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Pride Week 2024: Queering the Future

by | Mar 21, 2024 | Campus, Culture | 0 comments

MacEwan’s 2SLGBTQ+ community celebrates Pride in the face of new anti-trans legislation.

March 11 marked the beginning of MacEwan’s annual Pride Week, as staff and students alike marched from Building 6 to Allard Hall. The march was followed by the opening ceremonies, with speeches from both those affiliated with MacEwan and guests from the wider Edmonton area.

The theme this year, Queering the Future, leaves the question of what a queer future would look like. For many queer people, it’s hard to imagine a future at all. It’s not a question that Jessica Scalzo, the program coordinator for MacEwan’s Centre for Sexual and Gender Diversity (GSGD), chose to answer in her speech at the opening ceremony, but it is one she put forward to the audience and allowed them to imagine for themselves. What would the future look like without oppression and shame?

It’s not enough to fantasize about what the future could be. Someone has to go out and make that future happen, but it’s hard to know where to start, let alone feel like you’ve got the skills you need to make that change happen. Luckily, Pride Week at MacEwan was not just a celebration; it was about giving staff and students alike the tools to make that future. 

“Why would they battle the way they did for something that was only imaginary?”

Jessica Scalzo, program manager of MacEwan’s Centre for Sexual and Gender Diversity

During this week, there was a focus on tangible support for queer students. The Pride Community Resource Fair hosted in Allard Hall after the opening ceremonies showed students the support available to them on and off campus and kickstarted conversations about safe sex education for queer people who wanted to learn more, or perhaps hadn’t  received such information in high school sex-ed classes. MacEwan students who’ve been researching 2SLGBTQ+ issues were given a chance to show off their work and inspire others at the Queer Research Connections hosted in Roundhouse. Students interested in beginning their own research learned about the opportunities provided by the honours program from students who had already been through the process.

The Rainbow Market provided support to local queer businesses, some of which are run by students. Julissa Veenstra, a student selling handmade jewellery, spell jars, and crystals, was grateful for the safe environment to sell witchy and queer items that gave her “less paranoia or worry,” compared to other markets. 

Students could also express their experiences through art, and learn from history at two different open mics. The Edmonton Queer History project opened its archives to share works from queer poets of the past to inspire students to share original works at the Queer Poetry Coffeehouse. InQueeries, a student group, hosted its own open mic  titled Love Letters to Our Futures, and allowed students to share poetry, writing, and songs with everyone gathered in the SAMU building.

“While our march may be more of a celebration, it also shows that we are unwavering in our stance that we are here to stay.”

Kaz Haskins, volunteer

InQueeries’ vice-president external Than Olekson used the platform to share their feelings about taking charge of an organization that represents a safe place for students who are worried and scared. To them, their responsibility is as much about “fostering so much joy in so many new, brilliant ways,” as it is about being a strong face of what it means to be queer at MacEwan, and using their position to protect their peers.

Between all these expressions of queer joy and an outpouring of support for MacEwan’s 2SLGBTQ+ students, there was an increased security presence at the events.

The political climate hasn’t been helping. Danielle Smith’s newly announced restrictions on gender-affirming care and news like the death of Nex Benedict, a non-binary teenager who was attacked in a school bathroom, were weighing heavily on organizers and attendees. While planning was already underway when Smith made her announcement, Kaz Haskins, a volunteer organizer with MacEwan’s CSGD, said that the mood was somber as volunteers continued to work on the events. 

Grimm Wieler, the president of InQueeries, tries to keep their events apolitical and focused on creating community. “We can at least spend the next few hours removed from the world, removed from what might be troubling us,” they said. “It’s a very small gesture, but it seems to help a lot of people.”

“We’re meant to be here. We’re meant to live. You were meant to find this space.”

Than Olekson, VP External of InQueeries

Despite all the events this week, students felt that there was room for improvement throughout the rest of the year. Many hadn’t heard of the CSGD before Pride week, and even fewer knew where to find it. “If you know where to look on campus for queer activities, you’re sure to find them, but they’re almost always sheltered away in Allard Hall,” Haskins said. They’re hoping the successes of events this week will help make queerness more visible across campus, and pave the way for more collaborations. 

Overall, Pride Week demonstrated the power of community. There wasn’t a single event that an organization at MacEwan ran alone, whether it was with support from other groups on campus, queer students who wanted to help their community feel seen, or from the queer community in Edmonton. 

Organizers hope that the success of Pride Week events like the Bob Ross Gay Paint Night at Towers, will prove  queer events on campus are not only possible, but popular. 

“We need to be queer all year,” CSGD program assistant Kristie Benson said. Her goal for next year is to reach students who don’t regularly attend CSGD events, and more “passive [event] programming,  that include queer students without making them explicitly Pride focused. None of these events can happen without student involvement, though, and Benson urged students to come forward and help plan.

A queer future, according to Scalzo, is one that includes everyone with no limits.  It’s one she knows is possible, through connections and community.

Photo by Blaze Bennett

Alexandra Gauthier

The Griff


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