pretty miraculous when a moment like Matthew Shepard being murdered triggers that aha moment.
It's like sometimes it just takes a moment of extreme harm to really awaken an entire society or at least one individual to just start stepping into themselves and fighting for that and risking everything to be authentic.
So it's incredible to hear that that moment really activated you and that you had some community through your friend who was just fearless to be seen and heard and safe and that now you can continue to just be such a leader and be exactly who you are in all the spaces that you enter.
So thank you for sharing that, Eric. Danielle, I would love for you to round us out with this question.
Yeah. Wow. I'm feeling so proud to be queer and really grateful to be a part of this conversation.
And yeah, just feeling a lot of emotion come through thinking about the journey it's taken for us to be able to have the freedom and the privileges that we do and not to neglect that there isn't still oppression in many ways.
But earlier today, I was reflecting on the Stonewall Inn incident in 1969 in New York City and just the trailblazers before us that really did the good work for all of us to be able to express ourselves so truly and freely and really resonating with what has been shared so far around the queer journey ever expanding and this constant experience of redefining and rediscovering deeper layers and parts of our queerness.
And I think back on the timeline of really important moments of coming out starting with as young as I can remember is probably like second grade.
And my first kiss was with another little female bodied being.
And it felt, I would say that I've had the personal privilege of always feeling so, so natural in my exploration.
It felt like this curious, playful part of who I am.
And I didn't question it. I was just connecting with the energy of another person and I wasn't fixated on the anatomy or gender.
I was just like, how does this person make me feel?
And what am I enjoying in our time getting to know one another?
And so I feel really grateful that I was just tapped into that wisdom at a young age and had a really good group of friends who I was able to share my stories and my experiences with.
And at the same time, I think that because I was, I am female bodied, there was this, I don't know, like this sort of stigma around like, oh, it's probably a phase or this is part of the female sexual exploration of hooking up with other women and the frustration of being in high school and male gendered people looking at me almost like as a sexual object of how I was expressing my truest, deepest desires of what felt really beautiful and sacred and special to me.
And then some, another big coming out moment for me, which has a little bit of pain and tenderness to it, was just when I realized my previous partnership was deepening and deepening to the point where I proposed to her and then wrote a coming out letter to my father and then didn't hear from him for like three months.
And, you know, just having to take a step back and honor his process and the time that he needed to really soak that in.
But that being really painful because I didn't feel quite seen or acknowledged for the love that meant so much to me at that time.
Yeah, thanks for the encouragement there, folks.
And then probably the biggest like celebration of rediscovery now is my gender pronouns of doing some deep, deep personal work out in the wilderness and having a dream where my little one came to me and was like, I want to be gender creative.
And I think that although I came out to a lot of people in my community, I never really got to talk about it with my family.
And I think there is a part of my little person who is like, I want the freedom to express myself in however I want to and wear whatever I want to and paint my nails, wear a backwards hat and break all the societal gender norms and just be fluid in my expression and not be a she and not be a he and feel like all of them and just be a they.
And so that that's, oh, I have a dog visitor now. But yeah, that is probably my, my greatest new discovery and my fluidity.
Thanks for listening to my story.
Oh, really, really feeling that emotion. Daniela, thank you for going there and just keeping it real.
And for calling out the fact that this is the anniversary of the Stonewall riots that paved the way for so much of this so much of the pride celebration that we have today is due to those riots that took place in New York in 1969.
Today, June 28. So thank you for sharing that and and everything you shared about family and early experiences and just going with the flow and being in that energy and exploring it and not questioning it is empowering.
It kind of reminds me that we take these actions to come out to family and to, to express exactly who we are.
And sometimes we expect immediate change and we get hurt when it's we're not met with what we're looking for.
And that's where chosen family is really empowering.
We just relinquish control and relinquish expectation.
We can't necessarily get attached to any particular outcome. We just do what we know is right for us, fight for freedom, fight for truth, and let the rest carry forward because we can't change individual actions, but we hope that people will come along for the journey.
So yeah, I really appreciate you sharing that and really respect everything you shared about just the fluidity of not being a she, not being a he, just being a they, being all of them.
