The Trent Centre for Women and Trans People (CWTP) has worked tirelessly over the last two years re-establishing itself as a vital resource for both Trent students and the wider community.
The CWTP endeavours to fill gaps that are missing from government and university services as both a resource centre and a space for people to come together. Their Facebook page outlines CWTP as “actively fighting for, creating, and maintaining an environment of empowerment, respect and support for people who experience gendered oppression and their allies.”
Zoe Easton, a member of the Centre’s steering collective and Coordinator during the summer of 2019, outlined that the Centre takes a harm-reduction approach: while does not deliver services directly, it provides information to direct those in need towards the appropriate sexual, reproductive and mental health services they need. They offer safer sex supplies and resources for those such as trans and queer folks, who do not feel represented and supported by traditional health and education services.
In addition, Trent CWTP operates as a space for women and trans people to come together where they feel welcome, supported and understood by an accepting community. Fostering this sense of community is indispensable for the personal wellbeing of the women and trans people in our community and leads to increased school and community involvement. Easton compassionately pointed out the difficulties that women and trans people face finding their place at Trent, and the Centre’s role in helping students “succeed in university if it feels like [they’re] the only one.”
The Trent CWTP has a long history at Trent University. With roots as a women’s working group in the university’s early days, this group was originally focused on ensuring women’s safety and was also integral to the establishment of the Women and Gender Studies department. The group went on to be officially founded as the Trent Women’s Centre in 1986. The name changed again twice and fell dormant for a while, before being revitalized in 2017 and renamed as the Trent Centre for Women and Trans People in 2018. A dedicated team of five students has gotten this important group back on its feet – so that it is now able to financially support itself and in turn, support the community. This was made possible through the levy system – their undergraduate levy has allowed them to breathe life back into the Trent CWTP and provide essential services for those who need them.
Over the last couple years, the Trent CWTP has operated as a cornerstone for women and trans people in the Trent and Peterborough communities to access the resources and the community that they need to survive and thrive at the intersections of oppression. In addition, the CWTP hosted numerous events this past year including: Cards Against the Patriarchy (a feminist twist on Cards Against Humanity); Self-Love Week alongside Valentine’s day; Tea Party with a Purpose for International Women’s Day; Trans Day of Visibility social; a sustainable menstruation workshop; and a workshop around reframing HIV/AIDs narratives.
CWTP has sponsored Black Lives Matter Peterborough and teamed up with numerous partners such as Haus of Accounting, Trent Oxfam, Active Minds, the Seasoned Spoon and Arthur, to further their mandate of supporting women and trans people in the Peterborough community. Last year, Trent CWTP revived an old tradition of highlighting women’s voices in a specially dedicated issue of Arthur, formerly called Lilith. This feminist publication was renamed ZORA after Zora Neale Hurston, an influential African-American anthropologist, writer and novelist. The March 2019 issue featured plenty of creative writing by women and trans people, to amplify the voices of those who are too frequently sidelined by mainstream media.
The Trent CWTP charges each undergraduate student $5.82 per academic year and is entirely funded by this levy fee. The levy pays for only one part-time staff member, and the rest is funnelled into the programs, supports and events that CWTP has to offer. A fee that is no longer guaranteed, as students now have the choice to opt out of funding levy groups via the Student Choice Initiative.
When social programs and services are cut, the most marginalized are often the most harshly affected. Easton cited cuts to legal aid and the way this affects women and trans people fleeing domestic abuse as an example of the devastating ways austerity harms these already marginalized folks. Cuts to specialized healthcare for women and trans people and to experts on domestic abuse are also an ongoing concern. Trent CWTP aims to support women and trans people in numerous ways, and this starts with the levy funding that they receive.
When asked how reduced funding to the Trent CWTP might affect the students, Easton reiterated that this resource is especially important during times of austerity like these, and that CWTP relies solely on the student levy for funding. Easton explained, “Austerity affects the marginalized more than anyone else.”
She had a message for those who might consider opting out because they do not fall into the specific category that this group aims to serve – maybe you don’t personally access these services, but chances are that someone you’re involved with, will. She also reinforced the importance of reframing the conversation away from “me and what I want,” to instead move towards “what is best for the community.”
Looking to the future, Easton is steadfast.
“Previously the levy system and the ebb and flow of students has left the Centre in flux, and we are trying to make sure that this doesn’t happen again because it is an essential resource – it’s really important to have that support and those resources available.”