Ask a Straight Guy / Ask Two Queer Women of Color

This is our second episode in our special “Ask a…” series – “Ask a Straight Guy and Ask Two Queer Women of Color”.

In this series, we ask uncomfortable questions around all types of diversity and initiate courageous conversations that allow us to break down barriers and find aspects of connectivity as people. The straight guy is Jason Gillikin, CEO of Earfluence, and the two queer women of color are Adrienne Michelle and Brittany Glover from Intersections. In this episode we discuss pronouns, being in a safe space (or not) in the workplace, how the media portrayal of queer has progressed the conversation, and when children should be learning about gender identities.

Diversity Beyond the Checkbox is presented by The Diversity Movement. For more information including the online course, head over to TheDiversityMovement.com. Podcast production by Earfluence.

Jason Gillikin: You’re listening to Diversity Beyond the Checkbox. On this podcast, we share diverse perspectives from leaders in their industries, explore diversity, equity and inclusion concepts, and challenge our own assumptions and perspectives to take diversity beyond the checkbox. And in this podcast series in particular, we want to initiate courageous conversations that remove barriers, stereotypes and apprehension associated with asking difficult questions related to types of diversity. Our goal is to foster understanding, create connectivity between people, and share experiences through conversation.

This is our second episode in our special “Ask a…” series, and today we have “Ask a Straight Guy and Ask Two Queer Women of Color”. I’m your host Jason Gillikin. My pronouns are he, him, and his (more on what that means in a minute). I’m the CEO of Earfluence, and I’m the straight guy in this episode.

One quick note before we get going. Most questions asked in this series are researched as often asked questions. Perspectives shared represent those of our guests and do not necessarily represent the sentiments or viewpoints of Earfluence, The Diversity Movement, other associated organizations or their employees or assigns.

Also, if you like this podcast – and I’ve heard from so many of you already who liked our first episode in this series, “Ask a Black Guy / Ask a White Guy”, make sure you subscribe, rate, review, and share this on social media.

And to see more diversity initiatives including an online course on Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace, visit TheDiversityMovement.com.

With that, let’s meet our guests today.

Adrienne Michelle: Hi my name is Adrienne Michelle, my pronouns are she, her, and hers, I’m the cofounder of Intersections, and I’m a queer woman of color.

Jason Gillikin: Adrienne is also a marriage and family therapist who works with mostly couples in the LGBTQ+ community.

Brittany Glover: Hi my name is Brittany Glover, my pronouns are she, her, and hers, I’m the cofounder of Intersections, and I’m a queer woman of color.

Jason Gillikin: Brittany’s career has been in tech, and she now runs LGB Media Consulting. Together, Adrienne and Brittany form Intersections, which helps organizations create more diverse and inclusive cultures through training and consulting and speaking at conferences throughout the region.

Jason Gillikin: Well thanks for joining us on the show. I think a lot of straight guys are kind of wondering this. So, we started this conversation in talking, and I said, my pronouns are he, him and his, and you two had said your pronouns were she, her and hers.

That is growing a lot, obviously on LinkedIn and anywhere else that we can see that. Can you help me understand why that’s such a movement now, to add pronouns?

Adrienne Michelle: Yeah, for sure. So, as a licensed marriage and family therapist clarifying that I work mostly with career families and career folks in general.

And identifying as queer. It’s really important to make sure that you’re open and willing to have conversation. And that’s what talking about pronouns are about. Even when we do training, sometimes people haven’t heard the term pronoun since they were basically in middle school. It’s based on identity and gender identity. And so we have folks who identify with they, them, zhe, zher, just all along the spectrum and really talking about, gender diversity, which has been in our culture, for years, decades, hundreds of years actually. But being able to talk about it openly have conversation is important.

And I think recognizing that a lot of, trans women of color really are targeted, and murdered really, because we’re not talking about gender. We’re not talking about sexual diversity. We’re not talking about these things. So I think, being willing to say “hi, my name is Adrienne Michelle. I use she, her, hers.”

It immediately opens up the door for somebody else to say, “Hey, these are my pronouns.” Or, “Hey, this person knows what pronouns are,” or “Hey, I can be myself” or, you know, ask them a question about gender or something like that. And so it’s really important in the workplace and especially in my field in therapy to be able to share pronouns and share information that makes people really feel, included and like, they’re in a really diverse space.

Jason Gillikin: Wow, OK. Brittany, anything to add to that?

Brittany Glover: I actually have a different perspective on that. I think that I didn’t necessarily grow up, you know, using the pronouns. But, I’ve always found it interesting, right, as a female also with short hair, the times that I’ve been misidentified and what that’s felt like to actually have to step back and say, “Hey, actually, you know, I don’t go by that,” right? Or this is who I am. So, being able to present yourself in your most authentic space, I think is super important when you’re in the space of being misidentified as well, whether that’s in the workplace or in the community

Adrienne Michelle: And even talking about that. I think it’s important to identify like cisgender, right?

