Hey guys, welcome to the Lean to the Left podcast, where we talk about progressive politics and the important social issues of our time. Today we’re looking at leadership and what some might think is an unlikely resource – the LGBTQ+ community.

Our guest is Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown is the Chief Visionary Officer of Pneumos LLC, a management consulting and coaching firm based in San Francisco, USA, and Nairobi, Kenya, specializing in organizational strategy and culture, transformational leadership, global inclusion, executive coaching, conflict resolution, and strategic storytelling. Joel is the author of a new book, “The Soul of Queer Folk, How Understanding the LGBTQ+ Culture Can Transform Your Leadership Practice.”

He is also the co-founder of metaPrincipleTM, a global institute designed to train practitioners on how to facilitate equity work anywhere around the world. Joel is an adjunct professor at the IESEG School of Management in Paris & Lille, France, where he teaches Storytelling for Leaders and Story Listening.

As a change agent, Joel works strategically to cultivate innovative, creative, and adaptive environments where the cultural genius of everyone can be harnessed and leveraged successfully.

On the podcast, Dr. Davis Brown says prejudice and violence against the queer community is on the rise in this country and elsewhere, and he blames right wing politicians and religious zealots for making that situation work.

“Anytime there is quote unquote advances in equity and advances in progressive politics, if you will, there's always a backlash, and I think it's become sport, unfortunately, for a number of factions in our country to denigrate queer people because it helps to raise money, helps generate clicks. It helps to get people riled up,” he says.

“They know that they don't have anything substantive to talk about. And so, it's a way for them to stay relevant, to stay in power and queer people have always been, for whatever reason, easy scapegoats because we still are a relatively marginalized community.”

However, Dr. Davis Brown stresses that there is much that can be learned about leadership from the LGBTQ+ culture, which is the topic of his book, ““The Soul of Queer Folk,” including the ability to “interrogating itself to figure out who we are.”In addition, he says, “recognizing that there's a connection between all of us and that what I do for myself and what I do for others also impacts the world around us, but also recognizing that supporting justice in the world and such, creating a more just society is something that can't just be born out on social media and it just can't be talked about in private circles is something that you actively have to take action to achieve. And so those are some of the key lessons that I think we could learn from the LGBTQ+ community.”

Here are some questions we addressed with Dr. Davis Brown:
● Why did you name the book “The Souls of Queer Folk”?
● Why should a person who is not LGBTQ+-identified read this book?
● What key themes should readers take away from this book?
● Who could benefit from this book? Is this only for corporate professionals? Who’s the ideal audience?
● What does the LGBTQ+ community possess that makes it an ideal case study for leadership?
● What is Cultural Genius™? And how does it apply to leadership and the theme of your book?
● What does it mean to be a transformational leader, and how does the LGBTQ+ community exhibit transformational leadership?
● Why is this book timely right now?
● Don’t other ethnic or social communities exhibit leadership? Why should we focus on the LGBTQ+ community?
● How do you define transformational leadership?
● How is this book different from traditional books on leadership?
● What does it mean to be Queer-minded?
● How is the LGBTQ+ community able to survive despite...

Show Notes

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Show Transcript

Joel A. Davis Brown: The LGBTQ+ Culture & Leadership

[00:00:00] Bob Gatty: Hey guys. Welcome to the Lean to the Left Podcast, where we talk about progressive politics and the important social issues of our time. Today, we're looking at leadership and what some might think is an unlikely resource, the LGBTQ plus community. So stay with us.

[00:00:17] Our guest today is Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown, the Chief Visionary Officer of Pneumos LLC, a management, consulting and coaching firm based in San Francisco and Nairobi, Kenya, specializing in organizational strategy and culture, transformational leadership, global inclusion, executive coaching, conflict resolution, and strategic storytelling.

[00:00:44] That's a lot. Anyway, Joel is the author of a new book, The Soul of Queer Folk,, How Understanding the LGBTQ+ Culture Can Transform Your Leadership Practice. He's also the co-founder of Meta PrincipleTM, a Global Institute designed to train practitioners on how to facilitate equity work anywhere around the world.

[00:01:08] Joel is an adjunct professor at the I E S E G School of Management in Paris and Lille, France, where he teaches storytelling for leaders in story listening. As a change agent, Joel works strategically to cultivate innovative, creative, and adaptive environments where the cultural genius of everyone can be harnessed and leveraged successfully.

[00:01:32] Dr. Davis Brown, thanks so much for joining us today on the Lean To the Lead Podcast. 

[00:01:37] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: Thank you for having me. Thank you for reading all that. I know that was a mouthful, and feel free to just call me Joel. It's a pleasure to be here. 

