Ask UTM students if theres a gay club on campus and theyre likely to say no, but they would be wrong. Its called [email protected] and has roughly twenty-five active members who regularly attend meetings, events, and weekly pub lunches. The increase in membership and participation at OUT has shot up drastically in the last year or so. Weve been dead for the past couple of years [so] this year is a big year. When I started in first year, they threw me in an exec position just because we needed names and positions for the group to exist, explains external liaison Annie Pham.
If you joined last year, chances are you now hold an executive position. G. Kumari enlisted in February of last year and now holds the position of social coordinator. She joined so that she could be a part of the planning process for Queer Frosh — an orientation week designed to provide a safe welcome to LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer) first-year students.
Aside from Queer Frosh, OUT organizes a number of activities that take place during the fall and winter terms. Big Ol Gay Lunches (BOGLs) are one such event. They take place at the Blind Duck Pub every Thursday and Friday from 12- 1 p.m. and are designed as a casual drop-in for students to eat, chat and take a break from classes.
Members even get a ten per cent discount on pub grub. The group can be easily spotted by a large rainbow flag that is draped over their table.
According to Kumari, the rainbow flag often acts as a deterrent for students not wishing to advertise their sexual orientation. Ali Hussain, one of OUTs rare straight members admits as much.
I wasnt homophobic, but at the lunches last year we used to have the flag on the wall so it was a lot more visible. Now its just on the table. I used to feel awkward sitting there, and it took awhile to get used to that. Now I dont care that much anymore.
Annie Pham explains that as a gay group it is important for OUT to be a recognizable presence on campus that isnt afraid to show its true colours.
As for students who arent ready to be out and proud, OUT holds an office space at the Student Centre in Room 241. Students can drop in for information, advice or to just chat with someone about coming out, relationships, or school.
Robert feels that he solidified his friendships within OUT by frequenting the office on his breaks in between classes. Now he feels a part of the community. Its not like these are just the people from OUT, these are my friends and I think a lot of people in the group have found that. Because theres a smaller group, it has more of a sense of community. Its not just that we hang out, we want to hang out.
If youre looking for something a little more exciting than hanging out at the office, OUT will be hosting its annual Drag Pub on Thursday, February 26 at the Blind Duck Pub. The Facebook event dares students to, come as you are, come as you arent and promises a seductively delicious grand prize to be awarded to the two-dollar raffle winner of the Make Your Own Buttons Day, also hosted by OUT, on Tuesday, February 24 at the Student Centre.
Aside from all the fun and games, issues such as homophobia on campus are prevalent, whether students are aware of it or not. Some [email protected] members have actually experienced active homophobia on campus. From dirty glances at OUT members during the BOGLs to dyke or fag muttered to gay students in hallways, UTM is guilty of passive homophobia. The Scarborough campus however, has experienced more drastic acts against their [email protected] club when one of their advertisement posters was burned last year.
None of the OUT members have reported any severe acts caused by homophobia. But when students like Kumari are spotted holding hands with others of the same gender, they often find that their subtle displays of affection arent welcome. People dont actively express their homophobic ideals, but its there because Ill be holding my girlfriends hand and they would be like Oh, whats going on? So I definitely think it does exist, says Kumari.
OUT holds Active Dialogues every few months that address homophobia, as well as other issues the group faces. Fred Basik, a firstyear student who joined at the beginning of the year, had a positive impression of the Active Dialogue on homophobia he attended back in October. I would definitely recommend it. At the homophobic seminar, I brought one of my friends who is straight and [at first] she said it was awkward. But, she really enjoyed hearing the different perspectives. Were very open to straight people.
[email protected] mission statement stresses that the group is open to all students regardless of their sexual orientation, identification or issues. Students who are straight, confused or in the closet are welcome to join and attend events and meetings at their own pace.
If that wasnt enough information for you, look up [email protected] at the Student Centre in Room 241, check them out online via their Facebook group [email protected], or drop by one of their BOGLs at the pub.