I am a member of Spectrum, the LGBT group on campus, who was has been hosting events all week for Sexual Diversity Awareness Week. Wednesday, March 20th, there was an event called “What it means to be an ally” held in Cohn Hall with Doctor LoPresto and Tim Cherney. I also read the poems “Directions for Resisting the SAT,” by Richard Hague, and “First Practice,” by Gary Gildner, in addition to the article “Serving up Hope” by Stephanie Shaprio from the Baltimore Sun and “A Father” by Bharati Mukherjee. These very different pieces of work all cover the universal task of overcoming adversity. Everyone handles adversity differently and that is evident throughout these life experiences and pieces of literature, in addition they display how time can affect the burden of adversity. While everyone faces some form of adversity in their life, not everyone deals with it properly, but through a further understanding of each other, we can begin to handle this adversity more easily than before.
Dr. LoPresto is a straight man and an “out” ally while Tim Cherney identifies as a gay man. Being an ally meanings something different to each of them. Dr. LoPresto began Spectrum here at Loyola as has remained the groups adviser for the past 15 years. It has not always been easy for him to be an ally. He faced losing his career as a professor by standing up for gay rights when the motion was still new and not widely accepted as a fact. Tim Cherney spoke on how he is a gay man and an ally, because he must support others within his LGBT community. They offered new perspectives and adversities that I had not seen before within the community. But their load has gotten lighter with time, as more people in American culture begin to accept that being gay is not a choice, but just something different. However it is still not an easy job being an ally; Dr. LoPresto made of pointing of stating that “you have to be courageous and unafraid of people questioning your own sexuality” when you chose to stand up for gays. He brought about the notion that allies must come out too, because, even in 2013, many people continue to strongly oppose gay rights. Similarly, Galen and Bridget Sampson saw a chance to fight against another form of social injustice here in Baltimore. They were given the opportunity to hire Tyrone Lewis and Jennifer Brock at the Dogwood Deli. They saw the adversity these two former drug addicts had faced, and chose overlooked their past mistakes to give them a chance at a new life. They understood that being a former drug addict was a part of them, not all of them, just like allies and supporters believe that being gay is not a choice, and is just a part of the people who identify as LGBT, not all of them. The Sampsons put their new business at risk by hiring a chef who was newly clean and a cashier who never saw a future for herself, but they chose to hire them anyways. The Sampsons have given Brock importance and a renewed sense of self in order for her to remain clean and not relapse. The Sampsons have made Lewis “see that what [he] think[s] does matter. It makes a world of difference."
For some, the adversity is less harsh, such as teenagers raging against organized education. In Richard Hague’s poem “Directions for Resisting the SAT” he offers various techniques on how to avoiding the SATs. He offers speaking “nothing like English” and going “down with the ship- any ship,” as if it does not matter how you take a stand as long as you do. I can appreciate his sentiment, but not his way of going about it. Apart from his decree for his readers to “Make your mark on everything” there is no real reason behind why one should resist the people who tell you what you have to know and when you have to know it by. The adversity he encourages us to overcome is a stepping stool to higher education. If education is the key to understanding each other and overcoming adversity, why would you want to hinder that? Gary Gildner proposes overcoming adversity in an unconventional way as well in “First Practice.” He encourages his player to do whatever it takes, no matter the risk or potential penalties, to win. But when overcoming adversity is does matter how you get there. In the future, will people remember the peaceful protest that got the bill passed along or the violent riot where four cops and six citizens died that got the bill past? Will people remember the win, or the kid on the opposite team who broke his leg in the game? Overcoming our challenges in life is important, but we must remember to remain dignified in our actions and reactions to the wrongs committed against us.
We must remain dignified in our stance to preserve the integrity of our fight, especially when we fight for social justice and our religious rights. Bharati Mukherjee’s “A Father,” divulges the domestic struggles of a couple with one very religious party, and a far less religious party who feels less important than their partners religion. This story is laced with adversity; between both the husband and wife and the father a daughter. His religion holds back his relationships and hinders the connection he shares with his daughter. While he engages in petty fights with his wife over daily prayer, he faces real confliction when his daughter, Babli, becomes pregnant. His wife and he begin to blame each other for this “shameful” act their daughter had brought upon them. This “burden” became too much for any of them to bare any longer and it culminated in a series of domestic acts of violence. His religious beliefs and standards for his daughter resulted in a strike by rolling pin from his hand to his daughter’s childbearing stomach. The adversity of having an unmarried daughter pregnant, combined with a clash of religion led to poor actions to battle against his adversities. He could no longer take the challenges that were given to him and he acted as he saw fit. Sadly for his daughter, she was the brunt of his reaction. He could not comprehend the changing times and the wishes of his daughter. How could he ever accept his daughter’s pregnancy when he couldn’t even stop praying in order to make it to breakfast in time?
Being an ally myself, I have the personal life experiences to compare to these stories. The majority of our adversities are born from our inability to overcome our fears as a society. Much of the adversity faced in these stories could have been avoided through education, understanding and a willingness to learn and change. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders face hardships within our heterosexual society who struggles with acceptance, but they also struggle with accepting each other. Being an ally is not easy, because we go against the majority to stand up for something we often see effortlessly. There should not have to be a ballot question regarding love equality. But he stand against the crowd, whose opinions often emerge from fear, which is never easy because fear is very powerful, especially in large numbers. I may not see the value in every argument of adversity, but if you believe that the SATs are degrading education, then fight for it. Just do so gracefully. If you believe that it is your duty to beat the other team, then fight for it. Just do so gracefully. All adversities can be overcome in a variety of ways, but we must remember that the journey is just as important as the destination. We must also remember the positive effect time and education can have.