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Mark Your Calendars: Pride in October!

After a successful Pride Month in June, AUSU has decided to do it again! We are thrilled to announce that we will be hosting our first October Pride Week from the 25-29, 2021. 

As your current Vice President Community and Wellness (VPCW)—and a queer student myself—this is admittedly a bit of a passion project, but also something that we as an organization have noticed lacking within our virtual post-secondary space. Despite the progress that has been made, systemic barriers and struggles remain a reality for many 2SLGBTQIA+ learners. We hope that by bringing increased awareness to the roots of Pride, to the continued importance of advocacy and representation, as well as underscoring the joy and resilience of our communities, we can move forward in making AU undergraduate student spaces safer and more equitable.

So why the need for Pride? Pride began as a commemoration of the Stonewall Riots that occurred in New York City on June 28, 1969. Rising up against years of oppression, discrimination, and police brutality, the legacies of Stonewall’s Marsha P. Johnson, Stormé DeLarverie, Sylvia Rivera, and countless other individuals and communities, continue to this day. A year later, on the first anniversary of the Riots, demonstrators walked down Greenwich Village’s Christopher Street, a day which many now consider the first Pride march.

Although for some of us, these historical dates are the distant past, it is important to note that the average age of an AU undergraduate student is approximately 30.2, with students of all age demographics. Many of us have experienced dramatic and life-altering changes during our lifetimes, here in Canada, and across the globe. In Canada specifically, decriminalization only began on May 14, 1969. Many of us may remember the beginnings of 1991’s Vriend v. Alberta, to the final ruling on April 2, 1998, in which the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that provincial governments cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation. We may remember May 25, 1995, when sexual orientation was finally included in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as a result of 1995’s Egan v. Canada decision. We may remember that it was only as recently as 1996 that the Canadian Human Rights Act was amended to include sexual orientation as a prohibited grounds for discrimination.  

In recent years, the work continues, including the coining of the term Two-Spirit (2S) by Elder Myra Laramee at the 3rd annual international LGBT Native American gathering on July 27, 1990. Two-Spirit is an umbrella term specific to Indigenous individuals and communities, each of whom has their own understandings of what it means to be 2S. Two-Spirit also points to the important roles held by Indigenous Peoples prior to first contact and the impact of this contact and continuing colonization. It is out of respect for this and as a way to demonstrate solidarity that 2S is placed first in 2SLGBTQIA+.

Even more recently, many of us may remember Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act, which was enacted on July 20, 2005, when many AU learners were in high school or attending post-secondary education (PSE) for the first time. In addition, it was only in 2017 that Bill C-16 added gender identity and gender expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Despite this progress, in many parts of Canada, as well as the world, the struggle continues, particularly for individuals whose experiences with homophobia and transphobia intersect with other forms of oppression, such as ableism and racism. In many places, over the years, governments have steadily threatened and rolled back protections for our communities. So we continue to remember, to advocate—and to celebrate.

That said, we are so excited to announce that we have some fantastic speakers lined up for you throughout the week, including a keynote speech on October 25 at 2 MT from Joshua Whitehead, who is a Two-Spirit, Oji-nêhiyaw member of Peguis First Nation (Treaty 1), PhD candidate, author, and the 2020-2021 AU Writer-in-Residence. In addition, on October 29 at 5 MT, we have a great presentation by Dr Tobias Wiggins, whose research focuses on “transgender mental health, queer and trans visual culture, clinical transphobia, accessible community-based wellness, and psychoanalysis,” and is also Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at AU, and coordinator of the University Certificate in Counselling Women.

And since we know that many AU students juggle personal and professional commitments, in addition to their educational journeys, the speaker series will be recorded and streamed live on Facebook. We are also hosting a takeover of AUSUnights on October 28 at 5MT for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community (friends and allies are welcome!). Join us as we play some Queer (Music) Trivia and chat about our experiences as AU students. Finally, throughout the month, we will also be featuring some great giveaways and social media content, as a way to learn about our “Past, Present, and Future.”

Feel free to message me at [email protected] with suggestions and comments, or find me anytime on the 2SLGBTQIA+ Discord Server.

Natalia Iwanek (she/they) – Vice President Community and Wellness (VPCW)

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