I don’t think that just by looking at me you would assume that I’m all that diverse of a person. I’m a 30 year old, Caucasian male. That’s what people see when they first meet me and I’m ok with that. I’m also gay. I’m ok with that too. In fact the narrative of my life since “coming out” has made me the diverse man that I am today.
I was excommunicated from the LDS Church for falling in love with another man. I was expelled from BYU and had to face my family with the grim news upon my return home to Denver. All of this occurred just four weeks after I came home from serving an LDS mission in Eastern Europe. While that experience was one of the most difficult of my life, it has made me the person I am today and I wouldn’t change a thing.
In Utah, I have the best of both worlds. I can converse as fluently in the culture of the dominant religion in the state as I can in swapping stories with my friends over a beer. To be frank, I love being able to do both. I find tremendous value in being able to relate to others regardless of their backgrounds, to find some common bond, to connect on the human level.
Being a diverse person, to me, is of course shaped by your heritage and your life experiences. But those are inward looking traits of diversity. It is the ability to project an outward embrace for everything and everyone that may come into your life that is the hallmark of a truly diverse person. It is the ability of seeing past the black and white in life and celebrating all the beautiful shades of grey.
A diverse person is someone that truly reflects the attitude of “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” While admittedly I fall short at times, this is a philosophy that I strive to live by. It is within the grey of life that I tend to find the most joy.
It stands to reason that the urban planning program attracted me for just that reason. It is the responsibility of our profession to see our communities as the sum of many parts. To be effective, we must be able to see that the many aspects and needs of responsible, sustainable planning are intricately woven together. The issues that we address are as diverse as the people that populate our towns and cities. We are required to make decisions that have an immediate impact on the parties involved, but also have the awesome responsibility of being able to shape our communities for generations to come. It is difficult to do this wisely when only viewing the world through a black and white lens.
I am excited to be the first planning student from the University of Utah to participate in a study abroad program. As our college diversifies and matures, it is imperative that we reach out on a global scale to experience and build upon the successes that other societies and cultures are enjoying.
I am honored to represent our college and the GLBT community in this pioneering effort. I am confident that we will set the standard with future exchanges in being able to see the many diverse shades of grey.