Graphic C/O Razan Samara

I have a theory that there is a ghost in the house I grew up in. It’s not a scary ghost that lives to haunt, but a benevolent entity that loves to play tricks. My house ghost has a penchant for stealing, making you wonder how the object you had on your person mere seconds ago has somehow vanished. The items always turned up later, underneath couches or beds.

I just moved out of my childhood home in Mississauga and left my ghost behind. A few weeks ago, it stole one of my slippers and I couldn’t help but think that the ghost wanted to keep a piece of me. Because as much as that house built me, my family built that house.

I have been thinking a lot about the meaning of home. Not only because I left the one I grew up in, but also because I have lived more places in the last year than I have in the previous decade. I lived in Edwards Hall in my first year and have spent the school year in a student house. I have wrestled with the question of where to call my home base. Is it the place where I spend the majority of my nights? The place where the people I love the most are? The place that challenges me? The place that comforts me?

My adulthood up until this point has been the loss of constants. Schedules that change from week to week. Different places to lay my head. I feel nomadic sometimes, always living half in and out of a suitcase. I’m always leaving somewhere soon, whether by the end of the day, week, month or year.

I am picky about what I call “home.” I don’t like to say “let’s go home” on vacation because we’re returning to a generic hotel room, not a place where I have grown and changed. I called Edwards Hall “Eddy” instead of home. I call my student house “the house.” But I’ve been thinking lately that maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I don’t need to discriminate between homes and houses, because even if a place doesn’t change me, I changed it.

Shortly before I moved out of Edwards Hall, I discovered the names of past residents written on the wall above the bed. Before I left, I added my name. I forgot my over-the-door hook in the room and now someone else probably uses it.

And there are others that left a mark. The residents that wrote “Traphouse 5” under the room number. Whoever broke my closet hook. The people whose push pins left holes in the corkboard. Those responsible for the nicks in the desk.

We leave marks wherever we go. My housemates and I turned a trashed student house into a semblance of a cozy space. When I leave my room, I might leave the curtains behind, or at least the rod. I am the person who chose pink for the walls.

In my childhood home, we left marks too. I made the hole in the basement wall. We changed flooring and light switches, put in shelving and backsplash and bushes. We tore out all the grass on the property. My father built the deck. My mother picked the bright colours with which she painted the walls. Despite the repaint, you could still see the reds and yellows where the ceiling meets the wall.

But I think there are other, invisible ways that we change the spaces we occupy. There is a legacy that we leave with the way we moved, the way we loved, the way we hated. Maybe the friendship that my roommate and I formed in Edwards Hall blessed this year’s occupants. Maybe the laughter of my housemates and I will echo there when we’re gone. Maybe my family’s undying love for one another will make my childhood home a happy one for the young family that moved in.

I would be naïve to exclude the bad. Maybe unkind words whispered behind backs, fights, disagreements, lack of communication — maybe that strains a home, makes it weary and old. Maybe the tears shed when hearts are heavy makes the roof sag. Maybe the lives mourned makes the floors creak.

However, it is more than just houses. It is streets and cities. The wear on the sidewalks from all the times my sister and I walked to 7-11 for Slurpees. The words swirling in the air as I wrote bad poetry at my elementary school bus stop. My fingerprints on the Mississauga city buses I don’t ride anymore. The pennies I’ve thrown in mall fountains. Our memories change spaces.

I have spent the last seven months writing about the artists, entrepreneurs and activists in Hamilton. Before I got to do this work, I would have never even suggested that Hamilton was home. But now I know its art and its culture. Now that I have left a record that won’t be erased, I would be remiss to say it isn’t a home.

Even when I graduate and don’t have to be in Hamilton, I’ll come back. To grab a patty from Jamaican Patty Shack, for a tarot reading at Witch’s Fix, or to attend a Denoire Collective event.

When the year begins, we talk a lot about how McMaster and Hamilton will become home for us over time. For some people, that is true and for others, it is not. But if you want to claim this campus or this city as your own, know that it’s yours. You changed it because you were here.

As the school year comes to a close, many of us will be leaving places; our residences, our student houses, our campus, this city. Our childhood homes for smaller homes, our permanent houses for hotel rooms. In transit, it is easy to feel like you have no base, no where that you belong to. But the ghosts that keep parts of you will remember you were there.

