LGBTQ+ safe space opens at Humber

by | Oct 30, 2015 | Campus News, News, North

Mahnoor Yawar
Senior Reporter

Humber is making room for students to show their true colours at last.

A brand new LGBTQ+ resource centre officially opened its doors Thursday to a big crowd of supporters among the Humber community at the North campus.

The centre provides a safe space to study, organize and mingle, open to anyone who has come out or is questioning their gender or sexuality, and also for allies of the LGBTQ community.

Thursday’s grand opening was attended by members of the Humber community and the department of Student Success and Engagement.

“I think we can be extremely proud of Humber’s leadership in providing this space and this resource centre for our LGBTQ community,” said President and CEO of Humber College, Chris Whitaker.

Whitaker inaugurated the resource centre with a ribbon-cutting ceremony alongside the co-chairs of the Gender and Sexual Diversity Committee, Thomas Silcox-Childs and Maureen Carnegie.

“One of our goals has always been to encourage the college to create dedicated support for LGBTQ students, because as we know, the mental health issues and suicide rates are incredibly high among youth in the LGBTQ community,” said Carnegie.
“I think there’s a misconception that everything’s great in the queer community, and that’s just not a reality, that’s really not the case for many people,” Carnegie added. “Being part of a sexual minority can still be incredibly stigmatizing, and people do experience a lot of discrimination, oppression, and in the worst cases, violence.”

According to a study by the Canadian Mental Health Association, 20 per cent of trans people had experienced physical or sexual assault due to their identity, and 34 per cent were subjected to verbal threats or harassment.

Trans people in Canada report high levels of violence, harassment, and discrimination when seeking stable housing, employment, health or social services.

“One of our most important initiatives besides the center has been our safe and inclusive washroom campaign,” said Carnegie of the committee’s work. “That really has intended to create greater safety for trans people and genderqueer people, so that’s of huge importance.”

Carnegie said the committee has also offered a weekly support and discussion group in collaboration with counseling services, where students have an opportunity to connect with each other and receive support.

Attendees at the grand opening were visibly moved by Dean of Students Jen McMillen, who delivered an emotional speech on the importance of safe spaces when she was an undergraduate at university.

“It’s been a lot of work, it’s been a lot of years coming, and it really feels like Humber has made a commitment to ensure that our students have a place that’s safe, that celebrates who they are, whoever that may be, and I’m really pleased to see it come together,” McMillen told Humber Et Cetera.

The resource center also sees the appointment of a new coordinator, Natalie Elisha, who said she was excited to work with the community at Humber to ensure the resource centre would fit their needs.

“When your institution is as big and as diverse as Humber is, I imagine it would be somewhat difficult to connect with people like you, people with similar identities, similar interests and goals,” said Elisha.

“So I think a space like this will bring people together to hopefully have some fun and put some cool events on.”

The opening of the new centre was also welcomed by students who have been waiting for a safe space at Humber for years.

“A lot of the time, it can feel really lonely in the Humber community, because we don’t see everyone who identifies with us,” said Sarah Arnold, a Justice Studies student at Guelph-Humber who identifies as queer. “It’s a lot easier when there’s a meeting space where we all can collectively be together.”

The new LGBTQ resource centre will be open to students and faculty Monday to Friday, with drop-in hours from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. for the month of November.