Inclusive DEO event endeavours to be a safe space on campus

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Photo by Kash Patel

On Wednesday, Oct. 24, between 7:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., the Rainbow Centre, the Centre for Women and Trans People and Laurier Students’ Public Interest Research Group (LSPIRG) hosted their  “Love Letters to Inclusive Feminism” event at Wilfrid Laurier. 

Located within the Macdonald House on the Laurier Waterloo campus, it offered a chance for individuals to come together, write, craft and participate in an evening of self-care in an inclusive and supportive environment. 

“The event was meant to be a comfortable space for folks to come together [and] get support: we offered active listening, crafts, relaxing activities, button making, opportunities for expression and chances to talk about how feminism and inclusive movements need to also include trans people, gender non-conforming folks and diverse people as well, especially those in marginalized positions,” said Milas Hewson, administrator of the Rainbow Centre and one of the hosts for the event.

“[So] we wanted to provide a space for folks to have a conversation about that, as well as just find a comfortable, safe space to exist in the context of a lot of nastiness in the states. In Canada, it’s a tricky time to try to exist right now,” they said. 

“Excluding folks from that movement a) implies they’re not really women or that they’re not experiencing this gender based harm and violence and b) really excludes people who have been vital to that movement and erasing that history that’s so important there.”

The other hosts joining them included Amanda Fitzpatrick, coordinator for the Glow Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity and Karly Rath, volunteer and community engagement director from LSPIRG.

One of the main issues they wanted to address was the feeling of loneliness and disconnection from the rest of the community that can often accompany being around the greater area of the campus. 

Having these kinds of events offers a safe space to go and meet other people that have similar experiences and that allow open, honest and non-judgemental communication, that can precipitate sympathy and empathy from individuals that might have had similar experiences

“It’s super important, especially with the general environment that’s going on at a lot of university campuses, a lot of people don’t feel super safe. So it’s really important to have these places where you can build community and you can meet other people,” Fitzpatrick said. 

Accessing feminist spaces has historically been a sizable obstacle for trans and gender non-conforming people.

“It’s interesting because a lot of the time it’s trans folks who have sort of lead those movements in the past and there’s a real rise of that sort of exclusionary version of feminism, when really the position of the Rainbow Centre and I believe the other organizations who hosted this, is feminism is a movement that should be for all women. If your feminism isn’t inclusive, it’s not really feminism,” Hewson said.  

“Excluding folks from that movement a) implies they’re not really women or that they’re not experiencing this gender based harm and violence and b) really excludes people who have been vital to that movement and erasing that history that’s so important there.”

With regard to events in the future, as part of “16 days of activism,” the CTW and Rainbow Centre are partnering on an event regarding trans activism and its history in North America, as well as continuing trans allyship workshops and fulfilling the need for supportive spaces.

The Glow Center will also be hosting a Trans Day Remembrance vigil, as well as an event specifically for trans women of colour and will be continuing to advocate for intersectional events across the university campuses. 

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