“Our history and our culture is based a lot on proximity – whether in spaces where you had to hide together just to be yourselves, or meeting up in places to protest. It’s all about proximity.”
As we at Yorkville University prepare to mark our second consecutive Pride Month in lockdown, we understand just how critical it is to create safe spaces – even virtual ones – where members of our LGBTQIA2S+ community can not only feel accepted, but celebrated for who they are and the many contributions they make.
That’s why we’re excited to announce a number of different initiatives, activities and resources we’ll be rolling out in celebration of Pride 2021, including thrice-weekly LGBTQIA2S+ Virtual Safe Spaces drop-ins throughout the month of June and the launch of an LGBTQIA2S+ Ally Tool Kit.
“The pandemic has been a really challenging time and very isolating for a lot of queer folk…so having these spaces where people can connect, where we can give them that sense proximity, is very important,” explained Zac Schraeder, a Toronto Film School Program Advisor who’s helping organize this year’s Pride celebrations.
For Jason Taylor-Horsfall, who’s studying towards his Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology at Yorkville, Pride is all about “belongingness and being part of community that loves and cares for you, and gives hope to those that feel that they’re not accepted elsewhere.”
“Yorkville University does a really good job at providing support for LGBTQ+ people like myself and providing an atmosphere that makes us feel accepted and wanted here,” he said.
“This is done in various ways, like the course materials cover a lot of LGBTQ+ issues and ways to support our future clients in ways they can grow and accept who they truly are.”
Another way Yorkville is working to support its queer community members is through the launch of the LGBTQI2SA+ Safe Spaces initiative, which was inspired by conversations Schraeder’s had with students during some of his recent online meet-ups. The virtual Safe Spaces will be open virtually here from June 2 to June 30 on the following days and times:
- Mondays from 4:30 – 5 p.m. (EST)
- Wednesdays from 1:30 – 2 p.m. (EST)
- Fridays from 10:30 – 11 a.m. (EST)
“The students I’ve talked to talked about having a need for a space where they can go where they don’t have to justify their identity or their experience or anything like that. Where it’s just validation and supportive listening,” Schraeder said.
“A lot of queer people need that, because oftentimes their identities are questioned, or not respected. It can be as basic as pronouns not being used properly, or the dignity of using the correct washroom or experiencing discrimination with employment or housing,” he added.
“Having a space where you can just talk about these things and be supported without having to justify why is important. It helps empower people to deal with the problems we see. It’s a piece of the solution we need.”
Another important piece of that solution is building a community of LGBTQIA2S+ allies who are not only supportive, but knowledgeable – and that, Schraeder said, is where Yorkville University’s newly launched Ally Tool Kit comes into play.
The 16-page document not only lays out Yorkville University and Toronto Film School’s commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, but also provides a glossary of LGBTQIA2S+ terminology, guidelines and guidance for allies wishing to participate in the Safe Spaces, and a list of community supports and resources.
“It’s important for allies to be knowledgeable, especially when you have a community that’s so diverse,” Schraeder explained, noting that the tool kit also addresses the importance of allies being able to embrace their discomfort and learn from their mistakes.
“We’re learning now that gender can be pretty much anything – it’s not binary, it’s a spectrum and so that means language is always changing and it’s important to know that if you’re going to be a good ally.”