AIR Acceptance Speech – May 16, 2012
I am very honored to receive this award. I have the privilege of getting to earn my living working with wonderful students and having important conversations about social justice issues on this campus.
I would like to thank Ixchel for her leadership and guidance and her trust in me.
My work at the GSC is my dream job and 11 years ago I didn’t think it was possible that I would be standing here today. I would like to take a little time to let you know how I got here and hopefully this story will inspire those of you who don’t trust that you too can find your dream joy (although it may not be your first job).
In 1982, yes 30 years ago, I moved from Indiana to Boston to work for the international headquarters of my church. At that time I didn’t realize that I was attracted to women or that I didn’t have to follow all the rules in the gender rulebook that I was given at birth. Two years later I met a new co-worker and quickly feel in love. The complication was that she was a woman and I knew that my church was against that and that we could be fired if found out. So I lived in a very small and uniformed closet for 2 years.
Fast forward to 1994 when I met Leslie Feinberg, who had just written “Stone Butch Blues (if you haven’t read it – I recommend it). Ze showed me that all that I had been taught about about how I should be in the world was false. Though that experience I vowed that I wanted to be someone who could give people room to explore who they were and not who they thought they had to be. This is when I started talking about gender and sexuality to anyone who would listen.
This brings me to 2001 when I was accepted into the Masters of Social Work program at UT. I applied there because I heard they had a Diversity Institute and the program had a focus on social justice. When I started in the program people asked me what I wanted to do when I graduated. I told them that I wanted to talk about social justice with an emphasis on LGBTQ issues and that I wanted to get paid for it. (this was my dream – and at that point I didn’t think it could really happen) To my surprise people were excited that that was my goal.
When I graduated my current job didn’t exist so I was a therapist in the LGBTQ community and also had the good fortune to teach an LGBT course at the SSW and then the Foundations of Social Justice course. It felt like my dream was starting to happen.
In 2007 I was hired as the Education Coordinator for the GSC – WOW – the job I dreamed of now existed and I got it!!!
For the last five years I have had the privilege to get up every day and work with amazing students!! I get to talk about things I have a passion for. I facilitate workshops on topics most of us were taught are taboo and often get to see “lightbulbs” come on in the minds of people in the workshops I facilitate.
I have the honor of teaching and coordinating the Peers for Pride program. I get to follow my students as they go to law school, med school, find jobs that bring them joy and watch them found creative ways to change the world we live in.
So why the long story?!? If you have a dream or a passion – go for it. Don’t give up. If it means doing the work you love as a volunteer – do it! If you told me 10 years ago I would ever say this and believe it I would have called you a liar – and here it goes – Dream big and it can happen!
Many of you have probably heard Gandi’s quote – “To be the Change you want to see in the world!” Yes, please do that! – and know that you don’t always get to see the change in real time – and the change is happening.
Thank you again for this award. It inspires me to continue doing the work I do with more passion and energy! I wish you all well as you go out to find the work you love!