Angelica Ross, an actress and entrepreneur now based in Atlanta who was long active in Chicago advocacy circles, has a key piece of advice for transgender folks looking to break into advocacy.
"Don't become just an 'advocate,'" Ross said bluntly. "The best way to be an advocate is to be excellent at something, whether that's make-up, social media, tech or anything else."
Helping transgender persons find their calling has been a passion of Ross' for several years now; in 2014, while she was still in Chicago, she launched TransTech Social Enterprises, a network providing vocational and educational support for members of the trans community who've faced job discrimination. A key part of that mission is helping those people make connections and access resources using technology that's often at their own fingertips; for example, TransTech members can utilize online tutorials to teach them platforms such as PhotoShop.
The organization will be hosting a summit Saturday, Oct. 20, at Groupon's headquarters at 600 W. Chicago Ave. Among the workshop topics covered will be web/app, media, design and business technologies.
Ross said that she's learned much in the years since launching the project. She has struggled to raise financial- and resource-support from the LGBT community, which is sometimes lax in giving more than platitudes to trans-focused ventures. She's also had to design the program so that it can meet its users wherever they are emotionally and physically, and not only linking them up with linear training programs that set arbitrary benchmarks.
"If I did just a 12-week training program, anyone who's a person of color, or an immigrantor just is a person who has to deal with other situationsare missing a couple of days, and that might end up being one too many days," she said. "So now I'm creating another milestone for them to feel like they've failed. I had to replace that model with something that fit better with their own initiatives, which might mean something like using [educational website] lynda.com, where they can learn PhotoShop."
It has been a busy few years for Ross, who's been a principal cast member on Ryan Murphy's FX series Pose, where she plays Candy Ferocity, one of several characters navigating New York City in the '80s. She's set to return for season two next year.
She said that each episode has amounted to the cast "dancing together and crying together," adding that, "Sometimes those have been tears of joy, as we've gotten validation that we rarely get as trans folks, especially trans folks of color, and seeing our audience be validated when they see gay Black love on the screen. You hardly see that. … It was really just a beautiful place."
Ross said that scholarships are available for individuals wishing to attend the summit who cannot afford registration fees. Furthermore, free Uber rides are available for persons with difficulty accessing transportation. The program will also be available for streaming online.
For more information, see transtechsocial.org/summit/ .