So cisgender folks are people who are assigned a gender at birth, and they still identify as that, and I think the three of us perhaps identify as cisgender people. And so when we recognize pronouns, we’re saying “hey, we are open to expanding our minds, talking about trans identities and also working with trans identities.”

So I think it’s also important to recognize that it’s mostly like cis people that are able to adopt this behavior to be able to say it first because of the privilege that lies there. And so really important that we actually make the effort to say pronouns. So I’m really glad that we all can do that comfortably.

Brittany Glover: So I have to insert a funny story here that I think like, I don’t know, they say it takes like, queer people sometimes like seven plus times, like when coming out. And there was a period of my time where I feel like I always used the pronouns like, they, them so much, so when people are like, well, “how do I know till I use these terms?”

You know? And it’s interesting because it’s like, you don’t always, but if you were having this interaction right, with a queer person and they said “they, them,” right? That’s kind of giving different signals of like, “Hey, like this is who I am and I want to be seen for that,” right? Or maybe that means something different.

And I think a lot of queer people identify with that kind of starting with those pronouns. It’s like, “Hey, I have a partner. They are coming.” I don’t know, becomes like this protection. And it’s like boundary that you create for yourself though, you know? It feels good. They come out on the other side of line, which she, her and hers.

Jason Gillikin: And just, you know, by Jackie putting her pronouns in her LinkedIn profile, it means, “Hey,I am an ally here. I’m willing to have a conversation. And, you know, me saying that the top of the show, my pronouns are he, him and his means I’m willing to have a conversation.

I mean, am I getting the gist of it that, I would, you know, probably if somebody did that, then they’re probably an ally to anybody who’s not straight guy or a straight person, basically.

Adrienne Michelle: You know what? That’s what you’re signaling.

Jason Gillikin: Yeah.

Adrienne Michelle: Right? That, this is a safe space

Jason Gillikin: Safe space.

Adrienne Michelle: Really to be able to say, “Hey, I use these pronouns,” or, “Hey, I go by this,” or “Hey, can you call me this.” Right? It’s an opportunity to introduce or embrace really the diversity, and that’s why it’s so important

Brittany Glover: Right. I would feel very natural coming to you, Jackie, right? Or Adrienne or yourself and saying “Hey, actually I identify differently. Is it OK to use these pronouns?” Right? Understanding or, you know, living up to the different standards that don’t even identify myself.

Adrienne Michelle: Yeah. And to be clear, it doesn’t give you your allyship card, right? It basically just says that you’re willing to have this conversation.

And so hopefully, you know. Saying your pronouns isn’t the only thing you’re doing in terms of gender diversity, but to recognize that it’s a start, you know? Yeah.

Jason Gillikin: Gotcha. Well, speaking of safe space, at work, 40% of LGBTQ plus employees say they feel closeted at work. So, what’s been your experience and what have you seen as a difference in your experience with, you know, your coworkers that are, that are straight and sharing about your personal life?

Adrienne Michelle: Well, I think I have an interesting perspective here with, you know, being in grad school, being a facilitator, a teacher, a speaker, and a therapist. I don’t tend to have a lot of coworkers, but what I do have are a lot of people that I’ve worked with in the community. And so, something that we don’t think about in being closeted at work is how much confidence it takes to recognize whether you’re in a safe place. So Brittany and I were actually just talking like if you’re, you know, at a water cooler, basically having a conversation, right? If somebody were to say, “Hey, do you have a boyfriend?” I probably would just be like, “no.” And I wouldn’t say anything else because there is no invite for diversity there.

But if someone were to say, you know, do you have a partner. Then I would feel more comfortable, you know, sharing. And I think it’s really thinking about those moments. When you’re thinking about work, it’s how is this person going to react? You know, every queer person has the same anxiety anybody else has.

How’s this person gonna react? How is this person going to respond? But with queer identities, there’s a lot more at stake, I would say. And you know, especially in North Carolina.

Brittany Glover: Right. I think that’s really important to understand the different sectors, right? Like, I work in technology and my career has been with technology, right?

And that’s been a totally different experience of coming in was like a black woman initially, right? That’s the first identity you see with me. Right? And then you may notice, okay, she has short hair. She never wears a skirt, et cetera, et cetera. Very, very – pieces right? Or stereotypes that we’re expected to hold together.

So stepping into a totally different environment with that. I think that has always been really scary to enter those personal details, you know, about yourself, whether that is getting coffee in the morning or having lunch and not understanding how other people will see this. Because this isn’t your primary job, right?

But at the end of the day, you know, we all want to be better human beings. That is also the purpose of that. So I think, you know, really being able to educate people is a great thing. But also, I have to think back to the young black girl in me, right? The 20-year-old that had to sit down at the lunch table and I couldn’t share any details as to who I was, what I was doing on the weekends, how my weekend may have looked different. Again, I may have used different pronouns to reference you know, my personal life around that as well. So there’s all these pieces that we don’t even know, right, about it individually. So being able to really lean in to conversations like that are important.

Perhaps you may not be the person, and you know that about yourself, that’s like, “Hey, like I probably shouldn’t roll up to my coworker and have, you know, the first thing I’m saying is commenting on their hair,” right? Or commenting –

Adrienne Michelle: Commenting on their identity.

