Celebrating queer pride with second annual parade
Despite the dark and cold weather on Wednesday evening, Wilfrid Laurier University’s Rainbow Centre displayed its cheerfulness and optimism as it hosted its second annual Queer Pride Parade.
The march started at the Quad around 6:30 p.m. and worked its way throughout campus, which included marching along the side of University Avenue before finishing back in the Quad.
The parade was the conclusion to the Queer Awareness campaign, a week-long campaign that promoted the centre and brought awareness to queer issues and the presence of the queer community at Laurier.
“The entire point of the week was to educate and create visibility on campus,” said Jessica Mennen, administrator for the Rainbow Centre and one of the organizers of the parade. “The parade was more about the visibility, whereas the past week was about the education.”
“The parade shows the campus that we’re here, that there’s more then one of us.”
Pamela Sariyannis, events coordinator for the centre, viewed the parade and campaign as tying directly into the goals of the Rainbow Centre.
“The goal of the Rainbow Centre this year is to build more ties with the community and that goal was reached in this year’s pride parade,” Sariyannis said.
The reason behind this success, she believes, is due to the support of various other groups on campus.
“Multiple groups came out this year, such as Radio Laurier and Laurier’s Aboriginal Student Centre, which was good to see their support.”
Shawn Johnston, who is currently completing his Masters of social work and is a work student at the Aboriginal Student Centre, participated in this year’s parade.
“I think it’s important to support other LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer] students on campus through events like the parade,” he said.
Speaking about the importance of the parade on campus, Johnston expressed that it relates to the services provided by groups like the Rainbow Centre.
“It’s important because it’s your support system; it gets you through school, allows you to make new friends and offers a safe place to hang out,” Johnston said. “I think it’s great they are willing to go around campus and make their presence known. Hopefully over time it will get bigger and bigger.”
While the number of participants was not as high as last year, Mennen believes the support from various groups who were not visible last year was an improvement.
“More people came out last year, but I think the people that came out this year were more aware of why we were doing it,” expressed Mennen.
“It was still successful in terms of getting the message out.”
The parade was held a month later than it was last year, which impacted the conditions for the parade as it was getting dark by the time it began. As such, Mennen commented on the challenge they had with timing this year.
“The hardest part is finding a good time which works for students’ schedules. It’s hard finding a time when everybody can come out,” Mennen said.
“We need to find a good time that works for everybody,” Sariyannis continued. “It will get bigger as more people become aware of it.”
Looking at the overall impression of the parade on campus, Mennen thought it was well-received by the student community.
“I saw two things from people on campus during the parade: bewilderment, in terms of people not knowing what is going on, and positive reception from a lot of people who smiled and cheered with us,” she said.