“I’ve been able to find my community here.”
Chad Huang, Comm ’24, came to Queen’s from Surrey, B.C. Before stepping foot on campus, he was afraid of not finding a place to belong. Since then, he’s carved out intricate and meaningful safe spaces for Commerce students in the LGBTQ+ community.
“What really pushed me to join Q+, despite some of the negative stigma I heard around it, was the ability for me to gain confidence in my own identity,” Huang said.
Logistics and socials coordinator in his second year, Huang, is now co-chair of the LGBTQ+ network for Smith School of Business students, Q+. Huang is grateful to have learned from Queen’s queer community and more grateful to be able to give back to it.
“It’s taught me a lot about leadership, mainly when it comes to advocating for myself and others.”
One of the most memorable projects Huang has taken on under Q+ has been introducing socials for queer students and faculty. The socials have run since early in the pandemic and have sparked moments of love and community that will stick with Huang for a long time.
“Someone came out at one of the socials I organized,” he said. “I thought that was really impactful.”
Q+ socials are open to any members of the Queen’s community. They take place at regular intervals, depending on the executive’s capacity, and feature virtual games, icebreakers, and chances to discuss issues of concern to the queer community.
Though he feels immense pride in building a safe space within socials, Huang recognizes the importance of accountability and action as he continues to learn how to make an environment welcoming for individuals with varying needs.
“Learning to include a simple question like ‘what are your accommodations’ on the sign-up form was a really good experience.”
On top of socials, Huang has also spearheaded the Q+ mentorship program, which pairs first- and second-year students with Smith alumni and upper-years. Though the program is open to all Smith students, Huang is excited at the increase in LGBTQ+ engagement he’s seen this year.
“Last year, we had six LGBTQ+ mentees and this year we had 19,” he said. “That was a really awesome experience for me to see that program grow.”
Huang and his executive team also hosted the Q+ summit this year: a virtual conference that brought together sponsors and speakers from across industries.
“That was a really big learning opportunity for me when it came to organizing events and getting my foot in the door for advocacy.”
Like many student activists at Queen’s, Huang recognizes the pressure to become involved in advocacy and how it conflicts with fears students may have about putting themselves out there. Huang is confident that, regardless of their background, all students can find a supportive community, even if it takes time.
“There’s a whole group of people at Queen’s that are so amazing when it comes to supporting each other, especially when it comes to advocacy,” Huang said.
He specifically referred to the Queen’s Advocacy Coalition—a group of student clubs working to collectively represent marginalized Queen’s students.
He also found a spectacular mentor early on in Nancy Sammon, relationship manager at Smith’s Toronto campus. She’s supported Huang directly in his advocacy, as well as Q+ and queer Smith students as a whole.
“If you want to get involved, there are definitely students and Smith staff who are going to support you.”
On top of fears of not finding community, Huang has had those close to him question whether it’s worth it for them to advocate for themselves and others like them.
“Don’t be afraid to make a fuss,” he said.
“We’re scared of making ourselves not look good, but everyone’s doing their best and I think it’s totally cool to have an embarrassing moment or a very vulnerable one because that’s really what makes you human.”
As a final piece of advice, Huang noted that “what doesn’t really get seen all the time is the effort that [student activists] are trying to put in,” especially when accusations of performative activism are commonplace in many advocacy circles.
“I wish there was more empathy when it came to people wanting to change and people trying to make things change.”
Recently, Queen’s published the Student Experiences Survey, which outlined some of the realities of discrimination that marginalized students risk facing on-campus.
“So many marginalized groups of students don’t feel safe or welcome on Queen’s campus,” Huang said.
Though mostly unfamiliar with Ontario universities, Huang remembers reading about some of these experiences through sources like Reddit before coming to Queen’s. For him, a better future for students means an absence of these fears.
“Students shouldn’t feel afraid before even applying or setting foot on campus,” he said. “Queen’s has its challenges when it comes to inclusivity that some other universities don’t have because our population is very much predominantly white […] but there’s definitely change happening.”
As a first-year student, Huang hoped to build a career for himself, find a community, and learn more about his own identity at Queen’s. Now, a year away from graduation, he’s excited to be making meaningful progress towards achieving those goals.
“We’re all just here to support each other,” Huang said. “You’ll find your people here.”
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