Vulnerability Creates Change

I just returned home after an inspiring week in Houston. Four days at the Creating Change Conference pumped me up for a two-day speaking engagement at BP.

Over 4,000 people attended Creating Change, the National Conference on LGBT Equality. This was my first Creating Change conference and I was blown away by the people I met, lessons I learned, and sense of community I felt. In fact, my only disappointment is that I’m returning home from the conference with the autographed copy of our book that I hoped to give Laverne Cox. I was a fan of Laverne’s long before the conference, but after her inspiring keynote speech the word “fan” does not capture the love, respect and appreciation I feel for this powerful woman.

I remember how I felt years ago, when I was coming to terms with the fact that my son is transgender. My love and support for him never wavered, but I struggled to envision what his life, his future, would look like. Who would love him the way he deserves to be loved? Would others see the heart, soul, and promise inside of him? All of the gifts and qualities that make him so special are still inside of him, but would others be open to seeing those qualities?

I am grateful to Laverne for being a “possibility model” … for using her powerful voice to create change and for showing me what the future can look like. If you have not seen her inspirational speech, I highly recommend it.

And Laverne … I look forward to the day we finally meet so I can hug you, thank you, and give you this book!

Laverne Cox at Creating Change 2014

My final conference workshop on Sunday was called, “The Key to Your Story is Vulnerability.” What a perfect transition!

I spent Monday and Tuesday at BP sharing my family’s story with their employees. The presentation in Houston was live-streamed to the company’s remote U.S. and international locations.

I often start my presentations with a Brené Brown quote – acknowledging the vulnerability I feel at the onset of sharing our family’s story and explaining my belief that through this vulnerability we experience connection.

“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection”

~ Brené Brown

My hope always is to connect with the audience on some level, whether it be as a mother, a sister, a friend, or an engineer. Through that connection others can experience our journey and hopefully understand how and why we would support our child’s transition from female to male at the age of 15.

It was especially fitting to kick off with a Brené Brown quote in her hometown of Houston. My audience knew and admired her. Thankfully the vulnerability quickly dissolved into connection. At both sessions there were audience members in tears. The questions, conversations, and hugs that followed were priceless. Tears and hugs are not something I would expect in a corporate setting, but the connection made it comfortable.

One woman raised her hand and said, “Brené Brown would have been proud of you if she had seen your presentation today. Your vulnerability is beautiful and your message and story are so important.” As she thanked me, she burst into tears.

One of my favorite comments came from a gentleman who said, “Throughout your presentation I was waiting to see a photo of your son. Now, at the end of your session, I am so glad you did NOT show us a photo because what I’ve learned from you is that your son, and all transgender people, are beautiful souls—people with hearts, loves, and lives just like me. I don’t need to see what he looks like. It doesn’t matter what the outside package looks like. We are all souls and we all matter. Thank you for sharing your story and reminding me of this.”

I can’t say enough about the positive experience I had at BP. This company deserves to be celebrated for inviting me in to share my story, and for creating an environment where employees can bring their whole selves to work.

By embracing our vulnerability and connecting with others, we can all create change!