Brianna Wu Is Here, Queer and Running for Congress in Massachusetts

Of course I follow Brianna Wu on Twitter. She’s witty, intelligent and posts musings on technology and gaming (v. relevant to my interests). Plus she stood up to Gamergate, which makes her a badass. So when the FBI released its heavily redacted report on how it investigated GamerGate (or, ya know, not), Wu was livid. She took to Twitter to tell us just how angry she was that the FBI appeared not to have followed many of the leads they handed over. I nodded along with each progressing Tweet. And then she dropped Tweet number 7, last in the thread:

Congress! I reached out to Wu immediately. Here’s what we talked about.


Ali Osworth: Okay, so my biggest question: how did you arrive at running for Congress?

Brianna Wu: I’ve always suspected that one day I’d be run for office. Yes, it’s my first time with my name on the ballot—but I’ve worked in politics on and off my whole life. Constituent services, fundraising, canvassing, producing ads—this is not my first time to the rodeo. I’ve worked every major presidential election since 2004.

I expected to go back to my office in Boston and develop our next game after election night. We were in the middle of a big expansion. And, I was just in shock after Trump won. I kept asking my husband, “If I don’t run now, when?” It’s pretty similar to why I stood up to Gamergate. Something terrible was happening, and it’s not my nature to sit out a fight.

AO: Is this something that sprang organically from the FBI documentation release, or were you approached? How have you begun the process of running for office?

BW: I knew if I called the local Democratic party and told them I wanted to run for office, they’d steer me towards local races and tell me to wait my turn for congress. Like all institutions of power, the Democratic party is most interested in maintaining itself, and they’re not going to encourage one of their house members to get primaried.

I’m about to use a word a politician probably shouldn’t, but the hell with that. The guy I’m going against is everything broken in the Democratic party. He’s a 62-year-old white guy that’s spent most of his career fighting gay rights and women’s rights. Do you know he once introduced an amendment to give people that committed hate crimes against LGBT people a get-out-of-jail-free card if they were found to have acted “lasciviously”? This is the guy I’m supposed to wait to get bored in the Trump era? Give me a break.

In the Trump era there’s no room for benchwarmers. Seven out of nine of our representatives are white men in a supposedly progressive state. I think we can find room for a feisty feminist.

AO: We have a lot of readers who want to get more involved in political life and talking about your roadmap thus far might prove helpful!

BW: I ran it like I would one of my startups. We got a legal expert to look at all the FEC rules, filed our paperwork, and are working on fundraising. It’s not that hard—it’s just filling out a form. I know I’ll have to raise at least a million [dollars] to compete, so it’s my focus right now. Too many liberals run for office and have an idealistic vision of winning that doesn’t involve fundraising. I’m a pragmatist, and I’m in this to win.

We’re going to go hard left on him, but also do our homework and have enough of an organization to really drive out voters. Between giving a true progressive message and being fresh blood in a district sick of the status quo, I definitely think we can win! Ultimately, I expect to only need 10,000-20,000 votes or so.

AO: One of the drums I continue to beat is legislating for a digital age. We cannot shoehorn much of modern technology into laws that were conceived in the 18th or 19th centuries because the authors of those laws had no concept of what we’d be able to do. If elected, how do you plan to bring your digital expertise to lawmaking?

BW: This is such a good question. I am a software engineer and tech analyst, and our tech policy is simply inept. You see it in things like Gamergate, where the FBI didn’t take it seriously. But you see it potentially catastrophic things too, like last year’s Mirai Botnet. This shut down a good portion of the US technology infrastructure, and congress basically shrugged in response. The truth is, we need people of the digital generation making tech policy—because the boomers are letting AT&T and Verizon write the laws they want.

AO: What do you see as the future of lawmaking in a society where so much of our reality takes place digitally?

BW: It’s past time for us to pass an omnibus privacy bill, which I’m proud to be working with Danielle Citron on. Remember the Meitu photo app that exploded in popularity last week? Well, it’s basically giving China complete access to your Android phone. You can’t solve security issues with the marketplace because neither the consumer nor the developer is interested in paying for it. Reasonable regulation has a role to play in keeping us safe.

