Op-ed: SMCInclusive is dedicated to fighting for the LGBTQQ2AIP+ community

The new St. Michael’s College student group hopes to make U of T a more inclusive place

Op-ed: SMCInclusive is dedicated to fighting for  the LGBTQQ2AIP+ community

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.

The Breakdown: LGBTOUT’s 50th anniversary

The history of Canada’s oldest LGBTQ+ student organization

The Breakdown: LGBTOUT’s 50th anniversary

Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Trans People of the University of Toronto (LGBTOUT) celebrated its 50th anniversary on October 24. Since its inception in 1969, the organization has undergone several major transformations, and is continuously evolving.

Yet another major transformation may be underway as the club contends with the effects of the provincial government’s Student Choice Initiative (SCI).

History of LGBTOUT

Fifty years ago, in mid-October, an ad was put out in The Varsity seeking “anyone interested in discussing the establishment of a student homophile association.” By October 24, a small group of students had congregated and founded what was then called the University of Toronto Homophile Association (UTHA). Of the students present at the UTHA’s first meeting, only one was a woman. The majority of the other attendees were white, cisgender men.

During this time, it was still common for people to be fired from the workplace because of their sexual orientation. Many were also targeted on campus for their sexuality. In accordance with this context, the UTHA primarily worked toward promoting equality in professional spaces.

By 1984, the UTHA had renamed itself as the Gays and Lesbians at U of T. Although the club’s new name fostered a more inclusive environment, students in the LGBTQ+ community still faced many of the same challenges. During the club’s Gay and Lesbian Awareness Week, St. Michael’s College refused to play Michael, a Gay Son, a movie that follows a young man’s decision to come out to his parents and his experiences participating in an LGBTQ+ peer support group.

In 1998, the organization finally settled on its current name: LGBTOUT.

LGBTOUT’s current role

LGBTOUT has since expanded its reach at the University of Toronto. Today, it holds drop-in sessions on a daily basis where students can find community or confide in volunteers for peer support. The organization also holds a number of events throughout the year, including open mic nights, arts and crafts socials, and drag shows. LGBTOUT further works alongside the Sexual & Gender Diversity Office to bring Queer Orientation to the U of T community.

LGBTOUT’s current mission aims to promote awareness about LGBTQ+ issues, as well as advocate for the fair treatment of LGBTQ+ students. The incumbent executive team has also extended LGBTOUT’s goals to support other equity-seeking organizations. Administrative Director Cheryl Quan wrote to The Varsity, “LGBTOUT is an inherently political organization and as such we should not shy away from affirming our support for other marginalized communities and their causes.” 

In the wake of the SCI

Since being elected to office in 2018, Premier Doug Ford has introduced several reforms that affect postsecondary education. A cornerstone policy is the SCI, which allows students to opt out of paying incidental fees for student groups that are considered “non-essential” under the government’s framework.

For the fall 2019 term, 25 per cent of students opted out of LGBTOUT’s $0.50 levy. This means that the club will receive significantly less funding than in past years.

Quan recounted, “After 17 years of fighting and four failed referenda, 2016 was the year things finally changed, and the 2016-2017 academic year was the first time we actually had sufficient funds with which to run events and programming.”

The SCI has been enacted just three years after LGBTOUT first raised their levy. “Now, with the introduction of the SCI and, of course, the rise of right-wing hate groups at UofT and in Toronto, our work and safety are in jeopardy now more than ever,” wrote Quan.

Although LGBTOUT may be in a more financially vulnerable position, it is still confident that it will be able to continue offering great programming for the U of T community.

Cue the hysteria!!!!

OMG he’s SO cute — I would just DIE if he was my boyf — I just love them SO SO much!!!

Cue the hysteria!!!!

Boy bands: we love to hate them, and we hate to love them. For many of us, our youth was filled with posters on the wall, boys staring into our souls as we slept, and hours spent flipping through futile tabloid magazines, deciding whether Justin or Lance was ‘the one.’1

From The Beatles at the London Palladium in 1963 to 5 Seconds of Summer at the Greek Theatre in 2018, boy bands form a prevalent music genre that isn’t going anywhere — and probably never will.

When I was first given this topic, I was stumped. Never had I thought of boy bands as more than streams of disposable music, whom, for a brief moment in my childhood, I may or may not have worshipped. But them having an effect on my sexuality, or rather, being an outlet for one’s latent pubescent urges — was this a reality? Now I was interested. I suppose somewhere along the line, I forgot that I too was once a raging fangirl.

What constitutes the boy band phenomenon? Characterized by beautifully curated groups of young men, synchronized dancing, and hysterical fans, it is an industry that reaps benefits from young girls exploring their sexuality. That being said, what other safe spaces are there for females to come into their own without shame?

These fans are deemed maniacal and hypersexual, and more often than not this reflects negatively on girls. One of the few havens to navigate budding sexualities and even this is met with pushback. Guys have their stash of Playboy under their beds, pictures of Pamela Anderson adorning their walls, and the incognito browser on ready.2 They spend hours getting hypercharged and absurdly aggressive over 90 minutes of football, yet when girls are the ones behind these displays of emotion, we are ‘hysterical.’3

Boy bands allow for this community, where young fans, women and men, can explore their sexualities, preferences, and discover what lies within their comfort zone. Not to deny that this culture may breed heteronormativity, but the scope has widened with the emergence of girl groups on a much larger scale within the last decade. Yet while ‘girl groups’4 are not met with the same fan mobbing culture, they are channels for queer girls to get hot’n’heavy without subjecting eyes.

Women are often shunned for questioning and attempting to navigate their sexuality. In certain communities, they aren’t even perceived as beings with desires, but rather objects to have sex with. Bands create a platform for exploring sexuality publicly as a community.5

Now, let’s not leave men out of this equation,6 as they too are affected by the presence of boy bands. A little research led me to the history of the institution, and make no mistake, there is much gender politics at play. In the early 1920s, collegiate acapella boy bands arose, and their crooning was seen as defying conventional masculinity.

These men, with their soulfully piercing voices and smoldering intimacy — appeal,7 were swooping up copious numbers of female followers. They were met with vitriol and disdain from men threatened by the genre, as it created sexual agency for women. As such, the first members of boy bands were labelled effeminate and weak, and members to this day are heavily criticized for their appearance.

God forbid anyone encourage men to be anything but impermeable fortresses of entitlement and machismo.

I suppose this is another manner in which boy bands contribute positively toward society, by establishing progressive dynamics for young boys. Do not take this as my endorsement of any Tom, Dick, and Harry; there are bands who have churned out inappropriate and borderline perverse songs, but our lack of attentiveness toward lyrics is a whole other topic.

As far as boy bands are concerned, carry on fantasizing, pining, and deserving every cotton candy day dream.

1 For those of you who never knew the joy of Tamagotchis, Club Penguin, and playing Mario Land on the Game Boy, this is a reference to boy band NSYNC. A comparable popular reference would be Harry or Liam.

2  If you know, you know.

Fun fact: hysteria was once considered a medical condition that, surprise, surprise, only afflicted women.

I know we had Destiny’s Child and The Pussycat Dolls, but admit it, there are way more groups now than there ever was before.

Armstrong, Jennifer. “What’s So Feminist About Liking Boy Bands?” DAME. 2015

You know how they get with their fragile egos and all.

Sex appeal would be the wrong way to describe the ‘gentle lover’ aura that these men exude.