Mitchell Thompson hanging around on campus.

Photo: Jacob Dubé

Verdict of Queer and Trans Histories Week

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By Mitchell Thompson

Ryerson’s queer community is tired of your hetero bullshit — is how I intended to start this off.

But after attending RyePride’s Winter Mix and Mingle event for Queer and Trans Histories Week, my position has softened.

RyePride’s site says “Our goal is to create a safe and positive campus environment for people of ALL sexual orientations and gender identities.”

But from the people I spoke to it seems that the focus is on fostering a warm, internal space, rather than spreading out and working to change the campus. Which is perfectly respectable, but different.

Bri Harlick, a first-year criminology student, said attending RyePride’s events and volunteering “is great for networking and meeting other queer people.”

“With queer and trans history week there seems to have been an effect outside the community. People see that there’s a community trying to share this,” they said.

First-year early childhood studies student Tania Ishii said, “I feel accepted here.” But they feel like “there are times when I’m scared to disclose my gender identity and orientation to strangers.”

To Harlick and Ishii’s credit, the events are delightful. Despite being small they are certainly welcoming. But as a way of changing the entire campus environment, these events are limited.

First-year business management student Aidan Kowolik agrees. “Most of the students don’t have the same experience as we do, with gender identity and queerness all over.”

Ishii thinks RyePride “should promote their events more for people outside of the queer community.”

“I’ve become more knowledgeable of the queer terminology and it’s definitely improved how I speak, like not to be ableist, racist or sexist,” they said.

With a bit more outreach to straight people, maybe they can too?

“We should educate more than just the queer people who arrive at our door. Maybe their friends too and then maybe a big event where we educate — you know — all of the straight people?” said Kowolik.

There are certainly benefits to a strong queer community in itself. But if RyePride’s goal is to create a more friendly campus environment for LGBT people, there’s a second dimension that might be a tad neglected.

Still, RyePride’s events are great. The group has done an excellent job of fostering a community that is small and warm without being lame and strong, but still welcoming to outsiders. Assembling a community at a commuter school is tough enough and they certainly deserve credit for striking that balance. But there’s certainly work to do.

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