By Evalyn Lee ’23
Palmer Simpson ’23 reckons with his own identity as a cis-het-white male in his approach to starting more discussions surrounding race and gender. Simpson became a Student Advisory Board Member for Brace last year, and was first introduced to the Brace Center by his physics teacher following a candid conversation about feminism.
Simpson said, “My physics teacher Ms. Artacho recommended that I look into [Brace] because we had a little discussion about feminism, and I was really interested. I wasn’t too afraid to speak up. I like sharing my opinions and that kind of stuff. And so she was like, ‘Hey, Palmer, I think you might be really interested in this. Do you want me to recommend you for getting involved?’ And I’m like that sounds awesome.”
After becoming a board member, Simpson’s initial curiosity for gender studies evolved into a habit for seeking more information. He also tries to share what he learns with his peers to encourage discussion on campus.
“Now that I am part of Brace, I think it’s changed my drive to find information… [Now] I’m seeking it out because not only do I want to learn more, I want to be knowledgeable enough to teach people about it and to answer people’s questions and start discussions about it with my friends. I want to get a deeper understanding so that I can not just talk about it, but also teach about it,” he said.
Simpson’s approach to speaking up and engaging in conversations was initially inspired by his older sister. He admires her for her bravery to bring up topics such as LGBTQ+ rights with his family.
He said, “I think my sister is kind of a trendsetter in my family. She’s older than me, and I feel like she really inspires me because she was the first to speak up about LGBTQ+ rights, and before that I hadn’t really considered it all that much. My family isn’t crazy conservative or crazy liberal, but we hadn’t discussed things like that and she wasn’t afraid to talk about it and bring it up and let us all know her viewpoint.”
In regard to conversations on gender inequities, Simpson acknowledges his privilege in his identity which can create blindspots. He also realizes the importance of Brace to help students like him become more aware. He used the pay gap issue as an example.
“For instance, the pay gap doesn’t really affect male-identifying people as much as it does female-identifying people. And so it’s all these issues that as a CIS white male, I probably wouldn’t have thought about. I can’t speak for everyone, on every CIS white male on campus, but if at least some of them shared the same perspective as me, I think having a place like Brace share information about those issues, it can prompt them to learn more or to consider how other people are struggling,” he said.
Furthermore, Simpson believes that a truly equitable Andover would provide a safe space, campus-wide, for all students. He believes that conversations regarding social issues shouldn’t be limited to EBI.
He said, “I feel like the fact that we need a single space, like EBI, to talk about those issues means that people aren’t comfortable talking about them all around campus and I feel like if we can make the entirety of campus feel like a safe space like EBI is, I think that would be ideal. And that would be very helpful for everyone.”