Kenny Khoo was honoured with a Bill 7 Award scholarship in the Fall of 2005.
What did it feel like winning the scholarship?
Winning the scholarship was a meaningful experience. I recall meeting many people who identify as LGBT and their supporters at the awards ceremony. Everyone was very friendly and gave words of encouragement which meant a lot. Back then, I didn’t see a lot of people I could identify with who have had fulfilling careers and it was an eye-opener for me to meet some fantastic people who have overcome challenges in the workplace. I felt included in a community that understood what it was like to struggle with acceptance.
How did winning the Bill 7 Award help you -- specifically?
Winning the Bill 7 Award not only supported me in funding my studies, but more importantly in connecting me to leaders in the community. Before I graduated, there weren’t many visible role models that I knew of and thanks to winning the Bill 7 Award, I gained an optimistic outlook in knowing there are supporters in the community for LGBT people. Completing my engineering degree was no easy feat given the difficult course load and the added pressure of fitting in a predominantly heteronormative environment. The Bill 7 Award help ease that burden and I am thankful for everyone who supported the award; it really does help immensely.
What have you been up to since you won the award? Did you finish your academic program — what program are you currently in — or perhaps have you shifted gears and embraced another direction in your life?
After I graduated from Biochemical and Environmental Engineering at Western University, I was fortunate to enter into a career in the water treatment industry. I have progressed in my career in the water industry and now have a global role managing a team of water experts across the world with a focus on advanced technologies that protect water supplies, as well as enable water reuse and resource recovery. A lot of my time now is spent identifying and developing new water treatment solutions that will ensure sustainable access to water across the world.
Are you currently involved (or have you been) in the LGBTTTQ2S communities in any way?
Giving back to the community is a rewarding experience. Outside of my work life, I’m a member of my local humanist organization in London, Ontario. Every year we participate in our local Pride Parade and I was the photographer and videographer for the group last year. This year, we are planning for a larger presence including a wedding during the parade. Previously, I volunteered at my local Distress and Crisis Centre for 5 years, a valuable resource for LGBT people in distress or crisis, as a call responder and facilitator.
Are you still in Ontario or have you ventured into other parts of Canada — or have you headed out on an overseas adventure?
I am currently still in Ontario but I’ve had the opportunity to travel globally in my career to solve some of the world’s most challenging water issues. In fact, I have set foot on all 7 continents including Antarctica and am looking forward to exploring many more countries.
What’s your message to LGBT post-secondary students? If you were asked to give one (okay, maybe even 2 or 3) bits of advice to a younger version of you — what would that be?
One of the skills that isn’t taught anywhere but is gained through life experience is to understand that there are many things in life that are outside of your control. Borrowing from the serenity prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr: one must learn to accept the things you cannot change, have the courage to change the things you can and the wisdom to know the difference.
What advice would the current you give to the much younger, high school version of yourself. What advice would you give to LGBTQ youth who are perhaps still in high school. You’ve embarked on your journey of self-discovery and have courageously met all kinds of challenges and no doubt have learned so much along the way. How would you encourage a younger person still in high school?
Don’t be afraid to say yes when new opportunities become available. Opportunities come up randomly throughout our lives and seizing them is an important aspect of growing and self-improvement.