SWC hosted series of events to celebrate queer students
The Student Wellness Centre hosted four events throughout June, providing opportunities for 2SLGBTQIA+ students to connect with each other
At McMaster University, different student services and clubs have been celebrating Pride in a number of different ways. The EngiQueers took students to march in the Toronto Pride parade. The Faculty of Health Sciences hosted a talk with nurse and equity advocate Ellie Reyes about providing thoughtful, respectful care for 2SLGBTQIA+ communities.
This year, the Student Wellness Centre also hosted four events to celebrate and recognize all 2SLGBTQIA+ students.
They kicked off the series with their “Embracing Gender Diversity” in-person drop-in group. They also hosted a “Food for Thought: 2SLGBTQIA+ Friendly Student Cooking Session” where they made veg stroganoff. The SWC’s “Queer Movie Night” took place on June 15 with the movie being “Saving Face”. They finished off the month with a Pride social which included guided painting, snacks and games. This last event was exclusively for 2SLGBTQIA+ students.
Taylor Mertens and Zeinab Khawaja, health promoters at the SWC, worked diligently to bring students these events. They both expressed that the hope with this programming was to have a space exclusively for members of the queer community to meet and expand their own network of classmates.
“It’s an opportunity to connect, do something creative and just meet other students with similar identities. Which can be really hard for a lot of students. There’s a lot of loneliness and not knowing where to meet other 2SLGBTQIA+ students,” said Khawaja.
The earlier inclusion of events open to 2SLGBTQIA+ folks, questioning folks and straight allies and then later events exclusively for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community was purposeful.
By creating events that are open for questioning students, they hoped students would also have a space where they could comfortably explore their identity and then feel more confident to attend 2SLGBTQIA+ community exclusive events in the future.
Mertens and Khawaja explained that this progression was also meant to be supportive for individuals who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+ but may not feel comfortable entering an exclusive space yet.
“Entering a closed space can be a little difficult for people and feelings of not being gay enough, not being queer enough, “not being “x” enough” essentially. The idea is that we’re kind of building up for that. So hopefully, we will have people attend multiple events and feel a little bit more secure and supported to be able then to go to the Pride Social and stuff like that,” said Mertens.
Both Mertens and Khawaja shared that in recent years they have noticed the large influx of McMaster students that find themselves in Hamilton over the summer. Knowing this, they hope to have pride events and other programs like these to support students in the summer months.
“This year there’s a lot of international students who are around during the summer and then [graduate] students [have] to be around in the summer as well as undergrad students who are taking summer courses or just wanting to live independently. We’re trying to be more intentional about having summer programming [for] all students,” said Khawaja.
Although Pride month has come to an end, the focus on celebrating and supporting 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals doesn't. Khawaja and Mertens shared their goals for the upcoming years with the Silhouete.
Khawaja explained their focus on the intersectionality of identity. By integrating intersectional language into the currently offered programs, she hopes that people who are often overlooked will feel included in programs hosted by the SWC.
Mertens hopes to share knowledge about active living spaces for 2SLGBTQIA+ members. He has found that these spaces are often dominated by cisgender heter onormative communities, sometimes deterring 2SLGBTQIA+ members from partaking. They have more programs in the works for the school year, including drag shows and potlucks.