Jason Gillikin: Yeah. And you talk about that water cooler. And I think the, the reality is, I don’t know that I would be able to ask, you know, until recently, anyway, you know, do you have a partner? Because, you know, I think I would have been a little bit scared of offending somebody, to assume that they’re gay.

Right. And I, and that’s just, you know, just saying that out loud. That doesn’t sound fair at all, but I think that’s how I would’ve been like. Like I said until recently. So you know, honestly, I probably would just avoid the conversation. I’d ask them a different type of question.

Adrienne Michelle: That’s so common. It’s so common that people are like, “Oh, I’m so scared, so I won’t say anything,” right? So instead it feels like exclusion, right? But there’s so many other things that you could say besides, do you have a partner? You could say, what’s your home life like? Are you in a relationship? Yeah! Do you cook? Do you cook alone? Do you have a pet? Like there’s so many, so many ways to really be able to connect with somebody, but even just like, “Oh, I’m worried that this person might be gay, might be queer.”

So I’m not going to ask them anything, right? You can feel it. You can feel that difference of not being included. And I think it’s really important to recognize, again, those small things. But if I can share, when I was in graduate school, even, I remember, all therapists go through a whole course about, you know, what happens when you have your first client, what should your office look like? What your clothes should look like. We’re taught all of these different things, and something that they were talking about is, you know, whether you’d have your picture of your family there. And thinking about that, and I recognize having a connection with the people of color that were like, do I put a picture of myself on the website?

Because what if this person doesn’t want to work with black people? What if this person doesn’t want to like work with Asian folks? And so being mindful of that, but then also is a queer person to say. Well, dang, like as a marriage and family therapist do I put me and my partner up? Are straight couples going to want to work with me, right?

So there’s so many elements of the water cooler versus being an entrepreneur versus, you know, being a therapist versus being, you know, in technology and not even seeing people face to face that often. And when you do it’s, boom, comments on identity, you know, which is uncomfortable. And I think that as intersection, you know, that’s something that we really tackle head on is really talking about why are we even focusing on identities? Why is the first thing people say? “Oh, Hey, why is this different? Hey, why is that different? Hey, what is that food? Hey, what’s going on with your hair?” Like, it’s always pointing out differences and not really focusing on, you know, if we have something in common and we all have families, we can talk about that.

Brittany Glover: I think that is really important too, because it’s just like, wow, like there’s so many things that now they were talking about it you can bring to a virtual water cooler, right? Or to like face to face getting coffee in the morning, right? If you’re in the office, there are millions of things we can talk about, right? So it’s really just like pushing ourselves to really think outside the box as well, instead of maybe sometimes putting people in boxes. And, you know, we’ve all made mistakes. We make those mistakes, we learn from it, and it’s the sense of, you know, you only get better with practice. So I think that’s why we’re really running low on continued education there.

Jason Gillikin: Yeah, definitely. And Adrienne, you mentioned the term, or you mentioned Intersections. So, you know, why did you name your company Intersections and talk about intersectionality, what it is and why is it important to the diversity conversation.

Adrienne Michelle: Yeah. So we actually named our company Intersections to really speak to the diversity of what intersectionality means.

Intersectionality was a term coined by Kimberle Crenshaw in the late eighties, early nineties. Black woman who was trying to discuss and really talk about the experiences of a black woman, right? This idea that you’re not just peeling one layer back and getting the other. And if you can kind of think back in time in the, in the 60s, basically, I’m like such a history buff and love understanding so much that happened in this time.

But when you think about the feminist movement, you see a lot of white women. And when you think about gay pride, you think about a lot of white gay men. And so recognizing who was left out of that conversation, and so during the feminist movement and the 1960s, black women had to make a decision, you know, do I join the feminist movement or do I fight for my rights as a black person?

And so really taking a step back and recognizing intersectionality is about all of the identities that we have, and so even identifying as a black queer woman, I also identify as a fem, which is, kind of a subsector of identifying, on the gender spectrum and being able to present in any way that I choose.

And so really recognizing intersectionality is just about all the pieces of us. And so Jason, even you sharing, you know, your identities, I’m sure there are multiple identities that you can share. You know, whether you have kids, where you grew up, a socioeconomic status, religion, there’s so many pieces to people, not just what you see.

And so intersectionality is just about making sure that we’re seeing everything and talking about it, you know, because we can’t just say, “Oh, everything is black and white.” We can’t just sit back and talk about people of color and even people are using the term BIPOC now and not just cutesy POC.

And so BIPOC is about black and indigenous people of color as opposed to just saying people of color because we do experience a different type of privilege and oppression in this country. And so, you know, intersections is just about making sure that we’re hitting all of the layers, and seeing them for what they are.

Jason Gillikin: Do you feel like we’re, we’re making progress as a society in the conversation and, you know, I’ll go to, you know, Pete Buttigieg was our first openly gay presidential candidate. You know, he, he went pretty far. Does that mean to you that we’re starting to embrace the LGBTQ plus community?