 

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Photos by Catherine Goce

In recent years, Hamilton’s downtown core has changed rapidly, with many businesses closing down and new ones popping up, just as fast. While some may welcome these changes, many others point to a loss for the LGBTQA2S+ community, with many popular gay bars closing down as the city evolved.

In the early 2000s, there were five major gay bars people could go to: The Werx, the Rainbow Lounge, The Embassy, M Bar and The Windsor, all of which were located in Hamilton’s downtown core. Since then, all of these bars have shut their doors.

For James Dee, a McMaster alum and Hamilton resident since 2004, bars such as the Embassy were an important aspect of their experience with Hamilton’s queer community as a place where they could go without threat of violence.  

“We maybe have a little bit of drama and be kind of mean to each other….But when the lights came on at the end of the night you know everyone was checking in with each other like 'text when you get home and so I know you're safe,'” Dee said.

While Hamilton’s queer scene thrived in 2004, it was not without violence. In that same year, Hamilton Police Services, among other municipal agencies, raided the Warehouse Spa and Bath and arrested two men for indecent acts. That raid was followed by protests from Hamilton’s LGBTQA2S+ community.

“It felt a lot more dangerous to be visibly queer in 2004,” Dee said. “I think it's easy to kind of romanticize the time when we had brick and mortar spaces but it's also easy to forget why we needed those spaces so much.”

Dee believes that, to some degree, places closed down due to a decline in need, but also points to the gentrification of Hamilton as another key reason these spaces disappeared.

“It's not just the story of queer Hamilton, it's the story of Hamilton in general…  a lot of the places I used to enjoy hanging out [at] are now bougie coffee shops,” Dee said.

For example, following the shuttering of the Werx’s door, the building was converted into the Spice Factory, a popular wedding venue.

“All across the board, [the gay bars] catered to people with less money,” Dee said. “They don't survive downtown anymore.”

For Sophie Geffros, another long-time Hamilton resident and McMaster graduate student, the loss of brick-and-mortar spaces has meant a segregation within the community.

Geffros, who spent their teen years in Hamilton, had many of their formative experiences at bars such as the Embassy, where they met older members of the LGBTA2S+ community in addition to those their own age.

“There is still an isolation that I think that can only be combated by in-person interaction,” Geffros said.

“We're a little more fragmented. Like if I'm going out… I'm going to be going out with people I already know who are members of the community,” they added.

For Geffros, the loss of Hamilton’s queer spaces is especially harmful, as these spaces were often the most accessible hangouts for queer people living in rural communities that lack direct bus service to Toronto.

“Those are people who are particularly isolated, who are often closeted throughout the week and would come to Hamilton on the weekend to blow off steam and be amongst themselves. That's a real loss,” Geffros said.

While there are no longer any physical LGBTQA2S+ spaces, there are opportunities for Hamilton’s queer community to converge. Dee is one of the founders of Queer Outta Hamilton, a collective that runs monthly queer pub nights, typically at Gallagher’s Pub.

In addition, there are other organizations that offer workshops and events, such as Speqtrum Hamilton, the NGen Youth Centre, Pride Hamilton, the McMaster Students Union Pride Centre and others.

There are also many LGBTQA2S+-friendly bars and clubs, such as Sous Bas, which offers queer events, typically in partnership with Queer Outta Hamilton.

While Hamilton may have lost its major physical queer spaces, the community continues to support each other the best they can.

 

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Photo from Silhouette Photo Archives

By: Donna Nadeem, Anastasia Gaykalova and Matthew Jones

At the McMaster Students’ Union Student Representative Assembly on Nov. 25, the SRA passed a number of policy papers, including “Tuition & Student Financing in Post-Secondary Education,” “On-Campus Infrastructure” and “Student Engagement & Retention.”

 

Tuition & Student Financing in Post-Secondary Education”

Rising tuition is one of the most pressing issues affecting post-secondary students in Canada.

Once enrolled, OSAP provides a number of grants and loans to students with financial need to lessen the costs of tuition.

