We’re here, we’re queer ... now what?

Queen’s should take advantage of its tight-knit community to crack down on diversity issues

The EQuIP Office on 52 Bader Lane is an excellent resource for students to learn about queer issues. Student groups need to collaborate more, though, to resolve diversity issues at Queen’s.
The EQuIP Office on 52 Bader Lane is an excellent resource for students to learn about queer issues. Student groups need to collaborate more, though, to resolve diversity issues at Queen’s.

In a small town about 30 minutes northwest of Belleville lies Campbellford, my hometown.

I had to wait a long time to feel like I could be open about my sexual identity after coming out to myself just a month shy of turning 13. There wasn’t much going on with queer issues in my town at the time (and now). Needless to say, when I came to Queen’s I was ready to be out, proud and loud about who I am.

In first year, I became involved with the Education on Queer Issues Project (EQuIP) and Outwrite! A Queer Review, under the Social Issues Commission. My engagement in these groups gave me a sense of community that I had never felt before. I was able to connect with people in an environment that not only embraced my identity, but also challenged my assumptions about other people’s identities.

For my four years at Queen’s, I’ve remained involved with EQuIP in various capacities as well as becoming a part of the Positive Space Committee, Gender Bender (a CFRC radio show and blog) and the Reelout Film Festival. Through these involvements I have been able to see both the strengths and limitations of the queer communities at Queen’s.

I would say the principal strength of the queer groups on campus is their proactive recruitment and genuine excitement to meet prospective members. Whether it’s talking with people at the Orientation Week Sidewalk Sale, meeting someone at the EQuIP office, seeing new faces at an event or receiving an e-mail, leaders and members of queer groups on campus appreciate interest in their work and welcome new members wholeheartedly.

Another asset of queer groups on campus and in Kingston is their range of interests. There are groups focused on education, media, art, activism and celebration. Despite their myriad of interests, the primary goal remains the same: to create social spaces for people to meet and form connections in an environment of inclusive sexual and gender identity.

A newer focus I’ve seen growing over my four years at Queen’s is an increasing connection between queer groups on campus and the Kingston community. The expanding connections have been due, in large part, to queer individuals who have former ties to the campus and have fostered an environment where these ties can be entrenched. The relationship between Queen’s and Kingston queer groups are integral to promoting a larger queer community and to increase the knowledge and history of queers in Kingston.

I’ve gained a lot from my experiences as a member of queer communities at Queen’s, but there are still ways they could improve and become even more welcoming spaces for all people who identify as queer.

One significant aspect to keep in mind when organizing in queer communities is intersectionality. Queer groups cannot just be a place where one is only queer. There are a multiplicity of identities and one should never be expected to privilege a part of themselves over another.

The focus of queer groups on campus is to create “queer spaces,” but we must remember that although people are searching for a safe space to be queer, they shouldn’t be expected to leave behind other parts of their identity in order to enter that space.

Queer groups should also remember that creating social space for marginalized communities can be seen as a form of political action, but it’s still necessary to organize explicit political acts such as protests, educational campaigns and other forms of activism. Although groups may have many aspirations to organize political events, I often see these ideas fall to the wayside and become replaced by events of a more apolitical social nature. Even though I truly believe in the importance of social spaces and their implicit goals of equity, it’s important to connect to political issues in order to keep the queer community vibrant and challenge heteronormativity and homonormativity on campus.

One of the most important things I’ve learned through my work with queer groups and exploration of my own identity is that my experiences can aid in my understanding of other marginalized identities. It’s essential to build communities with alliances to people of colour, people with (dis)abilities, feminists and people who are economically marginalized. The understanding of multiple identities, along with similarities in oppression, provides a stronger basis for Queen’s as a whole.

Queerness is but one part of a person’s identity. Although for some, it may be more dominant in influencing their life, for others it may just be one part of the whole. It’s so important that queer groups form connections across communities and reflect on oppression within queer spaces. Homophobia isn’t the only thing that affects queer people. Transphobia, biphobia, racism, ableism, sexism and classism are only some of the realities in our everyday lived experience.

It’s not a weakness to admit these. Only by acknowledging various forms of oppression can we begin to make safe queer spaces for all.
Christina Clare, ArtSci ’10, won the Tricolour Award this year for her work in queer activism. She was the co-chair of EQuIP in 2007-08 and co-ordinator of the Queen’s Pride Project.

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