For many people who identify as 2SLGBTQ+, going to post-secondary school can be a first taste of freedom, the chance to be your authentic self. It’s why Pride Laurentian has been an important part of Laurentian University.
But when you face your first years of university or college in the middle of a pandemic, things can be much tougher. There is no community to help you better understand who you are and where you want to be, and no support for those who may face prejudice, bigotry and hate.
That’s why Pride Laurentian has changed its focus a little, now that everyone is beginning to meet in person again. It is becoming, as president Ana Tremblay told Sudbury.com, a “student-led resource centre.”
It will offer students the chance to meet with others, and understand their journey better, but also more tangible efforts, like the legal name change fund. It’s a fund to allow students who wish to change to, and graduate with, their chosen name, but may not have the resources to do so.
“We're there really to give resources to students and to give guidance and help out in any way that we can but also make those connections with the community because I know that's it's lacking, especially with COVID.”
Tremblay said the pandemic put quite the damper on everyone at the campus, and it also prevented students from really getting to know each other.
“There weren't those big events where you could make friends and we want to reinvigorate that community,” she said.
Tremblay is a fourth-year history student at Laurentian University, the president of Pride Laurentian, a peer advisor with the Student Success Centre, and a member of the board of directors for the Student General Association.
She said that when she first arrived in Sudbury from her hometown of Kapuskasing, it was her first chance to be her authentic self as well.
“I was in the closet until I came to university,” said Tremblay, and said that other than friends, no one really knew her. “But even my friends would doubt me, just because it's not something that's really talked about, it's not something that was as common,” she said. But in coming to a bigger place like Sudbury, Trembaly said, “I really found a community of people and I decided I want to be that community of people, for other people as well.”
Pride Laurentian is also receiving the support of the Equity, Diversity and Human Rights Office at Laurentian, who will be guiding the resource centre to ensure that there is a foundation for the group to work with, but also, a chance for accountability when there are issues.
“It's important that students know that if they need to, they can go there if they actually have any complaints regarding anything that's happened to them, or if they just need guidance,” said Tremblay. “It’s to keep Laurentian accountable, but also, to celebrate the good.”
As part of the festivities for this year, volunteers and members of Pride Laurentian, with a donation from Barrydowne Paint and Wallpaper, repainted the rainbow that held a place of honour in front of the R.D. Parker Building. The walkway is slightly different from the original in that it now shows the new Pride flag, originally designed by Portland-based artist Daniel Quasar. The reboot is meant to be inclusive of queer people of color and trans people and features the colours pink, blue, and white for gender, and black and brown for people of colour.
The repainting was a chance to celebrate new beginnings for Pride Laurentian, but also for an inspirational member, Joël Dickinson, dean of the faculty of arts. Dickinson was presented with a gift of a rainbow painted paddle for all her work with Pride Laurentian, including the original painting of the rainbow walkway.
As students begin to return to in-person learning and events begin to happen once again, Tremblay is hopeful that she can build a community for 2SLGBTQ+ students at Laurentian, but also to make it a place of welcoming for allies as well.
“I like to say that pride is for everyone,” said Tremblay. “You don't have to be ‘part of the community’ to be part of the community, you can support causes that we bring up; or if students have an issue that's related to gender or sexuality, you can actually listen and not dismiss their concerns. But anybody that wants to be a part of it is welcome. We're here for everyone.”
You can find more information about Pride Laurentian here.
Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with Sudbury.com. She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized, including the Black, Indigenous, newcomer and Francophone communities, as well as 2SLGBTQ+ and issues of the downtown core.