Insight at the TEDxMileHigh After-Party
Speaking last Saturday at the TEDxMileHigh Wonder event was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I was overwhelmed by the response I received from the wonderfully warm and supportive audience. I want to thank Jeremy, Helena, Nicole, Briar and all of the TEDxMileHigh staff for giving me such an amazing opportunity.
I spoke about the unique experience of having lived in both genders, and about the privilege I had, but did not fully appreciate, as a male. While the event was live streamed, the video will not be available for another month or so. I will let you know when it comes out.
On Saturday evening I attended the after-party and had the privilege of talking with a couple hundred people who heard my speech. I cannot count the number of women who came to me and said, “Thank you for validating my experience.” Many had tears in their eyes. I felt such gratitude.
I spoke with mechanical engineers, educators, psychotherapists and software architects. I talked with full-time homemakers, mothers with young children, and retirees. I conversed with African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics and Whites. Whenever I had the chance, I asked the women to talk about their own experiences. While some shared lighthearted experiences that reflected the early part of my talk, the majority shared stories of a lifetime of treatment as second-class citizens. Some told stories of abuse. Over a score talked of growing up in fundamentalist homes. The connection between religion, misogyny and abuse is clear, and appalling.
When I left the after-party I was overcome with emotion. Thankfully, my Lyft driver was silent as I cried on the ride back to my hotel. Women know too much pain, and have known too much pain since the dawn of time.
After several years as a female, I thought I was beginning to grasp the breadth and depth of the problem. As I listened to these women, I realized how much I still have to learn. I had too many years as a privileged alpha male to be able to fully understand what these women have been through. It is humbling.
The last few weeks have been difficult, as I have watched most of the women I know share some kind of “Me Too” experience. I am most haunted by my friends who cannot bring themselves to speak or write the words, “Me Too,” because their wounds are still open. For some, these wounds have been open for decades.
I retired to my hotel room and thought about all of my years in the patriarchal world of the church. By trying to bring about change from the inside, I thought I was doing my part. It was not enough. The abuse, misogyny and lack of equity demanded a much stronger response than what I offered. I could have done more.
Five thousand people came to their feet on Saturday to show gratitude for my talk. I am grateful I had a chance to shine a little bit of light on a very real problem, but the ones who deserve the ovation are the women who have endured a lifetime of mistreatment and are now rising up and powerfully crying out, “No more!” I was inspired by these women and the stories they told. I will continue to do whatever is in my power to bring about change.
As a male, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I know now, more than ever, just how unjustly this world treats women, and I will not be silent!