[00:01:43] Bob Gatty: Okay, I'll do that. It looks to me like, I asked you if you were on the West Coast and you said you're bi-coastal.

[00:01:50] It looks to me like you're, by wor you're like, not by world, there's only one world, but

[00:01:55] you're talking about Kenya and France and you're going to all these places to do your work. Is that right? 

[00:02:01] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: Yeah. I'm pretty fortunate to be able to move around the world and to experience different cultures and to know what's going on from a global perspective I think is really important.

[00:02:13] And so I enjoy my time. I enjoy my time when I'm home and I'm not on the plane. Trust me. And I also enjoy when I'm at my homes abroad because at this point, Paris in particular and East Africa feel like homes. Outside of the Western Hemisphere. So I feel pretty fortunate and I have community all across the world at this point, and they help to keep me grounded and informed, which I think is important for all of us.

[00:02:37] Bob Gatty: That's great. So tell me this, why did you name your book The Souls of Queer Folk? When I saw that I thought to myself what the hell could this be about?

[00:02:47] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: When you think about L B T Q people I still think our society fundamentally misunderstands what our community stands for. And so in attempting to answer that question, I wanted to really get at what I think is the soul, the essence, the core of who we are as a people. And of course, anytime you do an ethnographic study, you can't say that everybody you can't provide a, what I would say a complete accounting of any community or any culture, but I think you can do, make a reasonable efforts to do and so this was my attempt to humanize the community, especially at a time when our community is under attack and to really get back to basics and to really help, I think, create a new narrative. One that is informed by the community as opposed to one that's. Informed or created by people outside the community, especially those who are hostile to us.

[00:03:35] So that's why I named it, it hearkens back to a book written by W.E.B. DuBois, the Souls of Black Folk that talked about, and at the time it's a quintessential book and reading on race and race relations in the States. And I'm hoping that this book will help to reset and reframe how we look at the queer community as a whole.

[00:03:55] Bob Gatty: That's a great explanation. I'm wondering., it seems to me that today we're seeing a lot more violence, a lot more action that is harmful to the lgbtq plus community. Do you agree? It's gotten worse, and if so, why has it gotten worse? 

[00:04:16] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: I think it's being documented more.

[00:04:19] Certainly since 2018 we've seen unprecedented violence against the trans community, particularly trans women of color in places like the us, Mexico, Brazil, and the uk. So I think it's more documented, I think however, I would be surprised if we didn't see similar levels in, let's say the seventies, eighties, and nineties.

[00:04:38] It's just a matter of whether there was reporting on these issues. But to your question, why is this happening? I think anytime you have, and we've seen this cyclically over the course of human history and particularly US history, anytime there is quote unquote advances in equity and advances in progressive politics, if you will, there's always a backlash, and I think it's become sport, unfortunately, for a number of factions in our country to denigrate queer people because it helps to raise money, helps generate clicks. It helps to get people riled up. Even when we have officials who are not talking about the substantive issues that are affecting our country and our youth and our people. So for example, we know that the leading cause of death for young people, I believe between ages of 18 and 24, is gun violence. So why are we focusing on things like drag shows and why are we focusing on pronouns and gender affirming care? It's because it's a fundraiser and I think there are a number of people now, unfortunately, and I think this has always been the case, but more so now whose sole purpose is to distract because they know that they cannot run on the merits.

[00:05:45] They know that they don't have anything substantive to talk about. And so it's a way for them to stay relevant, to stay in power and queer people have always been, for whatever reason, easy scapegoats because we still are a relatively marginalized community. So given the stakes and given what's happened over the last, I would say, 10 years, probably longer than that I think this is an opportunity for people to raise a flag and say, this is quote unquote leading to the breakdown of our society. This is the latest thing. And it's not just with queer people, with people of color and women as well, or anybody who would call themselves progressive, but this is the core issue or the thing that I think a lot of people like to focus on because they can sensationalize it and they can generate controversy and it is posing, as you noted, some very negative consequences for our community, which is part of the reason why I think this book is so important because in a time when queer people are being dehumanized, the reason why people can perpetrate violence because our community is 'cause they think it's justified, they think rational and they think that our community is somehow subhuman or substandard or second class.

[00:06:52] So that's why it's important for us to reaffirm, and to reintroduce ourselves to a community that exists in every aspect of American and global life, but a community that for whatever reason, continues to be seen as something less than 

[00:07:07] Bob Gatty: Joel, do you see this do you lay this at the feet of any particular political party or politician?

[00:07:16] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: That's a very good question. One I've not been asked before. I think it's too simple to say that you can lay at the feet of a one political party. If I'm just being honest, I think the Republican party definitely is doing all it can to support anti L G B T Q policies. But you also see it born out by the church.

