PHOTO VIA SMC INCLUSIVE/FACEBOOK

After more than 50 years, one can still hear the echoes of the Stonewall Riots reverberating through space and time. With the right set of ears, the sounds of chants which manifest the struggle for liberty and the impact of bricks against the seemingly impenetrable walls that divide people from each other can be heard. They call on us all to cast away hatred, break down limitative binaries, and accept the irrefutable diversity of love.

Despite the passing of five decades, and all the advances that came with it, the fight for LGBTQQ2AIP+ rights is as relevant and necessary now as it has ever been throughout history. There is still a need for greater change, enlightenment, and efforts to obtain equity peacefully for the community, on a scale ranging from changing individual minds to reforming whole organizations.

The University of Toronto and its student body is by no means immune to this transformative call for action and inclusivity.

SMCInclusive, the newest LGBTQQ2AIP+ inclusive social and outreach group for students and staff at St. Michael’s College (SMC), aims to be an answer to this call.

SMCInclusive’s primary mission is to represent all students that identify and are allied with the LGBTQQ2AIP+ community within SMC, and to encourage the growth and advancement of its constituency and the greater community within the University of Toronto as a whole.

We aim to do this through coordinating and running activities and events, and creating a supportive environment for all SMC students and staff regardless of age, class, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, gender expression, immigration or citizenship status, race, religion, sex, or sexuality.

We aim to play an active role in fighting against discrimination against all individuals identifying with the LGBTQQ2AIP+ community and their allies through educational and social outreach to reduce incidents and proliferation of homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, heterosexism, lesbophobia, and any other forms of intersecting oppression.

Behind this group is a team of individuals that has pushed for its existence, and will continue to fight for its longevity: President and Founder Andrew Raya, Vice-President Brennah Doyle, Treasurer Marie-Rose Domenichini, Secretary Adam Da Costa Gomes, and Social Media Representative Michela Lo Re.

Since its inception on October 30, SMCInclusive has hosted three events, including a welcome social, an LGBTQQ2AIP+ movie screening and discussion session, and a holiday-themed exam de-stresser co-hosted with SMC’s Wellness Council.

In 2020, we are to host more social events — including a drag brunch at the Glad Day Bookstore and screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show — and engage in various social outreach and archiving projects. In accordance with its aim to respond to incidents of homophobia and transphobia, SMCInclusive has already made groundbreaking strides alongside SMC’s progressive administration.

Near the end of the fall semester, it was brought to the attention of the executives of SMCInclusive that multiple posters advertising its “Netflix & Chat” event in an SMC residence building were subjected to “anti-gay rhetoric,” as worded in a follow-up statement issued by the Dean of Students, Duane Rendle.

Rendle’s groundbreaking statement to SMC residences was a result of SMCInclusive taking initiative. Upon realizing that such an offence had occurred, executives from SMCInclusive held a meeting with Rendle and consulted with President David Sylvester, asking the college to respond to the incident in a way that ensures inclusivity for all SMC students.

In his statement, Rendle continued, “To all those who were made to feel unwelcome or unsafe by this incident, please know that St. Michael’s College affirms the dignity of all its community members and is committed to working towards equity and challenging discrimination.” He further expressed his support for SMCInclusive and other student advocacy groups.

In the short time that it has existed, SMCInclusive has made noticeable strides towards making the University of Toronto a more inclusive place for all individuals that identify with the LGBTQQ2AIP+ community.

In alliance with other phenomenal advocacy groups on campus — such as Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Trans People of the University of Toronto — and organizations including the Sexual & Gender Diversity Office and Sexual Education Centre on campus, it is the hope of SMCInclusive’s members and executives to continue working to make SMC, and the greater campus, a place where students can thrive and embrace who they are freely.

With the beginning of a new semester comes a promise from SMCInclusive to hold a wide variety of events that provoke much-needed discussion, celebrate the community’s art and culture, and engage in altruistic efforts and promote well-being through leisure and self-care.

If you are interested in attending these events and staying updated about LGBTQQ2AIP+ relevant news on campus, reach out to the club through Instagram and Facebook at @smcinclusive. Together, we can all work towards continuing to make the University of Toronto a more inclusive place for all.

Andrew Raya is a recent Psychology graduate from St. Michael’s College. He is the founder and current President of SMCInclusive.

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