After long drought, students create long-awaited LGBTQ+ space

The Langara Genders and Sexualities Alliance aims to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ Langarans

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By Rigo Bacaltos

Without a physical safe space for LGBTQ+ individuals on campus, some students decided to take things into their own hands.

Rae Parsons, a bioinformatics student at Langara, started the Langara Genders and Sexualities Alliance after noticing the lack of a space for LGBTQ+ students.

“I thought it was an embarrassment on Langara’s part that we don’t have a club for LGBTQ+ students on campus,” Parsons said. “So, I figured if no one’s going to make one it may as well be me.”

Parsons said despite everyone’s best efforts, they feel homophobia and transphobia exist on campus at Langara.

“It’s important for LGBTQ+ students to have a place to congregate and meet one another,” Parsons said. “[A space to] bond with one another and be close with one another in a space that they feel free to be themselves.”

In comparison to other institutions

Other post-secondary institutions in Vancouver offer physical spaces for LGBTQ+ students on their campuses.

The Simon Fraser Student Society offers a resource room with Out On Campus, and UBC’s student union offers its own space for The Pride Collective.

Jude Mah coordinates the Out On Campus space, which advocates for meeting LGBTQ+ students’ needs.

“Having spaces like this allows you to be your authentic self,” Mah said. “It started the journey of realizing and then accepting my gender and sexuality.”

Out On Campus provides everything from snacks and couches to safe-sex supplies and a library of LGBTQ+ books, magazines, comics and films for its students.

“We want to have a welcoming space for students to feel comfortable,” Mah said.

If there’s anything that Mah could say to decision-makers in post-secondary institutions, it’s spaces like Out On Campus help change students’ lives in incredible ways. “You can easily say that you support your LGBTQ+,” Mah said. “But talking is different than actually showing up and doing better.”

At one time Langara had a queer resource room in the Student Union Building, but according to the Langara Students’ Union the room was disbanded, not clarifying when.

“We currently do not have any plans to have an open space for committees. I encourage the college to dedicate space to our clubs as they have more space options,” said Ishan Malhotra, the Diversity and Inclusion Representative, and LSU’s Media Committee in an email.

“Langara at one point had a pride club and it shut down [in 2020] for good,” Parsons said.

Parsons arranges meetings at study rooms in the library, which they hope is temporary until a bigger space is available.

New hope for building community

Claire Anderson, English instructor at Langara and instructor-supervisor of the Langara Genders and Sexuality Alliance, said a safe space for LGBTQ+ students is crucial.

“I hope that people who don’t necessarily fit into a straight, cisgender binary can find this a place that’s not just safe, but they can go and have togetherness,” Anderson said.

Lila McKinlay, an online psychology student at Langara and member of the Langara Genders and Sexualities Alliance, said even though she can’t attend in-person, being part of the group “brings a smile” to her face.

“I think it’s so important,” said McKinlay. “Not just for people who feel comfort in their own gender and sexuality, but also for people who are questioning or just need a safe space in any regard with their differences.”

For now, the Langara Genders and Sexualities Alliance meets every Tuesday from 11a.m. to noon.

VIDEO: Reporter Rigo Bacaltos visited Out On Campus at the Simon Fraser Student Society, and interviewed Constatin Lozitsky, programming assistant of Out On Campus, about the importance of the space.

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