How would you like to work in a closet? Stuffy air, not enough light… We've all learned what it means to have to "make do" in less than desirable spaces during the coronavirus shutdowns, but for many transgender people, this discomfort is nothing new.
Andrea Breanna is working to change that.
She founded the highly successful strategic agency and content management system, RebelMouse, before coming out as a transgender lesbian. She believes her coming out story is imperative to the company's success.
"[RebelMouse] did a survey," Andrea tells us, "One of the questions is, 'How safe do you feel being you?' And it was 100%. And I think that's [a] beautiful thing... I should never have hidden it. I never should've stayed in the closet."
Andrea often stresses the suffocation imposed by the closet on individuals and the stagnation it sets on businesses.
"I think the most important impact RebelMouse can have is to inspire young people to help fight back the dark cloak of fear that makes them keep their lives in the closet. I hope our leaders inspire other leaders in other companies to create the types of safe environments that someone could come out and thrive in."
When it comes to representation of her trans peers in tech, she makes a distinction:
"I am less moved, motivated, and inspired by those who have achieved 'visible success' than by those who are struggling against the odds and making it."
Dr. Kortney Ziegler
Dr. Ziegler is of the people Andrea describes. After earning his Ph.D., he founded Trans*H4CK in 2013. The organization was devoted to creating a space for trans people in the California Bay Area's tech sphere.
"I finished my Ph.D. in 2011," he told us, "And it was really difficult for me to find a job. I know this is for LGBT folks, so I'm trans, and I'm really out about my identity. I had an interesting struggle trying to find employment. I ran up against... a lot of anti-trans discrimination. I needed to figure out what to do to not lose my home and my car and all those things that I had at the moment."
Inspired by the tech scene but stalled by the lack of representation, that's when he thought of Trans*H4CK.
"If I can't find a job, I know people who don't have my credentials are probably in way worse situations. So what can I do to kind of leverage being in the tech space and also figuring out how I can use that to help other people to find jobs? So Trans*H4CK was launched as a response to really build technology to make it easier for trans people to sustain our lives."
Trans*H4CK, though no longer in full operation, launched discussions that have since gone on to make the tech sphere a far more inclusive place than it was in 2013 when Ziegler first formed the organization.
"We've been able to really shift the ways that not only smaller folks in tech, but how larger tech organizations operate, as well as helping folks to make their companies more trans-inclusive and respect[ful to] trans people."
The smallest displays of support can build a network that's ultimately life-saving.
"Even if there are no trans employees," Andrea says, "finding a reason to share a story, to put a trans flag up, because it's Pride Month, and if you're a straight CEO and say nothing, you're causing a great deal of pain. And it's one of these moments where it doesn't take a lot, just takes this quick moment of finding some news story to share, something to put in the office or putting it in your signature."
Dr. Ziegler echoes the importance of creating a safe, supportive work environment:
"[M]aking companies inclusive, making people feel safe, adding policies for trans people in the employment policy, making bathrooms safe. I think that there are a number of things that the presence of an organization like Trans*H4CK has contributed to this space."
Andrea Breanna and RebelMouse's success continues to expand with over 55 employees in 26 countries, all of whom work from home. A key to this success in RebelMouse's endeavors and environment has been emphasizing its employees' happiness and personal stability.
"The way we think about it is that there is no such thing as a business decision. It's always a personal decision. And when you put your own personal happiness first in the decision tree, a lot of magical things happen. We, for some reason, tend to put happiness last. Happiness is the most important measure of our lives," Andrea says.
Last year, a poll of 7,000 LGBTQ tech employees in Silicon Valley asked if they'd experienced homophobic harassment at work. 40% said yes.
But while that number is disheartening, the report made no mention of what the makeup of that percentile was.
Leanne Pittsford has an idea on how to address that.
After getting her master's in equity and social justice, Pittsford wanted to continue her work in LGBTQ activism. She began that work with Equality California. While there, she helped overturn the same-sex marriage ban in California but saw the win as bittersweet:
"I was managing the data in the campaign. I had a front-row to the sexism and the inequality that was even happening in the LGBTQ space everywhere I went. I worked in the Castro every day and I saw very few women. We did events and we tried to get women to be a part of the campaign. And not to say there weren't some incredible women, but every time you'd go to an event, every time we hosted our event, it would be somewhere between 80 and 90% male."
The LGBTQ tech industry's preferential treatment of gay men motivated Pittsford to organize. She founded Lesbians Who Tech, "a community of LGBTQ women, nonbinary, and trans individuals in and around tech (and the people who support them)."
"I felt like queer women specifically, and nonbinary folks were missing from the conversation."
A Common Theme
Andrea Breanna—wife, mother, and transgender lesbian—feels the same way.
Breanna is the founder and CEO of RebelMouse, "a creative agency with the best [content management system] in the world." RebelMouse arms its users with the tools it takes to grow and publicize online content.
"We're really excited about how we help media companies and brands that are genuine about their content really grow organic reach," Breanna says of her system.
Genuineness is the lynchpin of Breanna and RebelMouse's success story.
In 2017, Breanna began coming out as trans to her family and, a year later, her employees and clients.
