A proud start to a new school year
Without a doubt, this orientation week was filled with an abundance of inspirational, fun and informative events. Orientation week focuses on introducing new students to StFX and other members of the campus community in spaces that encourage safety and fun. One awesome event in particular was the LGBTQ+ barbecue hosted by X-Pride in partnership with the new Gender and Sexual Diversity Student Advisor.
The barbecue was open to the entire campus community and attracted over 150 people, exceeding expectations and requiring the addition of extra seating. After everyone was settled with their dinners, a panel discussion commenced. The panel hosted six panelists of both students and faculty who discussed their queer and LGBTQ+ experience while here at StFX. The audience of frosh, students and faculty had the ability to send in private questions through a web application that were then answered by panelists throughout the night. Overall, this event was a great success with a large and engaged audience taking part in candid, fun and informative discussions surrounding LGBTQ+ life, issues, initiatives and research within our community.
I was then able to sit down with StFX’s newest advisory position, the Gender and Sexual Diversity Advisor, Bre O’Handley. Bre, who began her new position last month, hosted the panel with Robert Chatterton, the active president of X-pride. The role of the Gender and Sexuality Diversity Advisor is essentially to meet with and advise student about LGBTQ+ related questions as well as concerns and queries that are including, but not limited to, campus, academic and social life here at X. She actively works to collect resources for students who may be facing challenges and then uses her extensive knowledge to guide them to where further assistance can be found, whether that be resources in town or online. Bre also works to run various anti-stigma initiatives, most notably the “No Big Deal” campaign that is being run out of U of T. This campaign is in response to the discussion around students’ rights to have their chosen pronouns acknowledged by their campus communities, including their professors. Bre says that the overarching goal is to create a visible and sustainable queer community here at X. Drawing on her own experience, Bre then speaks to how when she was going to StFX she had trouble finding out about the LGBTQ+ community on campus and believes that she personally would have benefitted from having that space in her early years as an undergrad. This new position is such a positive addition to student advising, Bre is a very funny and approachable individual who is here to help students out with whatever issues they may be facing. She can be found in her office, located in Bloomfield 313 from 8:30 until 5pm weekdays and always maintains an “open door” philosophy.
If you are looking for some LGBTQ+ related and X-pride events to attend in the future, be sure to keep an eye out for the series of LGBTQ+ research reflections that will begin in October and then run monthly. These reflections will be showcasing the research efforts of both professors and students and offer an insight into getting involved in this realm. Moving forward, January is pride month in which there will be many events including an LGBTQ+ X talks series and of course, some annual favourites including Sex Toy Bingo, the Priscilla and the Highlands drag show and a dynamic performance by Toronto-based, Antigonish-born singer-songwriter T. Thomason. These events welcome all members of the STFX community even if you do not identity as LGBTQ+. Being an ally and coming out to these events in support of your fellow Xaverians is super important and lucky for you, these events are inclusive and extremely fun for all individuals, regardless of sexual and gender orientation.
In looking ahead, it is shaping out to be a promising year when it comes to queer visibility and pride here on the StFX campus and within the wider Antigonish community. To find out more about X-pride visit the Facebook page and remember that Bre’s door is always open if you are in search of guidance in any capacity or just need someone friendly and resourceful to speak with!