Adrienne Michelle: No. I mean, I’m glad that he got as far as he got, but his identity is still what it is, you know? And, and he didn’t speak up a lot for people of color or queer people of color, non-binary folks, trans folks, gender nonconforming, the murders that are happening to trans woman of color all over this nation.

And so, I think as a, you know, as a gay white man, he did alright, he did what we expected. But, you know, I wish it was Billy Porter. I wish it was the cast of Pose that was in our White House right now.

Jason Gillikin: Well, as it is, we’re going to have a straight white guy in the 70s no matter what happens.

So, we can look forward to that.

Adrienne Michelle: What are the chances.

Jason Gillikin: In this country right now? Pretty good.

Yeah. Wow. Adrienne, you talked about, murders and you know, I know that teen suicide rates in the U.S. Are at an all time high, and, you know, rates among, you know, LGBTQ plus teens are, are higher.

So you take that, you mentioned, you know, murders of LGBTQ plus community. So what, I mean, what are some best practices to support you know, our kids, as they begin to understand and vocalize who they are as individuals and, and how can we, you know, how can we help with that?

Adrienne Michelle: Well, you know, even with a clinical perspective to understand that.

Teen suicide rates among the LGBTQ plus teens are high, but also the homelessness rate is high in that community. The bullying rates are really high in that community.

Jason Gillikin: Hang on one second. The homelessness rates are high. Is that, I mean, is, I’m trying to understand how that happened. Like is it because they get kicked out?

Adrienne Michelle: Yeah. Or, or feel unwelcomed. It’s really hard to get a job, you know, identifying in certain ways or even presenting in certain ways. And so really understanding that it’s not just a small discrimination, you know, it’s all across the board. And so when we look at these rates, you know, the homeless rates, the suicide rates, the abusive of drugs and alcohol. A lot of it is, the LGBTQ community. And really recognizing that the way to help and the way to support is to talk about what is going on. You know, as I said, trans women of color are being murdered at such a high rate right now because we don’t talk about gender, we don’t talk about fluidity.

We don’t talk about other cultures. And so to be able to support those youth, we’ve got to talk to these cis hetero kids that are walking around, with a willingness to abuse queer people. And I think that is the only way to, move out of these high rates. And yeah, it is because they’re getting kicked out or, you know, feeling excluded, not feeling comfortable.

I even, you know, remember when I came out, just not feeling comfortable enough to go home, you know? And so it’s not even about, folks of course are being kicked out, but it’s also not being welcome. And so when you think about that on a job level, home level, it doesn’t leave many places that, feel really comfortable.

Brittany Glover: Right. And if those pieces aren’t connected, imagine like, mentally, how broken one can become trying to look handle all of these things at the same time, while having several identities as we all have, right? That’s hard enough to walk into a workplace with all of that stuff that Adrienne just mentioned, like already on your bag. Right? So just really being mindful of that space, you know, and letting people show that they’re authentic selves.

Yeah. So I think that all the pieces really matter, right? When we look at them from, you know, a very holistic view, all of these pieces working around, but like how do they come together? And we have to know that like –

Adrienne Michelle: Oh, well it’s, it’s kind of also around intersectionality. And so sometimes people say, we’re like onions. You know, you peel on my back and you get the other one. But instead, to think of ourselves as garlic, cloves, you know, because it’s just a circle of all of the cloves, and you can see them all.

And that’s more of what intersectionality looks like. and the conversation around diversity and support has to look the same way. We have to look at all the pieces.

Jason Gillikin: And you said we need to have conversations. I mean,  like hetero and says people need to have conversations about this, but who’s we like, you know, is it the parents that need to have these conversations?

Is it the teachers that need to have these conversations? Do they need to be more seminars? Like how do we, how do we practically do this?

Adrienne Michelle: Well, you know what, it’s so funny. I was, I was just talking with a colleague of mine who works for a few universities out here, and we all do kind of gender and sexual diversity training.

And what they were saying was, I can’t believe I have to sit through this training, is so basic. And I thought, this is stuff that we need to be learning in kindergarten. There are children in school now that need to be learning this information. And so I’m talking from very little, blue does not mean boy pink does not mean girl.

Right? I’m talking from very little to be able, you know, just like we say there, there’s boys in their scrolls. to really make it obvious that there’s more than that. If we can talk even, you know, just scientifically for a second, a one in 1000 people are born intersex. That’s a whole gender in itself that we’ve been ignoring.

And so to even say, “Oh, there’s boys and girls” well, scientifically that’s wrong. Even assigned sex wise, we have three different assigned sexes. And so why aren’t we having these conversations about gender? And so I think parents, schools, you know, everybody should be talking about it. And being able to really talk freely because it’s not just about gender, and it’s not about genitalia even really because when we talk about gender and this nation, we know what we’re talking about. When we talk about how guys act and how girls act and what girls are supposed to do. You know, just as Brittany was talking about, even presentation, even the way she dresses is ridiculed. And so we have to be mindful of that, how we police bodies in this nation really.

Jason Gillikin: And so, like, I mean, are any elementary schools having these conversations at all? Like, is it, have we gotten to the point where, you know, we can have these?

