Celebrating queer identities

Photo by Kha Vo

Photo by Kha Vo

The queer community at Wilfrid Laurier University will be taking an extra step to celebrate who they are this week.

From Oct. 6 to Oct. 10, Laurier’s Rainbow Centre is putting on events for Queer Awareness Week to celebrate and bring awareness to the community.

Laura Mae Lindo, director of the diversity and equity office at Laurier, said Queer Awareness Week is a big step for both the volunteers at the office and the general student population.

“For me, I see it as the opportunity to take issues out of the shadows and the periphery of an institution and make them central,” she said. “These discussions we always seem to have on the outside.”

To Lindo’s knowledge, the Rainbow Centre, which is dedicated to enhancing the university environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer individuals on campus, was the first centre brought to the diversity and equity office.

“To think that we’ve come so far and that they have this leadership and awareness week – they can plan the Pride Parade and they have a booth – to think they’ve come that far is amazing. And to know that we’re working to support that kind of leadership is phenomenal.”

Ashley Lieu, an admin at the Rainbow Centre, explained that Queer Awareness Week focuses on sexual orientation and there will be a trans awareness week to focus on trans issues and a gender awareness week emphasizing gender identity.

The real focus of this week is to set a tone for the rest of the year.

“It’s a celebration … and to rally our volunteers. It’s our first campaign of the year and it’s a great chance for our new volunteers and old volunteers to get involved in the centre,” Lieu said.

Events such as a booth in the Concourse, a trivia and games night and the annual Pride Parade round out the awareness initiatives.

There was also a “positivitree” in the Concourse, where students can leave positive messages about the queer community.

Lindo explained that Queer Awareness Week is an opportunity for students and the queer community alike to celebrate rather than focus on the negative aspects.

“I love the fact that it’s an awareness campaign that doesn’t have to be about negative things. It’s a celebration. It’s a celebration of peoples’ identities, it’s a celebration of difference, it’s a celebration of that sort of strength, that collective strength because you’re out there celebrating who you are,” said Lindo.

The annual Pride Parade will start at 4:15 p.m. in the Quad on Thursday.

Students will be going around campus raising awareness and then everyone will return to MacDonald House residence for a reception.

Various clubs across campus have been invited to join the celebration.

“To bring these people together, even if their focus isn’t on queer awareness or associated with the Rainbow Centre, it’s a matter of showing solidarity and standing proudly with other members of the community,” Lieu said.

Lindo admired the potential to bring different communities at Laurier together.

“It seems like it’s the same people having the talk. It’s these moments and these awareness campaigns that allow different people show up. You bring the celebration to them.”

Lindo, who just joined the diversity and equity office in the summer, is impressed by the efficiency of the Rainbow Centre.

She commended the coordinators and volunteers for their leadership practices and ability to bring such conversations to the forefront.

“When I first got here, I was told … that students were meeting in secret and there was concern about actually meeting collectively and there was no space for them on campus,” she said.

“It’s not about issues, it’s about moments and how far we’ve come.”

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