Joking aside and generally speaking, I don’t shy from voicing my opinion, speaking my mind and letting folks know precisely where I stand on an issue (or where they stand with me). In the last several years a substantive part of that discourse has been around issues facing the LGBT community. That’s why, when my friend Sabrina Riddle told me about this new organization that was getting ready to launch and asked if I wanted to be a part of it. I didn’t hesitate.
That organization was dot429 and I describe it as an on-line and off-line community for urban professionals – most of whom happen to be gay. I say “most” because unlike many other organizations catering to the gay community, dot429 sticks another letter onto the usual LGBT acronym. That letter is “A” – for allies. This was of great interest to me because if there’s one thing that I learned with the debacle of Prop 8, it’s that so long as the LGBT community spends all its time talking amongst itself we will never, and I mean never, gain the more broad reaching acceptance that we seek. Period.
If the civil rights movement had been solely undertaken by African Americans with no involvement by any other race – it would have failed. When you are a minority you are, by definition, at a numerical disadvantage. Therefore it stands to reason that in order to gain any sort of traction you must find connection, support and ultimately partnership with those whose numbers shadow yours. Period.
My involvement with dot429 from the get go as a Founding Member in San Francisco largely involved attending the local networking events and writing for the blog. That was all great, but I felt there was something missing. So I talked with dot429 CEO Richard Klein and it turned out that he and the rest of the dot429 team agreed – and they were already planning something.
That something is Straight Talk - the first edition of which kicks off in New York today!
The premise behind this event, which ultimately will expand into a full 1-2 day conference, is to elevate the discussion of issues facing the LGBTA community – not by hammering on the “gay thing” but rather by focusing on the overarching issues for industries as they relate to themes such as authenticity, transparency, trust, identity and privacy. While a majority of the speakers and even attendees may well be gay, the point is to garner representation from the straight community as well, so as to foster a more broad, non-partisan discussion.
This is precisely the nature of conversation I love to have, and so when they asked if I would like to help curate and host it, it was a no brainer to say yes!
For the inaugural foray of Straight Talk, we’re tackling three sectors:
Politics & Current Affairs: with activist Lt. Dan Choi and Equality Matters’ Editorial leader, Kerry Eleveld
Media & Entertainment: with the GM of LOGO TV Lisa Sherman and CNN host/author, Jane Velez-Mitchell
Design & Retail: with the GM of Saks Fifth Avenue NY Suzanne Johnson and Barney’s creative director-at-large, Simon Doonan
Each hour-long session will highlight the speakers’ views of how their sector has evolved over the last 3-5 years, the changes for the LGBT community during that time and their own personal professional journey. Since we’re holding this in the Grand Screening Room of New York’s Tribeca Grand Hotel, it’s an intimate affair and so will also be very interactive with lots of engagement from the audience. It won’t, unfortunately, be live streamed, but as always I’ll have an eye on Twitter so will keep note for questions and comments either sent as @ messages to me or with the hashtag #StraightTalk