Happy Pride Month! 5 TEDx Talks about equality of all kinds

June is otherwise known as Pride Month, a time to celebrate both the struggles and victories on the road to equality. So it feels very fitting that today, June 26, on the final day of their term, the United States Supreme Court delivered a pair of rulings that bolster gay marriage. Today, explore this compilation of talks about issues at the heart of this civil rights battle. Get inspired by iO Tillett Wright’s reminder that there are many, many shades of gay, marvel at the science of political beliefs with David Pizzaro’s “The strange politics of disgust,” and take in Nadine Smith’s moving take on gay marriage in her talk at TEDxTampaBay.

Let each provocative and fascinating talk remind you of the progress already made in the fight for the equality and inspire hope for many more milestones to be reached.

LZ Granderson: The myth of the gay agenda
In this TEDxGrandRapids talk, LZ Granderson exposes the real “gay agenda”: freedom, equality and respect.

iO Tillett Wright: Fifty shades of gay
After an idyllic childhood in New York City, iO Tillet was surprised by the hate and closed-mindedness of the wider world. In her TEDxWomen talk, she shows how putting familiar face to the LGBT community can spark progressive conversation and, most important, empathy. Browse a gallery of photos from iO Tillet Wright »

David Pizzaro: The strange politics of disgust
David Pizzaro discovered that those who are more easily disgusted are more politically conservative. His TEDxEast talk gives new meaning to the term “Dirty Liberal.”

Alice Dreger: Is anatomy destiny?
Alice Dreger medically advocates for people with unique sexual biologies. In her TEDxNorthwesternU talk, she talks about ambiguity — and if we should let our anatomy determine our fate. Read the TED Blog’s Q&A with Alice Dreger »

Nadine Smith: My (gay) marriage in America
In this enlightening talk from TEDxTampaBay, Nadine Smith shares the story of her marriage to her wife and examines the legal inequalities concerning same sex couples in the U.S.

For more great talks, check out TED Blog’s spectacular round-up of talks for Pride Month, from which this list was adapted.


I was six when the Taliban took over Afghanistan and made it illegal for girls to go to school. So for the next five years, I dressed as a boy to escort my older sister — who was no longer allowed to be outside alone — to a secret school. It was the only way we both could be educated.Each day we took a different route so that no one would suspect where we were going. We would cover our books in grocery bags so it would seem like we were just out shopping. The school was in a house — more than 100 of us packed into one small living room. It was cozy in winter, but extremely hot in summer. We all knew we were risking our lives: the teacher, the students, and our parents. From time to time, school would suddenly be cancelled for a week because the Taliban were suspicious. We always wondered what they knew about us. Were we being followed? Do they know where we live? We were scared, but still, school was where we wanted to be.

—From Shabana Basij-Rasikh’s TEDxWomen talk, "Dare to educate Afghan girls." Shabana, now 22, runs a school for girls in Afghanistan. Listen to her talk and read more about her work at TED.com.

I was six when the Taliban took over Afghanistan and made it illegal for girls to go to school. So for the next five years, I dressed as a boy to escort my older sister — who was no longer allowed to be outside alone — to a secret school. It was the only way we both could be educated.

Each day we took a different route so that no one would suspect where we were going. We would cover our books in grocery bags so it would seem like we were just out shopping.

The school was in a house — more than 100 of us packed into one small living room. It was cozy in winter, but extremely hot in summer.

We all knew we were risking our lives: the teacher, the students, and our parents. From time to time, school would suddenly be cancelled for a week because the Taliban were suspicious.

We always wondered what they knew about us. Were we being followed? Do they know where we live?

We were scared, but still, school was where we wanted to be.


—From Shabana Basij-Rasikh’s TEDxWomen talk, "Dare to educate Afghan girls." Shabana, now 22, runs a school for girls in Afghanistan. Listen to her talk and read more about her work at TED.com.

Four, almost five years ago, Proposition 8, the great marriage equality debate, was raising a lot of dust around this country. And, at the time, getting married wasn’t really something I’d spent a lot of time thinking about, but I was struck by the fact that America, a country with such a tarnished civil rights record, could be repeating its mistakes so blatantly…

And this powerful awareness rolled in over me that I was a minority, and in my own home country, based on one facet of my character. I was legally and indisputably, a second-class citizen.

I was not an activist. I waved no flags in my own life. But I was plagued by this question: How could anyone vote to strip the rights of the vast variety of people that I knew, based on one element of their character? How could they say that we as a group were not as deserving of equal rights as somebody else?

Were we even a group? What group? And had these people even ever consciously met a victim of the discrimination? Did they know who they were voting against and what the impact was?

And then it occurred to me. Perhaps if they could look into the eyes of the people that they were casting into second-class citizenship, it might make it harder for them to do. It might give them pause.

Obviously, I couldn’t get 20 million people to the same dinner party, so I I figured out a way where I could introduce them to each other photographically — without any artifice, without any lighting, or any manipulation of any kind on my part. Because in a photograph, you can examine a lion’s whiskers without the fear of him ripping your face off.

For me, photography is not just about exposing film, it’s about exposing the viewer. To something new; a place they haven’t gone before; but — most importantly — to people they might be afraid of.

From Artist iO Tillett Wright’s TEDxWomen talk, "Fifty shades of gay" , where she explained how she came to photograph 2,000 people who consider themselves somewhere on the LBGTQ spectrum.

Why we have too few women leaders: TEDxWomen explores

At TEDWomen in 2010, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg looked at why a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions — and offered 3 powerful pieces of advice to women aiming for the C-suite in her talk, "Why we have too few women leaders."

In the talk, she voices her concern over the worldwide lack of women in leadership roles — in corporate, political, and other social settings.

"The question is," she says, "how are we going to fix this? How do we change these numbers at the top? How do we make this different? …What are the messages we need to tell ourselves? What are the messages we tell the women who work with and for us? What are the messages we tell our daughters?"

She addresses fear, self-doubt, work/life balance, and finding work that’s rewarding even after maternity leave. She questions traditional gender roles and perceptions of women leaders. She explains current setbacks and problems:

"Women systematically underestimate their own abilities," she tells the audience. "If you test men and women, and you ask them questions on totally objective criteria like GPAs, men get it wrong slightly high, and women get it wrong slightly low..If you ask men why they did a good job, they’ll say, "I’m awesome. Obviously. Why are you even asking?" If you ask women why they did a good job, what they’ll say is someone helped them, they got lucky, they worked really hard. Why does this matter? Boy, it matters a lot because no one gets to the corner office by sitting on the side, not at the table, and no one gets the promotion if they don’t think they deserve their success, or they don’t even understand their own success.

In response to Sheryl’s pointed challenge, we asked organizers of the upcoming TEDxWomen event — during which over 140 TEDx events will be hosted worldwide around the webcast of this year’s TEDxWomen anchor event in Washington D.C. — what advice they would give to women leaders. Here are some of their answers:

Re-imagine what leadership looks like, and make it your own.
—Nathalie Molina Niño, TEDxBarnardCollegeWomen, New York, NY

Be authentic. Authenticity is always the key to leadership success.
—Dafna Michaelson Jene, TEDxCrestmoorParkWomen, Denver, CO

Own your choices!
—Deb Gerardi Kemper, TEDxShanghaiWomen, Shanghai

Create your own girls’ clubs: investment, leadership, philanthropy, mentoring, specific interests. Link with others regionally. Scale out. Find ways to give away what you know to people who value you in original ways. Listen. Know yourself and be you.
—Kat Haber, TEDxHomerWomen, Homer, AK