Photograph by Sydney Helland
I am just an ordinary guy, trying to do ordinary things in both my life and my work. Oh, did I mention that I am white AND heterosexual? Good. I am glad I mentioned that, because now I know you are listening.
I know I am privileged, and I know that I possess a certain amount of power in our “wonderful” society. Because of this, people let me speak. When I address a group of people, they do listen, and it is this power and privilege that, when unacknowledged, continues to perpetuate different forms of oppression within our society.
Like I said, I am an ordinary guy, but I am also the Diversity Coordinator at Wilfrid Laurier University – long awkward pause – yup, you read that right. A white, heterosexual man is the coordinator of diversity. Angry emails can be sent directly to me or any university officials. But before you begin writing, please talk to the people that I surround myself with in the Rainbow Centre and the entire Laurier community. Please learn about who I am, what I am passionate about, and what I advocate for. I am much more than a white, heterosexual male.
I should start everything I write by saying I am an “ally”. I always forget I am an ally, because I am not really sure what it means. To me, it is just another label…something that people use to convince others that they are tolerant of the queer community. Tolerant…uuuggghhh…another word that makes me shiver. I am expected to be “tolerant” of others…it just sounds so negative and forced. You tolerate bad smells, not good people.
I am not an ally because I have taken the time to get to know the amazing individuals that make the centre so successful…I am more than an ally, I am a friend. Now, don’t get me wrong. Being an ally is important, but it means more than wearing a button. Being an ally is about creating a voice and advocating for a group that doesn’t always have the ability to raise their voice. But being an ally is only the first step. For example, take my friend TJ (a coordinator in the Rainbow Centre). He is awesome and I have worked hard to help him create a space for all the people in the Rainbow Centre, but I am more than his ally…I am his friend.
So here is my thought. Now remember, I am a white, heterosexual male, so take this as you would like…but…what if…we did not care what people looked like, or who they wanted to have sex with, or who they prayed too. What if we just engaged people in conversation, and learned their story. Learned about what makes them unique. Learned what makes them special. If we don’t do this, and we continue to judge people based on our perceptions of them, we are missing out on so much. I guarantee you will be missing out on meeting and creating friendships with some of the most incredible people in this small world.
Remember that story about that kid on the beach, saving the lives of starfish by throwing them back into the ocean? Do you think that kid wondered about the sexual orientation of each starfish before throwing it back in the water? Probably not, but he saved them anyway. I wish we could all think like that everyday.