Nathan Luit, University of Calgary
Aug. 30, 2019
How to be an ally after Pride Week
Last week, Calgary buzzed with Pride Week activities, culminating in the 2019 Pride Parade on Sept 2, where the UCalgary community marched by the hundreds. On campus, we flew the Progress Pride flag, and showcased a Progress Pride artwork outside MacEwan Student Centre in solidarity with our GSD (gender and sexually diverse) students, faculty and staff.
But what about the rest of the weeks in the year? We asked a few members of the UCalgary community how to be an ally after Pride Week.
Use your privilege to make space
Dr. Melanee Thomas, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Political Science, researches the causes and consequences of gender-based political inequality, with a focus on political attitudes and behaviour. As a straight, white woman, she experiences gender discrimination regularly, but acknowledges that she is in a place of privilege. “If you don’t experience a lot of bias directly, it’s easy to skate past it and think it’s not a problem,” she says. “But discrimination and hate related to gender and sexual diversity happens on our campus, and allies must open their eyes to things that you otherwise might not.”
Her advice for faculty, in particular, is to speak up for equality so students feel free to be themselves. “In their classrooms and in the community, faculty need to stand up and identify themselves as people who are open and accepting of gender and sexual diversity,” she says. “Use your privilege to make space, because other people can’t.”
Don’t just put a rainbow on it
Meagan Bristowe, a graduate student in Community Health Sciences and member of Queers on Campus and GSA2, explains that allyship needs to be an action, not just a gesture. While Pride Week activities draw attention to the importance of GSD communities, Bristowe believes the university should go further to promote inclusion and diversity in a pragmatic way throughout the year. "Allyship to the queer community is more than rainbows and flags and hashtag pride. It's about showing up when it counts, including us from the beginning and thinking of allyship as a verb.”
For faculty, Bristowe suggests taking simple actions, like respecting people’s pronouns in their classrooms. “Offering your pronouns in class helps to normalize it, so if someone’s pronouns are they/them, or you misgender them, it’s not such a big deal, because they can just gently correct you.”
And what can staff do? Bristowe asserts that administration needs to work harder to include GSD communities in the conversation. “We don't need you to come up with ideas for us, we need you to help us fight for what we have already built. Performative allyship helps no one, action is what matters."
Connect with clubs, resources and news
Davis Lougheed is a fourth-year Haskayne School of Business student and founder and president of the Business Pride Club. A recipient of the Students' Union Q Centre’s 2019 Pride Scholarship for his activism and dedication to the community, Lougheed sees the value in asking questions and having conversations, regardless of your orientation. “Keeping the conversation going outside of Pride Week will flourish a positive connection with the community,” he says. “You don’t have to participate in events all the time to be an ally, but you can just be a decent human and stand up for equality.”
Greyson Leigh Mannella, fifth-year Computer Science student and volunteer co-ordinator at the Students' Union Q Centre, stresses the importance of getting involved with GSD organizations. “I'd say the best way to be an ally is to volunteer at places like the Q Centre or the Skipping Stone Foundation to get hands-on experience with the community,” he says. “It's a great way to meet real LGBTQ+ people and talk to them about their experiences. Reading up is also helpful, anything from news to LGBTQ+ nonfiction books. Staying up to date with current events and terminology is a crucial part of allyship."
Here’s what’s available on campus:
- Queers on Campus
- Business Pride Club
- GSA2 (Graduate Student Association Gender and Sexuality Alliance subcommittee)