Trans Solidarity Rally hosted in the Quad
On Dec. 7, 2017 at 12 p.m. Wilfrid Laurier University students, staff and faculty held a Trans Solidarity Rally in the Quad.
The rally was organized in response to the increased amount of controversy and transphobia on Laurier’s campus.
The controversy stems from the situation surrounding Laurier teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd, who ultimately sparked a polarizing debate on campus in Waterloo. Check out a timeline of events surrounding the controversy here.
“I think we’ve existed in climate where trans, non-binary and gender diverse students have experienced a lot of harm recently. It’s really meaningful to have some sort of counter method and to create a climate and a space on campus that upholds trans students,” Toby Finlay, student administrator at WLU Rainbow Centre, said.
“I think that that’s a really important impact that just creates more safety and feelings of inclusion for those students.”
The rally included various speakers who addressed their views on the transphobia taking place on campus. Both students and Laurier staff and faculty spoke.
Representatives from Laurier’s Muslim Students’ Association, Laurier’s Association of Black Students and Laurier’s Centre for Women and Trans People, among other groups, spoke to those at the rally and reiterated that they support and stand with trans, non-binary and gender diverse students.
Although the rally did not bring forth any counter-protestors, there were were some individuals in attendance whose presence was not in support of trans and non-binary justice.
“There were things that weren’t great around certain things and people coming up who were known to be affiliated with the proud boys and things like that,” Finlay said.
“It definitely makes people question their safety in certain ways but I think the messaging that we were able to communicate and share with folks was really meaningful.”
On Dec. 1, the WLU Rainbow Centre released a set of demands which they hope will serve to hold Laurier administration publicly accountable to the needs of trans, non-binary and gender diverse students.
Some of the demands ask Laurier administration to issue a public statement to acknowledge that transphobia is a pressing concern on campus and to address the ways in which trans and non binary individuals have experienced harm throughout the past few weeks. As well, to implement the necessary safety measures and resources in order to support trans and non-binary students and their allies.
The demands also request a public apology from Deborah MacLatchy, president of Laurier, for “failing to acknowledge the transphobia that exists on our campus” amongst various other requests.
“We as trans and non binary students are gonna continue to do this work and engage in activism until we see a campus climate created that’s more hospitable for our community. Definitely, it will not be an issue that fades,” Finlay said.
Although none of these demands have been addressed by administration yet, MacLatchy sent out an email to all Laurier students, faculty and staff on Dec. 6, 2017 at 11 a.m.
“Recent events have cause some people to question Laurier’s support for our LGBTQ2 campus community, and transgendered people in particular. We are proud of Laurier’s record of celebrating all aspects of diversity. The presence, visibility and voices of our lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer and two-spirited students, faculty and staff enrich our campuses in immeasurable ways,” the email statement read.
“There is no place at Laurier for bigotry, discrimination, intolerance or marginalization. Laurier’s support for our LGBTQ2 campus community is resolute and unshakable,” the email went on.
For trans and non-binary students, however, the statement sent out is only one small step in the right direction, but is far from meeting their deserved demands.
“We interpret her email that she released yesterday as sort of proof that speaking publicly and holding an institution publicly accountable in these things is effective and we are able to apply some pressure in that respect,” Finlay said.
“I think we still have a long way to go with MacLatchy but spaces like this make me hopeful.”