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Get to know: LGBTQ resources at U of T

Students outside the LGBTOUT office at U of T's downtown Toronto campus (photo by Geoffrey Vendeville)

There are parties where you can dance the night away, fashion shows to strut your stuff and counselling services to air concerns.

Across all three campuses, University of Toronto offers a range of services and clubs for LGBTQ students, staff and faculty, so everyone feels welcome.

“We want to create positive spaces because we want everyone to excel,” said Kelly Hannah-Moffat, U of T’s vice-president of human resources and equity. “To be excellent, you need to be inclusive, and you need to have people feeling supported and able to work and learn in our environment.”

Read about the Health & Wellness Centre's welcoming space


A sticker on the door of Kelly Hannah-Moffat, vice-president of human resources and equity, identifies her office as a positive space. The positive space campaign has supported faculty, staff and students for more than 20 years (photo by Geoffrey Vendeville) 

The Sexual & Gender Diversity Office

Whether you have questions about coming out or have concerns about discriminatory comments, the Sexual & Gender Diversity Office (SGDO) is there to listen and advise.

“A big part of what we’re trying to do is build community and break down the isolation that LGBTQ+ people can sometimes experience,” said Allison Burgess, U of T’s sexual and gender diversity officer.

The SGDO has been a pillar of the U of T's community since 1999. The office works closely with the Anti-Racism & Cultural Diversity Office, the Equity and Diversity offices at U of T Mississauga and U of T Scarborough and many other university partners.

For example, the SGDO has worked with U of T Mississauga’s Equity & Diversity Office as the campus developed the first multi-stalled all-gender washrooms at the university.

Read more about the all-gender washrooms at U of T Mississauga

The SGDO also organizes discussion groups on subjects like relationships, creating inclusive classrooms and the intersection of sexuality and race. It also provides training around sexuality and gender to students, staff and faculty.

In the summer, the SGDO hosts the U of T Pride Pub, a barbecue, a community fair and a party at Hart House. In the fall, the SGDO helps organize Queer Orientation to introduce new LGBTQ students to important campus resources.

Allison Burgess at the Sexual Gender & Diversity Office advocates for LGBTQ people across all three campuses. The office develops partnerships to build supportive learning and working communities at the University of Toronto (photo by Geoffrey Vendeville) 

LGBTOUT

Reilly Helena Victoria Marston, a second-year linguistics student, says she was the first person at her Ottawa high school to come out as trans. But when she started at U of T over a year ago, she made new friends at LGBTOUT who were once in a similar situation.

“It’s an isolating experience being trans because there’s not a lot of you,” she said. “But just to have other people who are going through your very specific struggle has been wonderful.”

Founded as the University of Toronto Homophile Association in 1969, LGBTOUT boasts that it's the oldest LGBTQ student organization in the country.

Gaby Casanova, the club’s public relations manager, has seen many students come through the club’s doors – it's located in the archway of Sir Daniel Wilson residence, just off St. George Street – and has gotten to know many of them at the LGBTOUT events, like the Homo Hop and Queer Ball.

“The sense of community that U of T provided me was one that I didn’t experience in high school,” she told U of T News. “This really is a network of students who want to get to know each other and want to be your support system.”

On the Mississauga campus, the student club OUT@UTM provides the same support to LGBTQ students. 

“The OUT office serves as a positive space where students, regardless of sexual or gender identity, can come and hang out, meet new people and be themselves in a space that is judgement-free,” said the club’s executive director, Roya Ghahremani.


Gaby Casanova, LGBTOUT's public relations manager outside the club's office (photo by Geoffrey Vendeville) 

College LGBTQ student groups 

Woodsworth Inclusive is one of a handful of college-specific LGBTQ student groups. They host mixers where they serve macarons and virgin mimosas, fashion shows and discussion panels.

On Valentine’s Day, they usually have a “Challenging the Hetero-Patriarchy” themed party. Last year, some of the guests put their own stamp on the holiday with original Valentine’s cards.

“My favourite said ‘Roses are red, violets are blue, Valentine’s Day is hetero-normative,” said Alyy Patel, WiNC’s president who is double majoring in sexual diversity studies and sociology.

Vic PrideRainbow Trinity and the Innis College Pride Alliance also provide support to queer and trans students at their colleges.


Woodsworth Inclusive hosted a Queer Fashion Show on Nov. 16, 2016. The club's president, Alyy Patel, is pictured kneeling in the front row, centre (photo courtesy of Alyy Patel)

Sexual Education Centre
 
The Sexual Education Centre is a student-run, non-profit organization that takes a “free, confidential, non-judgmental peer support approach to sex education.”

The centre caters to students, staff and faculty, providing peer support, workshops and a library of sex-related books, from How to Survive a Long-Distance Relationship to Queering Bathrooms: Gender Sexuality and the Hygienic Imagination.
 
Centre for Women and Trans People
 
In 1986, female undergrads rallied on campus for a safe space for women and trans people. The Women’s Centre was established the same year. In 2006, it changed its name to include Trans People and passed its first trans policy two years later.

The Centre for Women and Trans People is equipped with a drop-in space for students and community members to study and socialize. They also have a community cupboard, providing food for those in need.

U of T Scarborough has a local Women’s and Trans Centre while U of T Mississauga has a Women’s Centre.