#DisplayYourPride 2024: Celebrating Pride at the Innovation Hub

June is Pride Month! From attending a U of T pride event to hosting our own, here is how we’re celebrating and honouring Pride month and reflecting how we can continue fostering inclusivity and diversity on campus throughout and beyond June.  

Written by Ajeetha Vithiyananthan, Blog Writer, Bachelor of Science, Psychology specialist and Sociology minor & Ruth Rodrigues, Qualitative Data Archivist Team Lead, Master of Education, Social Justice Education 


It’s Pride Month, folks! Going into June and throughout the month, the Innovation Hub team will participate in diverse Pride events.  

So, this month, let’s celebrate, and recognize the progress of the Pride movement within the U of T community and reflect on how we can continue to show up and support our 2SLGBTQIA+ peers and students.

A Brief History of Pride at U of T

The inclusion of queer identity at U of T can be directly attributed to student self-advocacy. The first and oldest 2SLGBTQIA+ student group in Canada is LGBTOUT, formerly U of T’s Homophile Association. Focused on creating community for gay and lesbian students while countering rampant homophobia on campus, the group started off humbly by hosting events at Hart House and weekly information sessions at Sidney Smith. Since its foundation in 1969, the activism of the students in the original Homophile’s Association has carved out spaces for 2SLGBTQIA+ students and led us to our current-day Pride celebrations on campus. 

You can see U of T’s living history through its Positive Space campaign, which addressed the importance of LGBTOUT’s original goal to create safe spaces for 2SLGBTQIA+ students. In 1995, a logo was created to mark spaces as safe and welcoming for 2SLGBTQIA+ students. It remains relevant to this day, especially thanks to a 2024 redesign to include all the Progress flag colours. In commitment to creating safe spaces, the integration of the progress flag created by Daniel Quasar (xe/xem) in 2018, acknowledges transgender people and people of colour who are still marginalized within the broader LGBTQ+ community.

Progress Flag Raising

Ruth attended the U of T Progress Flag Raising on June 3rd. 

On Monday, June 3rd, U of T celebrated the start of Pride month with a Progress flag raising ceremony at the Varsity Centre, which I attended with a couple of members of the Innovation Hub.  

The ceremony honoured student Jasmine Lew (they/them), who was named as the 2SLGBTQ+ Community Impact Honouree. Jasmine, a Kinesiology Major and a track-and-field athlete, represented the voice of the students at the ceremony. They acknowledged the importance of celebrating the progress that has been made while reminding attendees that we must remain committed to keep advocating for safe and inclusive spaces.  

Other speakers at the ceremony included U of T’s Director of Equity Diversity and Inclusion, Jodie Glean-Mitchell, and Faculty of Kinesiology and Education Dean Gretchen Kerr. While listening to all their speeches, I was impacted by the sentiment that the positive progress and genuine acceptance of one intersectional identity requires the progress and acceptance of other marginalized or oppressed communities. For example, June is also National Indigenous History Month and while liberation for everyone goes beyond the “official months”, it was a powerful reminder of the importance of community solidarity.

#DisplayYourPride

On Friday, May 31st, Innovation Hub members gathered to decorate our co-working space with colourful wreaths to kickstart Pride Month celebrations ahead of June.  The event was a part of GTA-wide #DisplayYourPride celebrations, where office teams and colleagues across universities and colleges come together to celebrate the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and show their pride in a creative and fun way.

This year, we cut out “leaves” from colourful paper and glued them one on one onto a cardboard frame, forming a rainbow-coloured wreath. As we worked together, we also discussed what pride meant to us and how we could foster pride in our community. Words and phrases that struck out in conversation got written down on the leaves: belonging, justice, equality, validation, authenticity, community. Gilbert Baker (he/him) — who first designed the Pride flag in 1978, after being inspired by the lights of a disco ball shining on a diverse crowd of people — has said, “We needed something to express our joy, our beauty, our power. And the rainbow did that.” 

Call to Action 

While June provides an opportunity to honour 2SLGBTQIA+ history and community, the momentum built this month — and by the students before us — must carry through the entire year and beyond. This involves actively participating in 2SLGBTQIA+ events, supporting queer-owned businesses, and engaging with 2SLGBTQIA+ organizations and spaces. Every effort, no matter how small, contributes to a larger cultural shift towards inclusivity and acceptance. Hence, here are some practical ways to stay engaged with Pride beyond June:   

1. Attend Local 2SLGBTQIA+ Events: Seek out events in your community that celebrate 2SLGBTQIA+ culture and advocacy.  

  • U of T’s Sexual & Gender Diversity Office has events for 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals all year round. You can find their events here.  
  • Visit The 519, a queer community center offering free programming near Church-Wellesley. 

    2. Support 2SLGBTQIA+ Organizations: Donate to or volunteer with organizations that work tirelessly to support the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Your time and resources can make a significant impact on the lives of many.  

    • The oldest LGBT bookshop in Toronto, Glad Day Bookshop is currently facing possible eviction! The shop is an important space in the community that regularly hosts readings. Donate to their fundraiser if you can. 

      3. Educate Yourself: Watch films, read books, and consume media that highlight 2SLGBTQIA+ stories and perspectives and are created by 2SLGBTQIA+ community members. This not only broadens your understanding but also helps to normalize these narratives in mainstream culture.  

      • Maribeth, one of the Blog Editors, recommends:  
        • Pose — an American drama television series about New York City’s Ballroom culture  
        • Gender Euphoria — an anthology of 19 trans, non-binary, agender, gender-fluid and intersex writers who share their experiences of gender euphoria.  

      4. Challenge Norms, Advocate, and Spread Awareness: Use your voice to challenge discriminatory practices and policies. Advocate for inclusive policies in your workplace, school, and community. 

      5. Create Safe Spaces: Whether at home, work, or in social circles, strive to create environments where everyone feels safe and accepted.  

      • Include the Positive Spaces logo in your spaces at U of T to indicate support for the 2SLGBTQ+ students, staff, faculty, librarians, and our allies.

      If you or someone you know, who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, is in need of support:  

      • Call the U of T Sexual & Gender Diversity Office at 416-946-5624, or email at sgdo@utoronto.ca
      • Call Access Alliance at 416-324-8677;  

      References

      LGBTOUT. (n.d.). https://lgbtout.sa.utoronto.ca/ 

      Perdue, A. (2009, June 11). Out and Proud – University of Toronto Magazine. University of Toronto Magazine. https://magazine.utoronto.ca/research-ideas/culture-society/out-and-proud-history-of-gay-lesbian-activism-toronto-anne-perdue/ 

      Positive space at U of T (2024, May 24). Positive Space. https://positivespace.utoronto.ca/ 


      Contributors

      Headshot of Ajeetha Vithiyananth

      Ajeetha Vithiyananthan, Blog Writer, Bachelor of Science, Psychology specialist and Sociology minor 

      Headshot of Ruth

      Ruth Rodrigues, Qualitative Data Archivist Team Lead, Master of Education, Social Justice Education 

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