A fight for equality close to home

Furthering the ideology of equality for everyone is no easy task, but Western Oregon University’s own CM Hall isn’t one to back down from a challenge. Actively participating on and off campus for LGBTQQIA as well as deaf rights, we are proud to have her here as she teaches LGBTQ studies as well as Deaf Blind interpreting. This past week we had a chance to ask her a few questions after she spoke at TEDxSalem.

1.) You’ve started and been a part of a lot of exciting things lately, what has been your personal favorite?

“Some of the exciting things I’ve been a part of recently was producing The Coming Out Monologues at Western. I’m also producing a new cast in Portland for National Coming Out Day, this Sunday, October 11th as a fundraiser for Basic Rights Oregon. I co-launched a change.org petition to create the ASL “I Love You” text emoji and I hope we get that passed. And I was invited to give a TED Talk for TEDxSalem. Yeah, these are all pretty amazing things. The Coming Out Monologues productions have provided the opportunity to share people’s stories and real connection and I’d say that has been the most rewarding and my personal favorite. It was something I’d wanted to do for a few years. I had this little note on my list on my desk and finally just decided the timing had to happen now. I’m proud of how that event has held up in people’s minds and hearts.”

2.) What is your main motivation when it comes to everything that you do? And what keeps you going?

“Honestly, no matter what I do, it’s about seeing people as equal, whether they identify as LGBTQ or Deaf. Being someone who can advance acceptance, visibility and education is my life’s work, I believe.”

3.) You recently took part in TEDxSalem, how was that? And what did it mean to you?

“I have seen several TED Talks online before. I didn’t honestly know much about the Salem TEDx annual event. This was its third year.

In July when I co-launched a change.org petition to get the ASL “I Love You” handshape to become an emoji. I was interviewed by several news outlets as a result of that effort and the TEDxSalem team invited me to speak. I was so honored. I knew I had to say yes. I have given sermons at several Unitarian Universalist congregations (thanks to WOU professor, Ted deChatelet, who got me started on that), and so I thought I would use one of my sermons about linguistic access and the Deaf community’s long struggle against audism (the belief that life without hearing is futile and miserable and those with hearing are superior) and their quest for access and fairness and seeing that as a social justice issue, similar to the struggle for LGBTQ liberation.

While I hadn’t even had time to think if I wanted “Do a TED Talk” on my bucket list, it was here. I’m immensely grateful it happened. Even if I am too harsh a critic of how I did…I honestly feel 90% good about it. There was one part I know I got flubbed up on and I hope I recovered gracefully enough that it still made sense.

Regardless of how I feel I did, the TEDxSalem team was exceptional to work with. I love volunteers who put their passion and energy into something that is for intellectual, rather than financial, profit. They work year-round to curate the TEDx event and while I was invited to present later in their process (the other speakers had been working on their talks for several months, whereas I had just a month to work on mine), they were all so positive and constructive with their feedback. I was really impressed with their professionalism, their kindness, and how they pulled it all together.

It also meant a tremendous amount to see so many WOU students and alum show up for it. I was overwhelmed. They were beautiful cheerleaders and supports.”

4.) I would say it’s amazing, but that wouldn’t begin to describe how important your campaign is towards getting the “I Love You” handshape to become an official emoji. What is it like being a part of this movement?

“Until we get it to be instituted, I am nervous. We will send a letter to the Unicode Consortium and ask for them to consider adding it into the 2016 list of emojis that get approved. We are optimistic it will be considered. But we need more signatures first on the petition to make our case. The reason I thought it was a good idea was because there was a campaign to add the taco emoji that got 32,000 signatures. So far, we’re near 5,000. I gotta think more people like love than tacos, right? But so far, tacos are winning. And it’s not a competition. We can have both. We just need to get the word out more about it”

5.) You’re doing great things when it comes to equality in general, what’s next for you? plus, what’s something you would like to see happen?

“In terms of LGBTQ equality, we need to pass The Equality Act, sponsored by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR). I would also love to see paid full-time professional staff in the WOU Stonewall Center. That would further legitimize LGBTQQIA students here at Western.”

“As a Western alum and now Western staff and faculty, I have so much pride in our institution. I see it especially in the student affairs work and outreach we do to ensure that folks know they belong here at Western. I am really proud of this campus and what we do for students and how students have the opportunity to lead in big ways.” –CM Hall

 

To sign the petition for the “I Love You” handsign emoji make sure to visit https://www.change.org/p/unicode-consortium-we-want-the-i-love-you-asl-handshape-emoji