Intersectionality and Trans barriers are the chief focuses of this year’s events
Carlo Javier // Editor-in-Chief
Changes in this year’s Pride Week festivities are promising even more inclusive events for the annual celebration.
According to Kaschelle Thiessen, Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) queer students liaison, the main difference with this year’s Pride is through its organizational structure. Historically, Pride Week celebrations at CapU have been led solely by the queer students liaison. This year, leadership has been decentralized. “I think it is very important that collective events are not just organized by the liaison, but by the collective and community,” said Thiessen. “Not only does it allow for more perspectives, it also gives a sense of ownership for the collective.” Joining Thiessen and the Queer Collective in the set up is a nine-person organizing committee headed by Michaela Volpe, a first-year Global Stewardship student.
In the same vein as the CSU’s other collectives, all Pride Week events are pulling its funds from the Collectives Budget. This very reason is among the main factors in the establishment of a referendum vote for a new Social Justice Fee next year. Not only will the fee introduce a new full-time, permanent staff member to help facilitate projects with the collectives, it will also alleviate restrictions from the Collectives Budget. “The fee will also allow for a slight increase to the Collectives Budget, which will mean no one needs to scale back if every collective begins to host larger events,” said Thiessen. “This doesn’t just benefit the students within collectives. It means we are able to put on more educational events, workshops, and social events which bring students on campus together.”
For Thiessen, part of this year’s most exciting features is the focus placed on the issues that Trans peoples face today. “I’m really looking forward to human rights activist and drug policy lawyer Adrienne Smith’s discussion on Trans inclusion,” she said. The conversation will look at barriers that manifest themselves on campus, such as the concept of “dead-naming – a process in which students are given the opportunity to submit a nickname upon enrolment. According to Thiessen, these names will be included in attendance listings. “A number of first names on the attendance list can be confusing and Trans students have reported being deadnamed – referred to by their birth name instead of their chosen name, in classes,” she explained.
Another barrier to be addressed is the availability of public washrooms. While CapU has taken clear steps forward in recent years with the implementation of gender-neutral washrooms, they are still not available on every floor, much less every building. “If a student feels safest in a gender-neutral washroom they may have to entirely leave the building they are in and walk across campus,” Thiessen said. Additionally, Thiessen stated that the original use of gender-neutral washrooms is proving to be conflicting for some students. “We have conscientious and caring students here at Cap,” she said. “I have heard multiple times that students don’t want to ‘take away’ an accessible washroom from someone who might need to access it.”
In Canada, Pride celebrations have been scrutinized for the scope of its inclusion. Criticism has been placed on how festivities can forget the Black, Indigenous and People of Colour members of the LGBTQAI2S+ community. However, according to Divya Nanray, CSU students of colour liaison, Thiessen and the team behind this year’s Pride Week have set promising plans in regard to inclusivity. “[Thiessen] makes an effort to include BIPOC in their events, as well as including and listening to QTPOC in their collective meetings in order to achieve intersectionality,” Nanray said. For Angelo Costorio, a student of colour member of the planning committee, inclusion of all members of the community was among the main concentrations ahead of the celebration. “One of our goals was to be inclusive to all aspects of the LGBTQAI2S+ community, primarily students of colour, and the hardships they’ve had to face in defining their own identity,” said Costorio. “We have had the distinct honor and privilege of having Two-Spirit Elder Steven Gonzales come and welcome us to Pride Week.”
At the end of the day, inclusion is at the very heart of Pride, and Thiessen encourages all members of the CapU community to attend. “As a caring campus community, what are we going to do collectively to address these issues?” she asked, “Showing up is the first step.”
Capilano University’s Pride Week celebrations will be happening around campus from Monday, Mar. 12 to Friday, Mar. 16. For more information and for the full schedule of events, visit Csu.bc.ca/campaigns/pride/.