This is my series of answers to questions for the Point Foundation’s 2013-2014 Scholarship. I was semifinalist for the scholarship, and realized the gravity of why I didn’t get the scholarship when the day for finalist notifications was set back another day on the original day of the notifications.
Point Essay #1
How has your work contributed to bring about positive change for LGBTQ persons? How did you influence this change, what was your role and describe the impact and results?
My work as a website designer and social media assistant has often gone to causes or efforts which have helped raise awareness for LGBT rights and support.
My work with PFLAG Macon is something which I note with a sense of pride. Before my involvement with the chapter, the website of PFLAG Macon consisted of no more than 3 static HTML pages which were barely updated because of a lack of time and know-how on the part of the chapter president about maintaining a website. I volunteered my time to install WordPress, a content management system, onto the domain, reposting older media (i.e., photos from past PFLAG Macon events) onto the site, setting up a PFLAG Macon brand page on Facebook and created an account on NetworkedBlogs for the syndication of posts from the new site to the Facebook page. This has allowed for a greater number of Google search hits indexing a greater variety of content posted onto the site, making it easier for locals to find information regarding solidarity and support for the target audience: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their straight friends, family and parents.
I also take pride in helping represent the our college’s GSA at events held both on our campus as well as off-campus, be it at conferences and events held at other local institutions of higher learning, churches, political meetings and so on, and I also maintain various web presences for our group, including Facebook and Google+. Through this, I have found ample amounts of opportunities to talk and connect with students from the local area who are frustrated with the lack of, or are yet to be made aware of, of a support and discussion base within reach. I have represented my GSA before at least one television camera to communicate our ideal for marriage equality after President Obama endorsed it. I have connected to various people from the most diverse backgrounds and have pointed them in the direction of of LGBT-affirmative institutions in the Middle Georgia Area, and have also discussed strategy and resources for our group with members of Georgia Equality, our state’s leading LGBT lobby.
Finally, I have also filmed a documentary, “Honor in Equality”, interviewing Sgt. Danny Ingram, the president of the American Veterans for Equal Rights, who lives in Decatur. The immediate effect, for many who have seen it, is that the effects of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” were given a “local” “human” face who they could identify, helping them to better understand a person’s fight to end it and bring equality to our military.
I hope that my actions have inspired others in this area to do the same for others, and I hope to be an asset for other movements or institutions supportive of LGBT persons and their concerns.
Point Essay Part #2
What are you most looking forward to gaining intellectually from your college experience and why?
Intellectually, I seek to engage and be challenged by individuals who understand digital media in all of its presentation and utility. Being raised in the age of the World Wide Web’s rise to prominence as the platform du jour for commerce and campaigns of all sorts, I have long embraced an awareness of how digital media has been a transformative utility in human expression and identity (as well as the myriad uses which we can find in it as our information technology continues to develop), and it is a field in which I seek to contribute both intellectually and physically.
I hope to gain a better understanding of the technology which makes our current tech infrastructure possible, the theories which paved and continue to pave the way for our infrastructure, and the technology which will advance our infrastructure further. I also aim to gain a better understanding of how the Web, and other decentralized media networks, have enabled mutually-beneficial (and not-so-beneficial) human experiences. I also wish to work on student-professor research collaborations which delve into newer tools of communication, such as augmented reality.
Finally, when all is said and done, I not only want to apply my experience in the Information Technology field as a go-to consultant, programmer and teacher for digital media, but also to participate in and affect the building of more liberating and innovate means of communication for the next generation of the commons to enjoy and employ. I hope that what I impart to my protégés from my college experience will lead to disruptive and innovative effects upon our perceptions of, and relations with, each other – all aspects of ourselves, including our sexual orientations and gender identities – and our world.
Discuss your experience with marginalization.
My trouble with marginalization has largely been a force of geo-economic isolation and cultural reinforcement. I live in an area of the country, among many other areas of this country, in which LGBT-affirmative institutions are very scarce and limited. LGBT persons like myself largely start from an economic disadvantage of little personal income and great dependency upon family members, with varying levels of tolerance or respect, for support. In the process of pursuing my education while under such constraints, I find my ability to accommodate or express my sexual orientation to be severely limited.
What is most grating about this experience is the constant insistence from my own family members and peers that “broadcasting” my sexual orientation by disclosing such information on, say, a social network profile or when asked about such in day-to-day conversation makes me “vulnerable” and “unhireable” in the eyes of employers who are feared as being “Internet-savvy” with the usage of search engines and social networks for employee background checks. As I have a long history of using the Internet, as it is the medium through which I realized my sexual orientation, and as it is through this medium that I realized a lack of shame in my orientation, I take a deep umbrage at this fear that my orientation toward men should in any way reduce someone’s perception of me as an employee or colleague.
This fear of disclosure, in my honest opinion, is largely propelled by a toxic combination of our economic situation and our cultural homophobia. In a better, more affirmative culture, disclosure of my orientation, voluntary or systematic, would neither be grounds for “unemployability” nor grounds for fears of such a state. This fear dents my loved ones’ ability to respect my orientation or expressions thereof, which is unreasonable.
Point Foundation Essay #3
a) “Please describe a time you were unsuccessful at bringing about positive change and what you learned from this experience.”
In October 2012, I had scheduled and publicly announced our GSA’s first LGBT Movie Night, screening The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love. I and our advisor had prepared for a month for this night, with food being brought and flyers being distributed to all campuses, and, as president of the GSA, I took this as a personal test of my ability to engage the public and bring positive changing of sentiments. However, on the night when the event was to take place, I was sorely disappointed that no members or students were able to come to this movie night, and I blamed myself for its failure.
Surprisingly, some individuals within our group had come to the campus to see the film, but had misidentified another, similarly-named game room in another building on campus as the location of the Movie Night. Worse, not that many people had even known of, or ever visited, the game room in the dormitory where we held the Movie Night. I learned that community events should be held in familiar and accessible venues, and that such events should be comprehensively promoted and discussed as much within the organization as without.
b) “Describe a specific time when you motivated others to reach a particular vision or goal. What did you do? How did you motivate others to achieve this goal or vision? How might this leadership trait translate into future involvement in the LGBT movement and society in general?”
I announced in February 2013 that we would hold an LGBT Public Awareness Event, one which would promote the GSA, its goals and its focus. I requested for all members, by all possible channels of communication, to come to the event to help operate the table and engage the public. I went into the planning of this event in a manner which initially felt haphazard and affected by events like the aforementioned Movie Night, but I personally bought supplies, totalling over $70, on the idea that all such crafts material would be useful to drawing members to participation in the event.
Bringing the crafts to a public table, our secretary immediately took the reins and designed a number of beautiful crafts, including beaded bracelets. Soon, other members joined us at the table, and we raised over $50 from selling the bracelets, and I decided on our advisor’s advice to donate the money to a local AIDS/HIV live-in center for lower-income people. It became my first voluntary attempt at helping raise money for a charitable organization, but I saw that offering opportunities for creativity and allowing members to engage on their own strengths are powerful motivators for social engagement.