AO: Something that puzzles me is the interaction of the “alt-right” and the nerdosphere. So much of nerd media is concerned with a resistance of some kind, usually against a fictional stand-in for fascism. In your personal nerdspaces, how have you seen the “alt-right” and nerds interact?

BW: They come up to me pretty often at my college talks. They seem to fit a pattern—white, male, 20-something, undersocialized. These are the guys that never got past the cheerleaders that rejected them in high school. They live in a fantasy world where women already have equality, so discussing structural sexism makes them angry. They correctly feel the era of their primacy slipping.

The best of them seem well-intentioned, but just missing a lived experience. The worst of them have left me genuinely fearing for my life, and I’ve had to bring in security. One of them made a hobby of harassing women online and shot up a mosque in Canada yesterday, You have to take them seriously.

AO: What has surprised you as these groups seem to coalesce more and more? Or is it not surprising at all?

BW: It’s not surprising. It’s predictable. Toxic masculinity, low empathy and unchecked anger is a very dangerous combination. But it’s worth asking how we got here.

I’m a woman software engineer, a rarity in tech. Most of the systems we use to communicate were invented in an age where women were included even less than today. Men made the rules, men made the norms that work best for them, and that’s the environment these people are being radicalized in. If women had been involved in designing Twitter, it would look very different—and abuse never would have become this huge a problem.

AO: Lastly, Laura Mandanas, Contributing Editor and columnist behind “Notes from a Queer Engineer,” would like you to know that she loves your podcast and has a question regarding Nerf guns. What are your product recommendations for a pair of girlfriends who want to begin a Nerf gun collection with the aim of having Nerf gun fights like you and your husband do?

BW: Ha! You know, if I am elected to Congress, I’m probably going to be the first member that’s spent a lot of time modding Nerf weaponry.

I really love the Nerf Rival Apollo, which is just $25. It’s an extremely accurate design, and the mods are a blast to do. I have a return spring that cycles the cocking mechanism for the next round. I also added a sensor to the trigger that works like the Pulse Rifle counter in Aliens, and it’s been silenced by deadening all the internal parts that rattle. Love that blaster! When the Nerf Rival Nemesis comes out soon, that will be the most powerful blaster ever released – 100 rounds dumped into a hopper that feeds with a conveyer belt. I’m not sure it will be good for my marriage but I expect it to be fun.

Since this is Autostraddle, I’d love to throw in one last thing? It’s true that I’m married to a guy, but I grew up queer in Mississippi—which is growing up queer on hard mode. I’ve had a lot more girlfriends than boyfriends—so, statistically, ending up married to a guy was surprising to me.

It’s hard to overstate the value of having LGBT people in Congress. I will fight for you in a way the rest of them won’t. I hope some of your readers that are just as mad as I am run for office alongside me.

To read what all else Brianna Wu intends to do if elected to Congress, hit up her website, Brianna Wu 2018.


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Staff Writer for Autostraddle, Part-time Faculty at The New School (teaching digital storytelling), Managing Editor for Scholar & Feminist Online at Barnard Center for Research On Women. Follow me on Twitter @AEOsworth or on Instagram, also @AEOsworth.

A.E. has written 533 articles for us.

39 Comments

  1. This is so exciting!

    Also I just read the incumbent’s wikipedia page and wtf???

    “He was again arrested in 1979 for assault and battery of six Iranian students at an anti-American protest in Boston, a charge which was later dropped.”

    “In one high-profile 1994 case, Lynch provided free legal services to 14 teenagers, all white, who were accused of physically attacking a Hispanic teenager and harassing the family of his white girlfriend over a period of six months. Lynch, who claimed the youths had been “overcharged,” helped some of the teenagers to avoid criminal charges and eviction by the BHA.”
    I mean, prisons are bad, pro-bono legal services are good, but also wtf???

    “”Calling me the least liberal member from Massachusetts is like calling me the slowest Kenyan in the Boston Marathon,” he remarked in 2010. “It’s all relative.””

    “On social issues, Lynch is considered a conservative to moderate Democrat.[48] He is pro-life[48] and has been attacked by pro-choice group NARAL.[49] He sided with conservatives in the 2005 Terri Schiavo case, voting for federal court intervention in the case.”

    So.. yeah… good luck, Brianna Wu!

    • I’d say he sounds more like a modern Republican than Democrat, including getting arrested for smoking cannabis at a Willie Nelson concert. I really hope she wins.

