What does every safe haven need? Cupcakes. Well, cupcakes and a welcoming staff and student group. This week, the Sexual & Gender Diversity Office, together with Kickstart 2014, held what might be one of the most delicious orientation events this week: Rainbow Cupcakes, a cupcake decorating (and eating) session for first-year students.
Cupcakes aside, the SGDO (located on the fourth floor of 21 Sussex, just behind Robarts) is a great equity resource on campus. The office aims to provide education and training, programming, resources, and advocacy related to sexual and gender diversity issues across all three campuses. This Wednesday, first-year students got advice and information from both staff and students about sexual and gender diversity in Toronto and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities on campus.
The SGDO itself is a hub for activity: from September 19th to the 29th, the office is hosting Queer Orientation, which will bring together over 30 events held by various groups across campus. The week will include everything from a tour of the Village to Queer Yoga. Throughout the year, SGDO holds discussion groups and provides a safe space for students to spend time on campus.
Graduate student Kathy Mac got involved with the SGDO as an undergrad but is now leading some of the programming, including discussion groups for Queer Women on Campus and Queer Students of Colour. Mac highlights Q21 Conversation Café, the SGDO’s weekly drop-in discussion group, as one of her favourite events last year.
Though it can be scary to go alone, she encourages students to stop by the Office’s St. George location. “Scott and Allison are the nicest people I’ve ever met,” says Kathy.
Scott Clarke is the Office’s Program Coordinator and Allison Burgess is the Sexual & Gender Diversity Officer. Together, they spearhead many of the Office’s services which include everything from counselling to inclusivity projects around campus. For example, thanks to a collaborative effort between students and staff, you can now find information about single-user facilities, accessibility features, foot-baths for students who wash before prayer, and baby change stations on the campus map. “The spaces are actually already there,” says Burgess, “The Washroom Inclusivity Project is about sharing information… so everyone can access that information.”
This year, the SGDO is also partnering with the Counseline initiative to provide more specific counselling for issues related to sexual and gender diversity. But, both Scott and Allison are always available to meet confidentially with students, even if it’s just to talk about day-to-day issues with life on residence or campus.
If you have any concerns this year, or if you just want to meet some fun people on campus, feel free to stop by the SGDO’s St. Geoge location. Staff members frequently travel to UTM and UTSC locations so students on other campuses can also contact either Scott Clarke or Allison Burgess to make an appointment.