So that's great. So the next question here is, is around, you know, how we support others in the community.
So how do you all build and support queer community through your work? And how do you navigate queerness in various spaces?
Jay, let's have you start. Yeah, this, all of a sudden this question feels so loaded, but I'm happy that it's on here.
I'm happy that we all get to share what we feel or think and feel about it.
I, so firstly what comes to mind is safety. This for me is going to be how I show up in any space.
So how people know me or don't know me will depend on how safe I feel in any spaces.
So that's what like, firstly, like, that's like me to be me.
Then I can help people. If I can be safe, then I can help create safety for others, that sort of grounding-ness there.
But in terms of building and supporting queer community, I try first to just like listen as much as possible.
Like anytime I'm wanting to get to know anyone or specifically kind of like pronouns are a pretty easy way to find out who else is gender fluid or maybe non-binary, gender non-conforming, gender expansive in some way.
If I see another person with they, them pronouns, Daniela right away, you know, upon meeting, I was like, oh, okay, we're both, we both have they, them pronouns.
We can talk about gender fluidity in some way already.
So little ways like that. Also when people have their pronouns and they're she, her, he, him, these are like, it still shows up like a knowledge of either you're learning or you have learned.
And so there's more space there.
And for folks who don't, it's just another way to build that community there.
I think anytime when I can offer up if folks are open to educate, like, oh, yeah, what is these pronouns?
What is that? Or what are these words next to your name mean?
Like, what are those? What do I have? Like, what do I, how do I go about this?
Just like really, really always just trying to call folks in. Like if I didn't know, because I've not known a lot of things and still do not know a lot of things, how do I want someone to approach me and share this information with me depending on what exteriors, what walls I have built up, what defense mechanisms I have to just like really, really disarm as much as possible and like break down these walls that we built around ourselves to protect our hearts from feeling hurt or crying in front of people, if that's what our experience was to show weakness, which obviously it's not.
It's strength. It's working through things. It's all of those things.
But when you can dig deeper and have a conversation that's beyond any surface level of what we see in each other, I think that's where we can get into what people need, what people want, how they feel safe, and if I can help in that way by just asking, like, how can I support?
Or, hey, what if I helped in this way?
Does that make sense for you? Are you open to hearing possible solutions? What do you need in this moment?
Are you wanting someone to listen? Or would you like me to share kind of my thoughts?
Just like really, really checking in with folks before just like an emotional dumping or just giving all the solutions in the world.
That for me is huge by checking myself and checking my ego in those moments, in those spaces, because I'm someone that's just so solution-oriented.
So anytime I can listen and then activate on whatever was asked of me or offered up to me and seeing and making sure I have consent with them to in terms of anything that I share beyond that space, if it is something that can be created on their behalf, if I can take that on for someone, I think that's a role that I'm used to playing.
And I like taking that on for folks, lightening the load for folks. And then in terms of navigating queerness in various spaces, safety, definitely, like I mentioned, and just the more I build, the more I share pieces of myself that are vulnerable.
If it's not reciprocated, then it means, hey, like maybe this isn't so much the space for me to feel safe to keep giving or keep sharing certain parts of myself.
But kind of reading the room as much as possible and also just checking and seeing how folks are responding.
But I don't have the privilege of walking around in this world where folks don't just like look at me and kind of like, because maybe I'm more androgynous presenting, that I don't get to like not be queer in the world.
So just acknowledging that, acknowledging my light-skinned privilege as a Latinx, Latine person, using that privilege, that light-skinned privilege to surface challenges, especially in tech, like there is just, it was not designed for us.
It was, there's so much to decolonize and dismantle in terms of white supremacy.
So I am just always, that's the North Star, and helping folks, just anything I can do to help others.
And so therapy for me too, so I can keep helping others. I can heal within, so I can continue to help heal others.
But those are the things that kind of come up me.
But thank you for this question. Oh, yes. Safety, consent, checking in with people, healing from within so you can heal others.
You, Jay, have been so, you're such a, you're such a powerful model of what it is to check in.
And I'll just speak for myself.
You've been so gentle and encouraging with me on my own journey of learning as an ally around gender expression, whatnot.
