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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Actress Angelica Ross transfers leadership of trans talent incubator to E.C. Pizarro III
By Max Lubbers
2021-11-04

This article shared 523 times since Thu Nov 4, 2021
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In 2017, E.C. Pizarro III listened as Angelica Ross presented about TransTech Social Enterprises, an incubator to build and promote transgender talent in technology fields. He approached her afterward, volunteering to design artwork for TransTech.

Now, four years later, he's running the organization. As Ross focuses on acting and other projects after starring in Pose and American Horror Story, she transferred her leadership of TransTech to Pizarro in October.

"You couldn't have told me that I'd become interim executive director of TransTech," Pizarro said. "I know that being able to show up as my full self unlocked a level of leadership in me and expanded my mind behind just being a brand designer."

Before TransTech, Pizarro was stealth, hiding his trans identity as he worked corporate jobs. As a Black Puerto Rican trans man, Pizarro said it felt incredibly powerful when he could safely embrace all his identities in the work he did. That confidence came through TransTech, he said.

So Pizarro doesn't take his new title lightly. He said it's rare to see faces like his leading an organization.

"Whatever I do, I want it to be for the community," he said. "Because it's not about me. I'm just a vessel. But I also understand the power of my intersectional identities, sitting in this seat."

Ultimately, TransTech is about the people, he said—with more than 1,500 members, TransTech connects people with resources and one another. This all goes toward the goal of educating, empowering and employing trans people.

Building a network of trans people in tech began in 2014, when Ross originally founded the organization. Though she no longer serves as executive director, Ross said TransTech will stay in her heart. But she added that, from the start, she intended TransTech to go beyond her story.

"Trans Tech was never about one person," she said. "It was always about focusing on the resources and the value already in our community that just [haven't] been tapped into by ourselves or by the job market."

Pizarro said he wants to increase membership and engage people in new programming and events. Right now, when people become TransTech members, they can access trainings, co-working and meet-up locations, a mailing list and a Slack full of other members, Pizarro said. All of this is free.

"To have access to these resources and have access to the network, we firmly believe that we should not charge for that," he added. "The main hurdle for our community is accessibility to those resources."

Even TransTech's annual summit is free. During this event, members can participate in workshops and listen to leaders in different technology fields. Allies can donate to sponsor members' tickets.

During 2020, the summit turned virtual. Ross said that seeing people from all over the world log in was inspiring.

"What I wanted to do all along was increase accessibility to resources, to community, to mentorship," she added. "To see that happening in real time makes me feel like this has all been worth it."

Pizarro said the upcoming summit will be hybrid, with a goal of 3,000 attendees. The event was originally planned for this November, but TransTech postponed it to next year to accommodate for the pandemic.

When Pizarro attended the first summit in 2017, the event left him in tears.

"I'm not a crier—I was just like, 'Wow. This is so powerful,'" he recalled. "To see that many people in a space that identified as transgender, non-conforming, non-binary, you could see the relief across people's faces."

It's critical to see trans people succeed, Pizarro said. The trend of negative stereotypes surrounding trans people can lead to them feeling undeserving of some career paths. While TransTech does not shame sex workers, the organization wants to provide options for people who wish to move away from sex work or grow their clients through technology.

Now that he's taking over TransTech, Pizarro realizes that it was the stories he heard from Ross—and from the organization's members—that made him understand his potential. He wants his entire community to feel this empowerment.

"As trans people, we need to see trans people thriving and living and winning, and not just surviving," he said. "That's the culture that makes me very passionate about stepping into this role. I know the power of TransTech as not only a network, but also a mindset."

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