Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

What I Learned At Netroots Nation

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | July 27, 2010 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Netroots Nation

There were many lessons for me at Netroots Nation, few of them learned in a seminar room.GroupHug.jpg

As a transgender woman, who grew up in a very straight environment, and not attuned to gay life by virtue of any early knowledge about my sexual orientation, and moving rather abruptly into trans life in my 30s, I have not spent much time with openly gay or lesbian people. I learned as a new transperson to distrust gay people, based on my own difficult personal experiences with a relatively few individuals, as well as absorbing the negative view more common among older transpeople who were my mentors.

Here, I suddenly found myself surrounded by a big gay family in the carnival atmosphere of Las Vegas and the deeply activist environment of Netroots Nation.

I have rarely felt such love in and for my LGBT community.

It all began with a drink at the bar, surrounded by the clanging discord of hundreds of slot machines.

I finally spotted Bil and Jerame after getting into my room and going downstairs to scout around. I was immediately introduced to half a dozen people, whose names I immediately forgot, but then was reminded again when we got to talk more personally. My memory is not the best.

I not only spent more time than I ever have with Bil and Jerame, whom I adore in spite of, and perhaps because of our many disagreements, and spent more time with a few other people I had met before, but also met many people whose identities had heretofore been only black letters in a glowing rectangle of computer screen.

Talking to someone via email is so very different from meeting them in person. Online, words attain an importance that overshadow identity. The people I met were very, very different from my expectations. While online communication has created an ease of communication never before existing in history, I learned that it also skews the communication. We don't see them as the many-dimensional people they really are, but as a one-dimensional persona that doesn't really exist.

I learned to appreciate that there are there are many different styles, many different issues, and many different personalities at work on bringing our community to the attention of the netroots and the wider world. They have different ethnicities, religions, orientations and ages than I. I related better to some than to others. They are all sincerely hoping to make a difference, and that must be respected.

I also found in my discussions with dozens of activists and bloggers outside of our community that our LGBT issues are not well understood by a lot of the netroots.

Ultimately, despite our many differences within the LGBT community, that is the lesson for me: we must make ourselves known to the larger world. I'm not sure how best to do that, but I am sure that the more contacts we make with the outside world, the more they will come to our aid. That suggests getting involved in non-LGBT issues like immigration, health care, homelessness, aging, etc. Time to branch out.

I also found that I was reticent to communicate my trans identity to people I had just met, fearing they would view me as a weirdo, and that is something I should work to overcome. How are they going to know we exist if we don't tell them we're here? What made me think that progressive people were going to disapprove, and why should I care? Well, I have lots of work to do on myself, and that's no secret.

I also learned that those slot machines are most definitely not to be trusted.

But I also learned that fortune can smile, even at the end of what seems like a long, losing battle. Down to my last 10 quarters, here's what I won on my last spin on the Vegas slots:

vegas win $150.jpg

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"Ultimately, despite our many differences within the LGBT community, that is the lesson for me: we must make ourselves known to the larger world."

J A C K P O T !

... neighbors, friends, co-workers and even strangers.

Didn't you just get through saying we, and our plight, is already known, Andrew?

daughveed | July 27, 2010 7:01 PM

Well, that big LBGT love in didn't last long, did it?

Try to be accurate jenny - I said our "struggle is well known." To succeed we must make "ourselves" known. Conversation, not attention.

Now, now, children. Settle down. Anyway, love means never having to say you're sorry. Sheesh.

Coming out and staying out is a topic of every gay or lesbian social site I know of. That experience tends to link us culturally.

The orgs everyone loves to hate have coalesced on many issues...immigration, health care and all that.

As for outside the LGBT community, I visit lots of progressive forums and blogs (and sometimes conservative ones as well)...cause they don't go to LGBT blogs. So I go to them, and link back to LGBT blog posts in comments when I can make it relevant. Although most LGBT blogs are directed towards LGBTs and require inside knowledge.

What do I have to be sorry about?

Well....other than feeding trolls?

Derek Washington | July 28, 2010 1:09 AM

It was great meeting you and all my computer/Facebook friends! You especially because you were the first person to help me out on the National Equality March.

Hope to see you again real soon,


I'm glad to have been a black rectangle you met last week! same as you, I had no idea who you were, no idea how connected we were... if it weren't for that corner bar...

The corner bar for the Bilerico Projectors made up for a lot of crappy stuff happening at the conference. Getting to hang out with Ms Jillian was priceless. And Nate, you have taught me new things on the web...

Jill, you were simply a blast to hang out with. You helped round out our gang of refugees holding sway against the straightness of Vegas at "Bilerico Corner."

I can't wait to spend time with you again. Let's make it soon!

"Bilerico Corner" is the wonderful land where we can all get tipsy together and everyone stops by for a drink and some conversation. That's exactly what I want the blog to feel like, Jill - a big gay family with a carnival feel and an activist bent.

And you're an important part of that. Just like you were in Vegas.

Andrew Belonsky Andrew Belonsky | July 29, 2010 8:29 AM

It was so wonderful spending time with you, talking about everything from LBGT issues to science fiction. Totally happy we're part of the same "Bilerico Corner" family.

You're amazing, and so is everyone else from TBP!

Jillian I can understand your thoughts. It was a lot different for me and who I was surrounded by. Having been the first transwoman when I was hired at my position among 3500 staff and not to mention roughly 3,000 patients a day. I have been around straight people alot more. What I found in my 5 years here was the respect and acceptance that I have received. I have educated many at my workplace and have had invitations to speak at other places. Don't get me wrong though I do on occasion make a presence in our LGBT community. Its like a 70/30 kind of thing. I try not to pass judgement, lest myself be judged. I have two of the most wonderful gay roommates that I have lived with for over 2 years. And I enjoy being asked out to lunch or out for a few drinks with my gay neighbor. Differences are put aside and the comeraderie prevails. Too bad you did not hit the 10X red 7 10X jackpot. It would have been a really successful outing then. Love reading your articles. Ciao Allison

Hope we get to meet one day! You know, just let me know when you get out to Paris again.