Archive for February, 2013

February 26, 2013

I wrote this from the inside of a bathroom stall.

Those who suffer from depression know what it means to be paralyzed by it.

It happened to me tonight. And in that paralytic state, I wrote something:

I leave my class at 10 o’clock and walk with a few classmates, discussing the pains associated with entering immense amounts of data into an Excel spreadsheet. We split off after a while, the two of them walking in one direction and me walking in another. I walk into the one commons space I was sure would be deserted at this time of night. I walk in and there are three people in the building: a redheaded boy that I seem to always see, waiting for a friend so that the two of them could study (I know because he does the same thing nearly every night), and two blonde girls quizzing each other on biology terms.

I keep my head down and stare at my shoes on the way to the bathroom. I find the smallest stall, just one to the right of the center. I walk in, close and lock the stall door, and set my backpack down. I stare at the toilet, thinking to myself, I don’t need to pee; what am I doing here? I also find myself thinking, In movies and TV shows where the new kid hides in the bathroom stalls during lunch, do they just sit down on the open toilet? Because these toilets don’t have lids. 

I clean off the seat and try to sit down. It’s not as comfortable as I would like, but it’s the best I can do. I think to myself for a while. I guess when you’re the new kid in school, you have bigger worries than whether or not the toilet has a lid…. As if wet pants could make a shitty day in a new school any better. 

I’m sitting here, alone in a bathroom stall, like a new kid. I feel like I’m forever doomed to be the new kid in my life. There are very few times when I sincerely feel like I fit into my life, where I belong in the role I’m playing. I feel like a red-shirt, an extra, a chorus member in my own life. And that’s really sad.

Somewhere between sitting down and now, I started crying. Not so disgustingly that my makeup starts bleeding or my face turns obnoxious shades of red. But just enough to wet the neckline of my blouse. Just enough to make tiny lines from the corners of my eyes to my chin. There isn’t a really strong emotion behind this. It’s not an oh my God, my life is over cry. Or an I hate the world and everyone in it cry. Or even a no one loves me at all cry. It’s just a cry. Just my body’s way of telling me that sometimes being happy is just too hard for it. That we just can’t do it today.

I should probably catch my shuttle now.

I guess today just isn’t my day, huh? Maybe tomorrow will be kinder.

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February 21, 2013

What kind of activist are you?

I’ve never been a very proactive, aggressive activist. I’ve never been the one to join marches or picket a government building. That’s just not my way.

And over the past few days, I’ve been directly and indirectly criticized for my assertive (though some others would call it passive) stance regarding University of Portland’s Fr. Bill Beauchamp and his Fireside Chat, the non-discrimination policy, and the role of GSP on campus. I’d like to respond to those criticisms by clearing up some things about activism. Keep in mind that this is just my personal opinion, so you can take it with a grain of salt.

1. Activism is a fluid concept. Not everyone defines it the way you do.

Rallies.
Marches.
Picketing.
Sit ins.
Human chains.

These are just a few social activist demonstration techniques. Some people define activism as go out and do something. Historically, these techniques get results. The Civil Rights Movement is an excellent example of this. No one can argue the validity and success rate of peaceful protest and civil disobedience. I support and applaud those who are willing to take it to the streets and push for equality. But, the reality is that this is not the only way.

Some people prefer a less – for lack of a better word – invasive method. Not everyone wants to get in your face and make you listen. Some people prefer letter writing campaigns, petitions, cyber activism, open forums and debate over the go out and do something method. This doesn’t diminish their passion for the issue or their devotion to the cause, and to imply that it does is not only wrong, but frankly, insensitive and invalidating. This leads me to my next point:

2. Realize that judging someone based on their method of social activism is, in and of itself, a form of prejudice and an act of microaggression.

In the realm of social activism, one sentiment rings true in the hearts of everyone involved:

We are all equal. We deserve to be treated equally, with fairness and respect.

If we all truly believe this – which I’m sure that we do – then every comment we make, every action we take, should be with this statement in mind. Am I putting my opinion above another’s? Am I putting someone down for their beliefs? Would I want this said to me?

