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Existing on Campus: Pride Centre members share personal stories

by Selina McCallum

Attaining basic human rights for members of the LGBTQ+ community has been a long and hard battle that is not over yet. Around the world, they are still not given equal rights like marriage equality. This year India legalized homosexuality which caused for huge celebration from the LGBTQ+ community in the nation. In September, Venezuela’s member of the Constituent Assembly announced that he is having discussions in the drafting of the new Constitution of Venezuela to allow same-sex marriage in the country.

In Canada, same-sex marriage has been legal since July 2005. Most people in Canada are accepting of the LGBTQ+ community. The month of June in Toronto is dedicated to pride and the LGBTQ+ community.

While some countries are still fighting for equal rights, others have progressed in ensuring equity and equality is given to all. But what it’s like here on our campus? Are we accepting and welcoming? The Lance talked to a few students a part of the Pride Centre to get their take on love, equality for all, and their experience in school overall.

Hannah Montebello // 1st Year // English Major

Hannah Montebello likes playing hockey and volunteering with animals.

She says pride is about not being sorry for who you are.

“Pride is about being unapologetically you, and really owning who you are,” said Montebello. “Everyone should be able to love who they love without any backlash.”

When reminiscing about her day in high school, she says that her experience wasn’t negative, especially being a part of the Gay-Straight Alliance club in her school.

“It hasn’t been too negative. I was in GSA club all throughout high school,” said Montebello.

The first year English student says she doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her.

“People would say “Oh you’re in GSA so you must be a lesbian,” said Montebello.

Although Montebello has only been at the University of Windsor for a few months, she says that she feels everyone is much more accepting.

“Being here the last few months, I feel like people are so much more open, and you get people from all over the world here,” said Montebello.

Samuel Salazar // 3rd Year // Political Science

Samuel likes playing tennis, singing and being involved in the community. He is also the coordinator of the Pride Centre.

To him, pride means being your true self.

“Pride means to me being comfortable with who you are, and it doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter what letter you are on the acronym,” said Salazar.

When discussing where same-sex marriage and equal rights are allowed for LGBTQ+ members around the world, Salazar said that he is grateful to be where he is.

“Personally, it makes me feel that I am very blessed to be where I am. Especially coming from a country where being a member of the LGBTQ community is not as appreciated as it would be here. It’s made me appreciate where I live,” said Salazar.

Salazar is aware that there is much work that needs to be done to fight for equal rights.

“It encourages me to want to fight for those who don’t have as many rights as you do, especially outside of Canada,” said the third-year political science student.

Salazar believes other countries can do one simple thing first for the community.

“Other countries can definitely follow Canada’s example by first recognizing that we are human. In Russia they deem members of the LGBTQ community as less than human,”  said Salazar.

Salazar’s parents found out that he was gay when he was in grade 11. He was texting a guy when his parents took his phone and saw the conversation. It wasn’t a good ‘coming out’ story.

His Venezuelan family didn’t accept it well, but it didn’t make him feel any less comfortable in who he is.

“They aren’t accepting now, and I don’t see it happening in the near future,” said Salazar.

He says it could be worse.

“A thing I always tell my friends is that when they figured it out, they didn’t kick me out and they didn’t get rid of me,” said Salazar.

His friends have accepted it in a different way in which he has grown to appreciate.

He says he was never bullied for being gay in high school. Only a few students would make odd comments, but he never took it personally.

In university, the kind of backlash that he’d received about his sexuality surprisingly has come from members of the LGBTQ community.

He says that it’s vital to talk it out in the community,

“The important thing is to always reconcile and have discussions,” said Salazar.

Salazar feels welcomed on campus but believes there is always room for improvement.

“For example the accessibility of the Pride Centre, it can be more available to everybody, so they know where its located and know how to find it,” said Salazar.

Sam Beck // 2nd Year // Political Science with a Minor in Labour Studies

Sam Beck enjoys singing and playing sports. She also likes being involved in the community.

“Pride is being secure in your own identity, regardless of what that might be,” said Beck.

Beck says that it’s sad that people cannot be who they are because of where they are. A famous quote she believes governments around the world should also follow is one by Pierre Trudeau.

“In the words of Pierre Trudeau, “the government does not belong in the beds of its people,” said Beck.

The second-year student says that no matter what language you speak, you can understand what love is.

“Love is love is very international. In a sense that everyone knows what the word love means regardless of whatever language you may speak,” said Beck.

Beck remembers her friend coming out to her through a Spider Man Valentine’s Day card at a very young age. It wasn’t until her junior year in high school that her school in the Peele region had a Gay-Straight Alliance club.

Her brother now attends the high school and he tells her how open and inclusive they are. A lot of students are comfortable and open about their sexuality.

Beck is apart of a sorority on campus. She says some of the frats on campus are really open to having members of the LGBTQ in their frat.

“They accept members of the LGBTQ community, and not to boost up their inclusivity but because they want them as members,” said Beck.

Beck encourages people to be giving.

“Give graciously whether that be your time, support or love. People think that means money automatically but it can also be giving love or acceptance.”

Hailey Etchen // 3rd Year // Criminology and Political Science

Hailey Etchen loves to cook, is an avid runner and a big reader.

“I love myself no matter who I am, and I love everybody else no matter who they are,” said Etchen.

She thinks although Canada is a progressive country, it is still important to be reflective of that.

“It’s unfortunate the lack of progress in many parts of the world. What’s critical is that we need to reflect on the own progress we’ve made as a society, be thankful for that and be thankful that people are fighting and haven’t given up,” said Etchen.

Etchen says that her experience in Catholic high school was good as teachers and staff were supportive.

“It was really just about letting them be themselves. Especially at a place, you’re at so much of the day, so much of your life. If you can’t yourself there, then that’s really hard on a young teen,” said Etchen.

She compares her experience in high school and university and says the two are much different due to friends and peers being more part of your life than teachers or staff.

“I find no one cares. I think we’re all just trying to find ourselves, both sexually and in school, and figure out what we’re doing with our life that no one is really worried about what anyone else is doing enough to negatively view it,” said Etchen.

The third-year student says she reminds herself not to worry.

“Maybe this person isn’t going to accept to me, but I just remind myself, it’s going to be okay. I failed this test, it’s going to be okay. I try to remember the bigger picture of life,” said Etchen.

“Love is so universal but yet its so specific to each individual on what it means, and we see that with how many different types of relationships there are; gay, lesbian, straight. Love is very personal and it’s important to know what your love is,” said Etchen.

Grand Opening

The Pride Centre will be having their grand opening on the first day back next semester.

Not many students know of the Pride Centre or that they have a new location.

“As a representative of the UWSA we are trying to make that happen. We’re buying signage, we’re putting up banners, and we’re putting up posters. We’re trying our best to make this space known and available to everybody,” said Salazar.

He says this space is not just for members of the LGBTQ community, but for everybody.

The Pride Centre used to be in Dillon Hall but now it has moved to the second floor in the C.A.W Student Centre. The members of the Pride Centre like the new change as they feel more comfortable and have more space to make it their own. Also the privacy of the space can give someone the confidence to come and check it out.

“The door is always open and if anyone wants to come in, it doesn’t matter who you are, you can always come in and chill,” said Salazar.

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