You know, like the pronoun stuff is really important.
And even that sometimes it's just, you know, not top of mind for some folks, including myself, because I do just identify as she, her, as a queer person.
So it's been really helpful to learn with and from you.
So thank you for always being really gentle and bringing people along on the journey and really listening and then activating.
Appreciate that. Eric, would love to have you go next.
Um, yes, totally agree with like, even myself, you know, when you when you and I checked in, Shannon, about doing this panel, like just naming to you that as a gay man, I still have work to do and learning.
So just totally agreeing with that right now.
I think one way that I try to I hope I'm building support for the community is just like really making myself available to folks.
Like I really want to create intentional space to like check in with the people that I love.
And making time for the people that I love.
I think that COVID for me has really helped me reassess and re-prioritize how I want to spend my time and my energy and what I want to spend my time and my energy on.
And I think that that's like, for me right now, that's my loved ones, whether they're friends, family, anyone in between.
And also just really showing up.
Like my Jay shared that like tech was not meant for queer folks.
And I don't know if the hospital is meant for queer folks either, you know, and just really wanting to do things differently in the way that I show up for my everyone that I work with at UCSF.
And also when I do my social justice work, you know, like, where my work is literally to break down oppressive systems, and we cannot replicate those oppressive systems when we're trying to do the work.
And so it's like constantly relearning, constantly reassessing, constantly checking in with people, apologizing, you know, to people when you know you've caused harm to folks.
And trying to do better. And then similarly to Jay, I just don't think that I have the opportunity to not show up as a queer person in this world.
So I just really try to not play small. And I also don't try to puff up, you know, when I get into other situations.
And I just really want to be myself, practicing being myself with no apologies.
I really respect what you're saying around reassessing and reprioritizing how you spend your energy and your time.
Because that that's really the only currency that actually matters.
Money is just a fabrication of the human imagination. And all we have is time.
And it's how are you going to spend that? So just spending it with people that you love, I think, is one of the best things you can do.
And just actually showing up and not being small.
Just being exactly who you are. And really respect and relate to everything you're saying around just creating intentional spaces and constantly growing.
Even if we are queer, there's so many different ways that we need to continue to grow and evolve and help others who are different than us.
So thank you for sharing that, Eric. Daniela, I would love to have you go next.
I knew you were going to call me next. Yeah, so in terms of being an ally in my work as a doula, one of the intentions that I hold really dear is inclusivity for all family dynamics.
And however one gets to the journey of parenthood is important and deserving of someone to be present and caring and nurturing during that transition.
And the way that I am mindful to really create that sense of inclusivity is through language and being really aware of the language that I use.
So not always referring to people as mother because not everyone identifies as mother.
So trying to keep things very neutral by creating options.
I like creating options because I also want people who really feel proud to use mother terminology that they feel seen and acknowledged to.
So I'm really aware about creating options.
So I always sort of give both like mother parent or the journey to parenthood as opposed to the journey of motherhood or chest feeding as opposed to always using breastfeeding.
So kind of intermingling between the two of them like breastfeeding or chest feeding.
Being mindful that I'm not referring to the non-birthing person as dad and assuming that sort of heteronormative family dynamic but saying being more inclusive in my language like the partner.
So when I'm meeting with new clients like oh you know I would love to meet your partner and bring them as a part of this dialogue so that you know everyone can just feel seen and respected and safe and relaxed.
So that's something that's really important for me and I try to really be clear about that in my website as well so that when people come to my website they can automatically feel like there's inclusivity through my wording.
And then just as the other part of the question yeah just really resonating what was already said by Eric and Jay around just like showing up fully as myself and I think as a born and raised New Yorker there's this part of me that is has a lot of edge and also identifying as Latinx and I my father's side is Italian.
There's a lot of like fire in the combination of who I am and I'm definitely not afraid to call people into conversation and so I think that I have a really skillful and graceful way of edging into sometimes like crunchy conversations and calling people in to educate and to help others expand their their state of mind about something.
Even just like recently with this whole new gender pronoun exploration I met somebody recently who is a bit traditional and really struggled with you know he's very like well you see you like you see yourself as the way that you see yourself and I will see you as how I see you and I'm like no it doesn't work like that.
