Marginalized Perspectives: Student Activists Speak

Name: Al Donato
Program: Journalism
Preferred Pronouns: They/Them/Their

Al

Al Donato, a journalism student in their final year, writes mainly about issues of marginalization and stigmatization of marginalized groups, with a focus on trans activism and racialized perspectives. Donato often writes for the Huffington Post and the Ryersonian, and they are currently a coordinator at RyeACCESS, where they focus on improving awareness around ableism.

Donato describes their venture into journalism as something that was inspired by reading youth-focused magazines as a kid, like Daily Planet, which featured articles challenging gender and race stereotypes, something they say was “really amazing considering the time.” Similarly, Donato got into activism due to their own personal experiences with oppression, a battle they say they try to help others fight against as often as they can.

“To me, these are issues that I directly relate with and I think I’ve just tried to give back what I hoped to have got or once got from other people, you know? Giving people a voice is really important to me.”


Name: Sidney Drmay
Program: English
Preferred Pronouns: They/Them/Their

Sidney

Despite growing up in Cambridge, Ont. — a place far from the liberal trappings of Toronto —  Sidney Drmay had their eyes set on progressive activism work from an early age. Currently working as a coordinator for RyeACCESS with previous experience at RyePRIDE, Drmay’s focus is issues of ableism and gender, with a specific interest in improving access around campus and eliminating binary stereotypes.

Drmay says some of the biggest problems in regards to ableism and gender involve some of the most critical day-to-day tasks. The TTC, for example, is one of the things Drmay says is completely unfair to those with a disability or an access issue, as well as those who suffer from mental health problems, such as social anxiety. On the issue of gender, Drmay points out that some of the conversations that are being had about gender fluidity — notably non-gendered bathrooms, pronoun usage and LGBTQ awareness — are some of the most important to reforming the alienating mindset that can be found on campus. Drmay says their favourite part of the job, however, is about helping people who need somewhere to turn when nobody else is there for them.

“It’s not that long ago that things like RyeACCESS and the Equity Centre started, and they’ve already done so much. It’s a really good feeling to give people not only a safe space but real helping hand when the rest of the world isn’t listening.”


Name: Vajdaan Tanveer
Program: Politics & Governance
Preferred Pronouns: Him/His

Vajdaan

Vajdaan Tanveer is a Ryerson political science student who grew up in Islamabad, Pakistan. Formerly the co-coordinator of the Racialized Students Collective, Tanveer considers himself a non-conformist with “radical” ideas as to how society could reevaluate its economic and power structures. His work focuses on protests against oppression and racism, with a large part of his work being aimed at the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Tanveer says that the threat racialized students feel on a daily basis, both on a social and physical level, is a problem that needs to be addressed but is ignored because of Ryerson’s image as a progressive paradise. He notes that there are many facets of the school environment — professor makeup, ideology of course content, and inclusiveness — that are overlooked, noting how he has faced these challenges in his own academic career as a racialized student.

“I think what we get done in changing the system is important to make it bearable, but I think that, ideally, the system is fundamentally oppressive and needs to go. We have to seriously look at every level and see how many things affect marginalized people, not just on the surface level but on a deeper level, and realize that the system was built this way.”


Name: Chrys S-r
Program: Social Work
Preferred Pronouns: They/Them/Their

Chrys

Chrys S-r works at the Racialized Students Collective and the RSU Trans Collective as a coordinator, a job they say is born from a passion for activism that has existed since they were a teen. S-r grew up in Ottawa, where they say they were involved in local movements and protests for a long time, though S-r admits they weren’t always surrounded by the most supportive people.

S-r’s main objective — to provide people a safe space and help break down barriers that exist between marginalized communities and society at large — is, in a way, tough for them to stomach. While S-r is incredibly happy to do activism work on campus, they also feel somewhat uneasy about working within the same institution that they say fails to accommodate those most at need. S-r says that Ryerson prides itself on being accessible and friendly to racialized students, but only in comparison to other universities. In S-r’s mind, there’s still a lot of work to do.

“I don’t like the way things are, but at the end of the day, change is made through tiny compromises. It shouldn’t be this way — we should be able to combat oppression directly — but we have to educate and inspire before that can happen. Racism, ableism, and the many other isms that exist will continue if we don’t make people more aware than they already are. Like, I’m always learning, we’re all learning to be better.”