When discussing the planning for the Pride Week edition of the Gazette and our editorial roles in it, it was suggested that we use this opportunity to address our community through a letter. However, we cannot do that without first addressing the concept of a LGBTQ2+ community. Most of us are born into many communities and cultures which are products of ancestry, history and nurturing. LGBTQ2+ people, however, are born across any imaginable category: races, ethnicities, classes, creeds, family structures, political affiliations ... Our community contains multitudes of experiences that intersect in complex and beautiful ways.
If we look to our history, the pattern in our unification is clear. LGBTQ2+ people have come together in times of crisis. We united when police were brutalizing our communities, when our plagues were being ignored and we were dying in terrifying numbers, when they labeled us “dangers” to minors and tried taking children from parents, and when the law refused to grant our partners equal rights and protections. Our community has been forged in its resistance and in its resilience. At the forefront of these fights have always been those who had no choice but to fight and to rally others to the cause. It is unfortunate to see they have been largely omitted and forgotten when our history is told. More disturbing still is that the rights and equal treatment they fought for are often not granted to those who share similar identities today – people who sit at intersections of transgender, non-binary and racialized identities.
We say this because we want to acknowledge the varying experiences and oppression felt across our community. Western University boasts having “the best student experience.” We know this just isn’t true for us. On campuses across our country, LGBTQ2+ people face disproportionate rates of harassment, threats, bullying, violence, assault and discrimination. What’s worse, so much of what we face is not one bigoted student we can report for hate speech. Often, what hurts the most is the general apathy and neglect from our entire campus community: students, administrators, professors and practitioners. In all this, we want you who are affected by this to know that these feelings of injustice, hurt and anger at being forgotten and ignored, or only addressed in the most superficial of ways, are so incredibly valid. The lack of gender neutral washrooms was likely not an explicitly queerphobic act: people simply did not consider trans, non-binary and individuals with non-conforming gender expression when building them. Finding a therapist who can handle the nuances of coming out to non-white immigrant parents is next to impossible because finding a therapist competent in LGBTQ2+ or person of colour identities is so rare. Getting a name change isn’t hell because of purposefully erected barriers; we just didn’t consider this possibility when the systems were coded. It is important to restate that these issues are not the product of explicit bigotry but instead are a symptom of a system that actively contributes to the marginalization of LGBTQ2+ individuals through ignorance and erasure. They are often difficult to pinpoint because they are not singular incidents but part of the larger system that LGBTQ2+ people have been resisting throughout our history.
But it is important to remember through this that our resilience and resistance to oppression is not simply historical, it lives through the spirits of LGBTQ2+ students at Western.
To those of you who step up and commit yourself to this work — largely unpaid, poorly supported, inadequately resourced, underrecognized and dismissed — thank you. We have so far to go, but we are as far as we are because of you.
To those of you who feel comfortable, remember that our community is a product of resistance – you are called to be there for all of our people in all of their fights.
To those who feel as if they have been regulated to the outskirts of our community — we commit to deconstructing our prejudices and oppressive tendencies, to uplifting us all.
To all members of Western’s LGBTQ2+ community: resistance and resilience are not only regulated to the history books. We are making history every day.
Layne Clarke, President of Spectrum UWO
Marie Fiedler, Coordinator of PrideWestern