I never use to be an advocate. I mean, I would stand up for people when I was younger but it was mostly for my younger siblings on the playground. But once they grew up enough to be able to stand on their own, I had no one to fight for except myself. But even then, like now, I don’t really fight for my own honor. To me, it’s better to let it slide. And, to be honest, I can’t express myself well when it’s just me. My words only find me when I’m talking for someone else.
My advocacy gradually strengthened when I moved to Jackson and joined the GSA club at the high school. I joined, at the time, because doors like this would have never been open to me back in my old town. I was desiring to find a cliche, a purpose, at the time. This seemed like my first step. It’s been three years and now I’m a lead spokesman for the GSA. I found this quite queer since I had originally gone into it thinking, “I will not let myself get ahead of myself – let other people lead for once.” Unfortunately, this is every bit against my character. This is what I’ve learned through these last couple years.
First off, being an advocate is making everyone else aware of our issue. I’ve come to find that the other part is listening. Listening is probably THE most important characteristic of an advocate. Por que? This allows for the person receiving the message to feel respected and acknowledged in whatever their opinion may be. I’ve found that when I listen to someone’s thoughts, they tend to feel more comfortable hearing mine.
Sharing is caring. Whenever I learn another LGBTQA term, I want to pass it along as much as I can so that others may not fall into the rut of misunderstanding. It’s so easy to assume when people don’t know. Generally, once someone begins tossing the new information in their head, it starts to make more sense as a fact. But, people can’t start using it if they don’t know. Be an advocate and gently correct them.
Instilling hope. I’ve found that if I keep a good attitude, people are going to want to hear you and willing to come back. Whether it may be for advice or a pick-me-up, hope gives them hope. It’s almost like lead by example. The soldiers don’t continue on if their leader holds doubt.
Setting an example. This one I still continue to learn. I am guilty of massing most of the wealthy students in one stereotypical group at my school. I am suppose to remain unprejudiced of all backgrounds and culture so this flaw is definitely something I wouldn’t want others to assume as well. Therefore, I must set this aside in order to be an example as an advocate. A great example of this is two members of the GSA showing excellent citizenships when a young girl spilled her food in the eating area of our school. Where most of the room got silent and whispered snarky comments, these two not only helped her clean it up – the only two to do so in a room full of people – but also comforted the girl. I find this an incredible example of people – advocates – setting an example.
Being calm. I feel like this is just as important as listening. As an advocate, there is going to be plenty of hateful people disrupting our jam on this journey. The ability to remain collected during a discriminating individual’s rant is key. The louder I get, the more they win. I find keeping a cool head and speaking logically will have more of an impact than if I got just as angry as them.
While growing and becoming an advocate, I’ve found out more about human nature and myself than I did in years past. It has been a rewarding experience. I think any opportunity to better myself is worth every mistake made, every battle lost, and every tear shed. I hope that what I’ve learned may inspire you or help you along in your own journey in advocacy, whatever it may be. Just remember that the first step starts with you.