For gay, bisexual and transgendered students, the demands of school are often complicated by the alienation and stress they can feel because of their sexual orientation, providing the incentive behind a new campaign on the Scarborough campus.
The Positive Space Campaign held throughout January at U of T Scarborough (UTSC) meant to celebrate all forms of diversity, but its focus was sexual diversity.
“The campaign recognizes the dominance of heterosexual privilege at UTSC and the lack of freedom and visibility that LGBTQ students experience as a result,” said Jude Tate, co-ordinator of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered and Queer (LGBTQ) Resources and Programs. There are many students who hide their sexuality in order to be included and accepted, as well as for safety reasons, says Tate.
“Its ultimate goal…is to support our campus to be free of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
This campaign follows on the heels of the establishment of a positive space committee at the U of T principal’s office. The inventive seminars in the campaign will work with the group to generate some common stereotypes, then take them apart to examine where they come from and why they exist. These seminars will address what positive space is, and how to make the university free from discrimination.
“[Many people] learn negative things about lesbians and gays [and] lots of us carry them around even though they are not true, and believe that they are true,” said Tate.
To increase visibility and awareness of the campaign, an inverted triangle made up of the six colours of the rainbow is used as a symbol to identify those who are supportive of sexual diversity and a generally positive environment.
Tate stressed the importance of allies: those who, while not necessarily lesbian, gay, transgendered or bisexual, still recognize the importance of sexual diversity and sexual freedom, and display stickers. Having the stickers prominently displayed “suggests that you are ready to respond favourably to those who are marginalized because of sexual orientation or gender identity, or who themselves feel hesitant to speak out positively. It also suggests that you are prepared to challenge discriminatory language and stereotypical talk, even if said in jest.”
Tate also believes the visibility of the Positive Space triangle helps students who are questioning their sexuality feel more comfortable on campus. “When they see it, it means a lot to them. When visible, it is a powerful symbol that [says] I’m not the only one.”