CTR Home Internal  Relations and Communications Home About CTR Publication Schedule CTR Archives

February 8, 2001 Ally project supports gay and 'questioning' community



by Jane Shulman

Some Concordia offices will soon be adorned with signs that feature inverted pink triangles inscribed with the word “Ally.” It’s part of a joint venture among Student Services, Health Services, the Concordia Out Collective and others to send a silent message of support and acceptance to Concordia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning students, staff and faculty.

The Ally symbols are given to people who have completed a seminar about the obstacles that members of the LGBTQ community may face in their everyday lives. The hope is that people who have had the training will view situations with a new perspective. A group of people from Student Services have already undergone the half-day training, and organizers say seminars will soon be available to anyone who is interested in participating.

The seminars are interactive, mixing humour and information with trivia and role-playing games. They offer participants a chance to ask questions and discuss situations they’ve experienced. The idea is to create spaces where people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or questioning will feel free to be honest about themselves without fear of repercussions.

Melanie Drew, director of Health Services, explains that’s key to all students being able to access the services they need.

“Going to the doctor can be scary enough,” she said, “but if you’re a member of the LGBTQ community, it can be doubly difficult.”

Students don’t assume that everyone is going to be accepting if they are open abut their sexual orientation, and sometimes that means that they leave out valuable information when they seek help, or they just don’t seek help at all.

Drew realizes that university is the place where many people begin being open about their sexual orientation. “If this is where a person comes out, it’ll be a supportive environment.”
She and others who are involved with the Ally project realize that the more a student service provider knows, the better their service will be.

“Because of the questions you choose to ask, you may leave out a whole segment of the population without realizing it,” she said. “That’s why it’s important to approach people with open-ended questions, so that they will respond openly.”

The idea came from a conference that Drew attended with Dean of Students Donald Boisvert. Chris McGrath, of Simon Fraser University, led a seminar on how to make an environment LGBTQ-friendly. He explained how the program had been implemented at Simon Fraser University, to the delight of members of that community. Drew and Boisvert decided to try it at Concordia. They enlisted the help of Jason Hammond, head of the Concordia Out Collective.

Hammond hopes the program will help make Concordia even more queer-friendly.

“Compared to other universities, Concordia is very gay-positive, but it still isn’t possible for me to walk down the hall holding my boyfriend’s hand, or to kiss him goodbye before class,” he said. “That would elicit comments, and possibly more.”

Hammond would like to see the project embraced by student groups, with the goal of offering seminars to new members every year.

“Knowing that there are people at Concordia who are [openly] gay and proud, or heterosexual and supportive of gay rights is so important,” he said.

Louyse Lussier, assistant to the Dean of Students, was among the first group of staff to attend a workshop. The Dean of Students office now has an Ally symbol on display.

Lussier said that the seminar preached to the converted, in a sense, because being sensitive to students’ circumstances has always been a priority at Student Services, but she figures you can never be too conscious of people’s needs.

“I guess it’s hard to know how big a process [coming out] is for people,” she said.