Walking across Town Square, Marco Chan, MBA ’16, took a deep breath before sitting down to lunch at Coupa Cafe with a fellow student. Chan and the other student had taken Data & Decisions together and had gotten along well. Yet following the Supreme Court’s 2015 landmark ruling that determined that the Constitution grants the right to same-sex marriage, the Mormon student had spoken out on social media against same-sex marriage, a position that Chan deeply disagrees with.
Growing up on the outskirts of Vancouver, Canada, Chan was one of the few students in his high school — let alone his evangelical church — to come out as an LGBTQ2 person. Now, thanks in part to his education and experiences at Stanford Graduate School of Business, he’s about to begin work at the center of the Canadian government, advocating on behalf of others like himself.
Chan — who will receive his master’s in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School in June 2017 — will soon be advising Randy Boissonnault, a Liberal member of Parliament who is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first special adviser on LGBTQ2 issues. (The Q refers to queer or questioning, and the 2 refers to “two-spirit,” a term used by some indigenous Canadians to describe gender-variant individuals within their communities).
In addition to protecting and advancing the rights of LGBTQ2 people at home and promoting their rights abroad, Chan and his colleagues will seek to make amends for historical injustices. “One of our goals,” he says, “is to help define the scope and nature of an apology from the federal government to thousands of LGBTQ2 public servants who were [driven out of] the government for decades between the 1950s and 1990s.”
Chan says he never could have undertaken such meaningful work without the support of his fellow students at Stanford GSB. “[This school] is a place where people are ambitious, motivated, and driven, but at the same time vulnerable and emotionally open,” he says. “I had so many touching conversations with people, including those who approach the LGBTQ2 community in very different ways.”
Perhaps the most memorable exchange took place at Coupa Cafe on that day when Chan and the Mormon student sat down for lunch in order to better understand each other’s positions and the underlying experiences that led to their views.
“Because I grew up in a conservative religious tradition myself, it was easier to see how much actually united rather than divided us,” Chan recalls. “It was incredibly touching to hear him say that if one of his kids came out as LGBTQ2, he would love them no less,” he says, adding that it was OK that they didn’t completely agree.
“We didn’t come to agreement about the definition of family, but it was a heartfelt, genuine exchange where I learned a lot about where he was coming from, and he was able to see the full impact of his views on me and my community.” The exchange, Chan says, “is emblematic of the spirit of Stanford GSB. People don’t shy away from tough conversations.”