LGBTQ+ Tech Innovator: Angelica Ross

August is Pride Month here in Copenhagen. And what better way to celebrate than by shining a spotlight on boundary-breaking LGBTQ+ tech innovators? Our hope is, that by sharing success stories of amazing individuals each week in August, we can help honor milestone achievements within the LGBTQ+ community and help bring attention to those who, too often, fly under the radar.

Last week, we delved into the life and career of Arlan Hamiliton, a trailblazing entrepreneur who’s been shaking up Silicon Valley with her mission for diversity and representation at the highest of levels.

Today, we’re excited to be celebrating the inspiring work of businesswoman, actor, and LGBTQ+ advocate, Angelica Ross.

Image source: missross.com

Introducing Angelica Ross

If you’re a fan of the Emmy award-winning series Pose, you will already know Angelica as the feisty trans character, ‘Candy Ferocity’. (And if you haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, you should definitely check it out.)

Pose was Angelica’s big breakthrough in the acting world. She portrayed Candy’s triumphs and struggles as a trans woman with dignity and grace. But did you know that Ross is also a passionate advocate for trans visibility off the screen, too?

Angelica is all too familiar with the discrimination faced by young trans people. So she decided to do something about it.

In 2014, Angelica founded TransTech Social Enterprises; an organization that works to provide education, support, and jobs to trans people facing discrimination in the tech sector. As founder and CEO of TransTech, Angelica is making big waves in the technology sector for young trans people.

“Technology saved my life” – why Angelica turned to technology as a young trans woman

Earlier this year Angelica told cnet.com, “Technology saved my life”. So, how did this inspiring CEO rise to the top, and why did she turn to technology in the first place?

At the beginning of her working life, Angelica had several relatively short-lived jobs — a result of employers discovering her trans status. This caused her to continually lose employment and at times struggle to find the money to survive.

Ross eventually turned to modeling for an adult website. But the owner quickly picked up on her tech skills – and she soon found herself working on the backend of the website.

Realizing that this role was a lifeline, Angelica taught herself everything she needed to know from that point onwards. She binge-watched video tutorials on photography, graphic design, and even taught herself to code.

In a 2019 interview with CBC Radio, Angelica said:

“And then I realized that I don’t want to be in the adult industry, but I am very tech savvy. So I started designing websites for other companies, and taught myself HTML and CSS and learned content management systems like WordPress and Drupal and Juma, and did photo retouching and created flyers for people like Cedric the Entertainer and Ludacris the rapper.”

Angelica began to work freelance and continued to build her skills as a businesswoman while working remotely. Meanwhile, the companies she worked for were unaware that Ross was a trans woman.

Ross had successfully found a way to eliminate the discrimination that she had faced in the workplace as a trans person.

But she did not stop there. Angelica decided to use her skills and entrepreneurial nature to support other young trans people at the beginning of their careers – and TransTech Social Enterprises was born.

Founding TransTech Social Enterprises

Angelica set up TransTech in 2014 with one goal: to provide education, support, and jobs for trans people facing high levels of discrimination.

While working as a freelancer, Ross started to formulate plans that would eventually become the blueprints for TransTech. When she was later hired to develop the employment coordination program for Chicago House’s TransLife Center, she asked her colleagues to work with her on launching her social enterprise.

And the rest is history.

The TransTech website explains:

“TransTech is an incubator for LGBTQ Talent with a focus on economically empowering the T, transgender people, in our community. At TransTech, we learn and work together to develop skills and value within marginalized LGBTQ communities.”

TransTech’s current hub in Miami is similar to that of a co-working space. It is a place where TransTech members can access conference rooms, computer labs, and break rooms.

Angelica also describes it as somewhere that young trans people can network and support each other. In her own words“There’s strength in numbers. They’re building networks, and down the line they’ll think of each other when it comes to jobs.”

In life before COVID-19, members could access the TransTech hub from Monday to Saturday each week.

They used their time at the hub to connect with mentors, search for jobs, or access systems that made finding remote work, while transitioning, an easier process.

Of course, some young trans people have already transitioned before they reach working age. And, it’s important to note that trans people are not a monolith. They have individual experiences when it comes to transitioning. Some may transition medically, legally, and socially, some may transition only socially, and some may not do any of these.

Angelica and her team at TransTech work hard to help everyone. This includes providing job training and practical advice on things like name changes on official documents, so that they can present themselves in the way they want to when applying for roles.

Throughout the pandemic, Angelica has continued to help TransTech members by making training and resources available online.

What’s next for Angelica Ross?

Angelica has already achieved so much for young trans people entering the tech sector. But she’s still got big plans for the future!

She is currently preparing for TransTech’s third annual summit. This year’s summit will be held on the 14th and 15th of November and will take place digitally, making it accessible worldwide.

While the summit will focus on the most marginalized members of society, Angelica and the TransTech team say that the summit is open to ‘all bodies’ – meaning that it doesn’t matter whether attendees are trans or not; everyone is welcome.

The aim of the TransTech Summit is to “help students and professionals of all ages to learn new skills, build their professional networks and connect with employers.”

And what else does Ross have in mind for the future?

Speaking to CBC Radio last year, Angelica explained:

“My number one goal with TransTech is to be the resource for folks who are trying to figure out what to do during a major transition in their life. So it’s not just by being trans; it’s folks that are coming out of the incarceration system, women who have been victims of patriarchy and misogyny.”

Sounds great! Where can I find out more?

Want to find out more about Angelica Ross, her work as an LGBTQ+ advocate, and TransTech’s plans for the future?

TransTech’s website is a hub for resources, training, and news about their ongoing and upcoming projects.

Angelica also has her own website, where you can explore even more of her amazing work – including her new podcast, Like a Butterfly, which she has produced as a lead up to her forthcoming book, Like A Butterfly: Leaving the Cocoon.

You can also follow Angelica on Twitter and Facebook, where she regularly shares updates on her work and upcoming projects.

What do you think of Angelica Ross’ story? Let us know! And don’t forget to join us next week for another Pride Month special right here, on the Dixa blog.

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