[00:07:34] But what we're looking at is the systemic problem, right? So you have, some churches, I don't wanna say all churches, because I think. It's very easy for progressives to see spiritual, religious arguments. And I think that there's a number of churches that are open and affirming and inclusive. 

[00:07:49] But when you see conservative churches, when you see the Republican party, when you see extremists on the right, I think when you have media, I think there are a number of institutions that have created this. And plus we have a history. And I think. All of it together has created what we see, which is this groundswell of anti LGBTQ sentiment where you have nearly 600 plus anti LGBTQ plus leg bills and pieces of legislation introduced across the us, which is unprecedented given all the issues that we have to deal with right now.

[00:08:21] So I wish it were as simple as saying is one, but I definitely think there are some driving forces, and I would say namely conservative churches, I would say the conservative political base in this country. Certainly I think there are a huge share of responsibility for what we're seeing. And I think then you have institutions like the media who I think create false equivalencies and don't really do great journalistic work to ask probative questions and to really point out when people are being disingenuous or people are being dishonest, so they become willing or unwitting co, I don't wanna say co-conspirators, but partners in this game, if you will, of creating a narrative and an idea that somehow, one group is just upset for no reason and the other group is justified and they're just trying to honor quote unquote, traditional values. 

[00:09:11] Bob Gatty: Okay, so let's talk a little bit about your book Joel. Sure. Why should someone who is not identified as LGBTQ plus read. Why should they read it? 

[00:09:24] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: I think leadership right now is at a really crucial point, Uhhuh, I think many of us, and maybe I'm maybe I'm one of the few who disagrees, but I don't think so. Our leadership models are failing. We're at a point right now that we just had last week, the former president of the United States be indicted for interfering with an election. Now I forget the exact causitive action and what the laws were that he broke the 

[00:09:49] Bob Gatty: Oh, he tried to overturn the election. That's, 

[00:09:51] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: he tried to overturn the election. Exactly. So when we've never had that before. Yeah. For, and I think, and if we can look at that, and I think that symbolizes that the kind of self-centered, narcissistic, top-down, hierarchical command and control type of leadership, which is not just president in politics, but it's present in institutions and organizations and communities all around the world, it's failing. It's not helping. So given the problems that we have, what can we do to affect a new form of leadership? When I look at the queer community, I think look at the people who have been persecuted, people who have been at the fringes of society, people who have not had many resources, people have been disfavored. Yet this community still is able to survive. So if I am an objective, reasonable person, I would say no matter what the group is, if there's a group that's been able to escape persecution, death, and bias and harassment and still do well for itself, there's something in this cultural d n A that I perhaps should wanna study that I should want to examine or research or learn more about.

[00:10:53] And so that for me is the basis for why anybody I think should be interested in this book is how do you affect greater leadership? And I think we do well when we learn from those around us who have been able to do the things we want to achieve. It doesn't matter. There's LGBTQ plus people, or let's say it's a group in another part of the world, there's something that I think could be beneficial for us all.

[00:11:14] And so I think that's the opportunity. And as you alluded to, you don't have to be queer to extract wisdom, to leverage guidance, to learn from other groups and say, how can we as a people, at how can I, as a person be better? So that to me is the opportunity. And of course, leadership doesn't extend just to corporations and businesses and politics.

[00:11:33] It extends in how we lead ourselves, how we lead our communities, how we lead our families, and how we lead the world. 

[00:11:39] Bob Gatty: That last statement, I think is very important one. So what are some of the key themes that readers should take away from your book, Joel? 

[00:11:48] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: I think the first thing that I would start with is the importance of really examining oneself the queer community by virtue of coming out.

[00:11:58] We have a Inborn practice of examining ourselves to say, okay, who are we? What is it that we stand for? What's our purpose? What's our mission? What are our values? Where do we begin and end? Where does society begin and end in terms of its expectations of how we should show up? Leadership is an internal dimension.

[00:12:17] It must start internally before you can focus on external constituents and people and whatnot. And oftentimes when we think about leadership, and I teach on leadership, People are thinking, how do I reach that person? How do I connect with this group? How do I impress someone? And what I always say to my students, and what I always think is important, and I've learned from some really great leaders in my life, is you have to be present with and know who you are first and how you can be a better version of yourself before you can lead others.

[00:12:46] And if nothing else, I think the queer community has become quite adept at examining itself and interrogating itself to figure out who are we? And when you can really peer into yourself and see who you are and understand what motivates you and what your strengths are and what your developmental opportunities are, I think you are then in a better position to lead other people because you've actually done some of the critical internal work, which I see again, it's being it's been missed by a number of leaders in senior positions across the world and across industry.

