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Safe Space: Continuing the dialogue

Whitney Martin is a 2016 Carleton graduate with a Bachelor degree in Science, Neuroscience & Mental Health.

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Safe Space: Continuing the dialogue

Whitney Martin is a 2016 Carleton graduate with a Bachelor degree in Science, Neuroscience & Mental Health.

Warning that some of the content below is disturbing.

“I feel discussion is critical to understand how decisions and situations can impact everyone involved, [however] discussions that undermine someone else’s beliefs do not create a space where we can feel comfortable being who we are,” says Martin.

On Saturday, Oct. 29th,  I joined my group of friends for our annual trip to Saunder’s Farm to celebrate one of our favourite times of the year, Halloween. While we were sitting in the Tavern, we noticed a man wearing a shirt that said “If you are gay, don’t approach me, I’ll kill you”. We informed staff, however on the busiest night of the year, the communication lagged and the man walked away. On Oct. 31st, I made a post on Facebook with the intention to show my friends and family that people with this view of the LGBTQ+ community are present in Ottawa and that my friends and I will not stand for it. I never imagined that the story would be shared thousands of times, spark such discussion, and make national news – but I’m glad it did. The power of social media was able to not only uncover the name of the individual, but also uncover that this man was not alone in his views and open threats. Rather, there is a group that this man is a part of that have united to spread this hatred.

WhitneyIIPhoto taken by Greg Gallant at Saunder’s Farm the day of the incident. The post and caption written by Whitney Martin went viral overnight. It had more than a thousand comments and nearly two thousand shares.

Click the link for a follow-up CTV News story: http://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=985116&binId=1.1164511&playlistPageNum=1

“Carleton’s Safe Space policy is something that I will live by long after graduating,” says Martin.

My experience in Ottawa had never been anything shy of supportive and inclusive. On Saturday. Oct.29th that changed. I felt scared – for myself, for my friends, for the world. It was the first time I had ever seen such hatred, right in front of my own eyes. Saunder’s Farm is a family venue that young children and their parents frequent. I can’t begin to imagine how a young person, who may be struggling with identifying their sexuality in some way, might have felt if they saw this man’s shirt. How frightened, how targeted, how angry, how discouraged they might have felt. What I noticed was that in the midst of so much hate, there is also so much love and support.

My experience in the Carleton Community was continuously respectful, engaging and safe. Carleton’s Safe Space policy is something that I will live by long after graduating. After years of involvement in the Carleton Community from Fall Orientation to Relay for Life, I deeply felt and saw the importance of having a space where everyone can feel respected no matter your religious affiliation, culture, sexual orientation, etc.

Recently, I have seen Carleton students divided surrounding the topic of a women’s only gym hour and all-inclusive washrooms. And although I feel discussion is critical to understand how decisions and situations can impact everyone involved, discussions that undermine someone else’s beliefs do not create a space where we can feel comfortable being who we are.

As a Carleton graduate, I pride myself in spending four years at a university devoted to having the most open and inclusive community possible, with students and faculty constantly striving to make changes, lean on each other, and challenge each other to stand up and make a difference.

If being a Raven taught me anything, it is that you should never be afraid to stand up for what you believe in. On Nov. 18th, the young man in the offensive shirt was charged with mischief and uttering death threats. Proof that if we stand together, we can make a difference.

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