Adrienne Michelle: Yeah. There are schools in Durham, there are schools in Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey. I’ve worked at many schools all across this nation, that are having this conversation and the willingness. Schools all over the nation have gender neutral bathrooms, restaurants have gender neutral bathrooms, signs up, especially after, you know, the HB2 fiasco.

And so really being able to understand that this conversation is being had. And if it’s not, it’s your responsibility to have it, right? So being able to recognize, you know, there are, people who identify all kinds of way all on TV. And so if you’re avoiding it at this point, you are really trying because the conversation is everywhere.

And so, you know, I want my kids to grow up knowing that there’s more than two genders because I don’t believe in that part of oppression. And so to be able to say, “Oh, there’s more than that,” kids can understand that. And for some reason, as adults, we feel like we got to police their minds and tell them what they need to know.

And we know it doesn’t work from all the abstinence only education that North Carolina has. It’s be able to say, yeah, just giving one answer that you think is gonna work. It does not work. It does not. .

Brittany Glover: The only thing I was going to add to that is, you know, on a lighter note, right? They’re also friends that, you know, we don’t share the same identities from that sense.

Like, I have really great friends, straight friends, right? That I’m able to sit down and have conversations and they ask me honest questions and I ask them honest questions. So most importantly, if they have a question, we have a safe space that’s created that we’re able to have those safe conversations, even if that’s as simple as like “Hey, you know, my kid is going through this could you give me some advice around this, right? Or even being able to come into those environments and even speak with their kids, right? Not speaking with them in any deep conversation there, but letting them see, you know, what people of different identities really look like.

Because at the end of the day, again, we’re all the same people. Like we all want the same things. We all want to be great. So being able to show up and represent for that. Now, I know that this isn’t. You know, checking the black box, checking the queer box for my friend, because that friend was really authentic in this case.

It doesn’t happen over night, right? And I think as a queer black woman, you know when it’s authentic or not, and that’s when you’re able to lean in and people are able to lean into you. But it’s a really authentic guide.

Adrienne Michelle: Yeah, I agree. It’s definitely about the representation, for sure.

Jason Gillikin: Well, and speaking of representation, and you mentioned pop culture references, like how, how has that evolved, you know, over the past, you know, let’s say 20 years or so, and I mean from my perspective, when I was in my, you know, late teens, let’s say, early twenties.

There were terms that were very derogatory towards gay people then, not necessarily towards gay people, but what was meant as more, more feminine and you hear it a lot in hip hop, especially. But, you know, but just talking to friends as well. And I feel like that’s shifted and I feel like you know, some of the TV shows that openly depict, LGBTQ plus people have really helped change that and made people feel more open and, and steer the conversation. So it was a very long winded question to ask, to say like, has popular culture helped, in this movement?

Adrienne Michelle: I would say, yeah. It’s definitely helped bring about the representation.

Mainly, you know, I think because there are just more representation available for folks to see. But the representation has gotten significantly better. You know, I would say, you know, from the 90s with Bound to a newer show that we are just watching Feel Good or, you know, there’s more queer people showing up in spaces that we already are.

And I think recognizing that is important

Brittany Glover: And also kind of, recognizing that every representation you see is not, you know, just like with anything else, like it may not be the full truth around that. We also watch shows that were like, wow. Like as a queer person, I definitely don’t act like that, right? Nor do any of my friends. So I think there are a lot of shows that are able to do it right, and a lot of shows that are maybe aren’t like hitting the mark quite yet. But I have to be honest in saying like, it’s still great to see people try and that is the whole point of continued education in that sense.

Adrienne Michelle: Yeah. And I think that the differences, they, quite frankly, they have LGBTQ people in the writing room. Like, you know, there are people like Lena Waithe. There’s so many people that are coming out and able to produce their work, to talk about, you know, Janet Mock or a Billy Porter or some of the other names that I’ve focused on to really recognize that they’ve gotten the opportunity to be at the forefront by telling their stories, but also by being willing to say, “Hey, this is actually a queer story. This is what queer stories look like,” and so being able to see that representation is important because just as bringing the sharing earlier, it’s hard to identify if you don’t have a word for it, right?

So there are people who perhaps identify as trans, identify as queer, identify as gender nonconforming, fluid, all these words that float around. But, until you see yourself, it’s hard to feel like you have a real identity until you’re like, “Oh, you know what? I think this is me,” and that sticks with you.

You know, whether it’s focusing on a career, whether it’s a sexual identity, a gender based identity, or even a cartoon that you still like to watch. Realistically, people like that energy of being like, “Oh, that’s me,” or “Oh, me too.” People like to feel seen. And so really recognizing that in pop culture and how different that is, but they still, you know, they still got a messed up sometimes.

I swear. Every time we watch, you know, something that has like a lesbian in it. She always has to have like lingerie underneath a white tee shirt. It’s like, they cannot just let her live. It’s like there has to be a sexual undertone like, “Ooh, you can’t forget. She’s also risky,” you know?