While not mentioned in the policy paper, it should be noted that Ontario government’s recently announced changes are expected to reduce tuition by 10 per cent but also scrap OSAP grants for low-income students and remove the six month grace period that students were previously given to pay off their loans following graduation.

The policy paper argues that restrictions to the current OSAP deny many individuals access to its services, pushing back these students’ entry into post-secondary education.

It also notes that tuition increases by a substantial rate each year, continually surpassing the rate of inflation.

According to the paper, currently, 53 to 70 per cent of student financial aid through OSAP includes loans.

Although offering loans to pay back tuition later may appear to help with accessibility and enrollment, the more tuition rates increase, the greater the amount students will have to pay back.

During student interviews included in the policy paper, students said that they have noticed tuition rising, but not at a specific rate, and acknowledged that they were unsure of the details surrounding tuition rate.

However, students also said they felt strained financially and found it harder to pay off their debt each year.

The policy paper also points out that McMaster has one of the lowest budgets for entrance scholarships in Ontario.

McMaster’s automatic entrance awards are lower than those offered at Queen’s University, University of Western Ontario, University of Toronto and the University of Guelph, for instance.

The MSU recommends that McMaster consider a monthly tuition payment plan.

Recommendations for the government  include re-evaluating interest rates on student loans and making OSAP cover a larger percentage of tuition for low-income students in some programs.

 

“On-Campus Infrastructure”

Major themes in the Infrastructure policy paper include campus accessibility, transparency, deferred maintenance and student study spaces.

The SRA’s first recommendation is for facility services to oversee a new campus accessibility review with a new action plan, examining infrastructure concerns in more detail.

Regarding accessibility, the SRA believes elevator issues and the installment and repair of automated doors should be seen as priority areas for maintenance.

The policy paper also affirms that “bad weather should not be a deterrent for students to access their education.”

Another concern addressed is the lack of air-conditioning in some residences. Currently, only five out of twelve residences have AC.

During warm weather, the heat poses a risk for students’ health, as many reported experiencing heat stroke symptoms during Welcome Week this past year.

The paper  recommends that all residences have AC and that Residence Life provide more fan rentals.

Another infrastructural problem is that buildings at McMaster are not as well maintained as they should be, creating a non-ideal learning environment for students.

For instance, many older buildings have broken seats and tables.

The policy paper also touches on insufficient and inefficient on-campus workspaces.

For instance, the university does not have enough group study facilities for its growing student population. Many such places are often full or completely booked.

These issues are planned to be resolved by introducing more compact book stacks to free up space.

Some on-campus spaces also lack reliable wifi.

The policy paper explains that the university is planning to create a self-reporting network tool for students to report “dead zones,” which can be fixed.

To ensure future buildings consider the needs of students, the SRA suggests that some MSU members sit on a design committee for the coming Peter George Centre residence.

 

“Student Engagement & Retention”

This policy paper highlights key issues regarding student engagement and retention, including student dropout rates and off-campus students’ engagement within individual faculties and services.

At McMaster, 10 per cent of first-year students do not continue onto pursue their degree. The policy paper notes that marginalized students are more likely to experience barriers to completing post-secondary education.

“[The] policy aims to utilize evidence-based research to identify gaps and targeted opportunities for particular focus groups of students, including first-year students, first-generation students, racialized and marginalized students and student groups, and commuter students,” reads part of the paper.

The MSU paper emphasizes that marginalized students should have “equitable access student success and satisfaction on campus” in response to structural barriers.

The policy paper makes several recommendations, such as the incorporation of prior-learning assessments for students who want them.

The paper also raises concerns regarding off-campus students’ engagement with respect to public transit, volunteering and community engagement.

“The MSU advocates for greater transparency and efforts by the university towards student engagement on campus and within the broader Hamilton community,” reads part of the paper.

According to the paper, commuter students face a higher risk of dropping out when they feel disengaged and disconnected from campus.

Commuter students may be restricted from developing social connections or a sense of belonging on campus.

The paper recommends creating a “centralized social hub” to address the disconnects faced by commuter students and the campus.

Additionally, the document advises the off-campus resource centre to work more to encourage campus opportunities to bolster social events while also increasing the number of resources for students who commute.

 

All of the policy papers be found in the SRA documents section of the MSU website.

