Queerientation kicks off

Eric Lavallee and Cathy Shen, EQuIP co-chairs, invite everyone in the Queen’s community to come out to Queerientation events.
Eric Lavallee and Cathy Shen, EQuIP co-chairs, invite everyone in the Queen’s community to come out to Queerientation events.

In high school, Brian, Comm ’08, used to sell t-shirts with messages that read, “Why would you rather see two men holding guns than holding hands?”

The venture was more than just an entrepreneurial whim.

“[Being] lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual or queer (LGBTQ) was never an issue that was actively raised at my high school,” he said.

“[The t-shirts] were my vehicle for awareness.”

Brian said he liked the idea because it was conspicuous.

“By reading [the message] you don’t have to say anything to anyone, it just sits in your head,” he said.

Brian did not wish to have his last name printed for personal safety reasons. He said that as a new student, he is concerned about the first-year experience of other queer frosh.

“[Frosh] are coming from high school and haven’t been exposed to the openness of the university environment,” he said. “They may not be quite as aware of the sensitivity of queer issues.” Wearing a Dr. Seuss t-shirt that read, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind,” Brian joined more than 40 other students at Queerientation’s opening event, a barbeque and film presentation on Tuesday.

“[Queerientation is] a bunch of events to make frosh familiar with the people, places and things that are queer and queer-friendly in Kingston,” said Cathy Shen, co-chair of the Education on Queer Issues Project (EQuIP).

“The purpose of Queerientation is to [get] the word out that it’s okay to come out,” she said.

Eric Lavallee, co-chair of EQuIP, said unlike last year, EQuIP decided to run this year’s Queerientation in September and October to avoid overloading students during their first week of school.

“We’re spreading the events out more ... to make events more accessible,” he said.

More than eight events, including rock climbing, a dance party called Queer Night Out and a concert at the Cocamo featuring the bands King Cobras, Kids on TV and Lesbians on Ecstacy have been organized.

“It’s gonna be a lot of fun—a night on the town,” said Lavallee.

He said the events EQuIP chose for Queerientation are social, inclusive and accessible.

“Queerientation isn’t just for Frosh, it’s open to all members of the Queen’s community and youth in Kingston community as well,” he said.

Lavallee said Queerientation— now in its ninth year—is driven by the mission statement of EQuIP, to educate people on queer issues, and to provide resources and a contact point for queer students.

“It used to be that nobody had seen what lesbian and gay people were like,” Shen said.

“[Frosh] never had any examples, because they’re coming from high schools where there’s nobody who’s out.

“Once [they’re] here, we’re giving queer people exposure and making it known that Queen’s is a safe space,” she said.

Lavallee said he met many students at the opening barbecue who only came out in their fourth year. He said one of Queerientation’s main goals is to increase students’ comfort levels.

“People need to know that Queen’s is an okay place to come out,” he said.

“There [are] resources and support for them, and there’s a vibrant queer community here,” he said.

“It’s our big message to Frosh.”

Despite calling Kingston a very open-minded city, Shen said the queer community faces obstacles.

“There’s still a stigma in the Queen’s community, especially [regarding] the Grey House,” she said, referring to 51 Bader Lane. As EQuIP’s home base, the house is shared by other organizations such as The Women’s Centre and Queen’s Amnesty International.

Shen said the rainbow flag hanging in a window of the Grey House may deter Frosh from entering.

“The rainbow flag represents queerness,” she said. “I hear [the building] called the ‘Gay House’.”

Lavallee said the rainbow represents the spectrum of diverse sexuality and gender identities. He said inclusivity is a main goal of EQuIP and there are no requirements for joining.

“There’s a lot of students who think that in order to work with EQuIP you have to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered,” he said.

“That’s not the case, we really encourage queer allies to get involved.

—Visit myams.org/home/equip/ for a full schedule of Queerientation, Queer Q&A, links to queer resources and more information on how to get involved with EQuIP

Queerientation Event Schedule

Sept. 17: “Take Back the Night,” women and children march against violence.

Rally starts at 7:00 p.m., across from City Hall.

Sept. 21: Writer and broadcaster Ann Silversides speaks on her book, “AIDS Activist Michael Lynch and the Politics of Community.” A benefit for HIV/AIDS Regional Services.

Ellis Hall, University Ave, 8:00 p.m.

Sept. 26: Rock Climbing, $15.

Book by email at equip@myams.org.

Sept. 29: Queer Night Out, all ages dance party at Shay Foo Foo’s Lounge.

Oct. 1: King Cobras, Kids on TV and Lesbians on Ecstacy at the Cocamo.

19+ show. Doors open at 9:30 p.m.

$8 advanced tickets at Brian’s Record Option and Zap Records. $10 at the door.

Oct. 14: Adult comedy show, “My Dick and Other Manly Tales” by Norman Nawrocki.

Grant Hall, 8:30 p.m.

Pay-what-you-can at the door.

Every Wednesday: “Queer or Uncertain? the Coming Out Discussion Group” meets at the Ban Righ Centre, 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

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