All three U of T campuses collaborated to host Queer Orientation Week last week, which hosted 20 cross-campus events for members of the LGBTTIQQ2SA* community and its allies, including some separate events for white and non-white individuals who identify as part of the community.
Zara Rizwan, a third-year art and art history and English student and the executive director of OUT@UTM, said that their goal this year was to provide an introductory week of events for queer and trans-identifying students.
UTM’s portion of these events included a “Questioning Night” for those looking to explore gender, sexuality, expression, and identity. The event was “surprisingly successful”, according to Rizwan.
As part of the week-long festivities, OUT@UTM hosted a select few events for white and non-white members of the LGBTTIQQ2SA* community.
“We had racialized people talking about their experiences as a queer person within racialized spaces and the ways that their identities intersect,” said Rizwan. She added that the separate meetings were based on the difference in experiences. “White people have different experiences than people of colour who identify as queer. Even though we don’t have the same universal experience, the ways in which we’re discriminated against—there’s a sort of solidarity there where we can show our support,” she said.
When asked about the issue of reverse racism and segregation, Rizwan did not believe the events were a cause for either.
“Segregation is really the wrong word, because we as racialized queer and trans folk cannot oppress straight allies,” said Rizwan. “Our ally space wasn’t solely for white allies; it was also for people of colour who don’t identify as queer to learn about how they can be an ally to the queer community.”
According to Rizwan, OUT@UTM stands to normalize the asking of peoples’ pronouns and be inclusive towards everyone while providing a safe space for the LGBTTIQQ2SA* community. Other LGBTTIQQ2SA* issues include facing transphobia based on the way individuals present themselves and visibility—not being able to “come out”. Last year, OUT@UTM also lobbied to increase the number of gender-neutral washrooms on campus.
Rizwan also told The Medium that there are talks in progress to recruit professors from the women and gender studies department as ambassadors for the club, but no definitive plans have been laid down yet.
According to Rizwan, OUT@UTM has a history of being a “clique”, making it harder for new members to integrate.
“We’ll be working to dismantle that this year and make it a lot more welcoming for first-year students, or for older students who just found out about it and want to join,” said Rizwan.
She also told The Medium that the group is considering a name change as their current label insinuates the need to be “out” to participate in the group’s events.