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U of T-student founded campaign launches Queering STEM Scholarship

Two awards of $2,000 are available for LGBTQ+ students entering university
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The scholarship aims to support future LGBTQ+ leaders in STEM careers. COURTESY OF ANDREW JAY/UNSPLASH
The scholarship aims to support future LGBTQ+ leaders in STEM careers. COURTESY OF ANDREW JAY/UNSPLASH

Toronto-based LGBTQ+ advocacy group LoveisLoveisLove has launched the Queering STEM Scholarship program for LGBTQ+ youth in Ontario who are entering a STEM undergraduate program in Ontario for the 2020–2021 academic year. There are two awards of $2,000 available.

Academic excellence, personal charisma, and civic engagement are the three major factors that the scholarship selection committee is looking for in an applicant. In addition to the personal essay and application form, every applicant is also asked to submit a short video detailing “the importance of LGBTQ+ inclusion in STEM.”

“We want people who can be leaders, who can be visible and instigate change in their own way when they mature in their careers,” said Adam Zivo, who is the founder of LoveisLoveisLove, as well as a graduate student at U of T’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

According to Zivo, “people working in STEM tend to be underrepresented in LGBTQ+ issues and activism,” especially when compared to their counterparts in arts and culture. The scholarship is meant to support future LGBTQ+ leaders in STEM and support their acceptance across a number of fields of study.

Students can email their application, which can be found on the company’s website by January 1, 2020. The committee will make their decisions by late January, and finalists will be contacted by the end of February.

LoveisLoveisLove partnered with Mongrel Media to raise the money through a charitable film premiere, and ScholarTree for the administration processes relating to the scholarship.

The launch of LoveisLoveisLove

Zivo founded LoveisLoveisLove in 2016. Its first project was a photo booth about “celebrating queer relationships and giving positive messages in a time of trauma,” as part of an LGBTQ+ street festival in Toronto.

After the Orlando Pulse shooting that year, some of Zivo’s friends posted images of themselves with friends and romantic partners on social media in response, as a “symbolic resistance against homophobia and violence.”

Having noticed that phenomenon, Zivo rebranded the project to adapt to the trauma that the community was feeling. Later, the LoveisLoveisLove team collected photos from the participants to be published it on their Facebook page and website.

In 2017, the project was scaled up so that the participants with the most-liked photos received a prize. “In mass cultural depictions of LGBT folks, it has to be one of two on a spectrum. You have either a hypersexualized image, or an image that strips LGBT people of their sexuality and romance entirely,” Zivo said.

The campaign hoped to address this by showing the “sentimental and candid side” of queer interpersonal relationships.

Enduring outreach to the community

Later in 2018, Zivo decided to do something in a physical space that would have lasting impacts and reach beyond the social media bubbles of LGBTQ+ culture. His team produced a large-scale banner installation at Toronto City Hall in collaboration with Meridian Credit Union. This was one of the largest installations ever presented there, and he later created similar banners for the Ottawa City Hall and the Scarborough Civic Centre.

They also collaborated with the non-profit organization, Scarborough Arts, to create a Scarborough city name sign that was similar to the multi-coloured tourist attraction in Nathan Phillips Square, except it was covered with a vinyl wrap of photos taken by Zivo for LoveisLoveisLove.

It was one of the efforts aimed to resolve geographic discrepancy in LGBTQ+ acceptance through suburban engagement.

Zivo went on to explain how LoveisLoveisLove came to their signature initiative in 2019: Toronto’s Big Gay Bus, a TTC bus that the team transformed into a mobile resource which educates non-LGBTQ+ people with educational materials and by “answering simple questions about LGBTQ+ issues that [people] might not be aware of,” according to Zivo. As an example, he provided the question: “What is the difference between a drag queen and a trans person?” So far, the bus has reached hundreds of thousands of people.

Beyond that, LoveisLoveisLove’s latest project was a 20-foot “Marvellous Mobile Mural” at Ottawa City Hall. LoveisLovisLove expects to make more murals this year and bring them through smaller communities.

“Many LGBT activists are downtown-centric and kind of on the radical side,” Zivo said, “We can’t just give up on the inner suburbs and suburban communities because that’s giving up on the vast majority of Canadians. We also have to recognize that not everyone is going to be receptive to the most progressive and aggressive forms of LGBT activism.”

Zivo’s team aims to extend the campaign to more suburban areas, and maintain “friendly, non-aggressive” language, hoping to make LGBTQ+ rights “better understood by audiences who are unfamiliar [with them].”

“We’re like, ‘hey, you don’t know these things. That’s cool. Here’s the answer,’” Zivo said.