We Need Pride Beyond June: The Importance of Belonging on Campus for the LGBTQ2SIA+ Communities
During June, it is common practice for corporations and businesses to bring out the Pride Flag colours and flaunt their support of the LGBTQ2SIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Two-Spirit, Intersex, Asexual) communities. Universities and institutions of higher learning are not different in this regard as June becomes centralized on the work being done on university and college campuses to cultivate more inclusive environments for queer and trans students, faculty, staff, and community members. However, despite the sudden raising of Pride flag colours (and less often, Trans flag colours), much work is needed to create a culture of belonging on higher education campuses. An example of this is the common usage of Microsoft Teams on university campuses, despite the fact that the program does not allow anyone to add their pronouns – a practice that is important for demonstrating inclusivity and accuracy by never assuming anyone’s gender identity. At the Anti-Oppressive Rainbow (AOR) Lab in the Live Work Well Research Centre, we strive to create an environment where LGBTQIA2S+ students can feel a sense of belonging for who they are, and conduct research that is directly pertinent to LGBTQ2SIA+ communities to ensure they have a home on campus.
Research with – and on – queer and trans communities is often enacted through a harm-based lens, a perspective that focuses on the marginalization of disenfranchised communities without considering their unique strengths and contributions to society. At the AOR Lab, our various projects seek to address structural inequalities and systems of oppression while considering the strengths and activism of LGBTQ2SIA+ communities. For example, cluster leads Dr. Adam Davies (they/them) and Dr. Ruthie Neustifter (they/them) recently published “Heteroprofessionalism in the Academy: The Surveillance and Regulation of Queer Faculty in Higher Education” in The Journal of Homosexuality. This paper used autobiographical writing approaches to deconstruct Dr. Davies and Dr. Neustifter’s experiences of exclusion as queer and nonbinary faculty members at the University of Guelph, and the challenges and regulation which queer and trans educators and faculty members experience within their respective professions (Early Childhood Education and Couple and Family Therapy). Despite June being Pride Month, these are stories which might not always be plastered on the windows of businesses or on campus websites. However, challenging a deficit approach to queer and trans research starts with honouring and amplifying queer and trans individuals’ narratives and experiences, even if they illustrate the sometimes messy and complicated nature of working towards both inclusion and belonging on campus.
Belonging is a discourse that is sometimes described as being connected to inclusion; however, belonging is not just a state of being and it cannot be decided by outsiders – that is, belonging is an action by those in privileged positions to do better and be better and it is a feeling that those who are marginalized might start to feel upon experiencing true acceptance. At the AOR Lab, we know that belonging is directly connected to tackling and addressing systems of oppression and that this is a year-round affair. This starts with crafting out spaces that focus on the narratives and experiences of queer and trans academics, storytellers, and history makers, such as the new Sexualities, Genders, and Social Change undergraduate and Sexualities, Genders, and Bodies graduate program, for which Dr. Adam Davies is the Graduate Program Coordinator and in which they will be teaching this Fall and Winter. Fields such as Early Childhood Education, for example, describe belonging as key tenets of their professional practice and professional beliefs; yet, queer and trans belonging has to start with those who identify outside the LGBTQ2SIA+ communities doing the work necessary to create safer and more inclusive environments twelve months a year.
The first step in this is accepting that we all participate in systems of oppression, including but not limited to cisnormativity, heteronormativity, white supremacy, ableism, and sanism. We need to do the work to make repairs and take responsibility for how we perpetuate these ongoing inequalities, whether at work, home, or in the community. Campus cultures are currently not safe for queer and trans students, educators, faculty members, and staff, and despite important work currently being done, it is necessary to continue to create more space for queer and trans people to express their true selves without fear of repercussion or social isolation. At the AOR Lab, we hope to create such a space where students can learn about research that is relatable to their lived experiences while working towards cultivating campus-wide culture shifts for everyone.
- Written by Adam Davies and the Anti-Oppression Rainbow (AOR) Lab
Pride, LGBTQ2SIA+, inclusivity, academia