So yeah I think that part of just navigating these spaces and being an ally is constantly just like really staying grounded in who I am unabashedly and feeling really proud as a way of inspiring other people who might really struggle to take a stand to speak up about who they are and what they love about themselves.
So yeah that's me. Even ever even even the way you said calling people in as opposed to calling people out even that is intentional and the whole time I've known you you've always been such a strong communicator with how you have these conversations to open people up.
You talked about some of the specifics of how you communicate with the parent figures.
Could you kind of talk a little bit about with kids when you're speaking with kids how do you communicate with them to open them up and elevate their minds?
Yes thanks for asking that and bringing me back in.
That is a huge way that I'm also like an ally is when I'm interacting with young people I never assume like if we're talking about like oh who are you like so is there anybody in your school or in your community that is lighting you up and I never you know if I'm talking to a female body youth person I'm never like assuming that she might like a boy because she might like a girl who knows and so I really try to be neutral in my conversation with young people about yeah just being really intentional with the conversation and not making any assumptions and also modeling like you know meeting young people and sharing my gender pronouns as a way to uplift and encourage them to claim however they want to identify as well because I really do believe that the little beings are looking up to us as allies and support people.
Yes yeah what you model is what they will reflect so it's important to be really intentional and careful with what we say to little younglings.
Andy how about you round us out with this one?
Yeah absolutely. I really appreciate this question and I think building and supporting queer community is part of my core values as an educator and organizer and just really appreciate the other panelists speaking about having a north star and moment to moment working to to break down oppressive systems and different interactions or opportunities and I just I resonate with listening and finding those opportunities to educate around things like language and also build community so I just appreciate the really intentional energies that I feel from what folks have shared.
When I think about this question I think about being an educator and the power of just existing as a queer educator and you know showing up as my full self and you know being an educator we know is challenging work and I just have to say that I wouldn't still be in the game seven years in if it weren't for the queer and trans community of educators who I connect with and so I have to name drop one of my dear friends Asha Hannah.
She was my teaching partner for many years in our special ed program.
She's a queer black woman and she is unapologetically herself and the space that we fostered together for many years was just full of a lot of love and community for our students and I benefited so so greatly from my work with her and I just resonate with the pieces around that folks shared around being an active listener and just showing up and building authentic relationships as part of my experience and how I showed up with Asha.
She's now an ethnic studies teacher and doing amazing work and I just I love her so much but yeah also being an educator you know there's been opportunities as I alluded to earlier to like echo back from my own experience and being mindful of my positionality and how I show up but supporting the young people at my school to organize and to create space together and so you know as a student government advisor I was able to support them doing their own day of silence which was like an effort that I was a part of at my school when I was a high schooler and so you know those are specific things but there's just I think power and existing as a queer educator and having those moment-to-moment opportunities.
Yeah I have more things to say but I'm guessing that might be about time so maybe I'll maybe I'll pause there but I'll just think about like those again those moment -to-moment opportunities like going on a college tour with students and and taking a step away to to check out the LGBT resource center at like a college right and to have some really critical conversations and the last thing I'll just say just building on things I've heard is I just feel so empowered and proud of non -binary and genderqueer colleagues who I have and how they've shown up and on campus and I just feel so grateful to connect with them and as I think around showing up in person on campus this fall and how I want to show up I just feel grateful to to be in community with others because that's the the only way I've been able to to stay in it.
Yeah what you shared kind of reminds me of what Eric had said you you both are sharing some reflections around the power of just showing up and being exactly who you are and you you talked a bit about examples of how you help students and these are super powerful.
I'm curious could you share a bit about how you organized your school district to become a union because that's huge.
