We’re here and we’re queer at Lakehead

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 18, 2015 in Rat News | Subscribe



March 17, 2015





Celebrating two decades of Pride Central

By Lindsey Kelly

In the labyrinthine bowels of the university is where an enterprising student will find the most useful and interesting Lakehead centres. LUSU runs their hub within this cement dungeon, and just beyond the stairwell underneath the bookstore (next to the Health and Wellness centre) lays the entrance to Pride Central. Non-descript brown doors open to a fantastic mural. Bright, beautiful rainbows adorn the once white walls and act as a welcoming beacon for students visiting the centre. These walls were painstakingly painted by current Co-ordinator Tracy Pollard, and students Violet Cross and Cassandra Bruneau.  Comfortable leather couches line the wall, and it’s common to walk in and find any number of students hanging around, sharing stories or YouTube clips, or grabbing a nap between classes. Warm walls invite warm people. Welcome to Pride Central.

Tracy and I spent the first twenty minutes of our interview discussing the benefits of pet rats. There is a jar of candy on her desk. It is impossible to find any discomfort in this space. “It’s meant to be a welcoming space… you can identify in any way. As long as you respect the people and the space, you are so welcome here,” she confirms my impressions exactly. Pride has served as a beacon for students, a safe space in a world that can be chaotic, and at times insurmountably cruel to those deemed as the ‘other.’ Pride for many is a temporary escape from the harsh glare of ignorance, a space where love can be shared freely.

It is also a place of activism, of changing the culture of Lakehead and our surrounding community. Emily Lauzon, current Services Officer at Lakehead, was involved with Pride for several years during her Social Work placement, and was one of the key movers and shakers in getting Pride turned into a full time centre. “There were two of us working 20 hours a week, and one day me and Ashley sat down… we need to make this a full time centre, this isn’t doing as much for the community as it could be with a full time position. So, in 2008 we did a presentation. 2009 was the first year it was a full time centre.” 2009 was only six years ago.

Pride Central is the only location that does this kind of work in the Thunder Bay area. In addition to work in the community, Pride also seeks to support students and youth in the surrounding community. Areas such and Dryden and Atikokan are often reaching out for assistance, seeing Pride is such a unique venture for students and young people feeling isolated. Pride is a safe space for all, regardless of gender identity, sexual attraction, and many of the other binaries that are unfortunately far too solidified in our society today. With events such as “Pride in the North” (occurring this upcoming week, boasting activities from Lip Synching contests to drag competitions. Definitely come out and check some of them out!) Pride has become a hugely influential location within the queer community of Thunder Bay.

This reach is expanding, with Gay Straight Alliances becoming an increasingly popular group in high schools and clubs such as The Other 10%. The dialogue is coming easier now, and yet walking into the unknown can still sometimes be a difficult task. One of the best pieces of advice I received in overcoming that anxiety was from David Ivany, former Pride co-ordinator, and beacon in the queer community, known as DJ FabDave, and the Glamorous Fabulous Portia. “I wasn’t sure if Pride was the place for me,” he stated, chuckling “it was a place where I was kind of second guessing a lot of myself, and how it was run before. But once you leap over that first bit of anxiety, it’s such a wonderful space.”

Next time you find yourself with a spare moment in the catacombs of the university, stop in at Pride. Get comfy on one of the couches, admire the mural. Because I can assure you Lakehead, we are here, we are super queer, and we are going for another twenty years and more.



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