By Lydia – Research and Advocacy, Pride Festival Planning Committee
As someone who identifies as queer and who has worked in various capacities at the university for the past three years, leading this project felt dauting. I had very limited knowledge about the history of the 2SLGBTQ+ community at Carleton University. While I was nervous to take this project on, I was excited to see what we would discover. After several months of research, I am thrilled to share our findings (hyperlink).
The goals of the Pride Timeline (hyperlink) are multifaceted. While our primary objective is to showcase some of the incredible work of queer and trans students, staff, and faculty at Carleton, we also want to highlight the challenges queer and trans communities have faced at Carleton, and in Ottawa, leading up to today. Acknowledging the past is a necessary component to reflecting on our progress.
In our initial research, information regarding 2SLGBTQ+ experiences at Carleton was not readily accessible, and it seemed that often, official records were not kept or passed down through campus organizations. In the first month of research, we focused primarily on conducting interviews with members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community at Carleton, including professors, current students, alumni, various faculty members, and support and advocacy organizations. This allowed us to gain better insight on the lived experiences of some of the queer and trans members of the Carleton community, as well as connected us with the historical documents required to fill the gaps.
We encourage everyone to check out the digitalized Charlatan journals associated with many of the moments on the timeline, they provide great insight and context regarding the history of Pride at Carleton and were a significant help in developing the timeline. We also want to take a moment to draw your attention to key points on the Pride Timeline that we found especially significant.
The Fruit Machine Project, the first point on the timeline.
From the article included in the timeline, readers can ascertain that this was an incredibly dark period of history in Ottawa and at Carleton. Importantly, despite the fact that Dr. Frank Wake, the person who conducted research for and created the Fruit Machine, was a psychology professor at Carleton at the time; the University has not made a clear statement or acknowledgment of association. In 2016, multiple students across campus called on the University to issue a statement regarding this dark history (hyperlink) in order to bring attention to it, acknowledge the role played, and provide resources for the 2SLGBTQ+ community. This was met with a vague statement (hyperlink) from then Carleton President Roseann Runte that did not acknowledge the experiment or its association to the University. Aligned with the students, faculty, and alumni I interviewed for this project, I believe that without a statement of genuine substance, the harm caused by this event continue to negatively affect the 2SLGBTQ+ community at Carleton. Healing and growth is impossible without an acknowledgment of our history. There is a need for both recognition and action – the absence of the former speaks volumes to the queer and trans community.
Links to learn more about the Fruit Machine and its impacts:
- TVO Documentary: The Fruit Machine (hyperlink)
- The Village Legacy: The Fruit Machine (hyperlink)
- The Canadian War on Queers: National Security as Sexual Regulation (hyperlink)
The Creation of the GSRC as a CUSA Service Centre
To our knowledge, queer and trans folks first met with the aim to become an official group on campus in 1972. We have made significant progress since then, with the establishment of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Centre (hyperlink) as a CUSA funded Service Centre in 1991. While this is progress, there is still a great need for funding and resources in areas and offices around campus related to the 2SLGBTQ+ community.
New Roles in EIC: The CUSSP and the Trans and Non-Binary Coordinators
In 2019, the Equity and Inclusive Communities Department (hyperlink) created a new position; The Carleton University Safer Space Program (CUSSP) Coordinator (hyperlink). CUSSP was created in 2009 by Jen Sugar (hyperlink), a member of the queer community at Carleton, and it is now an important university-wide initiative to reduce the impact of homophobia, transphobia, and heterosexism on campus, as well as increase the visibility of supportive people and positive spaces for the 2SLBGTQ+ community. Considering that CUSSP training had previously been unfunded and was run by uncompensated members of the 2SLGBTQ+ of the community, the creation of an official position with working hours is a significant advancement. At this time however, the position is still only part-time and under-resourced.
In regards to their position as current CUSSP Coordinator, Mathew Kent said “I think the creation of my position as the CUSSP Facilitator is a significant milestone in terms of the University’s, and more specifically EIC’s, commitment to 2SLGBTQ+ students. I’ve been in this role for two years now and have been able to offer CUSSP training on a consistent basis to more staff and faculty. While I’m confident that this has had a positive impact on 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion on campus, it is important to recognize that I am only one person and creating systemic change is a group effort that requires resources. As such, I would like to see more institutional resources and funding allocated to programs like CUSSP to make sure this work is getting done at multiple levels”.
Mathew has done a great job carrying on CUSSP program, updating its content, and expanded its outreach since 2019.
In 2020, with direction from the Carleton Trans Advocacy Group (CTAG), EIC created another relevant role; the Trans and Non-Binary Coordinator (hyperlink). The role serves as an important liaison between CTAG, activists, researchers and other partners on campus. This position is also part-time. Jamie Sadgrove is the current Trans and Non-Binary Coordinator and has been doing fantastic work in collaboration with CTAG.
Current list of demands from the Carleton Trans Advocacy Group (CTAG)
CTAG is a volunteer-run advocacy group formed due to the need for Trans* equity and protection measures at Carleton University. In January 2019, the CTAG submitted their first official Calls to Action (hyperlink) for the University. This grassroots collective is comprised of under/grad students and faculty members who are either Trans*, Non-Binary, or Trans allies and educators who dedicate their emotional and physical labour into advocacy efforts when the University has failed to provide adequate supports.
As of September 2021, 4 of 33 calls have been met by the University, 10 are in progress, and 19 have not been started. The current status (updated September 2021) of each Call to Action is viewable here (hyperlink). Much more work is required to make Carleton truly inclusive for Trans and Non-binary individuals, if you would like to get involved in this work, you can sign up here (hyperlink).
2021 Pride Festival at Carleton
While the GSRC and with other student-led groups have had Pride protests, celebrations, events, and more since 1991, this year’s Pride Festival (hyperlink) marked the first ever institutionally funded Pride program at Carleton University. This is a monumental step and shows great progress for our school and community. As we move forward and make this an official, annual event at Carleton, we must continue to centre 2SLGBTQ+ students and hold space for collaboration with queer and trans individuals and groups who have done, and continue to do, incredible work for their community.
Despite the hundreds of hours of work that went into creating this timeline, it is by no means an exhaustive list of the history of the queer and trans community here at Carleton. We hope that each year, we build on the work that has been done and add to the timeline, highlighting both the past experiences that come to light, and hopefully, the continued recognition and acknowledgment of the 2SLGBTQ+ community at Carleton.
It was a privilege to connect with members of my community and learn about our shared history. I not only learned a lot about the 2SLGBTQ+ community at Carleton, but this process also helped me to reflect on my own identity and lived-experiences.
My hope is that this timeline shows 2SLGBTQ+ students at Carleton that they’re not alone.
Yours in Pride,