Marlon Picken on evoking change and equality

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Will he use the women’s washroom or the men’s?

That is the question that hangs in the air. For the record, Marlon Picken used the men’s washroom, but as he was quick to point out – what would it have mattered? Each is a single occupancy washroom, but, of course, he recognizes that just as there are politics to everything else in life, so too is there “the politics of bathrooms”.

An Environmental Aide at the Juravinski Hosptial, Picken is also the current Chair for the City of Hamilton LGBTQ Advisory Committee. He is also the past Diversity Vice-President LGBTQ for CUPE Ontario. It was in high school that Picken said he first began organizing for equality.

Inspired to Promote Equity

As a Hamiltonian born and raised, Picken attributes much of his success, both in the beginning and at present, to mentorship.

“I’ve had a number of amazing mentors throughout my life that have provided a lasting influence that remain an important part of my life: my mother, Marion Picken, Rose McAleerm currently a constituency assistant for Wayne Marston, MP Hamilton East-Stoney Creek and Joanne Webb, an Aboriginal leader and union activist,” Picken said.

Marlon Picken with mom Marion Picken and Rose McAleerm at the Illuminessence 2nd Annual Awards Gala- Photo by Jan Lukas

Marlon Picken with mom Marion Picken and Rose McAleerm at the Illuminessence 2nd Annual Awards Gala- Photo by Jan Lukas

Though Picken studied journalism in school, he soon realized that his heart lay in politics, eventually leading him to join CUPE Local 7800 (Hamilton Health Sciences workers). “CUPE has approximately 240,000 members in Ontario, hospital works like me, RPNs, porters, social workers; my union also represents city workers, school board workers, university works, social services, healthcare workers [and so on],” explained Picken.

Why Marlon Picken Gets It

While Picken admitted that much of his twenties were spent growing into his present person, he said he has always acknowledged his privilege as a white male but seeks to utilize that power to push for equality. “Equality has been silo-ed,” said Picken. As he explained it, equality as we know it today has become so segmented to the point that groups can be seen working against each other, both within politics and within labour. But Picken said the most important thing to be done in working towards equality is to work with each other, as it is only then that real change can and will be had.

With this in mind, Picken said,

“It’s equally as important to recognize where and how privilege works and that when designating power to individuals or groups, it takes more than empathy to make a good leader. An effective leader, whether of a group small or large, requires more than just empathy, but lived experience.”

Indeed, touching on the role women have played in the equality movement Picken said “the freedom and support to pursue a progressive, self-determined LGBTQ agenda has been grounded in the space carved out by women and their movement, and the sacrifices of women and their allies preceding them.”

Natalie Timperio is a freelance writer of everything as related to life and style. Her mantra? Write, edit, sleep. Repeat. You can hear more from her on To find out more about her writing and related experience visit her website