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Sobbing at SENG

By Dr. Patty Gently (Williams) on July 24, 2023

BISN founder and president Dr. Patty Williams is a trauma therapist who specializes in EMDR, ND-Affirmative DBT, and IFS modalities. Through Bright Insight Support Network, she works to counsel, coach, and advocate for gifted, twice-exceptional, and neurodivergent persons, along with other marginalized populations.

Sobbing at SENG

Well, that was unexpected.

I just attended the annual SENG conference where I presented about gifted identity development and building gifted community. I also spoke about overcoming adversity. When it was requested that conference participants share “success stories” related to diversity, however, this is where it all broke down for me.

Let me set the scene though…

The diversity panel was in many ways lovely. There were four females and two openly gay men. The questions were asked by a Black woman and an Asian-American woman, both of whom were SENG board members. Fantastic.

There was a bit of talk related to GLBTQ+ topics. One participant almost seemed emotional when they shared how scary it was to be gay in America due to the current political climate. He was cut off by another panel member though. It happens.

Someone else talked about how much better things were. And yet another person spoke to the value of identifying those who seemed twice-exceptional.

There was very little talk about being Black and gifted, however. I mean, I guess it was not horribly surprising as there was no representation on the panel itself and a lack of representation in gifted programming and groups. I was bothered though. This is a big issue.

And, there was also no real call to action.

Rather, at the end of the panel discussion, there was a request for success stories.

People on the panel and in the audience accounted for these so-called successes. This is when things went further downhill for me… for us.

Ending this discussion with supposed successes seemed like absolvement. I was not a fan. In fact, my heart started pounding as I realized I needed to say something. I didn’t want to say anything. I wanted to leave.

I had to say something though- how could I not?

As they walked the mic to me, I also started shaking so I began my sharing by admitting these visceral reactions. I also shared that I did not have a success story and hoped, rather, that I was projecting and pleading for success- real success.

And then I started crying. I could not stop.

I insisted in this space where we were all supposedly advocates, that what we were doing by not acknowledging issues with diversity, particularly in gifted education and elsewhere was unacceptable. I shared how my GLBTQIA+ friends are afraid, that my friends and neighbors of color are afraid, and that our marginalized populations and people are dying.

I pleaded as a White, straight, cis woman for change and asserted as I insisted that my marginalized friends, family, and neighbors were exhausted and needed allies and advocates to step it up NOW, more than ever before.

It is time for the Allies to step it up.

Certainly, people clapped. I received some hugs of support. Some folx checked in with me to make sure I was OK.

Me. I was fine. Aren’t we SUPPOSED to cry and be mad about this? I’ll tell you who is not fine. WE are not fine.

Marginalized populations are not fine.

The unidentified Black and gifted are not fine.

The neurodivergent are not fine.

The gifted are not fine.

Humanity is not fine.

I could not do much after talking and crying in front of everyone. I was also exhausted. What happened next shifted spaces in my brain I did not know about.

Over the next several hours, nearly every Black conference member tracked me down or stopped me in the hallways. They hugged ME and asked ME to keep going. Me? Obviously. Obviously, I will keep going. But Oh my God- really, God (not in vain). What about them? They were encouraging ME to keep going on their behalf.

They saw me see them.

I cannot tell you what that meant.

The moral of this story is: we need to cry and bang our fists.

We need to be mad and insist that Black Lives Matter. We need to speak out against minority hate of any kind. We need to know how to be an ally for transgender men, women, and gender nonconforming folx. We need to fly different flags. We need to have visibility and minority representation in gifted circles. We need to identify our minority gifted.

If we are not crying and banging our fists about this, we are doing it wrong.

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