Over the next month, we want to introduce you to the scholarship recipient class of 2019. These students were asked prompts on how they would either improve our GSA Guide or how they plan on using it. We hope you enjoy their thoughtful responses! Below, you will see a response from Ethan Malzberg, who will be attending Columbia University in the fall:
LGBTQ+ youth are too often stuck in a box: stereotypes, bullying, and misrepresentation (or the lack of representation) create a distorted vision of the infinite potential each child in the community has. To put it simply, I want to teach LGBTQ+ kids how to be bosses.
At college, I plan to create some type of club, forum, or event to bring together LGBTQ+ youth from around New York City and show them the immeasurable opportunities awaiting them in the future. I’d like to bring in LGBTQ+ politicians, lawyers, CEOs, coders, artists, and doctors to show them the broad array of future opportunities and to dispel the media’s narrow image for LGTBQ+ people. Perhaps I’d name the event or club the Future LGBTQ+ Bosses and Trailblazers of America. In the same way a Spirit of Drew Scholarship would lessen the financial burden to allow me to take advantage of college’s opportunities, I hope to show LGBTQ+ youth the broad economic and societal opportunities they can take advantage of in the future.
Can We Say “Pass” on Privilege?
Sexual and gender minorities are often targets of discrimination. In the workplace, in the schoolyard, or even in the legal system of the United States, the LGBTQ+ community is at a legal and societal disadvantage in many states. There are two types of discrimination: de jure is legal discrimination (i.e. transgender military man) and de facto is common practice discrimination (i.e. bullying queer youth). In many laws and social practices, the LGBTQ+ community suffers from both types of discrimination. In this way, the LGBTQ+ community is disadvantaged -- less privileged than heterosexual and cisgender counterparts.
Still, widespread discrimination against LGBTQ+ folks does not automatically exclude the community from the narrative of privilege. For example, a white person has white privilege regardless of gender or sexual identity. White privilege affords people de jure rights (i.e. buying a house in any neighborhood they can afford) and de facto rights (i.e. not being followed around in stores). An important lesson for white LGBTQ+ folks to learn is they can still have privileged aspects of their identity despite having a marginalized sexuality/gender.
Acknowledging privilege is an important first step. White LGBTQ+ people must recognize their experience is different from LGBTQ+ people of color and then work to enact equity. White LGBTQ+ people can do so by including LGBTQ+ people of color in the community and lending a voice to the overlapping-but-different struggles of LGBTQ+ people of color.