Agent of Change – Fostering Diversity and Inclusion
By 18129 Kathryn Foss
It has been a long three decades since this ex-cadets military career began, and at the same time 25 years since my college life ended. I believe that every ex-cadet will agree that our lives changed at both those milestones, but changed in positive ways which set us on the path to a successful and rewarding life.
RMC cadets have been called “tomorrow’s leaders”, and as an ex-cadet I believe that you can also be “leaders of change”. You are a reflection of society and Canada has seen significant increases in the acceptance of the diverse nature of our population. The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) needs to change as well in order to reflect the same core values and beliefs as the nation. You all can be agents of transformation…your leadership style and your outlook can influence those you serve to be feel comfortable and valued being their authentic selves throughout their entire military career.
My military career began in an era where being open and honest about oneself was neither expected, nor wanted. Asserting aspects of diversity resulted in loyal and dedicated CAF members being released for innate human characteristics as sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression. As I have grown throughout my life, gaining a greater understanding of who and “what” I am, I have identified as both gay and transgender, either label could have resulted in the end of my career simply for being myself. It took me 27 years of my career, mental health issues, a suicide attempt and lots of professional help to get me from the shy, introverted and anxiety filled young man to where I am today…a confident, healthy and outspoken transgender woman who continues to serve her country.
CAF members will be more productive and loyal if they know that they are valued for the differences, not in spite of them. I know this to be true, I’ve lived it. Many people like me choose to act after many years of hiding, when the only options left are living our true lives or not living at all. As we are normally older, we have seniority and stability which provides a sense of safety and privilege. There is less chance of someone challenging or harassing (yes…this still happens) a senior officer or senior NCM, than a member who is very early in their career.
Why is this important for you? As the future of the country and the CAF, you can play an important role in fostering diversity and a sense of inclusivity. As young officers, you are more open and accepting of difference than any previous generation. You have the ability to directly support those under your care by encouraging them to be their true authentic selves because the CAF will be a better and more capable organization as a result. You must ensure they know that no matter what, you will look out for them and will support them in every way possible. I also call upon you to be the example for all those that follow by being your true authentic selves, celebrating your own differences, no matter what they are.
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