It wasn’t as stinging as a slap in the face. Perhaps more like an ex-lover blowing cigarette smoke in it.
The long and the short of it is that U of T queers are feeling the steaming piss of rejection this week after U of T students failed to pass a levy for LGBTOUT, the campus group that provides social and political advocacy for queers, lesbians, bisexuals, gays, and transgendered or two-spirited people.
LGBTOUT provides one of the few consistent outlets on campus for non-heterosexual interests, and the group has been a queer mainstay in this city for 35 years. From discussion groups where you can flesh out your new gay identity, to queer zines were you can put your unconventional angst on display, to queer pub nights, to friends. In the end, LGBTOUT is about creating a community for people whose sexualities leave them at odds with the rest of the world.
Shake your head in frustration, because the odds were with us this time: the referendum campaign was quiet, even under the radar. The voting took place during Xpression Against Oppression week. The referendum question was posed on the same cyberballot as the candidates for SAC’s VP Equity. You would think that all things considered, this would have been the time that penny-pinchers and homophobes might have been too busy slogging through midterms to notice, when all the right people would have voted for a measly little $0.70 refundable levy.
Alack, you would have thought all that, and you would have been dead wrong. With just under 700 votes in favour, and a little over 1000 against, LGBTOUT’s attempt to put a little levy to U of T’s student body failed for the fourth time in five years.
Figuring out why the levy has failed before isn’t actually so tough. When LGBTOUT campaigned in 1999, there was violent homophobic backlash so extreme that it helped motivate the university to create the arguably over-extended, under-funded, and very much appreciated Office of LGBTQ Resources and Programs.
Last spring’s attempt to pass a $0.69 levy, during SAC’s spring elections, was advertised heavily. Maybe it was too loud, too cheeky, too in-your-face. I’ll be the first to admit it’s a hard pill to swallow if, like most U of T students, you apparently only acknowledge the rights of LGBTQers begrudgingly. Go ahead, you say, get married. But ask me to spare some change? Forget it.
Maybe it’s not that you’re all homophobes. Maybe the problem is that U of T students just don’t know what LGBTOUT is really up to. They run the infamous Homohops. Surely you’ve heard of these, the queer pub nights that were once held on campus, but have since left for greener pastures in Toronto’s Gaybourhood, where red tape is less abundant. Maybe you’re just thrifty with your how you spend your incidental fees, and you’d prefer not to fund a bunch of fags playing loud, gay house music. After all, we’re not talking Will and Grace gay. We’re talking Jack and Karen gay.
All manner of campus societies hold pub nights with student funds, but very few of them turn a profit. The Homohops do. And while such queer dance parties serve a very visible social function, they are equally a political and fundraising tool-they provide a safe space for queers to be themselves and the proceeds from the Homohops pay for all LGBTOUT’s other events and activities. Their advocacy work, their discussion groups, workshops, and outreach. The bread and butter of any equity-seeking group.
But the Homohops are not an ideal source of funds. They put LGBTOUT’s finances at the whim of the parties’ venues and fickle following.
A levy, on the other hand, would be stable funding, and with that LGBTOUT could spend more time on other things, things that matter more to all of us than getting drunk and getting laid. Like working to resolve equity issues by getting at the common forms of ignorance that fuel racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, ageism. Like figuring out the reason why students at this university don’t seem to understand that oppression is oppression, whether it’s a baseball bat to the back of your head, or casting a vote to keep us under your boot. But you knew all that already, right? Because you’re not racist, sexist, ableist, or ageist. And you’re certainly not a homophobe.