The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union hosted its Queer Orientation last week featuring a guest talk from activist Kim Katrin Milan, who is a writer, activist, and artist. She focuses on issues relating to feminism, intersectionality, and marginalized communities and has spoken at many public institutions.
Milan’s talk titled, “What does it mean to be an ally?” covered issues such as allyship, protests, and the meaning of oppression.
On the topic of allyship, Milan said it is a lifelong commitment. “If I am facing problems because of my identity, then you are facing those problems too,” she explained. She added that helping solve the problem for as long as it takes is more sufficient than just raising one’s voice on an issue.
Milan listed the many ways to demonstrate allyship, such as protesting, financial aid, using your job, volunteering, voting, and speaking up in moments of violence.
According to Milan, people can demonstrate allyship wherever they are, and whenever they possibly can. She also pointed out how people discuss “the correct way to protest,” but then object to any form of protests. “People say you should do what Martin Luther King did, but when he was protesting, people did not like what he was doing at all,” she stated.
Milan did not support the idea of treating others the way you want to be treated, stating that “you should treat people the way they want to be treated, which means you have to ask and listen.” During the talk, the group discussed how the absence of obvious evidence of oppression does not mean that the oppression is not there, but rather that it is institutionalized. Milan further emphasised that because identities are complex and can include various categories, like race, gender, sexuality, and other, society cannot focus on a single issue alone, such as the missing and murdered Aboriginal women. The talk discussed how justice was not done due to internalized bias against the Indigenous community.
Milan argued that saying people and cultures are all the same is not a solution to racism and oppression.
“We need to realize that we are all different and accept each other because of those differences,” she said.
As Milan explained, equality assumes that we are all the same and deserve the same treatment, whereas equity takes into account our many differences, and how people deserve treatment according to their specific needs.
Other events in the orientation included a community barbecue and the history about the queer and trans community on campus. There was a screening of the documentary Game Face, designed to show students how the athletic department can be made friendlier towards the trans and queer community. The week concluded with Queer Pub Night at the Blind Duck Pub.