Let me tell you the only things you need for a top-notch evening out: live music, also-live fish, and a bunch of very very lively queer folk.
This past Friday I rewarded myself for a very stressful two weeks of life by attending an event organized by GLgbt* (Glendon’s LGBTQ-Ally group) called GET FISHY WITH IT, which was an outing to Ripley’s Aquarium in downtown Toronto for their Friday Night Jazz event. The concept of going out to a semi-formal “underwater adventure” with a bunch of Glendon’s queer or queer-supporting community was exactly what I wanted after a bunch of difficult deadlines and obligations.
Long story short, I heard about the event way late, found out the tickets were all sold out, put my name on the waiting list (and here is a direct quote from the event page which I was really happy to read: “Please note that priority will be given to LGBTQ+ identified individuals.” Walkin’ the talk there, I see. <3) got a ticket about a day later (shoutout to Jean-Pierre!) and then for the next three days all anyone heard out of me was SO ARE YOU GOING TO FISH’N’JAZZ, which was my overzealous moniker for the event.
Needless to say, Friday evening rolled about and the event went swimmingly.
It was an evening of jazz and wine (which I didn’t drink because I’m a teetotaler) and fish (which I didn’t eat because aquarium) and Glendon queers and it was hella classy.
I am a Big Gay Fish in a Little Gay Pond
It just so happens that this event coincides perfectly with my want to focus this week’s post on my experiences as a queer individual in differing locations–Glendon, Toronto, the wider world. It perfectly encapsulates my experience with Glendon as being a queer-friendly community. In fact, events like these are so commonplace at Glendon that sometimes I can even forget that it’s not like this in the rest of the world. Talk about a morale boost.
For those who are curious for specifics: at present, I identify as a cisgender panromantic asexual, which means that
a) I identify with the gender I was assigned at birth,
b) I’m able to form romantic attachments to human critters of all walks, and
c) I do not experience sexual attraction to human critters of ANY walk (more on this last next week!)
I have always been open about my orientation, and I’ve received startlingly little flak for it in comparison to friends of mine, something for which I thank the Universe pretty darn often. I know people whose parents are constantly, actively fighting them on the point of their sexuality; I know people who haven’t informed their families of their relationships for fear of the tension it will create. But I? I get to sit here and loudly pronounce myself Laziest Gay (still never been to a Pride parade) and not experience the slightest tinge of fear. I credit a large portion of this ability to my location: I spend the majority of my time a) in Glendon, which is b) in Toronto which is c) in Canada, so as far as the global attitude towards queer folks goes, I’ve hit the geographical jackpot. (And a quick intersectional calling-out: the fact that I’m white and able-bodied and fairly neurotypical also helps me out.)
I am beyond fortunate to be able to express my gender and sexuality so freely and casually and with such total fearlessness; I am staggeringly privileged to be in an environment that allows me to believe, for days or weeks at a time, that this sort of open, loving culture and behaviour is completely the norm.
Because it’s not. The amount of violence that is enacted on LGBTQ+ individuals around the world is sickening and multiform–in extreme cases, you’ll be denied employment or housing, or be subjected to physical and sexual abuse, or be jailed, or even be killed. In milder, more insidious cases, you’ll face a riot of microagressions in a society that still hasn’t gotten its head around the very simple concept of equality. An example: Coming Out Day was yesterday. My Facebook feed was stuffed to the gills (haaah) with inspirational, motivating, encouraging Coming Out Day posts–but my favourite one came from a friend down in Amherst, MA, who very staunchly explained how “coming out” is bullshit:
“coming out is only “necessary” because straight people demand that you define yourself according to a label they have decided is valid, and because they have decided a queer person’s personal life is something they must be presented with and allowed to form an opinion about. […] challenge the notion that people are cishet until proven queer.”
In this way, even cultures who celebrate themselves as being progressive and feminist in nature can still be rife with underlying oppressive behaviours and expectations.
