LGBT-rights activist Zach Wahls presented at an event about risk-taking and social media for business consulting firm Deloitte June 1. Speaking to about 75 people, Wahls provided insight into his own journey and foreshadowed changes in the LGBT-rights movement as a whole.
Wahls has made the transition from an ordinary 19-year-old to a YouTube hit (because of his testimony in front of the Iowa House Judiciary Committee concerning his two mothers) to nationally recognized activist and author.
From the outset of the Chicago event, it was clear that Wahls intended to demonstrate that he was a normal guy with a passion for LGBT rights and a strong desire to speak for children and families with same-sex parents. As he noted, the are millions children of same sex parents in the United States, but because the vast majority of them are 15 and under, "we don't really have an effective voice in the LGBT movement."
Wahls presented himself as a poster child for normalcy, highlighting his accomplishments with the Boy Scouts of America (to whom he recently delivered 275,000 signatures, asking the organization to end its anti-gay discrimination); his positive experiences with his peers on the football and debate teams in high school; and his interest in business. He then discussed how business interests could very easily be aligned with those involving LGBT rights.
At one point, Wahls said, "What we're seeing really, is leadership in the private sector. ... You have 80 percent of the Fortune 500 effectively enacting the Employee non-discrimination act that has stagnated in the U.S. Congress for the last decade." Afterward, at a networking event in the lobby, attendees milled around, animatedly discussing Wahls' presentation. One woman said, "I never could have done that at 20! That's amazing!"