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LGBTQ+ activist Sabina Neem speaks at Western

By Natalie Breymeyer

 

Solidarity, justice and responsibility.

LGBTQ+ activist Sabina Neem spoke on all of these topics, applying them to the issues of race, ability, class, sexual orientation and identity at her speech Thursday, Oct. 20 at Western.

“I will share my own experiences of feeling simultaneously part of the solution and part of the problem,” Neem said during her introduction.

The beginning of Neem’s speech focused on the consequences of promoting a dominant masculinity role within our society.

Raising boys to believe they can get whatever they want through hard work only leaves them feeling lost and angry when they inevitably fail, she said.

Our society and media cultivates this myth, Neem said, which leads to events like the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. The shooting resulted in the killings of 49 people, making it the deadliest attack against the LGBTQ+ community in U.S. history.

From these tragedies, anger is fostered among victims, supporters and allies.

But anger does not always mean violence; rather we can use anger to heal ourselves, become more resilient and solve problems, Neem said.

“It’s important for us to listen to those most impacted by inequality, while also staying in the conversation,” Neem said. “For us to use our voice and engage, but also listen.”

Neem touched on privilege and remembering that white, middle-class routines and practices are not normal but cultural.

This way, we can better understand complexities and diversity and move more towards liberation, Neem said.

Neem concluded the speech by reminding students to be cognizant of other’s experiences that shape them into the person they are today.

“Be careful to make sure we’re not creating more exclusionary practices in the process of trying to heal,” Neem said.

Senior and Assistant Coordinator of the Queer Resource Center Katie Wallis enjoyed the positive outlook Neem kept returning to in her speech.

“That’s something that we in the QRC have been working toward this year,” Wallis said. “Trying to also have a celebratory, less critical space.”

“Be careful to make sure we’re not creating more exclusionary practices in the process of trying to heal.”

LGBTQ+ activist Sabina Neem

Student Queer Resource Center Coordinator Josey Butcher said the speech reinforced everything Butcher already thought.

“It gave more insight into things I kind of knew, but went more in-depth,” Butcher said.

Neem’s speech was organized primarily by Western’s Counseling Center with the help of Men’s Resiliency Specialist Ian Vincent and Counseling Center Director Dr. Shari Robinson.

“I am a person of color, so social justice, multiculturalism, diversity and inclusion is at the heart of the work that I do, even as an administrator,” Robinson said.

Vincent was first introduced to Neem mid-September when he began planning her visit.

“We’re trying to break down the gender binary,”  Vincent said. “The point of the event is to help build some solidarity on campus.”

Previous to her speech, Neem spent the day on campus meeting with the staff at the counseling center for professional development training where she helped staff understand more unique mental health needs.

Robinson said the Counseling Center plans to continue to bring different speakers to campus that will represent other distinctive marginalized groups.

“We’re becoming a visible and vibrant part of the college community,”  Robinson said. “That’s de-stigmatizing mental health.”

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