Let me tell you this: my partner still struggles with holding my hand in public. She was born and raised in a fairly liberal part of America, but she grew up hearing so many stories about the violence and the prejudice that LGBTQ+ individuals face that she can still have trouble expressing her identity outside of very specific areas or social circles. This is something I have never felt an inkling of anxiety over–it is as alien to me as anything. Once, when I was visiting her in Boston, we went to a Cheesecake Factory and were waiting outside for a seat when we caught sight of some old white couple staring at us. We were sitting shoulder to shoulder, holding hands, and they were scandalized.
Being me, I suggested we look them dead in the eye as we s l o w l y leaned towards each other and kissed. But Anna said no.
But let me tell you something else: my partner has told me that she feels like it becomes easier to express her gender and orientation every time she comes north to visit me. An hour-and-a-half plane ride is all it takes to make her feel more comfortable in her own skin. And this comfort increases exponentially when we’re hanging out at Glendon together; she actually cried, good, grateful tears, when she saw the GWTC (Glendon Women and Trans Centre) for the first time.
Glendon is one of the safest, most comfortable places I can think of for queer individuals. Not only is it welcoming or accepting, it’s openly enthusiastic about differing experiences of gender and sexuality–to the point that it hosted a queer conference over the summer.
Queer Culture On Campus
When I take the time to remember that the social climate outside of my campus is not nearly so temperate towards queer culture, I’m grateful to have found a place that is so enthusiastic about providing space for all kinds of gender and sexuality. Here are just a few of the resources we have on campus for all the queer critters out there:
- The aforementioned GLgbt*, who organized GET FISHY WITH IT and who have a number of other events up their sleeves for this coming year.
- The also-aforementioned GWTC, which is an AMAZING resource. Described as “dedicated to providing a positive space where no person is judged based on their gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation. We work to promote the preservation of all human rights with a special emphasis on celebrating the many voices of the women and trans community at Glendon.”Beyond hosting fun-filled and informative events about gender and sexuality, the GWTC also has a food bank open to all Glendon and York students (which I have used several times when the meal plan inevitably runs out with two weeks left to the semester) and an emergency shelter, which I used in a non-emergency setting as my home for 5 weeks in the summer while I worked as a Monitor for Explore. They got hardwood floors in there, guys. It’s tidy as heck.
- Glendon’s Counseling Services offer personal counseling of all sorts with friendly, highly-qualified personnel–and if you don’t feel like talking to a person, they’ve got a whole rainbow of pamphlets (how twee!) on their wall, including two or three on various queer issues.
- Lunik, the student co-operative café on campus, prides itself on being a safe space–they’re so dead serious about it that they wrote a policy for it. You can see me plugging them with my awesome tote bag in the aquarium pic. The space is used for all sorts of events, many of which have an element of queer culture to them: in February last year, in conjunction with the GWTC, they hosted none other than the illustrious Andrea Gibson for a whopping TWO HOUR poetry set at Glendon!
- Did I mention that in addition to having a Gender and Women’s Studies major, we also have a specified Sexuality Studies major? That’s right, a whole bachelor’s degree revolved around the myriad ways in which people do (or don’t do) the do.
- Myself, of course. I’m happy to talk about anything regarding queer culture and support. And so are my fellow eAmbassadors.
- Etc., etc., etc. &&&. Andandand. You’re getting the point now, I bet.
Just Keep Swimming
As anyone with any connection to the LGBTQ+ community knows, there is a lot of work to be done. There are still huge cases of homophobia and transphobia throughout Canada, North America, and the wider world, and I can’t even begin to talk about how much more complicated things get once you look at these issues intersectionally–the sort of freedom of expression I associate with Toronto might not be the same experience at all for queer people of colour or of differing ability, and so on. And in places where the simple act of loving the way one wants to love is criminalized (here’s looking at you, Russia,) the road to equality is even longer.
But a lot of the time we need to feel safe ourselves before we can start working to make the world safe for others. For me, that sense of safety has been carried around inside of me since a time before memory–because I’m lucky. But it’s been solidified and given voice by being a part of the Glendon community. Being queer on campus here isn’t only welcome or accepted–it is so totally normalized that I can forget exactly how much work still needs doing for that level of enthusiastic acceptance to appear in the rest of the world.
There is much to be done. But while we get busy with it, I’m thankful to have Glendon Campus as the HQ from which, as dear queer Ellen put it so whimsically, I can just keep swimming.