Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rainbow_flag_and_blue_skies.jpg
I still remember the first time a friend of mine told me he was gay. I didn’t know how to respond, and all I could say was: “That’s great. Oh. Oh.” Looking back, I’m glad he was such a close friend and didn’t take my lack of response the wrong way. He rolled his eyes and pulled me into a hug and told me that he knew what I was trying to say but couldn’t find the words for. It’s okay, and thanks, Cynthia.
If you’re a U of T student alumni (see update below), you’ve probably received the latest copy of U of T Magazine and saw Ann Perdue‘s cover story of queer activism and its tumultuous history at the U of T. TimeToast even has an annotated timeline! 2009 marks the 40th anniversary since Ian Young and Jearld Moldenhauer started the “first gay liberation organizations in the country city (see update 2 below)”. As such, this year’s theme for U of T’s Pride week is “40 Years of Speaking Out!”, honouring not only the establishment of the student group LGBTOUT but also all the events, people and initiatives that have propelled us to a more inclusive university.
In order to educate myself, I sat down with Vash from the LGBTQ Resources and Programs office last week to chat about the upcoming U of T Pride weekend as well as some common misconceptions.
Me: I really haven’t had much exposure to the LGBTQ community. For example, I had a classmate last year who was transgendered? Trans-sexual? I didn’t know the proper lingo, and was tripping over my tongue trying not to offend him. Her. Oh man, I’m still tripping.
Vash: Yeah, I understand it can get difficult. Simply put, you address a trans-person with the gender they identify as. Although they’re not mutually exclusive, a transgendered person projects a different gender than the sex they’re biologically born with or does not identify with the gender norms of that biological sex and a trans-sexual person has gone or is going through the process to become the anatomical sex they identify with.
Me: I’ve always watched the Pride events from afar. What do you think of the argument that events like Pride parade just increases the gay stereotype because all these “gay guys” are flaunting their sexuality by prancing around barely dressed? That if the gays can have a parade, then so should the straights?
Vash: I’ve heard of the argument, and it is a very heterosexist point of view. Heterosexuality is the socially accepted norm. Events like the Pride Parade are an exaggerated way of making a political stance. You’ve got to remember that these events have strong political and social activist roots, aiming to bring LGBTQ visibility to a mainstream front. We’re making a stance and celebrating acceptance rather than tolerance.
Me: All right, so what about people like me? Straight people who support the LGBTQ community. Are we allowed to join the LGBTQ events?
Vash: Of course! Why wouldn’t you be? You’re what we call “allies“, and it’s interesting, because coming out as an ally can be just as difficult as coming out as LGBTQ identified.
Me: Well, I’m coming out now. How can an ally become involved?
Vash: All LGBTQ campus groups welcome allies. There’s an Ally campaign from UTSC last year, and they even had buttons! The Positive Space mandate includes encouraging and having allies at our events and meetings.
Me: So what’s new this year for U of T Pride? It’s the 40th anniversary!
Vash: We have an exciting display that will debut at the UT Pride Pub commemorating 40 years of LGBTQ activism on campus. It’s a huge visual representation of our history and it’ll even be displayed around campus all throughout Orientation Week.
Apart from their “incredibly famous” Pride Pub kicking off at Hart House from 5PM – 1AM tomorrow with DJ Cozmic Cat, the U of T PRIDE Committee has crammed as many activities into the weekend of Toronto’s Pride Week:
Saturday June 27th
- Pride Run – 10AM; Church & Wellesley: U of T’s team is the “Out Pacers”
- Dyke March – 11AM; Church and Hayden Streets: there’s a brunch first!
Sunday June 28th
- Community Fair – 10AM – 5PM; Church and Wellesley area: check out U of T’s booth
- Pride Parade – 1PM; Rosedale Valley road: Meet at 1PM sharp to march with the U of T contingent
Celebrate diversity at U of T, and join the UT Pride Committee in celebrating Pride Week. Here’s to coming out as an ally!
PS: Check out blogUT‘s fabulous post, “I’m sorry, but you desk does not have a sexual orientation”, which complements so well the Positive Space committee’s poster campaign you may have seen around campus.
Update: A huge thank you to Scott A who commented on my profile. The U of T magazine is sent mainly to alumni and friends, and is not widely distributed on campus. Nonetheless, the content of the magazine can be viewed here, and the Out and Proud cover article is here. If you’d like a physical copy, Scott says that the magazine is available in limited amounts at 21 King’s College Circle. Sorry for the mix-up, readers, and thanks again, Scott!
Update 2: According to Donald Casswell, Professor Emeritus of Law at the University of Victoria, who commented on the Out and Proud article, “[t]he Association for Social Knowledge (”ASK”), formed in April 1964 in Vancouver, was the first lesbian and gay rights organization in Canada… The history of ASK is considered in detail in standard references such as Gary Kinsman’s The Regulation of Desire and Donald McLeod’s Lesbian and Gay Liberation in Canada.“