Yeah. It doesn’t happen in real life, but you know what? It’s gotten better. But, yeah. I’d love to be in some of those writing rooms just to give a little a little assistance.

Jason Gillikin: Are you, are either of you familiar with the show Billions on Showtime?

So they introduced a character named Taylor a few seasons ago. And Taylor came on and was an intern and went to the boss and said “My name is Taylor, my pronouns are they, them, their,” and everybody was like, what is going on here? They had no idea of what to, you know, what to think of that.

And that came across and I was like, what is, what is going on here? You know, as, as a straight guy. I was like, what, what is going on here? But I think that that opened up the conversation to what is, what exactly does this mean? And I thought that was, you know, important to, you know, to me, to grow and to understand things. And then, now I look back at some of the old pop culture references, like in, I want to say it was 2005, The 40-year-old Virgin. Are either of you familiar with that movie?

Adrienne Michelle: Yes, I’ve seen that movie, but I cannot remember anything besides, I mean, he lost his virginity, but –

Jason Gillikin: good for him.

But there was a scene in there where it was two straight guys saying, you know how I know you’re gay? You crochet or macrame or whatever it is, or you know how I know you’re gay, you like to do whatever

Adrienne Michelle: Oh so like, stereotypes.

Jason Gillikin: Yeah. And at the time I thought it was pretty funny.

And, but you know, you look back at it now and it’s like, well, wait a minute here. I don’t think that, I don’t think that scene would be in there anymore. But then also, they were using that to say, you know how I know that you’re a lesser person and you know, you know how I know you’re not as cool as me.

You know how I know you’re gay. And so they were, they were using gay to represent that. And I don’t think that happens anymore. Maybe I’m wrong. I just don’t see it. But I think that’s interesting how that’s really shifted and I think that’s, that’s important as well.

Adrienne Michelle: Yeah. I mean, I think that even leads more into toxic masculinity really, right? You know how I know you’re not a man cause this is what you’re doing or this is why you’re gay. It kind of speaks to that, which is hard and sad really. But yeah, it was probably funny at that time, but at whose expense? Right? Understanding that, well, shit, I just made this movie and yeah, I made a couple of jokes, but now somebody else is going to have to fight if they, I don’t even remember, but I guess if they like to crochet and they’re a straight guy, like what? What does that mean? Who cares?

Right?

And so being able to, you know, speak past the stereotypes because it hurts people, you know, and it hurts the community. Now, if we were all on the same playing field, and gay people didn’t have anything to worry about then yeah, that’s all fun and games, but it further toxifies an identity that doesn’t need any more ridicule, you know?

And I think the responsibility there, for pop culture and for writers is to really recognize, “am I doing more harm?” And to be able to ask themselves that question.

Jason Gillikin: Oh, that’s a good point. So you know, you two have, it feels to me like you have to work harder all the time because you’re women, you’re black and you’re queer.

Like, do you feel that too? Like do you feel that you have to work harder to prove yourselves every day?

Brittany Glover: Well, I think that’s a great question. And I think it’s a question that, you know, it’s kinda like the one time that I’m answering for the final time almost, it almost kinda comes off as like, a microaggression to like, get that question at certain times. There’s like, clearly no offense in this situation, but I think that it’s important to know that yes, you know, I think as a black person, right, as a queer person, those have been two totally different experiences, right? I was very affected as, right, a young black girl then the queer experience, right. Those were two separate identities that I went through different experiences with. It’s almost been more okay for me to be black than it has queer. Now, I’ll put that in, right, this case a scenario for us and say, if I’m walking into a new tech company, right?

Traditionally, I’ve been the only black girl there, lets say there are 15 to 50 other developers. Automatically you see this black identity, so that is something that’s like, OK, I have to work twice as hard for that to say, “Hey, I deserve to be in the space.” That even backs up to being asked, right? Like, why are you here?

You know, perhaps you don’t deserve this. Where did you go to college? You know, all of these questions that I’ve earned the same credentials, but I’m not necessarily seen for those. So it’s almost like the question of sometimes I wanted to say, you know, “do you need a copy of my resume?” But also, this isn’t the question that I should be asking on the second day of joining that company. There shouldn’t be.

Adrienne Michelle: No one else has to answer that question.

Brittany Glover: No one else has an answer to that, right. Where after you’ve been exposed for that, which is clearly what you see, there’s also a totally different thing of being queer, right, and how I bring that to you, which kind of goes back to some of the conversations we’ve had. You know, it’s turbulence and circulates, you know, within an office where people talk about it. They want to know, right? They pick up different signs and instead of, you know, companies being really inclusive to those experiences going to those people.

I think a lot of that starts with your mentors, right? So very early on and they’re really looking at more of a career focus, you know?

PLC managers, right? Making sure those people are in place so that as a young person, right? As a 20 year old coming into the workforce, I’d see other people that look like me and that hasn’t always been having a black manager.

That’s been multiple races or people of color. But being able to see those people being able to work with those people. I’ll be honest, like I – what I do now is for that younger black girl that had to go through all of those steps, you know, I feel like if I don’t speak up now, what does that do for the generation behind me?

