An Open, Heartfelt Letter From Lesbians Who Tech


This is a guest post from Leanne Pittsford, the founder of Lesbians Who Tech, and was originally published on the Lesbians Who Tech Medium page.

After Secretary Clinton and President Obama addressed our nation, your Lesbians Who Tech Team huddled up. In shock and sadness, I asked the team to write raw, real, and unedited accounts of our experiences. After sharing them with one another, we decided to join together. Creating a letter addressed to you. We also encourage you to share your thoughts with us, your Lesbians Who Tech + Allies family, using #LWTSTRONGER. We’re in this together.

November 9, 2016

Dear Lesbians Who Tech + Allies Family:

I’m emailing you in the air, on a plane headed back to our nation’s capital, after spending two weeks supporting my partner in Arizona. The Hillary campaign asked her to come and work alongside them during the last two weeks leading up to the election. We had plans to look at wedding venues. Instead we did what many of us did: we changed our plans and did our part to make history by electing our first woman President of the Unites States, a candidate fit to lead America.

And then this morning, everything changed. Our world changed. We woke up to a nightmare. Like many of you, I woke up shocked, confused, disoriented, angry, and unable to wrap my head around an America that could choose Donald Trump as our President, as our champion, and our leader; an America that listened to all that Trump stands for and decided to cast their vote for him anyway. Someone who is a bully, someone who does not prepare, someone who stands for hate, misogyny, sexism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and racism.

“It feels like I’m not allowed a safe space in this world.”
L.A., Software Engineer, Black, Queer, Immigrant, Woman

“This is a familiar feeling. This out-of-body feeling. Trauma, and evacuation.”
Dom Brassey, VP of Growth, Queer, Person of Color, Woman

“I wanted so much more for us. What happens now?”
Patricia Busby, VP of Operations, Woman of Color, Ally

“Americans not voting Hillary into office is me getting fired from my job. Her story is my story.”
Brianna Boles, VP of Partnerships, Queer, Woman

This morning I was reminded of the morning after losing the battle for same sex marriage in California, the ‘No’ vote on Prop 8 campaign. Prop 8 was my first job after graduate school, where I earned a Master’s in Equity and Social Justice. It was these two years in San Francisco that gave me the foundational education around my own white privilege, systemic racism, sexism, and the power of being different. It was also during this time that I started to understand the power of fear, religion, and how the misuse of power is used to justify some of the most evil parts of our history. And I had to take a really deep look at the type of family I grew up in, and the path I would have to take to become the person I wanted to be.

I grew up in San Diego, with a family that celebrated Robert E. Lee’s birthday instead of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I went to high school in the poorest district in California, with a mother who told me that all gay people went straight to hell (and that they all live in San Francisco). Even before I realized I was gay, I knew I was very different than the people who raised me. Luckily, I had a brother who shared my values, who had my back, and who supported me being LGBTQ. And then, two years after losing the freedom to marry the person I loved, I lost one of the people I loved most in this world. I’ll never forget waking up the morning after my brother died, and feeling like this cannot be the world in which I live. This cannot be my reality.

This morning, in a different way, I felt that same pain, the same sense of grief. A sense of shock, loss, fear, sadness, and anger. I literally do not understand. I do not understand how we could be so fixated on all of Hillary’s mistakes, and yet give Trump endless amounts of free passes and simply look the other way. This election is the epitome of a double standard.

How could 53 percent of white women vote for a misogynist and a sexually abusing man instead of electing someone who spent her entire life fighting for women, people of color, families, and children? Who spent decades working with opponents towards compromise? How? Because there is a double standard, and sadly, and women are not immune from being sexist, too. Even 49 percent of college-educated white people in America voted for Trump. That is one of the most shocking stats to me. How can college-educated people watch Trump during any one of the debates, and think, “Yes, this is my Commander-in-Chief”? I just do not understand.

“America has resoundingly said that my intersectionalities are not welcome. America has been the envy of the world. The greatest minds flocked there for the “Dream.” America has responded to the world, “This dream is not for you!” America, I feel you broke your end of the bargain. Actions have consequences.”
L.A., Software Engineer, Black, Queer, Immigrant, Woman

“This could tear us apart. In pain and panic, everyone seems to be pointing fingers. Across the landscape of our relationships: women can’t trust men; people of color can’t trust white people; Muslims and immigrants can’t trust their neighbors; no one on the margins can trust the police–and those in police uniforms bear the burden of the polarizing, violent, and provocative powers in command. I can’t trust my Congress to show up for work. I can’t trust pollsters. I can’t trust newscasters to report with depth and integrity. I can’t trust my elected officials to give a damn about whose health we sacrifice, whose family members we incarcerate, whose bodies and dignity will be lost to the poverty, isolation, and despair of exclusion from our radically changing economy.”
Dom Brassey, VP of Growth, Queer, Person of Color, Woman