[00:13:19] So I think that's the first thing. I think the second thing is, there are a number of different things. We talk about them in the book. But I would say also understanding in terms of this conversation, what it means to exist in community and what it means to also advocate on behalf of others who are less fortunate.

[00:13:35] We see from this historical record of queer people an abiding faith and support in the community, people who are different, people who have been marginalized, and we also see the recognition that. Justice is not something that you can just speak about philosophically, you have to advocate for, there has to be an active component.

[00:13:53] So I would say those three things, if you can just start there in terms of recognizing of being more self-actualize yourself as a leader and as a person, as a human being. Number two, recognizing that there's a connection between all of us and that what I do for myself and what I do for others also impacts the world around us, but also recognizing that supporting justice in the world and such, creating a more just society is something that can't just be born out on social media and it just can't be talked about in private circles is something that you actively have to take action to achieve. And so those are some of the key lessons that I think we could learn from the lgbtq plus community.

[00:14:29] Bob Gatty: Okay, Joel when you wrote this book, when you put it, when you be, when you begin to work on it, Who did you have in mind as your target audience, and did that hold true as you finished the manuscript?

[00:14:42] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: It was interesting when I first started writing this book or conceiving this book, I didn't even think of it as a quote unquote leadership book.

[00:14:48] Initially it was a cultural act attache. I just wanted to maybe illuminate and illustrate more completely what the community stood for. As I started to learn and to realize and to uncover what some of the values were, I realized well, a lot of what the community stands for, what we're seeing from people these days in terms of what they want from their leaders, they want their leaders to be more adaptive.

[00:15:12] They want them to be more inclusive. They want them to be more community minded. So then as I thought about, who would this apply to? Initially again, I thought, okay, this could be important civic and business circles. But really leadership is again, a personal affect. This has a personal dimension to it.

[00:15:32] So in reality it can apply to anybody. And I think the mistake would be for people to think that this is a book that only applies to business or to organizations. It can apply to anyone. So you can read it from the level of how can I be a better person? You can read it from the level of how can I be a better neighbor?

[00:15:48] And you can read it from the standpoint of how can I be a better leader within an organization if I'm leading or managing a project or if I'm, let's say in the C-suite or I'm a senior director of some sort. So it's industry agnostic. It's something that can apply all over the world. And it's something that I think a lot of people can learn from, because again, this community has a record of achievement and success despite some very daunting circumstances. And this community is one that is not only becoming more visible and is emerging, but is present in practically everywhere in the globe. And so I think it behooves us as global citizens to learn from our neighbors, to learn from people around us, and to figure out how we can be better for all of us, particularly for those who have been underrepresented.

[00:16:32] Bob Gatty: What are some of the attributes of the queer community that people can learn from when it comes to leadership? 

[00:16:40] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: I think number one global mindedness. So we're talking from the us I, I don't know exactly where you are sitting in the US and just to be more aware of what's happening around us and to recognize again that what happens to others and what happened to other parts of the world is very much important and influential in what happens to me. I think bringing zest and zeal to your leadership practice and to your life, and not being satisfied with just getting by, with just surviving, with just doing the very basic things.

[00:17:09] Learning for ways to reject traditional norms and traditional ways of doing things that are proven to be ineffective. So I talk in the book around gender fluidity and what does that mean? How can that identity or that attribute of the community, that value, how can this support transformational leadership thinking, letting go of sacred cows and saying, here are two poles or two polarities that have been presented to me are two ideas, and maybe there's a different way to do things and being able to, being comfortable with rejecting those standard norms and thinking outside the box. Reveling in one's creativity, which doesn't mean that you're artistic. It means recognizing that we all have a creative power to think differently into, bring something new into creation.

[00:17:53] Those are the types of adaptive things that are gonna be really important, particularly as we move into a society as we continue to move deeper into society where some of the solutions to our problems are not gonna be present or ready-made or visible. A lot of the problems that we may engender in the next, let's say 20- 30 years haven't even surfaced yet, which means that the solutions for those problems have not surfaced yet. So we've gotta become more adept at being adaptive, which means not understanding or knowing or having tried and true solutions and being imaginative and creative in order to generate solutions that can impact everyone positively as opposed to the technical expertise where someone says to you, there's a problem, go to a book or a manual, you read it and say, okay, here's the solution. I just need to get the resource to do that. That type of thinking is not gonna help us move forward as a society. So those are the things that I would say are gonna be really important that the queer community does naturally because we've had to, not only in terms of our survival, but in terms of how we also choose to live and how we choose to navigate the world.

[00:18:55] Bob Gatty: Okay. Now in some of the material that I was sent in preparation for this discussion, I saw the term cultural genius. How does that, what is that and how does it apply to leadership and the theme of your book? 

