Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Trans People of the University of Toronto (LGBTOUT) is an organization of student volunteers dedicated to providing resources and programming for queer and trans students at the University of Toronto. Our primary goals are to promote queer visibility, create safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people, and educate U of T students about LGBTQ+ issues. We work toward these goals by hosting LGBTQ+ networking events, which help foster a sense of community for students who may feel alienated in straight spaces.
Due to the budgeting process of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), our event schedule is usually structured according to when cheques are distributed and how much money is made from ticket sales during our larger events. UTSU funding covers expenses up to half of a club’s operating budget. The limited budget decreases the amount of advocacy-based and community-building events we are able to run, despite this being the main purpose of LGBTOUT’s establishment.
A levy of just $0.25 from each UTSU member, each term, would allow LGBTOUT to overcome these financial barriers and better fulfill our mandate. This, in turn, creates a more equitable and healthy campus for all.
For instance, secure funding means we can host more intersectional events that cater to the diverse LGBTQ+ community. This could take the form of hiring American Sign Language interpreters at educational events or securing accessible event spaces. We would also be able to offer small grants to clubs who take the necessary measures to ensure their events are LGBTQ+ inclusive. Thus, campus would be a more inviting space for queer students; especially those who wish to get involved with other groups outside of queer-centred organizations.
We always talk about improving mental health, and this levy would be a step towards doing that. Improved access to queer friendly spaces, as well as education and advocacy, would help to boost morale and inclusivity for queer students. Furthermore, increased funding means LGBTOUT can better collaborate with queer organizations around Toronto, bringing necessary queer resources from around the city to U of T students.
Strengthening LGBTQ+ presence and networks could be the difference between a queer student feeling like they can reach out for help and feeling hopeless or alone. The LGBTOUT Drop-In Centre is a safe space on campus where we have over 40 amazing volunteers. They act as both a friend for those who need someone to listen, and as a person that can direct students to various resources around campus and in the city. A levy would ensure that LGBTOUT is able to continue providing educational resources, safer sex supplies, and drop-in services, in a way that adapts to the changing needs of our diverse community.
Opportunities to learn about LGBTQ+ advocacy and equity in general exist, but these opportunities are not always accessible. Many LGBTQ+ people, specifically trans people of colour, may face financial barriers in attending opportunities such as these. With secure funding, LGBTOUT looks to offer scholarships and alleviate these financial burdens.
Our organization has tried twice to get a levy in the past, with little success. Last year’s Drop-In Centre director, Cathie Renner, said that “there was more open homophobia on campus in 1999 and 2004… other groups were [advocating for levies], but because it was queer students it was seen as subversive.”
Between March 22 and March 24, show that our campus has moved forward from these attitudes. Please vote yes in the referendum online at utsu.simplyvoting.ca or at polling stations on campus.
Nathan Gibson is LGBTOUT’s Drop-In Centre director.