This week at NAIT has been a celebration of inclusivity and diversity with their annual Pride Week. Students and staff had the chance to engage in a wide variety of festivities including queer colouring, collaging, a discussion about challenging homophobia and transphobia, and for the first time, two drag shows. Tim Ira, the Student Program Coordinator for NAIT and leader of the Pride Walk, shared the goals of the fourth annual Pride Week.
“The first thing we want to do is encourage celebration. We want to bring people together in order to gather community, and provide opportunity for the community and allies to celebrate diversity.”
The crowning event of Pride Week is the Pride Walk where everyone was welcome to help celebrate and support the LGBTQ community. But it’s not a quiet event.
“It’s important to know that it is meant to be disruptive. We’re going to make a lot of noise,” said Ira.
His sentiment was punctuated by the many enthusiastic participants gathered under the rainbow flag. They eagerly showed their support by passing out rainbow beaded necklaces, dancing to RuPaul, and happily chanting “Happy NAIT Pride”.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to remind folks that we’re here, and we’re a vibrant part of the community here at NAIT,” said Ira.
Pride Week has been a part of NAIT since 2015 when they first partnered with the Gay-Straight Alliance, a NAITSA student club. This year, they partnered with Pride @ NAIT founded by President Claire Ferreira in 2016.
“I think it has a very positive impact on the community, especially at NAIT,” said Ferreira. “NAIT is known for being more of a trade school and although I wish everyone was accepting, sometimes they’re not…This week we take the time to make everyone feel comfortable.”
The message of Pride Week is all about inclusion and feeling safe to express yourself. NAITSA reserved a “safe space” in CAT 182 and welcomed anyone to use it. In line with that message, the schedule included a Bi/Pan/Omni Meetup. Tim Ira emphasized the importance of giving recognition to people who identify as “bisexual”.
“This is one group that particularly faces discrimination in the (LGBTQ) community…These types of attractions are typically treated as attraction to everyone, or male and female, or my gender and another gender. However, other folks in the community tend to think ‘oh, well they’re kind of promiscuous’, or ‘he just really enjoys sex’…But their attractions are real and valid.”
The meetup gave people an opportunity to discuss the issue known as “bi-erasure” and is an example of potential events for the next Pride Week.
“We’re really trying to turn the corner stone of (Pride Week) into things like panels and discussions. Our panel this year is focussed on LGBTQ and mental health, and some of the challenges LGBTQ students and staff face,” said Ira.
– Arielle Trischuk