The LGBTQ community is marginalized and discriminated against. This is harder to see for some, but it is the truth.
Take one look on Facebook. We are all so quick to respond, likely always with the best intention, in order to express our own perspective. We all believe that our input is valid and I will not diminish that. Every one of us is valid in our perspective, but we lose validity when we race to argue and elevate to anger. No single perspective makes sense in that environment.
This is why I decided to present this series, Pride Without Prejudice, with a specific focus on a marginalized group in our society, the LGBTQ community. I know there are so many other worthy voices out there, some of which I have also given my support to over the years. These groups will, in time, have their voices represented in the media–trust me on this.
Watch below: In part 1 of his series, Jordan Witzel defines and discusses the topic of discrimination with Calgarians who identify as gay, lesbian, and transgender in hopes of highlighting the difficulties of their everyday lives. WARNING: Video contains strong language.
However, I feel deeply that it is time to step forward as a white, straight male and become a better ally to my gay and lesbian friends and family.
This is not just about Pride as one special week and it is not just about a parade. This is about life and the opportunity some people have while others can only watch from the sidelines, wishing they could have true and equal freedom. It may no longer be about marriage equality, but it is about holding hands comfortably, bringing a new partner home to the family confidently, and building a life without judgment.
In this context, I feel it necessary to address my coming out this week as being a bully when I was a teenager. I came out to myself as a bully long ago, but it was time in my life journey to admit to others that I was once a part of the problem. There is nothing wrong with that admission. It is, in fact, a part of my change and betterment.
Watch below: Coming out is a turning point in life for anyone who identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender and an empathetic ear can help loved ones through that process. Jordan Witzel has part 2 of his series. WARNING: Video contains strong language.
However, being a bully in high school was a choice, a conscious effort I made every day as a teenager to lift myself up by putting others down.
Through years of mature reflection, I have come to recognize that I had it all when I was a teen. Everyone in my life at that time was lifting me up. There was no need to put others down, but I failed to see their perspectives back then. I do now. And I do because of the conscious effort I have made every day as an adult to change myself and learn from those around me.
I have leaned into the difficult emotions and conflicting ideologies within myself, so that I could become a better me. In that journey I have made some of the best friends, people who impact me daily with their love and energy and intellectual nature. Many of these friends are gay and lesbian and they have been my allies, likely without knowing it. With that, it is time to be a better ally for them and for the broader community.
READ MORE: People of colour in the LGBTQ2S community
Watch below: Pride week serves as a beacon for some – and is in fact just one week in a full year of living as a member of the LGTBQ community. Jordan Witzel has part 3 of his series, discussing every day LGBTQ experiences. WARNING: Video contains strong language.
Being an ally and an advocate is not always about yelling loudly for the cause, although it does help. We can all be allies and advocates in our own way.
In one of the interviews for this series, I was told that hate will always exist. While I tend to agree, I also feel that we can quiet hate by gathering larger support.
So I encourage those who admire what this series stands for to hold their online response against hate. I have learned there are better ways to lend your support. Listen, empathize, and speak with honesty and courage. When you hear prejudiced slang in your social circle, speak up. Change hearts through face-to-face interaction and we will collectively make our society better.
Smile and move on when you see gay and lesbian couples, and trust that a transgender person needs your loving smile more than ever. Have courage in this, get to know someone, and save judgment. Show the kind of courage exemplified by the 20 individuals who sat in front of a camera to share their marginalized experiences with you and me.
To any young person who is following this series and feels conflicted, know this: There are so many people in this world that love you. Your family may surprise you, strangers may surprise you.
In putting this series together, I have been witness to personal reflection from many people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer. They have courageously shared their memories of youth with me and all hold the same sentiment: People — both near in your life and more distant — do care about your well-being. Trust in that, even if it is just one person who you are able to find and connect with. Keep that person close in your journey and they will help you through difficult times.
I understand that some may feel this topic does not belong in news. To that, I respectfully disagree.
READ MORE: Global’s Stories that Matter series
Watch below: For some, being young and discovering that the world is not an easy place to live in as a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer person can be a challenge. Jordan Witzel has part 4 of his series, speaking with LGBTQ adults who reflect on their childhood experience. WARNING: Video contains strong language.
News is about storytelling, just as advocacy is about storytelling. When a consumer is up against a massive organization, we advocate. When military members retire from service and become marginalized financially by our government, we advocate. I have lovingly advocated for those veterans because I believe in their humanity. I also believe in the humanity of people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer. So I advocate.
I am a journalist and a broadcaster but I am also a scientist, both a physics scientist and a social scientist. These varied attributes seemingly combine in a unique way to push me to constantly ask questions about life around me. I am in awe of interaction and it has become my purpose to share those questions and ideas with others.
We should all come to understand that mass media is not about being objective in the traditional sense, because there is no perfect objectivity. It does not exist.
Our job as journalists is to reflect the world around us and be honest in that approach.
WATCH: There is purpose to listening and understanding. Change is hard, but it is often what we need most. A different perspective may provide the best opportunity for that. Jordan Witzel has part 5 of his series, where LGBTQ community members encourage allies to speak up. WARNING: Video contains strong language.
It is our job to elevate the voices of the community, by putting our own voices aside so that others may speak. That is the purpose of this documentary series and I encourage you to listen with empathy. Take pride in your humanity without prejudice.
Jordan Witzel is Global News Calgary’s Meteorologist and Co-Host of the Global Morning News