      Also, sadly her Wikipedia page doesn’t make note that she is queer/not straight.

  2. I live in this district and Brianna wu does not. She deleted all her tweets in December (totally not sketchy). She has accused the voters in my district of being trump supporters and tech-haters, when nothing is further from the truth! She doesn’t even live in our district! I did a quick google search on her and found out she ran a scam on kickstarter too http://kickscammed.com/project/revolution-60/

    • I do not follow Twitter at all, but let’s think, could there POSSIBLY be any reason for Brianna Wu to be cautious on social media?
      Also thanks for citing your sources on where she lives! And really, could there POSSIBLY be any reason Wu is cautious in disclosing her exact address? Surely not the death threats from the horde I suspect you belong to.

  3. Hey all, I’m not trying to attack Brianna Wu too much here but she brings a lot of her own tech myopia with her here. She has said some pretty worrying things about wanting to use the threat of cutting off funding for states that vote conservative as leverage. I also have gotten the Tech will solve that ill vibe off of her which has become tiring.

  4. I’m half disappointed she’s not running in my district but also relieved because we have Jim Mcgovern and he’s one of the most liberal members of Congress – although he is one of the seven white men she mentioned.

  5. I’m excited to see more women stepping up to the challenge of running for office…I think this is the next frontier for social justice movements…we need more women, more LGBT folks and more people of color running for office.

    And I’m thrilled that Brianna’s as clear-eyed about the challenge she faces–most first time candidates are naïve about the amount of money it takes to compete. I’m not sure I agree with her 10-20k votes estimate though…not with a potentially crowded Democratic gubernatorial primary.

    That said, I do want to defend Stephen Lynch a little here…not because I feel any particular affinity towards him or his candidacy but because I don’t like how selectively we embrace “evolution” on LGBT issues. We chastise some for not always embracing full equality while excusing others. Lynch has a troubling history, yes, but right now, he boasts a 100% rating from HRC.

  6. Adam Nizam’s article in Paste Magazine offers a much more critical, insightful and thoughtful look into what Brianna Wu stands for. I hope you’re ready for another capitalist neoliberal, Democrats!

  7. Ah yes, Brianna “trans activists who hate science keep oppressing those poor conversion therapy doctors’ rights to free speech” Wu.

    She’s, not really the type of person I’d want representing me. Also not really the type of person I’d expect a site like this to celebrate tbh.

      • Brianna Wu threw her support behind Jesse Singal after he wrote a piece praising Ken Zucker, the former director of child transgender services at CAMH.

        Zucker was fired for child abuse, including child sexual abuse as well as engaging in reparative therapy, at which point Singal wrote a series of pieces praising Zucker’s good work. Various LGBT groups called for the piece to be withdrawn and for the voices of his trans patients (whom he abused for years) to be heard. Wu then attacked these trans groups and called them a bunch of “trans activists.” Unfortunately, much of the evidence of her actions was deleted when she purged her twitter account prior to running for office.

        • It’s kind of convenient that there isn’t even screenshots to verify this story… I’m just saying, even the most bullshit claims about her have a few links to back up the story.

  8. I’m surprised the interviewer didn’t ask her about her support for Ken Zucker’s conversion therapy for trans youth. At the very least, she needs to disavow her past opinions if she wants to come to Autostraddle for support.

  9. I hate to say this but due to the way the country is situated with most if not all democrats in the cities we are wasting our votes. Statistically with more republicans in counties and not cities they tend to control state houses and governorships. Same with Congress. If you want to waste your vote as a democrat move to a city. Hillary may have won the popular vote but she lost because she lost votes where it counted. The country not the city. The cities gave her a small majority. Don’t believe me, check out the state of NY. All but five counties voted for Donald Trump. But those five counties had the most people and the most people voted for Hillary. Works great for an election on occasion but not for every election. If you want to win as democrats move to the country.

  10. A lot of the problems are fiscal and structural now. Social is a part of the pie – surely, but identity politics are starting to wear thin and the problems are real.

  11. Could someone post links to information about her support for Zucker? I am a trans woman living in her district. I just was at a town hall meeting of her opponent the other night and wasn’t impressed, but won’t support someone who supports transphobia. Thanks!
    Janelle

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