Inside Change with Andra Roston
What does it mean to you to be part of Change.org?
Being a part of Change.org feels really special. I love that the work that I’m doing is helping support people who are out there doing the hard work of advocating for things they believe in, and making the change they want to see. Being part of an organization with such a strong mission helps make it easy to get up and go to work everyday—I feel like I’m able to do my part in something I think is so important.
What’s a cause or social issue that you’re passionate about?
This is a tough one since I think there are lots of causes that are so important! The causes that tend to hit close to home are ones that involve the education of young people. Every young person deserves an education, and every young person deserves an education where they can learn across a broad spectrum of topics, and points of view. I also feel passionate that education should continue to change and evolve as our society does, and we should ensure that the definition of a complete and well rounded education continues to grow and change as we do.
Does your identity inform your work? If so, how?
I don’t think it’s possible for it not to! I think my sense of identity is often rooted in how I believe we should treat other people—with empathy, patience, and understanding. You never know what someone else is going through or dealing with. I always try to come to work and collaborate from a place of understanding and curiosity, and making people feel valued and heard. Working in customer support, we often see people at a bad moment, or a time of stress, and being able to work with them to come to a solution in an empathic way generally results in a positive outcome on all sides.
What does Pride mean to you?
For me, Pride is at its heart still a protest. Even with the abundant rainbow-washing that occurs, and all the corporate sponsors and the appearance of acceptance, celebrating Pride is a way of saying—yes, we are still here, and no, you can’t erase or forget about us.
I think it’s also important to remember that the work of attaining equality and equity for people who are part of the community remains unfinished. Our trans and gender-non-conforming siblings continue to be targeted with hate, and there are still too many places in the world where celebrating Pride is dangerous.
What are some of your favorite Pride traditions and how will you be celebrating this year?
That’s an interesting question! I only came out as bisexual a couple of years ago (better late than never!) and so both of my “out” Prides have been online. Even before I came out, I always spent time at our street festival and parade with friends (and even before that with my Mom when I was younger!) I’m still trying to figure out what traditions I want to start doing with my partner, friends, and hopefully family one day!
In terms of celebrating this year, COVID-19 is keeping Toronto pretty locked down right now, so all of our official Pride celebrations remain online this year. I’m hoping to tune in to show support to friends performing in these, and learn things too! Excitingly, stuff is starting to reopen as we speak, so I’m hoping to get outside with friends, and maybe even see some live drag for the first time in almost a year!
I’m also really excited to be helping organize the Pride events at Change.org this year. We are doing a lot of different activations to help celebrate, shed light on issues, educate each other, and of course have a little fun along the way! For the rest of year, I’m excited to be chairing our LGBTQIA+ resource group, and I’m hoping to use some of the momentum from Pride to keep evolving the amazing community here. 🙂
When you’re not at work, what do you spend your free time doing?
I’m one of those people who does a little bit of everything! I used to go and do olympic weightlifting classes at my gym (Academy of Lions) but that obviously hasn’t been happening for a while, and lifting in the living room just isn’t the same.
I also love to play Dungeons and Dragons! The group I was playing with before this all started finally moved online after a six month hiatus, and my character has been back to doing all sorts of fun and dangerous things with his bow and arrow.
But where a lot of my energy goes is to drag! I started performing as a drag queen named Deena Dazeem about six weeks before the lockdown started, and have continued to do so from my living room. My girlfriend performs as a drag king named Flex, and we’ve had lots of fun doing this together during lockdown. (Cute story: we actually met at a drag show!)
It’s really fun, and I love performing, but it’s also been an interesting way to explore gender, and what our expectations are of different genders, and what it’s like to perform them. I just can’t wait to get back on stage in front of a real life audience!