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by Jessica Carreras
Christopher Shaw is finishing his Master’s of Social Work at Wayne State University. He’s also the co-president of Bisexuals, Gays, Lesbians and Allies in Social Work at the college.
1) How did you get involved with social work?
Over two years ago, I found myself at the end of my rope living a life of fear, pain, shame, guilt, suffering, self-centeredness and unhappiness. I was addicted to chaos and fear, which in turn led to my escape into the dark world of drugs, alcohol, pills, sex and anything else that would take me away from myself.
Three weeks into my slow painful escape from reality, I awoke to a voice – calm, beautiful and compassionate. And this voice said, “Get help now. This is not what you are meant to do with your life.”
By the grace of my beautiful angels, I arrived by taxi to my doctor’s office. “What’s troubling you today, Chris?” my doctor asked. “I think I’m a drug addict,” I said. “I need help.”
Two days later I was on a plane heading to south Florida. Throughout my time in rehab, numerous social workers, therapists and other recovering addicts taught and inspired me. They helped me realize that my personal growth could only come from listening and sharing, laughing and crying, opening my heart, releasing my guilt and shame and surrendering to a power greater than myself. By becoming honest, open-minded and willing, I was able to embark on a wondrous journey of change that led me to the social work profession.
2) Why do you feel this is an important field of work for LGBT people?
LGBT individuals have long been some of the most hated and feared individuals in the world. It is important that we not become complacent! There is much work to do! Social work, by design, is a perfect avenue for LGBT individuals to help other oppressed individuals, families, groups, communities, organizations and societies. As social workers, we must remind this precious world of the hope to heal, the hope to love, the hope to accept and the power to dig deep within one’s soul in search of the truth. It is our duty to inspire compassion and empathy for those who have not been given the same opportunities as others. Together, we must shape a world that is free from inequality and hatred.
3) Tell me about your involvement with BGLAS.
I currently serve as the co-president of BGLAS. Together with my fabulous officers, co-president Justin Rinke, secretary Brenda Tringale, treasurer Cheryl Pine, Matthew Storey and Natalie Maes, and our devoted members, we get together every third Thursday of the month in Thompson Home to discuss our goals and plan events.
When Justin and I first joined BGLAS, we were two out of three members. This year, our membership has increased from two active members to over 25 active members and members-at-large. We hope to continue increasing our presence on campus and throughout the community in the 2010-2011 school year. By doing so, we can effectively provide a safe space where LGBT students can have a voice, come together and change the world.
4) What is the primary goal of the organization?
BGLAS promotes understanding, acceptance and advocacy through the awareness-building of LGBT issues among the WSU and greater Detroit communities. BGLAS promotes empathy among students and community members by educating these populations about challenges faced by the LGBT community. Additionally, BGLAS aims to cultivate an atmosphere of mutual respect for all individuals within the WSU campus environment and strives to advance the empowerment of LGBT individuals and their allies.
5) What events or efforts does BGLAS have coming up in the near future?
In 2009, BGLAS sponsored the WSU World AIDS Day Red Ribbon Event to remember those who have died from HIV/AIDS and to create awareness that prevention, treatment and care are fundamental human rights essential to combating HIV/AIDS in metro Detroit and around the world.
Currently, BGLAS is planning events for the 2010-2011 school year that include a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Speaker Series and a professional debate on same-sex marriage.
For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or find the group on Facebook.