[00:19:09] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: I love that you asked that question. So when we think about leadership, and I used to be one of these people too, so I'm not taking myself out of the equation.

[00:19:16] I sometimes, when I was young, I thought to be a great leader, you had to go and study somewhere. You had to go to Harvard or you had to go to some of these other great schools like the U V A, my Alma Mater. And I think for a lot of us, we would do well to remember that. We exhibit leadership and a lot of communities exhibit leadership on a day-to-day basis.

[00:19:35] And that social and leadership acumen that people acquired by virtue of their cultural pathway is cultural genius. So queer people have a cultural genius, and I'm not here to suggest that only queer people have a cultural genius. There are a lot of different groups that have shown grit and resilience and metal and strength and ingenuity.

[00:19:52] Yeah, in a number of different ways. I'm just saying that our community packages it differently, and it's something that I think people should be talking more about. It can be resonant for a number of people. So that cultural genius is, again the intellectual and leadership capacity that we have, that we've learned simply by being L G B T Q in a society that's hostile to who we are.

[00:20:12] How to be again, adaptive, how to be resourceful. How to be strategic. Those are the things that you learn when you're walking through, when you become LGBTQ or when you identify as LGBTQ plus. So I just think about, for example, when I was coming up in and, walking through different neighborhoods, so where I grew up in the north side of Milwaukee and I've spent time in other parts of the world as well.

[00:20:39] The type of perceptiveness that you have to have just walking through different neighborhoods, knowing where you can perhaps share a bit more about who you are, where sometimes you have to be a little bit more thoughtful because you don't know if it's gonna be a safe environment, how you engage with people, how you detect and relate to other people in your community, knowing that you may not be able to use the customary cues and language that other people use to identify with members of their community.

[00:21:02] All those types of things I think are really part of, once again, that cultural genius, that capacity that we naturally have in order to be successful, in order to achieve a certain outcome. And that's what leadership is. It's about how do you achieve a certain outcome by making sure at the same time that you're journey positive impact and you're leaving people in a better place than they were before.

[00:21:23] That's what the queer community has been able to do. And it's something that's been unheralded and has not been talked about. Because again, when we think about leadership, we think it's something that's only owed to or held by people in a certain position, people with a certain pedigree, and people from a certain background.

[00:21:38] And I would say to your audience, and to you and to anyone who's listening, that we all have the opportunity to learn from communities around us. So we don't, I'm not saying that you shouldn't go to a business school, let's say in the northeast or on the West Coast. We can also learn great leadership skills from those around us who have been able to really build a safe space for themselves within our world.

[00:21:59] And so that's what I mean by the cultural genius. There's things that each community and culture possess. They are, I think, are instructive for the rest of the world and the rest of our population. 

[00:22:09] Bob Gatty: Okay. Joel you mentioned that you grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I think you said.

[00:22:15] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: Correct. 

[00:22:16] Bob Gatty: Can you talk to me or share a little bit about your background? What put you on the path that you're on today? 

[00:22:24] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: I think a couple of things. Number one, I was raised by a mother who exhibited great leadership, and so it's been surprising. It was surprising to me at one point as I got older, to be in institutions, schools, businesses, among different networks where I didn't see that same type of leadership exhibited.

[00:22:41] So that's number one. Number two, That same mother also taught me that anybody who came into the home is someone that is not only family, their community, but someone you can learn from. My mother was a hospital administrator, so we had people coming to the house who were from all parts of the world, so from Pakistan, from the Philippines, from parts of Western Europe.

[00:23:05] So that global mindedness and that connection to people from different backgrounds was also very important. It was ingrained in me to the point where, I find it odd when I go to, I meet people and they don't have friends who are from different parts of the world or different walks of life. I think also as a little black queer kid growing up in north side of Milwaukee, there's always, there was always a question of who am I?

[00:23:28] Where do I belong? And the questions around blackness were fairly obvious because I had other people in the house who were black who could tell me, this is where you come from. This is what your people have achieved. This is, these are the things that you should know in order to survive. And these are the cultural gifts that will allow you to be successful and the things that you should hold near and dear to your heart.

[00:23:52] And those questions weren't obvious and present and clear. On the queer side. So there was always a part of me that wanted to learn more about that part of myself. So in part what led me on this journey was self-discovery and self-expression. Who am I? And as I started to interact with more queer people there were some things that we knew intuitively.

[00:24:14] There's some things that we communicated implicitly, like what does it mean to be, but there wasn't a whole lot out there that said, this is something that you should celebrate about yourself, or these are some things that are really gifts that you bring to the world. And so I want to make it more clear and explicit for young people, particularly people in parts of the world where they're not being affirmed, where they're not being taken care of.

