Allies at Dalhousie recently got in front of and behind the camera in order to bring attention to the program's services and raise awareness of the struggles that confront the LGBTQ community.
“We want people to feel safe and know that their differences will be valued and celebrated and that there are supports available such as the Allies program,” says Gaye Wishart, Dalhousie’s harassment prevention advisor and a member of the Allies steering committee.
The four-minute video, titled “Allies @ Dalhousie: Supporting the Rainbow Community,” has an ad-lib and anecdotal style that is presented in a collage of monologues.
“Although we are all part of Dalhousie, we have come from very different experiences,” says Wishart. “Our gender identity and sexual orientation are only part of the story of who we are and how we got here.”
Broadening scope, broadening minds
This past year the Allies offered training to around 500 staff members and an estimated 1,000 students—statistics reflected in the video’s diverse cast of interviewees.
“The video appears to me to have achieved its objective of demonstrating that anyone's story is everyone's story,” says computer science student Daphne Goodwin, who appears in the montage.
Goodwin is a board member for the Women’s Centre and chair of the Trans Inclusion Committee and states in the video that her coming-out story was a 50-year process.
“That there are older individuals in the film suggests that the conditions of childhood experience are, for all the differences in technology, still much the same in terms of personal experience,” says Goodwin.
The Allies led a panel on homophobic bullying earlier this spring and worked with Dal’s Human Resources to address topics related to respect that were raised in the workplace survey results.
The organization also expanded to Sexton campus, continued collaborations with the Youth Project and conducted research to determine how to improve its services in the upcoming school year.
Lending an ear, lending a cheer
Most recently, members of the Allies attended Halifax’s rally for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17, when speakers addressed supporters in Grand Parade Square.
Jackie Gahagan, professor of health promotion at Dalhousie and fellow Ally, was in attendance at the rally, which had the theme of “Reclaiming Our Spaces.”
“There needs to be an increased visibility for acceptance,” she says. “We need to talk about it.”
The position of peer ally is another way that the Allies stay visible in the community. Current peer ally Laura MacIntosh played a principal role in organizing Halifax’s rally and she also led The Queerios, an LGBTQ advocate group involved with the Youth Project, in a round of cheers that opened the event.
“The Peer Ally position is basically the best job I've ever had,” says MacIntosh. “My job is to make life better for the LGBTQ community, even if it is just for their time at Dalhousie. This is essentially what I want to do: dedicate my life to making my community even the slightest bit better.”
Room to learn, room to grow
Lately, the Allies have focused their attentions on making campus life easier by advocating for gender-neutral washrooms in university buildings.
They also initiated the Community Closet, a clothing redistribution program that offers a safe and stigma-free environment in which students can acquire new clothing.
“We have been working to ensure we are a more Trans positive organization,” says MacIntosh, who is a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Social Work graduate.
The Women’s Centre also plans to tackle trans issues, starting by discussing a name change for the centre that better reflects gender inclusion.
After participating in Dal’s Pride Parade contingent and welcoming students to campus with their new video, Allies at Dal will be leading the anti-bullying initiative for Pink Day on September 28.
September will also mark the launch of Dalhousie’s Intercultural Communication Certificate program, which will allow students to gain theoretical and practical knowledge of diverse cultural communication tactics. The program compliments the Allies at Dalhousie’s mandate of respect and acceptance.
“There is always more work to be done,” says MacIntosh, adding that every student “should feel not just accepted, but nurtured by the university community.”
Learn more about the Allies at Dalhousie at its website.
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