UTM celebrated its third annual Pride Week hosted by OUT@UTM in collaboration with UTMSU. The events were meant to increase the visibility of the LGBTQ community, to educate the public on the struggles faced by its members, and to provide a forum for its members and allies to meet and build community. This year the event was organized by LGBTQ coordinator Megan Gallagher.
“There are two communities: one that is visible and out, and one that is not yet comfortable being open to come to events. Some of the events hosted are not only for educational and recreational purposes, but to be visible to those that are watching the community and not yet ready to participate,” said Gallagher.
On Monday, January 9, Pride Week officially began with the raising of the Pride Flag outside the Student Centre, which was followed by a speech made by Oliver Bedard, an active member of OUT@UTM. The film Circumstance, which explores homosexuality in modern Iran, was then broadcast in the Presentation Room. An active dialogue was opened at the “Skin-I-Live-In” event, where people discussed their experiences of being a part or an ally of the LGBTQ community. “Solidarity Against the Stigma” was a workshop organized on Tuesday to dispel some myths surrounding HIV and to reduce discrimination against people with AIDS.
Teams competed against each other during Wednesday’s “Amazing Race” to locate queer-positive spaces on campus, such as queer sections in the library and gender-neutral washrooms. The day ended with “Beyond the Binary”, a panel discussion on gender identity, gender expression, and identity in the transsexual community. One participant suggested that we “always think of the lowest denominator” when making policies for the queer community to ensure accessibility for all. The issue of gender policing and its implications was also raised during the discussion.
On Thursday, mature panelists joined UTM students to discuss the experiences they faced as a part of the LGBTQ community when it was not as acceptable. The generational speakers included Ralph Carl Wushke, a chaplain with the Ecumenical Chaplaincy at University of Toronto, Cameron Clairmont, a co-chair of Positive Space, and Susan Gupka, an activist committed to the empowerment of transgender and transsexual people who has worked as the TBLG Commissioner for the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario.
The third annual Pride March was organized on Friday. Students were encouraged to parade from the North Building to the William G. Davis Building to show their support for the LGBTQ community.
“One of the challenges with Pride Week involves getting people to march because of the stigma associated with it,” said Gallagher.
In conjunction with the parade, artistic pieces created by the queer community were also displayed outside the MiST Theatre to showcase their creativity. The informative and action-packed week wrapped up with the “Queer Cab” held in the MiST Theatre on Friday night, which was filled with music, dance, and spoken word performances.
“We want people to be aware of the presence of a queer community on campus, and that we are welcoming and supportive. We want them to know that if they face difficulties coming out, we are there for them,” said Gallagher. The joint effort of OUT@UTM and UTMSU ensured the success of Pride Week and promoted a more positive environment for the LGBTQ community.