To belittle another activist based on their techniques, directly or indirectly, promotes a mindset completely contradictory to the equality movement value system. To have equality, we must respect the beliefs of everyone. This includes respecting the fact that some members within your own movement may not want to demonstrate in the same capacity that you do.

So, before you say things like, “That’s a nice thought, but it’s not enough,” or “That’s too small of an act to really mean anything,” take a look at who you’re explicitly and implicitly addressing. Statements like these are hurtful, even if they’re not meant to be. So ask yourself, what kind of activist are they?

3. A movement can work in parts, at different paces and different levels of activity.

The belief that a movement will only work if everyone is doing the same thing all the time is just too simplistic and does not account for human uniqueness. The reality is that everyone, be it in a work, school, or social movement environment, works at different paces and excels in different roles. It’s just not practical to say that everybody should be doing X, Y, or Z.

And it is even worse to say “If you aren’t willing to do this, or you can’t keep up, you can just sit this one out.” To make someone feel excluded because they can’t make it to a planning meeting or demonstration is a step backwards in the move to equality.

Encourage multiple activities in a movement, large and small, with long and short time frames. This is will bring more people in, instead of phasing people out. Make people feel that, regardless of the size of their contribution or the amount of time they’ve devoted to the cause, their addition matters.

Everyone joined this cause for a reason and they should never feel that they just aren’t passionate enough.

February 20, 2013

Redefine Purple Pride

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Image credit: Lisa Nims

As an LGBTQ student at the University of Portland, I do not feel protected. I do not feel equal. I do not feel respected as an individual.

Why?

Because the University of Portland’s non-discrimination policy does not include sexual orientation or gender identity. Even though UP is in the heart of one of the most LGBTQ-friendly cities in the nation, it continues to condone and promote unequal treatment of LGBTQ individuals.

Despite the efforts of student groups, like the Associated Students of University of Portland and the Gay Straight Partnership at UP, very little progress has been made on the front. In May of 2011, the University adopted a Statement of Inclusion, stating:

At the University of Portland, a Catholic University guided by the Congregation of Holy Cross, all dimensions of our communal life—teaching and learning, faith and formation, and service and leadership—are informed and transformed by prayer, scripture, and the Christian tradition. Our belief in the inherent dignity of each person is founded upon the social teaching of the Catholic Church. At the center of that teaching is the fundamental mandate that every person, regardless of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, social or economic class, age, or disability shall be treated with respect and dignity.

Moreover, we seek to create and sustain an inclusive environment where all people are welcomed as children of God and valued as full members of our community. We condemn harassment of every kind, and assert that no one in our community should be subject to physical or verbal harassment or abuse. Further, no one shall be denied access to programs, services, and activities for any unlawful reason. We provide all who live, learn, and work at the University the opportunity to actively participate in a vibrant, diverse, intellectual community that offers a broad range of ideas and perspectives, so that we may all learn from one another.

While this statement includes sexual orientation, it holds no legal bearing and does not hold the University accountable for its actions towards students, faculty, and staff. It merely veils the fact that the University still reserves the right to discriminate against any University student, faculty, or staff member based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Statement, in my eyes, aims to wave shiny words like “dignity” and “respect” in the faces of the University’s critics to distract them from the obvious prejudice and inequity that still exists in campus classrooms, residence halls, and offices.

I understand that the University is a Holy Cross institution. I understand that Catholic Social Teachings accepts the homosexual person, but not the act. I have read the Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons. I know that the University, as a private Catholic institution, has no legal obligation to include sexual orientation and gender identity. But why should that stop them?

What kind of example are we setting when we only do the bare minimum of what is expected of us? What kind of example are we setting when we do what is easy instead of what is right? What kind of people are we when we sit back and allow injustice to happen around us when there is something that we can do about it?

Saying it is one thing. Acting is an entirely different ball game.

It’s time for things to change at the University of Portland. It’s time for the UP administration to move away from narrow-minded, prejudiced thinking and embrace all of its community members, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We’re all Pilots. And all Pilots are created equal.

The very least we could do is start talking about it. The conversation needs to start. The administration needs to listen and be open to answering questions and taking criticism. Yes,  it’s hard. But we’ve got to start somewhere.

UP, I hope you make your way to the right side of history.

#RedefinePurplePride

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