[00:24:34] So I would say all those things have led me on this journey to not only think about leadership at a critical level, think about how we could create a better world, but also how can we understand queer people at a deeper level, which I think, again, Affirms who they are and really sees and honors the gifts and talents that we bring to larger society.

[00:24:52] Bob Gatty: When was it that you've decided, when was it that you realized that you were a member of this queer community? 

[00:25:05] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: Oh, that's a really great question. 

[00:25:06] Bob Gatty: And, and what did you do about it? What did your mother have to say about it? 

[00:25:13] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: I always realized I was different. I'm gonna say weird and I say weird affectionately when I was four.

[00:25:19] Yeah. I was weird when I was four. Okay. I didn't have, but I didn't have the language for it. So there's no one when you come out and when you identify as a queer person, at least at the time, at least in where I was, there was no manual to say this is how you do it. And there was no article or magazine to say, this is what it is.

[00:25:38] So I spent a lot of years questioning, stumbling, and a lot of years, frankly, not coming out because my ideas of what it meant to be queer were stereotypical. So I thought I had to this type of music, or I would see these representations in the media that were negative. I said that's not me.

[00:25:53] I think and operate a little bit differently, but what I'm seeing seems to only address or speak to one slice of the community. And so when I finally, at some point, came out in the, I have to say the second year of college. Okay. I would love to tell you that, my family and friends, threw me a party and said, Hey, this is great and let's celebrate this, but that wasn't the case.

[00:26:16] And so it, it took some time for the family to get adjusted to it. I would say. Now my mom was my biggest supporter. She's my biggest fan, and she's been the biggest enabler of my success. So my family is Pretty supportive. They're all excited for this book and what I've been able to do, but it's a journey and I think, again, if people have a more comprehensive and in-depth view of what the community is, then I think a lot of our, a lot of families, and I think a lot of people in society wouldn't have some of the bias that they have because people look at the queer community as being focused only on sex and sexuality. They see us as, trying to upset this new conversation around gender and gender pronouns, which is, of course these are not new discussions.

[00:27:06] And those things are very important. And that's not who we are in our entirety. I think if I had a book like this and there was a resource like this when I was coming out, I'm not gonna say that would've been easy, but I think it would've been easier because I think people would understand that, number one we're not just caricatures.

[00:27:23] And I think for me, I would've had a more robust understanding of myself and I would've had more confidence and I would've felt more sure of my identity. I got there eventually. It just took some time. And, given the risk of suicide that, you know, given the society that we live in, I don't think we can wait for, or just leave the chance that young people, especially when there are things such as drugs and alcohol and sometimes people might have mental health issues, we can't take for granted that people are gonna get to the finish line.

[00:27:54] We need to make sure that whatever resources they need are there now, particularly for trans youth, so that they don't have to spend years as I did thinking, struggling and wondering what does it mean to be me And is it okay? They can actually have that type of support from the jump. 

[00:28:09] Bob Gatty: You talk about your mother and how she supported you.

[00:28:13] What about your father? 

[00:28:15] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: Not as supportive. And it's interesting that you mentioned that because my father now is fighting the last and dealing with the last stages of cancer, and so it's been a very surreal journey with him because we haven't historically been very close. And now that he's at the end, rebuilding that relationship and realizing that there's some things that will never be rebuilt because he's very how should I put it?

[00:28:44] He's very committed to his views of life and his views of religion. My concern with that is, he'll say to me, for example, I'm concerned about you and the afterlife, and I say, I'm concerned about you and this life, because I think the challenge for a number of people who have very stringent, conservative spiritual views is not recognizing that we do have an obligation to evolve, and we have to recognize that if your spiritual beliefs do not lead you to a practice of love and compassion, Then I think something is off and something is wrong.

[00:29:16] And people of course are free to think and feel whatever they want. But that's where my father has been. And so my father has not been the support of the advocate, the champion that I would've wanted him to be. But fortunately I had other father figures, namely my grandfather, my uncles and other people in the community who stepped in and filled that void, who have always been there, have always said, be who you are.

[00:29:35] And that was in fact the lesson that I got from my grandfather who having grown up in the Mississippi Delta, I'm sure he probably knew of gay people and queer people. But at the time, and in that community, there wasn't the language and there wasn't the visibility. And my grandfather said to me at some point around that same time that I came out, which was in 1995, he said, be who you are. Your grandfather supports you. And those words were so important to me. That at that point, I didn't care what anybody else had to say because my grandfather was like a giant, when your grandfather speaks, at least when my grandfather spoke, it was like a Titan had issued some declaration, my grandmother the same way.

[00:30:18] So I was able to get the support that I needed and get the affirmation that I needed such that at this stage in the game, I don't need my father's affirmation. I didn't need his support. I was able to get it elsewhere and I am, I'm not gonna say I'm okay with him having his level of, his spiritual beliefs in some instances his bigotry.

