Rainbow flag hoisted during Pride Week

Raising the rainbow flag Monday at Keele campus kicked off Toronto Pride Week and highlighted York’s pioneering strides at inclusiveness.

This is the seventh consecutive year that York has raised the multicoloured flag, now universally recognized as the colours of pride for the gay community. It is also the first year that York has officially sponsored Toronto Pride Week celebrations.

Master of ceremonies at the York flag raising was J Wallace, York Pride co-ordinator, Office of the Ombudsperson and Centre for Human Rights. Before a small gathering of staff, faculty and students at the base of the flagpole on the Common, he introduced the entertainment, the Righteously Outrageous Twirly Corps, and speakers — York President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden; Michael Gilbert, philosophy professor and Chair of SexGen York; and Lynette Dubois, external coordinator of Trans Bisexual Lesbian Gay at York (TBLGAY). Cake followed.

In her remarks, Marsden praised the Report on the Status of the Recommendations of the President’s Task Force on Homophobia and Heterosexism – Ten Years After. Commissioned for SexGen York by the Office of the Ombudsperson and Centre for Human Rights, the report was delivered in April. It found that York has made progress at creating a safe and inclusive campus for sexually diverse people as recommended by president Susan Mann’s task force in 1996.

“It presents a very positive view of what has happened in 10 years and what is to come,” said Marsden to the small gathering. On the progress towards inclusiveness at York, Marsden said, “I’m delighted that SexGen York has been so active on so many fronts. Our response as a university shows an ongoing commitment to making changes toward even greater inclusiveness.”

Right: President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden praises York’s progress at inclusiveness

“We have come a long way here at York University,” said Dubois. She cited pioneering positive-space programs, officially respecting sexual orientation and gender identity, and, through committees like SexGen York, spearheading non-gendered washrooms and housing. “York University has risen to the challenge” of  creating an accepting environment of sexual and gender variability, she said.

“We can be proud of our work and the work of those who have stood here before us, but we must never become complacent,” Dubois added. “TBLGAY will be a name you will hear a lot more about this year as we broaden our outreach and push for the transformative change that will make York University an internationally recognized voice in equity education and support.”

Approximately 10 per cent of York’s 55,000 students are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transexual, Dubois said, and she has been taking York’s and TBLGAY’s message of inclusiveness to campuses and groups across Canada.

Left: Speakers Lynette Dubois and Michael Gilbert cut the cake after the ceremony

“The rights we have won and the new freedom that allows us to raise this rainbow banner in a spirit of pride and ceremony must always be celebrated and cherished,” she said. “For as we have seen the world over, a failure to guard hard-won victories can result in them being taken away with the stroke of a pen or a snap election. We must be forever fearless in our example so that those who follow our footsteps have a smoother road to walk.”

After the flag-raising ceremony, Fiona Crean, York ombudsperson and director of the Centre for Human Rights, said “coming together to celebrate is quite wonderful. We are proud to be official sponsors of Pride this year, with financial contributions being made from Alumni, Faculty of Arts, Atkinson and Admissions.”

Right: The Righteously Outrageous Twirly Corps

She added: “We are pleased to have worked with SexGen York to complete the review of the 1996 task force recommendations. Our office looks forward to continuing to work with the SexGen committee to create a more inclusive environment for the trans, bisexual, lesbian and gay community on campus.”

“York is progressive,” said Crean. “At the same time, there are many human rights challenges ahead of us.” She said her office aims to develop more positive space, provide training about creating inclusive learning and working environments with respect to sexually diverse people.

York Pride Week activities

As part of York’s Pride activities, the SexGen committee and the Office of the Ombudsperson will be recognizing positive-space volunteers at Glendon. To learn more about programs, services and opportunities for LGBTT2IQQ people at York, visit the University’s booth at the Pride festivities downtown. On Saturday for Dyke March Day, the booth will be on Church Street, and on Sunday for Pride Parade Day, on Wellesley, from 10am to 5pm.