If I can’t speak on this, you know, how did those kids know that they deserve a chance straight out of college and they don’t have to put their resume in front of everyone as a queer person? I just didn’t happen to answer to a skirt, how I dress, how cut my hair, any of these  pieces as well, but I do think it’s important to really know that being a black person, I am multiple things. But you know the effect of that, you know, how is that affecting me from a child to now? It definitely plays a huge role, but I like to really focus on the opposite of that and to not have necessarily that level of conversation.

But to focus on the things that I’m great at. And that of goes back to like, what are the similarities between us. Right? We both like sneakers. I keep bringing that up. I may not wear heels. I love sneakers. I love to garden. All of these different pieces that no matter where I fall in the spectrum, there are things that make us more similar.

Jason Gillikin: Yeah.

Adrienne Michelle: I mean, that was honestly, that was so well said and just a short added to that is like, hell yeah, we’ve got to work harder, and that sucks, and it should not be like this. And there’s stats that say that for sure we work harder and we kind of do, so I agree 100% with what Brittany said, you know, it’s hard to hold these identities in a world that doesn’t see them and it makes it harder.

Brittany Glover: It’s almost like I’m giving 150% but you’re saying, you’re not even giving that 100%. You’re not even knocking me down to 100% you’re knocking me down to 80%, so I’m still a point where I have to prove myself until you really get to that point where you’re like, “Hey, like I’m actually not the victim. I’m not the victim in your company.

Right? Like, I’m not the victim in my personal life. You know, I can stand on my own two feet and represent who I them. And once I feel like you have that confidence to set back out in the world, that makes all the difference.” But unfortunately, like all of us don’t have that experience. And that’s why it’s important for us to show up.

Jason Gillikin: And that’s awesome. And so do you two, or do either of you try to mentor, younger women or younger queer women? So that, you know, you can kinda put your arm around them and say, here’s what I went through when I was your age?

Adrienne Michelle: So we are definitely connected to like the Durham community and, just kind of offering support where we can.

And so we go and do motivational talks and really talk with young people and, you know, have them understand and really see that queer women are in this world and working and fine and happy and making money and are entrepreneurs and are many things. And so being able to recognize that. So offering opportunities through therapy, honestly, and self-growth and learning for young queer people to really understand that you don’t have to live in that oppression forever if that’s what you’re experiencing.

And also, you know, Brittany does a lot of work in, working with young girls as well.

Brittany Glover: And the media is something for me, I do mobile app development as well as custom apps, and that’s really what brings us together. It’s like a really interesting approach with Intersections, but for me, right, like it’s really important that I hire POC developers when I’m able to, right? And what that really looks like is leaning in on women in the exact same situations as me, honestly.

Or there are several situations where I say, “Hey, like I understand you want to get paid this amount because you’ve been conditioned that that’s all you’re set up for. Actually, I can pay you more and I can help you see your work, right? And even your strengths, that can take you even further.” So it’s not about me.

It’s about empowering the next generation for that. During the summer, I actually teach some summer classes with a program called Intech. And our co last year we had a student that drove – her parents drover her all the way up from Georgia overnight for her to come to this NC State camp. And it was so important for her, right, for her child, to be able to see people that look just like her and some of the adversities they’ve had to face in that. Specifically, that was for coding, right? So in coding space, being able to empower others that look like me, right? And have a voice that I want them to start using that voice. Like not only did we teach technology, not only do I teach diversity, I really like to instill, you know, you’re worth it.

You know, spend time on yourself, explore what you’re great at, and then go conquer that.

Jason Gillikin: Wow. That is awesome. It’s so powerful. Well as we wrap-up our time, what, what else do you two want to add to the conversation, if anything? Because I’ve learned so much already, but is there any, is there any, I’ll give you some space.

Is there anything else that you two want to add?

Adrienne Michelle: Uh, Yeah. I know we have some questions for you. And so –

Jason Gillikin: Oh boy, OK.

Adrienne Michelle: I am curious about, you know, as you’re doing this podcast, right? What does diversity in your life look like? You know, as you’re kind of opening yourself up to learn all of these things, you know, do you feel like it’s reflected in your life and do you want that?

Jason Gillikin: OK. So that’s a really good question. You know, in terms of this conversation I didn’t have many gay friends growing up, but I did have a guy who, who came out to me when I was 18, 19, maybe. He said he had a girlfriend and we were caddying together and we were wondering why we never met this girl.

Her name was Shannon, supposedly. So  we’re caddying on the golf course one time and we’re walking together and he’s like, “Well, you know, she’s, I mean, she’s not, she’s not what you expect. And she’s this, she’s that,” and, then he goes, “Well, take off, take off the ‘S.'”

I was like, so wait her, her name is Hannan. I don’t, I don’t quite understand what you’re talking about.

He’s like, no, no, it’s a he and I can’t remember – oh, his name was Rick. I just remember that his name is Rick. And I was like, “Oh, OK.” But, you know, and so that was my first experience with it. And, you know, it was cool. Like it was, it was great. I mean, you know, we were good friends and that was awesome.

