UTM’s second annual Pride Week was held last week and was a collaborative event hosted by both OUT@UTM and UTMSU. The week provided information, resources, and a sense of community for LGBTQ youth. The events were created especially to reach out to students who may be in need, and to eliminate their sense of isolation and loneliness.
Bobby Diaz, OUT@UTM social coordinator, is also the main co-ordinator behind this year’s Pride Week.
In a message to members of the OUT@UTM Facebook community, Diaz called it “a one-of-a-kind week oriented to the LGBTQ community and their allies at UTM”.
“Pride Week is important to have at UTM in order to increase visibility for LGBTQ students and to create a safe positive space on our suburban campus,” said Diaz. “Through UTM Pride Week, everyone will be made aware of LGBTQ issues and rights movements that bring us to our current state of affairs, and will hopefully get all students, staff, and faculty to talk about LGBTQ life today.”
“Pride week aims to create a safe positive space for UTM students to interact and create communities,” said Kumari Giles, UTMSU VP Equity. “For many LGBTQ-identified students, finding support is hard on our campuses, especially when faced with seemingly opposing views. The most important part of Pride Week is to have visibility and to encourage dialogue.”
Pride Week kicked off on Monday with a 10-minute “Pride Flag”-raising outside the Student Centre. All were welcome to attend the event, which concluded with a speech from Diaz. The rallying cry of this event was “to see thee rise, strong, free, and proud!” A presentation of the “LGBTQ Rights Movement: Past, Present, and Future” and “Pansexual Speed Dating: Eat, Meet, and Greet” followed in the Presentation Room of the Student Centre.
“Who knows, maybe while marching around campus with our Pride Flag and OUT@UTM banner, we’ll reach out to one person who thinks they’re alone and [who] will approach someone or have an outlet to turn to,” said Hilary Receno, financial administrator and secretary at OUT@UTM.
James Lott, OUT@UTM’s external liaison said, “If nothing else, I hope people get a sense of community out of the Pride Week events, because it can be very lonely thinking you are the only LGBTQ person on campus.”
The events on Tuesday started with “Trans Tea Time” in the Board Room of the Student Centre.
Students talked about “hard-hitting trans issues” while enjoying tea and scones. The day ended with a queer film, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, shown in the Presentation Room.
On Wednesday, art from OUT@UTM members was featured in the CCT link in an event called “OUTarts on display” and gave members of OUT@UTM and their friends to showcase their creative sides. The day ended with “GLOW AND FLOW: Queer Sex Discussion and Oral Sex Tutorial” in the Council Chambers, located on the second floor of the Davis Building. All students were welcome to participate in this event which presented plenty of opportunities for discussion as well as the chance to “improve technique”.
Thursday’s events began with “An Informational Presentation on Bullying and Homophobia: It Has Got to Stop!” in the Davis Building, CCIT, and the Student Centre. The event was a discussion of the harmful and long-lasting effects of bullying in any form.
“As with most prejudice, bias against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and/or transgenders, is often based on negative stereotypes and lack of information,” said Diaz. “To stop homophobia, like all other forms of discrimination, is a long haul, but it is a battle worth fighting for.”
“On campus, although overt displays of homophobia are rare, most homophobia is exhibited through homophobic comments,” said Carla Carbonell, volunteer coordinator for OUT@UTM. “Using the ‘other F word’, or referring to something one means as silly or weird as ‘gay’, or comments like ‘no homo’ still perpetuate homophobia, and most times the user of these words or phrases doesn’t know what they are saying is homophobic, or don’t mean it.”
That night, the event called “Active Dialogue: Queer and Religion” was held in the Dean’s Lounge in the North Building whose slogan was: “Can homosexuality and religion coexist? That is the question!”
To finish off the event-filled week, all were invited to “shake, rattle, and roll!” at Classic Bowl Mississauga at the final event, called “Queers and Allies Go Bowling!”
The planning that OUT@UTM and UTMSU’s put into the organization of Pride Week resulted in a successful series of events that not only increased the visibility of OUT@UTM, but reached out to students who were not aware of the issues that LGBTQ youth face and perhaps were not aware that OUT@UTM existed.
“One of the things I aim for as the LGBTQ coordinator of the student union is to reach out to other students, help break stereotypes, and educate those who are willing to listen,” said Diaz. “As I jokingly presented in an orientation training on equity, not all gay men are Lady Gaga enthusiasts (but I’m sure some are), not all bisexual individuals are confused, etc.”
OUT@UTM, the first LGBTQ group at UTM, was founded in 2002. According to their website, outatutm.com, OUT@UTM functions as “a support group, a social circle, and an outlet for fun.”
When it was founded, OUT@UTM reached out only to LGBTQ students, but now it reaches out to everyone.
“I hope that UTM students learn something what it means to be queer, the struggles and rewards that come with the identity, and the implications this has in one’s life,” said Diaz. “The struggles of one group are our struggles. Everyone should all strive for equality of all human rights, this includes LGBTQ people.
Alone and divided we are weak. Together and united we are strong.”
U of T’s Sexual and Gender Diversity Office website, which offers resources for students, staff and faculty, can be found at lgbtq.utoroto.ca.