Sam Dunaway | News Editor
“Find something that scares you just a little tiny bit, do that thing, and then repeat steps one and two. And pretty soon you’ll find yourself doing extraordinary things.” This advice was just a small portion of the empowering and genuine speech given by LGBTQ+ rights activist and founder of United Equality Consulting, Shannon Scott.
Scott visited Western to discuss topics including her own personal life story, actions individuals can take to create a more trans-affirming space and her struggles and triumphs in life as a transgender woman.
Born and raised on a ranch in Montana, Scott struggled throughout her teenage years and near 12 years in the United States military with her gender identity. She noted that once she decided to take the first step in being honest with herself about her identity, she was moving in a direction of authenticity.
“For each terrifying step I took, I felt a little bit more complete,” Scott explained. “After years of lying to the world around me about who I was, I was able to finally set down that burden of lies and replace it with the ease of honesty.”
Scott began her work in human rights advocacy after moving to Portland in 2011. She started volunteering with the Human Rights Campaign, the “largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization” according to hrc.org. Now as a member of the Board of Governors, Scott is responsible for planning Human Rights Campaign activities in Portland. Additionally, Scott founded United Equity Consulting, an organization that provides LGTBQ+ education and training for companies and their employees.
Three pieces of advice were given by Scott to support the LGBTQ+ community in schools and workplaces: first, she advised everyone to add their pronouns to the signature line of their email, as this demonstrates personal and organizational support of diversity and inclusion; second, Scott noted the importance of having a safe location where everybody can go to the bathroom, emphasizing inclusion for all, not only transgender-identifying individuals; and, third, she advised that students and employees find out if there’s a written transgender inclusion policy at their school, work, or other organizations that the student is involved in.
Sam Fennell, Stonewall Center coordinator on Western’s campus, described the importance of having Scott tell her story for students.
“Shannon Scott was a crucial person to bring to campus because of the representation she brought,” Fennell explained. “Her story is one of hundreds of stories of transgender people who have faced discrimination because of their identities … For a lot of people struggling with their identity and how to overcome similar obstacles, seeing someone who has accomplished so much gives them the drive and support to continue being their true authentic selves.”
Scott closed the speech with a request from the audience of students: “I want you to see yourself and everybody in here as exactly what you are,” she encouraged. “You are the leaders of equality. You are the agents of change. And together, you will lead this organization into the future.”
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Photo by: Paul F. Davis