But, you know, over the years, I haven’t had too many LGBTQ plus friends I wouldn’t say. I mean my wife’s a wedding planner and, she married, two guys a few years ago, in their 50s, and we became really, really good friends me and my wife and these two guys, you know, went to the, the Keys together and, you know, so we went to New York City as well, and saw a couple of plays there. But, you know, I don’t have too many, LGBTQ plus friends that I, you know, that I know of. I don’t think.

But do I think about diversity? Not before I got involved in this project. Not, not really. You know, I’m a, you know, straight, white, middle aged guy and I don’t – I don’t really think about it, and I’ve got that privilege really of not thinking about it, as much as so many different, so many people have to think about that every, every single day. But again, you know, I felt like I was an ally for sure. Like, anytime I saw something that wasn’t right, I was like, “OK, well that’s not right.” That shouldn’t be like that, but at the same time, did I think about it?

Did I, was I actively involved in anything? No, no, not really. Not, not until I got involved in this project.

Adrienne Michelle: And that’s fine. Right? But just recognizing, recognizing that, but figuring out where that representation is. So even being a part of this podcast, you know, having friends, it makes you more conscious of the representation that’s in your life.

And so I always tell people, I’m like, are you supporting queer shows? Do you have queer friends? Are you reading your kids books that have more than just mommy, daddy? You know, single moms, single dads, parents, you know, queer couples to be mindful of that because you want to make sure that you’re inspiring or living a life that’s full of diversity, even if you don’t have it, you know, right next to you.

And so some people are like, “Oh, I’m not queer. I’m not watching queer shows,” I’m like, why am I – I’m not a superhero, but I like some superhero shows, you know, being able to make, connect with stories that aren’t just your own, you know? I think that’s really important.

Jason Gillikin: Yeah, yeah, definitely. And yeah, I mean, and I’ve got three young girls, you know, seven, five and two.

And, you know, we make sure that we know that, you know, men don’t have to be attracted to women. And, you know, a man can be attracted to men and women can be attracted to women, but, you know, we haven’t had that conversation beyond that, right. Where people can identify as as different things. And so, you know, having this conversation, it’s definitely a conversation that, that we need to have because we want know them to be comfortable in whatever they turn out to be, and we want their friends  and people that – their classmates would be comfortable.

I love having these conversations because I learn so much and I grow as a person, and I appreciate that question that you asked.

Adrienne Michelle: Yeah and one more thing is I think your friend probably had all of the queer stories because I think everybody came out to their best friend in that same way of making up a name that was very close with the pronoun “they,” right.

Just, “Oh, they’re fun. Yeah. They like me. Yeah.” Yeah. Why can’t we talk about this person? What am I going to meet this person? And recognizing that hesitation is kind of that queer identity of, can I trust this person? Are they going to turn on me? Is it okay? Is it gonna last? You know, all those things.

And so, yeah, I was just like, “Woah, that’s my coming out story!” and I was like, that was everybody’s.

Brittany Glover: You know, to also understand that, you know, we also have privileges. That maybe we didn’t have before. So how long saying that I really want to be able to reach back out to help younger versions of me. Right? Be successful in that. We all have our privilege in some sense, right? So being able to step into the community and share that, and maybe that’s just the privilege of education that you’re able to, you know, sit down and have these conversations with your kids.

Right? So they’re actually not the ones in school that’s like freaking out because they don’t understand something, right? Maybe they can be more inclusive to classmates a lot of just the really simple ways that we probably push off like way too quickly. But it’s not like you’re asking for, you know, this huge change.

It’s like, what are baby steps that really allow us to see people for who they are? And again, at the end of the day, you know, we all want to instill these things, right, in our kids so they can excel. So what better way, you know, to also really showcase that to be open to other experiences as well.

You know, if your an ally in this sense, then you know that you have that privilege. So I think for a lot of people, you know, as being aware of your privilege and then being able to execute accordingly.

Adrienne Michelle: Yeah. Allyship at work is not just a sticker.

Jason Gillikin: Yeah, yeah, you’re right. And I was probably just having a sticker and in saying that I was an ally without doing the work. And so does that mean I was an ally? You know, maybe not. But you know, now I’m doing the work and you know, trying to do more. So, yeah. I really appreciate this conversation today.

Adrienne Michelle: Yeah, us too. I think it was, it was really good on our end as well.

So we definitely appreciate the opportunity to chat with you and share some of our identities.

Jason Gillikin: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming on the Diversity Beyond the Checkbox podcast today.

Adrienne Michelle: Thanks for having us.

Jason Gillikin: Alright thanks for listening everyone, we hope you enjoyed that, and we hope it made you think a little bit too. For more information on all diversity and inclusion initiatives that we’re working on, head on over to TheDiversityMovement.com.

You can find more on Adrienne and Brittany and the work they are doing at IntersectionsDiversityAndInclusion.com.

And as a reminder, if you like this show, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen, and give us a rating and review as well.

Until next time or until I get fired for this, I’m Jason Gillikin, and you’ve been listening to Diversity Beyond the Checkbox.

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