[00:30:41] But I know that it ultimately won't stop me from doing what I need to do to live the life that I want. And that's the important lesson for any young person listening here is you can't be concerned. You can't control other people think, but none of it, if you are able to do what you need to do, take care of yourself, can have any lasting impact on your life and what you can achieve if you put the right people around you.

[00:31:02] Bob Gatty: Okay, and that gets to leadership, doesn't it? 

[00:31:05] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: It does. Absolutely. 

[00:31:08] Bob Gatty: Yeah. Okay. Absolutely. So let's talk about what it means to be a transformational leader Joel. And how does the L G B T Q Community exhibit Transformational Leadership? 

[00:31:20] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: The transformational leader is one who's not just focused on themselves, but they focus on the environment, the community, the people around them.

[00:31:27] They're there to uplift others. And to make sure that each person's able to reach their full potential and that each person's able to feel psychologically safe within their environment. That's what a transformational leader is. They transform, they don't just conform to the environment. Let's look at an example.

[00:31:44] So one of my favorite heroes, if you will, is Barbara Jordan. And I'm sure you know who Barbara Jordan is. Barbara Jordan is probably one of the most accomplished civil servants in the history of the United States. Yeah. And she did so by doing, a number of things. She exhibited self-mastery by number one, knowing her limits by being unapologetic about who she was, by being committed and determined to support the communities that she represented.

[00:32:11] By doing so in a way where she operated within the system where she was, that being the US Congress, but she was able to push boundaries into remain faithful to her values and to know who she was at a core level. That type of leadership is what from the queer community all the time. And that is of course, and Barbara Jordan is of course a member, a humble, a quiet member of the community.

[00:32:31] She wasn't someone who was boisterous about her identity, but she was a member of the community. And so it's that type of leadership that I think is sorely in need. And that is the type of transformational leadership that you have where it's not about grabbing attention, grabbing headlines, but it's about how can I make others better?

[00:32:48] The measure of leadership is a legacy that you leave behind. And whether you're talking about Act Up the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, whether you're talking about Barbara Jordan, whether you're talking about, the ballroom culture, which, we're starting to read and people are starting to learn more about, which actually existed in the 19th century. It existed right after the Civil War where you had hundreds and hundreds of people within the queer community who decided they wanted to do something to support themselves, but also to make sure that they protected young people who were estranged from their families and they took people in who didn't have food or money or shelter, and created these new family units where people could survive and people could feel good about themselves. That's transformational leadership. And so history is replete with examples of queer people taking those types of steps, being selfless and being transformational to impact others around them. And again, there might be someone listening to this saying this person's trying to act as though queer people, only people who've done these types of things.

[00:33:52] No. We're not, but our contribution has been under-recognized and undervalued, and that's what this book is assigned to do is to fill that void. 

[00:34:00] Bob Gatty: Why is it timely right now? 

[00:34:02] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: I think it's timely right now for two reasons. One, as I said before, because we're at a crucible. And we're at a crucial moment where leadership, I think is sagging and what has worked in the past even, I think it's even questionable to say that's worked in the past. It's certainly not working now. So that's number one. Number two, I think because of the increasing diversity of our world, the leadership models that used to serve a very small percentage of people are not going to be useful for the new workforce.

[00:34:40] The new constituency that we have out there in society. So when you're talking about women, people of color, L B T Q, but even if you're not P O C L B T Q, women identified, I think even for let's say the cis hetero white male, I think the leadership models are just not working. And then number three, given the issues that we have around climate change, around extremism, polarization the economy and the, inflation.

[00:35:08] There's tons of things that are going on right now, which require us to have a different type of leadership. So that's why this is telling right now, not the least of which is the fact that we have a community that is being targeted and is facing unprecedented levels of discrimination and discrimination.

[00:35:26] And it's time for us to do something different to protect only that community, but to raise our, all of ourselves collectively to a higher level. 

[00:35:33] Bob Gatty: As we look ahead at the coming election in 2024, Joel do you see any of the candidates who could possibly be supportive of the issues that you're concerned about?

[00:35:49] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: It depends on what side we're talking about. Are we talking about the democratic side, the Republican side, the independent side, green party. 

[00:35:54] Bob Gatty: Take a look at all three if you want to. 

[00:35:59] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: Yeah, let's do that. So let's start with the democratic side. I think the president has, from his earliest days in supporting same-sex marriage for, reinstituting, a lot of the executive orders that protect the L B T Q community to the policy that have been passed, Some of the government offices to support L B T Q employees. I do think we have a friend, a supporter, and a strong ally in the Biden administration. I think also with Kamala Harris, I think we have a supporter, but that doesn't mean that people can't do more. And I'm a big proponent of that. You don't just call yourself an ally.