 

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“Does this look good here?”

“It’s an acrylic painting of a naked woman wearing a dead boar on her back. It won’t really look good anywhere.”

“Funny. I like it. It’s going on the mantel.”

“Whatever. Put your little deranged painting up. My couch is going in this room. ”

“Seriously? You know my couch is way nicer.”

“You mean the “I’m too poor to afford a couch so I ransacked my neighbour at his wake?” couch.”

“God. Why did we even agree to move in together?”

“A) Rent was up for both of us. B) We didn’t have the income to live on our own. C) I think you’re really cute. ”

“All very valid reasons; specifically the last one.”

“Especially the last one.”

“Oh shucks, you flatter me. But, what is up with the music coming from the apartment above us? That guy is always playing the weirdest stuff.”

“I know. I hope we don’t have to deal with this forever. This morning he was playing Meatloaf...and I didn’t get it...I don’t want to get it.”

“I actually like Meatloaf.”

“You’re kidding?”

“I’m kidding.  Now kiss me.”

 

___

“This is probably the dumbest thing you’ve ever done, Lidja.”

“It’s not that bad.”

“You’ve known this guy for three months. THREE MONTHS. And now you’re living together in an apartment that only has one bathroom. ONE BATHROOM.”

“Look, it sounds reckless, but he’s actually great.  He doesn’t have a criminal record. He’s holding down a job and he’s finishing a double major. Plus, he makes me breakfast and lets me put up my art.”

“Wow! What a catch? Where can I get me a boyfriend like that? Ebay, Craigslist, Kijiji?”

“Shut up, we met at the shoe museum and we’re not even dating.”

“The shoe museum? That’s rich. I just can’t comprehend how you let this happen. Lidja meets Boy at shoe museum and after three months becomes roommates with Boy. Lidja also kisses Boy and cuddles with Boy and...”

“Thanks for being understanding.”

“Lidja, you’re my best friend and I want you to be safe. Just please... if he’s ever unexplainably hunched over your bed at night with like an eye-patch on...”

“Don’t worry Kimmie-Cakes. I’ll be fine. I’m a big girl. This is a transition period. We’re just trying to start over.”

 

 

 

“I’m sorry! I just can’t believe that “Rational Ravi” is bunking with a girl he just met.”

“You make it sound like we’re committing a crime Lewis.  We’re sharing a space together, while trying to advance ourselves during a tough time. That’s not a terrible idea. It’s actually quite ratio-”

“Do you know what her favourite movie is?”

“A tie between the Kill Bill trilogy and The Whale Rider...I think.”

“How about her favourite song?”

“Umm...something by Aerosmith?”

“Okay.  What’s her family like? Her friends? Who does she follow on Twitter?”

“This interrogation is unnecessary.”

“No it’s not. If you can’t tell me simple things like what her favourite song is, then how the hell do you know if she’s not like, the ghost whisperer or something? Do you want to be living in that kind of environment—with ghosts and shit?”

“You just got to side with me on this one. When have I ever been wrong?”

“How about now...I can hear you shamelessly blasting Air Supply.”

“Oh that. That’s the dude who lives a unit above us. He plays ridiculously loud music all day. Last night, we went through the full ABBA repertoire.”

“That’s rough. Maybe it’s a sign from the Gods telling you to get out now, before he starts playing Insane Clown Posse.”

“Too late.”

“Ouch.”

 

___

 “I love this window. It gives us the most amazing view of the city.”

“It’s a real selling point. If we have to survive with one bathroom, the view better be killer. That’s how I rationalized moving into this place, anyway.”
“See right there Lidja? I used to work at that building during first year.”

“Wow, that building is so big and corporate looking. Is that glass panelling?”

“Well, it was very corporate, and yeah that’s glass panelling. You notice the weirdest things.”

 

“You look...sad. What’s wrong?”

“There’s you, noticing things again.”

“No, really.”

 

“It’s just...from this height, the city looks so small and yet that building, it still looks... I don’t know. It was just an amazing opportunity. I want to work there one day, like, really work there one day.”

“The future is pretty ominous from our view. But hey, it can only go up from here.”

“We live on the eleventh floor Lidja.”

“And...”

