Proud and positive

Fluorescent water pistols, flamboyant costumes and floats, brilliant smiles and bright sunshine were the order of the day during Toronto’s 2004 Gay Pride Parade on June 27. This year’s event drew one million spectators, and in the thick of things was York’s very own Pride contingent.

Left: Members of York’s Pride contingent prepare the float for the parade

“The parade was just terrific,” said Lara Doan, this year’s organizer for the annual event. A PhD candidate in the graduate program in language, culture and teaching who is based in York’s Centre for Human Rights & Equity, Doan organized a team of enthusiastic volunteers to create an information display and float for the parade.

“We had a contingent of over 20 members of the York community, representing students, staff and faculty. Our York truck, driven by a York driver, was adorned with balloon arches, signage from York’s radio station CHRY and from the University and more!” said Doan. “Our York contingent wore ‘York University, Proud to be Out’ t-shirts and everyone had a wonderful time. The information table garnered a lot of attention, including that of Toronto Mayor David Miller, who spoke with some of our volunteers.”

Right: Getting ready to march

York joined the City of Toronto in marking the week prior to the parade as Pride Week 2004. This is the fifth year that York has raised the rainbow flag to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgendered and intersexed students, staff and faculty who are part of the York community.

“Our presence at Pride is important,” said Doan, “because it increases awareness of activities at York that support sexual and gender diversity including York’s Positive Space Program.” The program, which is Canada’s first to include mandated educational training for all of its volunteers, is part of York’s commitment towards ensuring the full inclusion of persons representing all sexual orientations and gender identities on campus year round, not just during Pride Week. A voluntary program, it identifies places where there are people who have been trained and are prepared to provide supportive information and referrals to York’s community members.

“We want to create a positive environment where people of all sexual orientations and gender identities can continue to be an integral part of the university community and can thrive,” said OmiSoore Dryden, former advisor in the Centre for Race & Ethnic Relations in York’s Centre for Human Rights & Equity.

Left: York’s “Proud to be Out” contingent

“For many people, university provides their first opportunity to ‘come out’ and explore their own sexual and gender diversity. This can be a difficult and confusing time, especially if they do not have anyone to talk to, or don’t know what groups and resources are available,” said Dryden. “Volunteers involved in the program believe it is important to identify places where someone is equipped to handle queries, referrals and difficulties that may be specific to community members who are sexually or gender diverse and make the campus a more inviting, comfortable place for all York community members.”

The presence of a Positive Space decal indicates that a York member in that office has attended Positive Space training and knows about the wide variety of resources available at York and in the larger community and is familiar with discrimination and harassment policies. The program, which is under the auspices of York’s Sexual and Gender Diversity Advisory Committee, has been in existence for more than seven years. Participants include students, staff and faculty members who are committed to supporting an open and inclusive environment for persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

For more information about how York supports sexual and gender diversity, contact the York Sexual & Gender Diversity Advisory Committee by calling ext.55682 or by sending an e-mail to