[00:36:34] It's what have you done for me lately? You have to continue to do more and think about what can I do to make sure that people are protected? I'm not sure who the independent candidates will be at this particular point. On the Republican side, I see no one, and I do mean no one, particularly from a presidential standpoint, who I think is going to be an ally supporter and advocate for this community.

[00:36:53] Unfortunately, we saw the debate last week that was in Milwaukee, of course, my hometown and you have people who if they can't even come out and say that they will disassociate from someone who's been indicted on charges of interfering with an election. Yeah. Then I think we're hard pressed to think that they would do anything to support the L B T Q community.

[00:37:15] I think they're too invested in, they're being very Machiavellian. They wanna win at all costs, and that means turning down any progressive legislation, agenda, program, anything designed to help those who are marginalized. And so I have absolutely no confidence in the Republican Party at this point. And there are I wanna be very clear the Republican Party at one point, I believe had some reasonable people and some reasonable actors is now becoming an extremist party.

[00:37:41] And I don't think there's anybody in the party at the leadership at this point that is seriously invested in helping out, not just queer people, but the American population. And I have set up serious reservations about the Democratic Party at times. But I don't question the morality. I don't question the desire.

[00:37:55] I don't question the intent. All of those things I think are missing from the Republican side, and I think we're seeing a very autocratic party, and I actually worry more about these, this notion that we've seen it in some of the polls and some of the surveys where people are saying that they're willing to defend the quote unquote country at all costs, which means that they're willing to target anyone who disagrees with their way of thinking and who typically is targeted in those types of instances, lGBTQ plus people, people of color, women, and anybody who dares to disagree or dares to be independent in their thinking. So I think it actually represents a very scary time for us. And I'm not looking forward to 2024. Not only 'cause I don't wanna just get all the leaflets and pamphlets and all the junk mail and the debates.

[00:38:40] I really don't talk about substantive issues, but are just more about showboating. I'm concerned about the election and I don't know how at this time in our country's history that people could even have a question as to how to move forward or which candidate or which party would represent this country's best interest best. You have one party that's being very autocratic. You have another party that I think is trying to do it very best, but of course has issues and I think needs to do more to not just care about minorities when it comes to the election cycle, but I think in terms of the morality and their positionality, I think it's night and day.

[00:39:15] And so it repre, it's a concern for me because there still seems to be a tangible threat that the Republican party can actually retake the White House in 2024, as bizarre as that may seem. So I'm nervous and we'll see what happens, but I'll be out there on the political trail supporting candidates that I think support not only a progressive agenda, not only support kids and fighting poverty and those sorts of things, but also those, of course, who support the lgbtq plus community. 

[00:39:43] Bob Gatty: Okay. So where can people find your book, Joel, and how can they reach out to you if they want to? 

[00:39:50] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: People can reach me. I'm not as popular on social media as I used to be. I've gotten rid of a lot of social media, but you can always find me on my website, as you can find me @joeldavisbrown.com.

[00:40:00] You can also find me at my business website. That's Pneumos.com. That's spelled P as in papa, N as in November, e u M as in Mary, O S as in sam.com. You can find me on Instagram as well at Joel a Brown. And I think if you look in those places, you'll be able to only purchase a copy of the book. The book is doing very well.

[00:40:19] It was number one in four categories on Amazon and we're completing an audio book, so you'll be able to hear me or experience the book differently, probably by October. If you are not a book reader and you care to listen to the audio books, that will be coming out in the fall. So in any of those places, you can reach me.

[00:40:37] You can also reach me on LinkedIn as well. 

[00:40:40] Bob Gatty: Are you doing the recording? 

[00:40:41] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: I am, yes. 

[00:40:43] Bob Gatty: Good for you. Yeah, that's interesting. Alright, it's been a pleasure having you. Is there anything else you'd like to add before we close up? 

[00:40:51] Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown: The thing I would reiterate is you don't have to be queer to appreciate and to get something from this book, just queer minded, which means that you're open to new ways of thinking.

[00:41:01] And so if you get the book, please recommend to your neighbors and friends. Please use it as a guide, not just as a showpiece to sit on your mantle in your library. So I want people to actually use it, read it, apply what's there, ask questions, and of course, continue to get to know the community because I think the best learning happens when you actually engage the community in real and tangible ways to learn more about this journey and who it is and what it h as been.

[00:41:26] So with that, I just wanna thank you for creating a space for me to be here with you. You've asked some very thoughtful questions and I look forward to continuing the dialogue with any of your listeners in the weeks and months ahead. Thank you. 

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