by Jessica Carreras
Torii Hamilton is a longtime Affirmations volunteer, serving on their Board of Directors and their Multicultural Advisory Committee, as well as helping out with events. The 51-year-old Auburn Hills resident is also a member of the LGBT group at Ford Motor Company, GLOBE, and is a passionate advocate of the rewards of volunteering.
1) What kind of volunteer work do you do at Affirmations?
I volunteer mostly as a member of the Board of Directors. Some people are not aware that is a volunteer position, and not a paid one. In fact, it is pretty much the opposite, requiring significant time and monetary contributions, but I do it because I love the center and want it to be the best it can be. I also volunteer on several committees, including the Multicultural Advisory Committee and have been a member of the Big Bash committee for several years, co-chairing a few of the events.
2) Why do you think it’s important for LGBT people to volunteer with organizations in their community?
I find volunteering very rewarding. It enables you to give back to your community and connects you to people and events you might not ordinarily encounter. I have gained many good friends and done new and interesting things through volunteering. Volunteering also helps one get a better overall picture of an organization from the inside out, enabling the volunteer to make constructive suggestions. I know organizations need and love volunteers, as they help them reduce costs, provide more programs, and obtain valuable feedback about operations and services.
3) How do you incorporate your LGBT identity into your job at Ford Motor Company?
I have been a member of the LGBT Ford Employee Resource group GLOBE since about 1997, including a long stint as a board member. Ford GLOBE functions as a resource for both LGBT employees and the company. It was actually my first LGBT volunteering experience.
I believe in being visibly out whenever safely possible, so I am totally out at work, and often discuss LGBT issues with my fellow employees and office manager as they come up. When I got married in 2003, I handed in my Canadian marriage certificate like any other employee, and later when she became very ill and needed me, I was able to go on leave to care for her until her death in 2007. I am thankful that because I was out at work, and had wonderful employers who were supportive of me, I was able to get through a tough time much more easily than if I had to hide who I was.
4) Why did you get involved with the Multicultural Advisory Committee?
I think it is important for LGBT organizations to be inclusive of the entire LGBT community, and to do that we have to be sure we are striving to meet those diverse needs and able to understand and communicate appropriately with each segment.
Affirmations has grown relatively quickly into a large organization and though it has always strived to be inclusive in intent, it has been criticized both internally and externally as falling short of that goal and not appropriately serving some of the needs of our diverse community.
As a person conscious of an inherent “white privelege” and the need for diversity of representation and thinking in our organizations, I jumped at the chance to serve on the MAC committee so I could help improve Affirmations by becoming more aware of the concerns and perceptions of the external community and collaborating with them to make Affirmations more inclusive to all.
The MAC’s goal is to help devise a blueprint that will enable Affirmations and any other interested organizations to become more inclusive at every level, and how to meet different cultural needs with appropriately crafted programs, services or communications for that segment. We may all be LGBT, but we are not all alike, and we need to serve and communicate in culturally appropriate ways.
5) What LGBT issue is most important to you and why?
I believe all individuals need to be treated equally and respectfully, so equal rights issues such as an inclusive ENDA, marriage and immigration rights and other issues that effect one’s ability to work, live and love with the same rights and priveleges as any other U.S. citizen are probably foremost. I am also very concerned with the shameless way our society treats those who just want to be who they are. I hear too many stories of kids bullied or thrown on the street, seniors going back in the closet out of fear of abuse, and worst of all, gays or transgendered individuals attacked or killed, all because somebody doesnt “approve” of who they are. Any law or program that will help eliminate those problems, I am for wholeheartedly.
To join Torii as an Affirmations volunteer, visit http://www.goaffirmations.org.