"It's really hard to do," Breanna says. "But it's been really beautiful. I've thought about trying to understand how I could be helpful [for] people who want to come out and how it could go well."
She decided the best way was by setting an example in being her authentic self.
"Trans people need hope right now more than ever. They need to know that they can be successful if they're very good at their job. They need to know that people will follow a trans leader, sign deals with them, and allow them to grow their businesses," Breanna says.
A Common Hope
Pittsford agrees. And both see hope in numbers. Lesbians Who Tech now has over 50,000 members and dozens of chapters worldwide. RebelMouse has over 55 employees across 26 countries.
"I'd love to see us get to 100,000 people," Pittsford says. "I'd love to see us have more presence in some of the countries that need us the most. And I'd love to see, you know, more CTOs or CEOs who are LGBTQ women."
Breanna acknowledges her unique story. "I very much hope that the story of RebelMouse will not just be about how we helped the open web build a better product, but also about how we showed a different way to build an organization that cares about itself. What if Google and Facebook realized that three in 50 of its employees were trans?"
We're all still waiting on that answer.
On this episode of "Oh Myyy Pod!" podcast, George Takei and co-host Todd Beeton sit down with experts to discuss the rise of "deep fakes" and other forms of manipulated media that further distort the truth to the detriment of democracy.
Listen below to hear PW Singer discuss how a deepfake video convinced a company to transfer $250,000 to a swindler who used voice manipulation software to sound indiscernible from the company's CEO.
And listen to our previous Season 2 episodes below.
On this episode of George Takei's "Oh Myyy Pod!" podcast, host George Takei and co-host Todd Beeton speak with experts on the rise of far right hate groups about how we can combat them online and off.
Listen below and find out how Melissa Ryan and her newsletter, Ctrl Alt Right Delete, are keeping others informed in the fight against far-Right hate groups.
And listen to our previous Season 2 episodes below
Former Bush Speechwriter Has An Unsettling Prediction Of What Trump Will Do If He's Acquitted By The Senate
Even as the evidence corroborating President Donald Trump's corrupt dealings in Ukraine continues to pile up, it remains a near certainty that the Republican dominated Senate will acquit him at the end of his impeachment trial.
It remains to be seen, however, if at least four Republicans will break with the party and vote to hear additional witnesses.
Now, a speechwriter for former President George W. Bush is predicting what will happen if the Senate vindicates Trump—and it's not pretty.
Michael Gerson wrote in a recent column for The Washington Post:
"The president never views a near-miss as an opportunity for reflection and reformation. He sees it as permission to indulge his every urge, and his most consistent urge has been to seek unfair advantage in the upcoming presidential election. The months between Senate acquittal and the November vote will be fertile ground for further cheating."
Gerson's prediction that Trump will engage in further attempts to meddle with the 2020 election is far from baseless.
The President's now-infamous July 25 call, in which he urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, occurred only one day after Robert Mueller testified before Congress that he didn't have enough evidence to charge Donald Trump for conspiring with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
Democratic House impeachment managers, while making their case to the Senate, have cited this in warning that Trump will continue to corrupt the Democratic process if he's not held accountable, with chief impeachment manager Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) saying:
"If we don't stand up to this peril today, we will write the history of our decline with our own hand."
With Republicans standing firm beside Trump, Gerson says in his column that there's only one road to accountability left:
"Trump avoided accountability after the Mueller probe. He is likely to avoid accountability for the Ukraine squeeze. That leaves one last source of accountability — the election in November. This will be a test, not of the Republican Party, but of the republic."
People agree with Gerson that Trump will only get worse if not held accountable.
Impeachment is about whether Trump can cheat again in the 2020 election. A Republican vote to keep him in office in… https://t.co/ebGSm89Aa6— Joyce Alene (@Joyce Alene)1579709372.0
Rushing through a sham impeachment trial without witnesses or documents will strengthen Trump’s belief in his invul… https://t.co/LRbTDY9l1W— Steven Beschloss (@Steven Beschloss)1579578617.0
The GOP is forced into the “so what” argument because Trump won’t concede he did anything bad. Because Trump won’… https://t.co/qiIGaRJMG6— Eric Columbus (@Eric Columbus)1579278026.0
When you give a corrupt, Pro-Russian President the power to be a Dictator, you must want Russia to hack our electio… https://t.co/MFUb2oOKAR— Will Clemens (@Will Clemens)1579891656.0
@kylegriffin1 Trump is corrupt and proud of it.— Ken Smith (@Ken Smith)1579707925.0
@washingtonpost The whole world will lose respect for American justice and country as a whole. Trump is being laugh… https://t.co/9Ih1Dckne6— Lonemeteor (@Lonemeteor)1579863157.0
Trump then enlists Ukraine to help him look for dirt on a political opponent - to help himself win in 2020. Once… https://t.co/Rj13imvmud— SensibleThoughts (@SensibleThoughts)1579837789.0
100% correct and you got caught! You tried to undermine the 2020 election. You ask for foreign interference in the… https://t.co/EybWyxQ9nm— Tim Holmes (@Tim Holmes)1579819382.0
A massive voter turnout in 2020 is vital to make Trump a one term President. You can register to vote here.
For further discussion about American democracy and election interference, listen to season two of Oh Myyy Pod.