Sure yeah that was what I wanted to just get to actually Asha again someone who's just so formative in my my life she and I were some of the founding organizers for our charter school network educators forming a union together and so this was an effort that we had been undertaking for many years as educators you know wanting to see the the balance of power and having shared decision making for students at our at our schools and in our communities and seeing and experiencing a lot of top-down decisions and things that often were were harmful for educators or harmful for our students and yeah it was just really incredibly empowering this year during the pandemic a time when geographic barriers I think went away and allowed for new opportunities and ways to be and connect together that that we as educators took a bottom-up approach and we proudly with love organized an educators union to look out for our students look out for our queer and trans students and to have a seat at the table in decision making so yeah it's just proud I'm proud to think back like okay this was this was Andy and Asha like some of the some of the queer folks with our with our colleagues helping to to make this happen you know and I think that's again a testament to to queer community and how it can be sustaining and yeah I'll pause there.
Thank you for organizing your school district into a union.
I'm just hearing little trickles of solange right now seat at the table and really like love everything you said.
So we have six minutes and 23 seconds. We have several more questions.
I think we'll end with this one. Let's let's go around and take a couple moments when you think about leaving a legacy on earth that will inspire and uplift other queer folks what does that legacy look like?
I feel like this is the perfect segue because Andy just talked about forming a union a year's long effort.
So yeah when you think about leaving a legacy what does that look like? Jay let's have you start.
All righty I wasn't expecting to start but that's okay we're flexible we are flowing.
Oh yeah this one was super loaded as we chatted about before for me for me the legacy that I would like to leave is around just like if more folks can feel safer in this world than like and like whether it was I don't know like whether it was somehow whether one or two people away six people away like they say like six connections of like Kevin Bacon or whatever like whatever connections to however many folks and if that's something that I can be a positive impact on someone like I feel like I've already done the work I feel like I've did what I came here to do that's ultimately what I feel like my purpose is here in this lifetime is to help as many people as I can the more I learn the more I heal and just helping other folks whether it's a mirror me existing me listening me active listening and repeating things back or just hey this is what I heard this is what I'm hearing from you and then like how can I support seeing folks that maybe feel like they've never been seen something about that's just like so healing for me too so I think I think what I give out is also what I seek a little bit there too but ultimately just more safe safer more community spaces for marginalized and historically excluded folks for people to feel truly seen and heard overall yeah that's it yes yes safety and being a mirror just helping as many people as you can thank you um Eric would love to hear your thoughts um I saw something on IG that I really liked and I think that this is what I want my legacy to be which is it said queer kids need story about happy queer adults and I just want my legacy to be that like I am living my life and I'm happy and I'm queer and I'm doing work that's like connected to my purpose and um even if it can be an inspiration just for one kid you know I didn't have one youth one young adult I didn't have a lot of exposure to the queer community as a youth so like now um I just the the youth now just blow me away with like how amazing they are and how woke they are just like how so dope they are um so I just hope to be an inspiration that like yes you can be happy you can do your life's work and also be queer and all of the things yes channel it I enjoy as a revolution um keep living it Andy round it out well Andy and then Daniela okay um I'm gonna invoke some quotes just um it's a big question um first um the amazing um gay black author James Baldwin um he said in an unwritten um manuscript that not everything that is faced can be changed but nothing can be changed until it is faced um and I also want to read a quote from Octavia Butler um from Parable of the Sower um and Parable of the Talents has some iterations of this quote as well but all that you touch you change and all that you change changes you um and so as I reflect on my own legacy um that I'd want to leave I want to be mindful of being socialized as a white person who can pass as a cis man um in our society and I want to think about how I can show up as consistently as I can to uh build a more just world um and support a movement that centers trans black women and those um most impacted um along intersections and um yeah looking at time last thing I'll say everyone should know Sylvia Rivera and um Marsha P.
Johnson there's a lot of resources to learn happy pride yes thank you shout out James Baldwin, Octavia Butler, Marsha this is great um Daniela please round us out yeah so so much of what everyone's already shared is is um feels alive for me as well and feel connected to this idea of being a representation of a happy queer human who is very abundant in her life in their life I just said my own wrong pronoun um it's always a learning journey yes but yeah just um I think I'm constantly inspired by the youth and in any way that I can be involved in uplifting and supporting that community feels like a way of how I would want to contribute to more inclusivity and spaces and a lot of that looks like having the authentic and vulnerable conversations with people and asking the right questions and creating brave spaces for people to share their most authentic selves so uh yeah I'll leave it at that because it's about to be five