Queer awareness at UW

(Photo by Nick Lachance)

The University of Waterloo “came out” in full force last week, as numerous events were held between Oct. 9 and 12 in support of the Glow Centre for Sexual and Gender Diversity’s Coming Out Week, an annual event which looks to educate and raise awareness about the queer community on  the University of Waterloo (UW) campus.

“The best way to educate is through visibility and Coming Out Week shows that there’s a queer community on campus and that encourages people to see that there’s queer students among them,” explained Robbie Ahmed, the co-ordinator for the Glow Centre.

This year’s focus was on anti-bullying and acceptance. By making the queer community more visible to students, UW’s Glow Centre hopes to make queer students feel more comfortable and recognize the support they can draw on.

“Educate, illuminate and create” was the aim of Coming Out Week. Ahmed explained, “So we educate the community, illuminate it by giving them hope and acceptance and then we create things.”

The week, according to Ahmed, went well, with events drawing plenty of student attention. A mixture of social and education events included guarding the rainbow flag, scrapbook making and a film showing, among others.

Vivek Shraya is the filmmaker of “What I Love About Being Queer,” which was screened for students  last Friday evening. Having been told previously that the film was appropriate for educational uses Shraya got in touch with the Glow Centre in the summer, who felt that it would be a good fit with the themes of Coming Out Week.

“It’s about celebrating a part of someone’s identity that’s actually really complicated and has a lot of negativity often associated with it. It gives you this opportunity to think about the positive aspects of being queer,” he commented.

Shraya further explained that coming out is a highly complicated issues, with many people in positions where they feel they can’t do that.

“There’s also sort of this sense that if you’re out you’re living more honestly or something like that, and that’s not necessarily true,” he countered.

The emphasis should be on celebrating a person’s identity, whether in public or in private, he believes. Shraya claimed that the film was well-received by the students.

Ahmed said that while some students do choose to come out during the week as a result of the support they feel, it’s not necessary, and the focus is more on “coming out as a queer community and being proud” through attending events.

On the overall experience of Coming Out Week, he claimed that this year he learned more about the amount of external support networks that people can find in the broader Waterloo area.

“This year I guess it showed that it’s becoming way more accepting. The numbers have changed and people have become more open about coming to these events,” Ahmed reflected.

Coming Out Week will continue to be an annual event, with the Glow Centre aiming to have it return next fall.

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