“There’s nothing wrong with just being yourself.”
Elijah can brighten anyone’s day with his positive energy and personality. He is in the Media Foundations program at Humber College, exploring different forms of digital art. With the help of individuals like Eli, IGNITE is working to become a strong ally for the LGBTQ+ community. We recently had the chance to feature him in a student profile – check out the rest of his interview below:
What challenges have you overcome in your life?
I’ve struggled a lot with past relationships. From the struggles between myself and my family, friends, and past partners, I’ve learned how to overcome a lot of obstacles. Such as trying to save or help people who can’t or don’t want to be helped, or putting emotional and physical energy into someone who doesn’t give it back. Through this, I’ve come out a stronger person, because now I know what I want and what I need from a relationship in order to thrive.
Now, I surround myself with all the right people and I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for all those negative relationships in the past. They’ve also helped me repair and rebuild relationships with my family, particularly my parents. These struggles were a wake up call, and they inspired me to stop working dead-end jobs, go back to school, and get myself to a place where I want to be.
Can you talk about where that would be?
Yes! Ideally, it’s on a farm somewhere, 5-10 years from now, with a couple of horses and a camera – and somehow making a living off that. I haven’t quite figured that part out yet, but that’s my dream, and that’s because of the struggles I went through. Art has been with me my entire life, it’s been my emotional outlet. It’s been my happy place, and something just for me. When I’m alone and my friends aren’t available, my art always is. With the Media Foundations program at Humber, I have a newfound love for photography. I want to one day be a successful equine photographer, which would entail taking photos of horses at events like hunter jumper shows, races, and dressage shows. My dream is to photograph the equestrian section of the summer Olympics – that’s where I see myself in the future.
You mentioned that coming to Humber was a big step for you – can you talk about what inspired you?
When I graduated from high school, or even before that, I was always that kid that said, “I’m never coming back to school, you couldn’t pay me to go to college.” But the first year that went by after that, I was just working the whole time at a dead-end job, so I thought to myself that I would stay in dead-end jobs for my whole life. I then got involved in a relationship with someone who I thought I could save, but after a 13 month struggle, I knew that enough was enough. I packed up my things to go back home and recover. That relationship was the worst part of my life, but it was crucial to my development as a person. It just hit me one day, I woke up and I thought, “I need to go back to school.” I applied that night to the Media Foundations program here at Humber College, and I have no regrets now- I know that no matter what I do in life, this program and Humber has helped me one way or another.
Is there any change that you’d like to see enacted at Humber College which might benefit other students who have had similar life experiences to your own?
I think that Humber needs to make some resources more accessible to students, or at least make students more aware about them. When I first came to Humber, I didn’t know that we had a counselling office, I didn’t know we had medical doctors and a clinic on campus, I didn’t know we had financial aid available. I feel like a lot of students who are in a situation where they don’t have a roof over their head, or don’t have clothes to wear, or can’t even eat everyday, should be made aware of these services. I know from personal experience that it may be difficult for students in these situations to speak up about needing help; so maybe there could be an open event where students could talk person-to-person with other sympathetic students who may have gone through similar experiences so that people can start to realize that there are a lot of open and free resources at Humber. You’re already coming here, you’re already paying your tuition; so why not get the help you need – emotionally, physically, whatever the case may be – while you’re here?
What can we do at IGNITE to help with that?
I know that IGNITE has the students’ attention, a lot of students talk about the planning and events that IGNITE has going on, and I look forward to them because of how inclusive they are. So maybe IGNITE could have more events focused on awareness; you guys already have so many fun events going on that attract students, but if you could take it a step further to make more of those events raise awareness for the student aid services that IGNITE has – especially for the students who need help but don’t know that they need it, or don’t know where to get it.
Can you talk about any of the services that you use here on campus?
It’s not really a service – but the LGBTQ+ Resource Centre on campus is a great place for students to go to feel safe. Even if you’re not a part of the LGBTQ+ community, you can go there as an ally. It’s somewhere you can just go and hang out with some cool people, make some new friends, and that’s why I love going there. It’s a real fun time – sometimes we play games like Cards Against Humanity, and it’s usually where I spend all my time between classes. I’m so happy it’s there, because if it weren’t, I don’t know if I’d be this far along in my personal journey. Outside of that, the teachers in my Media Foundations program have been so down-to-earth, friendly, and inclusive. The students at Humber have been great as well, it’s been completely different from my previous schooling experiences. Both my teachers and classmates have helped me find those student aid resources I talked about earlier. I feel like in the few short months that I’ve been at Humber, I’ve grown a lot as an individual.
Can you share a bit about how that growth has integrated into your life?
So for me, my entire life has been this whole mess of trying to fit in, trying be comfortable with people, trying to find the right friends. When I finally identified as being transgender, all that fear about not fitting in, all that struggle to try and force myself to fit in, that all disappeared. Not overnight, but eventually. I just feel really comfortable with myself, I accept myself for who I am and now, it’s like an afterthought. I don’t think about it everyday; I mean, if someone asks a question about it I’ll think about it, but it’s definitely not the primary focus in my life. Now, I’m able to better focus on things like my future goals, where I want to be in 10 years, the people I’m surrounding myself with. I enjoy every moment for the now, instead of thinking in the back of my head: “this person doesn’t like me because of this, this, and that.” I don’t think those kinds of thoughts any more, because I am myself, my true self, and that’s just the way it is.
Being transgender, or being gay, being queer, or any of that, it shouldn’t really be the primary focus – people don’t walk up to each other and say, “Hi, I’m straight!” and then have a 10 hour conversation about why they’re straight. So conversations shouldn’t be focused on why someone may or may not be transgender or queer, unless it was someone asking because they wanted to be educated about the matter. I have no problem helping someone learn, but if it’s someone asking for the wrong reasons, there’s no point. Not everyone agrees with differing gender identities or sexual orientations, and I can respect that opinion. But then, but if I can respect that, I’d hope that they could respect mine. Because there’s nothing wrong with just being yourself, if you’re not forcing your goals and your opinions onto other people.
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*This interview has been edited for length and clarity