A Visible and Vocal Ally
Throughout my years at Lakehead, I immersed myself in a never-ending journey of discovery, challenge, and change. Over the course of my studies, environmental consciousness and social justice activism became the focus of my desire to effect positive change. My efforts were successful on several fronts, with progressive developments such as an on-campus photocopier that prints on reclaimed paper, travel mug washing stations, and designated parking spaces for carpoolers.
On a number of occasions, however, my efforts were met with resistance, from verbal defamation of my character to physical abuse, slander, and discrimination. Homophobia and heterosexism are attitudes that still exist in today’s society, and Lakehead University is no exception.
There have been times in my life when I have felt frozen and silenced for fear that regardless of what I said or did, I would be judged by others and that my words and actions would be misinterpreted. It’s a fear that is shared by all people who have encountered hatred, discrimination, and stereotyping because of race, religion, gender, age, ability, or sexual orientation.
This fear persists among the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/ 2-Spirited (LGBT2) community and continues to silence us and cripple our ability to be honest with ourselves and with others. This silencing has made it difficult for us to be vocal, and is the reason our fight for acceptance continues.
In partnership with supportive friends and allies, I presented Lakehead with a challenge: to become aware of prejudicial tendencies and to become a proactive member in the fight to bring an end to one particular kind of prejudice – homophobia.
Lakehead accepted this opportunity and there is now a rainbow 'Pride flag' on permanent display in the Agora. (The rainbow is an international symbol of pride, self-understanding, respect and solidarity.) Students, faculty, and staff entering the Lakehead campus are greeted with a symbol of awareness and compassion, telling them that Lakehead University will not tolerate prejudice or heterosexism, but will, in fact, be a proactive partner in the elimination of discrimination and hatred.
From now on, members of the LGBT2 community can walk the halls, work, and sit in classes with the confidence that Lakehead University supports them. Lakehead is now a visible and vocal ally in the struggle for our rights.
As alumni, we should have an appreciation for the value of inviting people from various walks of life to come together in the public space of our University to dispel some of the stereotypes that exist among our communities. In order to achieve these goals, it is important that we find new ways to listen to each other, to learn each other's public discourse. This change in attitude points the way to a more genuine learning experience, recognizing that we share the same space in peace, trust, and friendship, on separate but parallel paths. It is on this note that I shall conclude by challenging you to make yourself more aware of prejudicial tendencies and to help fight to bring an end to all forms of hatred, discrimination, and stereotyping.
Jen Keystone is the recipient of the 2004 Poulin Award, given for outstanding citizenship to the Lakehead student, selected by her fellows, the faculty, and administration, as contributing most to the welfare of the University through student activities. She is currently working as an Administrative Assistant with the AIDS Committee of Toronto.