“What happens to Lesbians Who Tech now? What does a world with Trump as President do to our team and to our mission? I wanted so much more for myself as a Filipino American woman. I wanted to be a part of history and I wanted to see the change that Hillary promised. I wanted more for my parents. My mom and dad are immigrants from the Philippines. They came here to the United States with one suitcase, $200 in borrowed money and two little girls who they had big dreams for. I wanted to know that they mattered and that the dreams they had could be shared with other immigrants who want more and come to the United States of America to find that more and to watch magic happen. But what happens now?”
Patricia Busby, VP of Operations, Woman of Color, Ally

“Heartbroken. Sexism has never felt more raw and true and real than in this moment. I feel that her story is my story, is every woman’s story–that America is less progressive than I anticipated. That uneducated white men took control of these results. That labels and divisiveness and hate can rally support in the 21st century. That the majority of Americans aren’t on my side. As a queer woman. As a woman. As an ally to people of color, veterans, people with disabilities, immigrants, and under represented groups. The personal is political.” 
Brianna Boles, VP of Partnerships, Queer, Woman

I do know white people let our country down. We let down people of color, LGBTQ people, immigrants, women, African Americans, and Latinx people. We did not show up the way we should have. I know I didn’t have the conversations during this election that I had with my family and friends during Prop 8. I did not push people on, “Why Trump?” I instead chose to believe that our electing Trump was not even a remote possibility. As a white person, I feel a strong sense of responsibility. I feel my privilege more than ever today, and I am going to ask all of us with privilege to keep fighting with people who can’t and shouldn’t have to fight for basic safety and dignity. White people, this election–as Van Jones and Danielle Moodie-Mills said so eloquently last night–is white-lashing, and this is white supremacy’s last stand. I hope we feel the pain, hear this wake up call. A call to arms, to fight for the America we want for ourselves and for our children.

We have to fight for black lives. For a woman’s right to choose. For immigrants, who make this country greater. And for LGBTQ people who deserve to love and have the same responsibilities and freedoms as every other American.

“Friends of mine voted for this result and that is a reality that I still want to investigate and come to understand. I am not surprised. I am not shocked. I am not mournful. The people have spoken.” 
L.A., Software Engineer, Black, Queer, Immigrant, Woman

“Time to be leaders, be listeners, builders, collaborators. Time to be skilled. Humble and unafraid. Those of us with privilege have an imperative to bear the impact of social aggression whenever we can intervene in this violence, which begins subtly but culminates in harmed bodies and abbreviated lives. Not the time to narrow the scope of our community. In this context, at work, we try to talk about inclusion. But just saying the word does nothing. Inclusion is a higher order cultural practice.”
Dom Brassey, VP of Growth, Queer, Person of Color, Woman

“I wanted more for my team at Lesbians Who Tech. When I applied for the operations job at Lesbians Who Tech, I thought, This place sounds fucking cool! But will they want me? A straight woman, not techie in any way, who knows nothing of the LGBTQ struggle? In Leanne and in the organization I have found a home where I feel like I am helping every day to build a world where LGBTQ representation is at the forefront of a community dominated by white cis male privilege. It’s super cheesy but super real, I feel like every email I type and every call I make–even if it’s about paying a bill–makes a big difference.”
Patricia Busby, VP of Operations, Woman of Color, Ally

“Despite my heartache I’ve never felt more motivated to keep at this work, and to come together with a team that is sparked by a vision to have talk be meaningful–and actually create spaces online and in person that birth new behavior. That lead to real change. I really believe that Lesbians Who Tech can be what we need. If we can transform one of the whitest and most homogeneous and male sectors in the world, who will have power then? We all will. A more equal shift of power will tip the scales. More black, Latinx, LGBTQ, and female voices can finally be pushed up into sectors and positions where there is power. And then we can truly make political decisions that reflect what the majority wants. That’s what I want. I want our political decisions–decisions that are deeply personal, especially for women and under-represented groups–to reflect what the groups most impacted by these decisions actually want.”
Brianna Boles, VP of Partnerships, Queer, Woman

I built Lesbians Who Tech to create a space for LGBTQ women to feel safe and to have a community. A queer space that intentionally included women of color, transgender, bisexual women, and allies–every step of the way. I wanted to take all of the lessons I learned during our fight for marriage, and apply them to a community specific for us. A community that did not think about intersectionality as an after thought, but baked it into its very core, into the ethos of what our organization represents.

And it’s not just me who built Lesbians Who Tech. WE built Lesbians Who Tech. We built this space together. So lean on it, let it support you, and when you’re ready, let’s come together and fight. Let’s fight together to rebuild what we lost in this election. Let us remember this moment and this day, let us heal and reflect on history. Knowing that today is the exact day 27 years ago that the Berlin wall came down, and it’s also the day we committed to fight for America, together.

Because if there’s one thing I know about women, queer women, queer women of color, our allies, and technologists…it’s that we love solving problems. And today is the day we’ve all been given one of our biggest problems yet.

Please know that I support you, that I have your back, and I that will fight my entire life fighting for what is right. Like Hillary Clinton said today, we have to keep pushing and fighting for what’s right. And fight we will. Because we’re stronger, together.

With love, sadness and respect,

Leanne

P.S. We’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts with us across channels using #LWTSTRONGER. Then, read this.