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On October 15th, I was at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles to accept an award for “Digital Hero” on behalf of my company, Clockwork, which developed an app called Path2FamilyEquality. The gracious award was bestowed by Family Equality, an organization near to my heart and full of people who do meaningful work to help humans feel loved and included.
I want to share part of what I said when I accepted the award on that stage in front of people aligned by purpose, my peers and strangers alike, because the core message needs to be read and heard not just by those who were in attendance, but by as many people as possible as we approach midterm elections on November 8th. And even further out, the 2024 presidential election. Yes, I’m getting political. But I didn’t make it political.
Here’s the excerpt from my speech:
I love the family I created with my wife. When we adopted our not-so-little-anymore boy, sixteen years ago, we pledged never to hide who we are. Never to apologize for our family. Before that, I admit I wasn't always as open and explicit about my life or my partner. Not because I was ashamed. But because, like most queer people I know from my generation, I had spent my entire life working to make other people comfortable. Making sure they felt safe around me. Did you ever think about that? How often do we soften our stories to ensure the comfort of the people we’re coming out to?
After I came out, 150 years ago, I would justify my tentative ways by saying, "I don't want to upset anyone by being ‘political.’” I grew up in a small town in Michigan. And by day I existed in the world of business. Given those personal realities, I am well aware of what it means to be too: too much, too outspoken, too loud, too out, too progressive, or too gay. Being “too” can close the door on opportunities, and can shut a conversation down before it begins.
None of us has the luxury or the privilege of being tentative anymore. Our lives, our humanity, and even our children have been politicized. We don’t have the luxury of avoiding politics at work or at the holiday table because politics in this country have become about legislating people and deciding if some people matter more than others.
The untruths about queer families like mine that are disseminated around the internet have made me and my family a political issue. The 300 bills working their way through various states tell us this very clearly.
So now, I guess I'm going to get political, too. I am going to tell my story and be clear about what is threatening people like me, and families like mine. In my life, being more vocal looks like grabbing every opportunity I can to make cis white straight folks aware of what exactly the current moment and the current legislative threats mean for our families.
I am always surprised at how little the average straight person knows about what’s happening to our families. They don’t know because they don’t have to. They aren’t living with some of these threats. They simply don’t have to pay attention.
Some of us may not need the resources that Path2FamilyEquality provides because we’re not in the family planning phase of our lives. We may not need to worry about the costs of gender-affirming healthcare services because we are financially secure. And we may not worry about feeling physically unsafe at work because we move in safe circles. But too many people do worry about those things every day of their lives.
And we need allies to actively join the movement to explicitly support communities who do worry about those things, and we need it right now.
The movement needs you. Every version of you: we need you at work, at church, in your neighborhoods, and on your school boards. We need you to tell our stories and talk about the threats against us at community events and at holiday dinner parties. We need small businesses, like Clockwork, to step up and ask what they can do. We need businesses to stop shying away from politics because we are politics. And it’s terrifying out here.
To shape a world that values all humans–to make the world I know we all want to live in–we cannot be complacent. We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines.
We cannot afford ‘grassroots’ anymore. We have to be louder. We need interest, engagement, and energy like we've never needed them before. We need your energy and grit and determination. We need our straight white allies actively fighting alongside us loudly and openly.
I recently read a quote by Paul Farmer, a physician, scientist, activist, and author, and it really stuck with me. He said, "The idea that some lives matter less is the root of what is wrong with all of the world."
People are not politics. We are all good and valuable because we were born. We all matter.
The families that are fleeing Texas because they’ve been reported to Child Protective Services for seeking gender-affirming healthcare for their children matter.
The teenage girl worried that her parent's marriage might be rendered invalid and she’ll be taken away from them matters.
How can you help ensure that our–LGBTQ+–lives are seen and that they matter? Equity, access, and opportunity for all HUMANS are on the line. If they come for some of us, they could come for any of us. And people are not politics, and never should be used that way.
So in accepting this award with deep and heartfelt gratitude on behalf of my beloved Clockwork, I’m asking all of you: What will you do? How will you show up.
And so after giving that speech, I continued thinking with my team about workplaces evolving into spaces where all people feel like they belong and are accepted, and came to realize that we are no longer able to separate the “real world” from “work.” There is no division and there is no leaving things at the door. The social issues facing every one of us put businesses at risk. Beyond the moral and ethical questions, leaders should be asking themselves:
A recent study by Harvard Business School’s Institute for the Study of Business in Global Society (BiGS) and the Edelman Trust Institute showed 77% of their 14,000 respondents believe businesses have “societal responsibilities beyond economic value.” They also found that:
Businesses–and all of us inside those businesses–have power and responsibility in our society. Not using that power by staying silent will say a lot about how they really feel about the humans they serve.
This is where we are. What are you going to do?
You can vote!
You can call your senators every single day to express your support for the Respect for Marriage Act.
You can share and/or take the US Trans survey.
We'll list all the prestigious events at which you will be speaking. it will be impressive and vast.