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Letter to the editors

Welcome! Aaniin! I’m so encouraged to see so many friends, and friends soon to be, here this afternoon. As Ysabel announced I have the privilege of being Queer Commissioner for the TCSA and was so honoured to be asked to speak today by these amazing organizers. Before I go any further I think we should all put our hands together to thank Danielle, Ysabel, Shanese, Abby, and the other behind-the-scenes organizers who made this possible [applause].

Make Trent Safe is about the recent events that we have all heard about, but it’s also about the daily discrimination that people in this community have seen, felt and heard that have always been at Trent. I had a conversation with a Trent student last week who expressed a genuine belief that as a lesbian I do not experience any discrimination. I think she was informed by the glossy image of Canada as a completely inclusive space that welcomes diversity.  Let me tell it to you all here first, if you don’t know already: as a queer student I have to deal with feelings of discomfort consistently.

What you might not see is me sitting in class, having to look around and evaluate if I feel comfortable enough to out myself in class participation.  What you might not see is me having to decide when I have a group project if I am going to invite people over to the apartment I share with my girlfriend. What you might see is me awkwardly trying to negotiate doctor appointments at Trent where I have to explain both why I’m confident I’m not going to get pregnant but also why I’m not on birth control. What you don’t see is the closeted lesbian, gay, bi, pan, trans and other queer students I talk to on a daily basis, who do not feel like this is a place that they can live openly. You don’t see the people who stare when I put my head on Pippa’s shoulder on the bus going home. I just want to be able to be in love, and be myself, and not have to feel like I’m on display. So don’t you tell me that because it’s 2016, and we live in Canada, that I do not feel discrimination. I do. And don’t you tell me that days like today, events that bring community together, and give us a chance to spark more conversation about how we can make Trent feel more inclusive to all students are not needed or important.

It is no longer enough for the university to remain silent to the injustices that happen on our campus. There comes a point at which silence is aligning one’s self with the oppressor, and I’d encourage you all to begin by looking inward as to what change you can affect in the spaces you navigate, that can help make people feel more comfortable. I can’t tell you what you should change, but I’m looking forward to hearing what comes from the meeting next week. Where I’m going is, it’s time for us all to step up as allies. It’s time for us to open up our dorm rooms, class rooms, and board rooms for people who are marginalized to have voices that are not tokenized, but instead respected and sought after. This is the day, event, and the call, for allies. If you’ve been waiting on the sidelines to be called upon, consider this me texting you, or iMessaging you whatever floats your boat; consider yourself called. Leverage your privilege and your skill set to leave no doubt in the minds of those around you as to what you want this campus and community too look like and stand for.

I’d like encourage you all to report anything that you see on campus. Nona Robinson, our Associate VP Students who deals with charter complaints, wants students to know that you can consult with her office if you are unaware of whether or not something would be considered a charter issue. If you don’t feel comfortable going straight to the administration though, please start by telling someone. Talk to someone from the TCSA, talk to someone in your college office, talk to your don, please just don’t feel like you are alone in confronting the perpetrators. Look around, no one is here alone anymore.

So thank you all for so much for coming today. Believe it or not, I’ve actually never felt more hopeful and more determined that Trent is going to be a place that everyone feels safe at. This is our home and it is everyone’s right to feel safe in their own home and it is up to us here today to make sure that today is the start and not the end.  Thanks.

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