“And, there are eleven more floors below us.”

 

 

“Is he playing Coolio?”

“Yep, that’s Coolio.”

“Damn.”

___

“So, you got braces in second grade?”

“Yep! Who makes their six year old kid get braces? I still had my baby teeth.”

“That’s bad, but not as awful as what Lewis’ parents made him go through in middle school.”

“Lewis?”

“Yeah, Lewis...my best friend.”

“Right! Lewis. Best friend since third grade? The guy you talk to on the phone for hours? That Lewis?”

“Yeah. I thought you knew who Lewis was.”

“I do know! I just had a little brain fail for a second. He’s the guy who comforted you when your dog died, and pretended to be your brother, so that you’d get the family discount at that falafel place...”

“Yep, that Lewis. You guys should really meet. You can bring Jill along. We can have tacos...Lewis loves tacos...and then watch whatever’s on Netflix.”

“Sounds like a ball, but who the hell is Jill?”

“You know...Jill.”

“The only Jill that I know is my orthodontist’s secretary. Let’s just say we don’t roam in the same social circles, so no, I don’t know Jill .”

“Okay, you fully know who I’m talking about—the girl who’s in all of your fridge photos. The one you call Kimmie-cakes, which I don’t understand, because her name is Jill.”

“Nope, it’s Kim. And wow at your awful attempt at covering up the fact that you clearly have no idea who my best friend is.”

“Fridge photos—the girl in the fridge photos.”

“And?”

“I don’t know what you really want me to say.”

“What about me and Kim? I know a lot more about Lewis. I could give you a semi-detailed description about your friendship with him.”

“Right. Two seconds ago, you didn’t even know who Lewis was.”

“At least I didn’t call him Renaldo or something.”

“Kay, I messed up her name, I didn’t run over her cat.”

“Kim doesn’t even have a cat.”

“Okay, now you’re picking a fight with me for no damn reason. It’s not like I’m the third best friend here.”

“Really Ravi, then what are you? If you’re not a best friend and you’re not a boyfriend. What are you?”

 

“I...I...I don’t know. I’m your roommate.”

“Stop. You are not my roommate. Roommates fight over who’s going to take out the trash; they don’t kiss and cuddle like we do. Even though you thought my painting was ugly, it’s still on the mantel—it’s the first thing you see when you walk into the apartment.”

“I don’t know what you’re saying Lidja.”

“I’m saying. If you’re not my best friend or my boyfriend or my roommate, then what are you?”

“Do you want me to tell you the truth?”

“Yeah, that’s what I was kind of hoping for.”

 

“I-I’m a stranger... and you are too.”
“I don’t think you mean that.”

“You just...don’t try to turn this on me. You know I don’t say things I don’t mean.”

“No, I didn’t know that. Should I just start asking you all of these questions?

“Ask away!”

“Fine. What’s your mom’s name?”

“Carol.”

“What is your favourite item of clothing? Please don’t say that crusty denim jacket.”

“Actually, that “crusty” denim jacket.”

“Fine. Do you own an eye-patch?”

“What? No. Why is that even a question?”

“Because it is. I’m a big girl and I can ask any damn question I want.”

 

 

 

 

“If you’re a big girl...then why are you crying?”

“I’m...I’m not.”

“Those are tears.  Please don’t cry.”

“He’s just...he’s just playing a beautiful song.”

“The guy upstairs?”

“Yeah, do you hear that?”

“Faintly. It sounds like a dying goat.”

“No, that’s Steven Tyler...”

“...Of Aerosmith. And the guy upstairs is playing I don’t want to miss a thing, your favourite song.”

“You knew that?”

“Of course. That was the song to your first slow dance.”

“Yeah. No guy had ever asked me to dance before and then this song came on, and all of sudden...I was dancing and it was awkward, but it was beautiful.”

“Can you please stop crying Lidja?”

“No, you knew my favourite song Ravi. I’m mad at you, but you knew my favourite song.”

“That’s important, isn’t it?”

“Yes Ravi, it is.”

“For what’s it worth I kind of like this song too.”

 

“Can you just hold me now?”

“Yeah.”

“Thank you roommate.”

“I’m not your roommate.”

“I know that.”

By: Yara Farran

 

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