Volume 94, Issue 42
Tuesday, November 14, 2000
|CAMPUS AND CULTURE
Coming out difficult at Western
By Jowita Bydlowska
Flear, a former Western student, explained clubs such as UWOut cease to exist because they are formed by students themselves and once the students leave the university, clubs are in danger of ceasing as well.
Alexa Duggan, who was the president for UWOut for two years, said while UWOut was started in 1992, she asked for the group to be dissolved in 1998 because interest in becoming UWOut executive seemed to have disappeared. She said she felt the atmosphere at Western was hostile and club members were feeling burned-out, adding women in particular felt a lack of support.
Duggan said it is a long process to get a club started at Western because of bureaucratic practices on campus. She said often students get sent from administration to the students' council, back to administration and then on to the students' council again.
Bella Lewkowicz, the University Students' Council Pride commissioner, said there is a proposal for a new club on campus, Western Pride, which will act as a social support network. "It is a social organization geared towards creating a safe space for all students, not necessarily for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered students. It is for straight and curious people also. It's a place where you can escape the daily reminders and political and personal opinions on sexual orientation."
USC VP-campus issues, Andrea Boulay, confirmed the proposal for the new club will be put to the Clubs Policy Committee at their meeting tonight.
Currently, Western's Student Development Centre offers various services from homosexual students, Lewkowicz said.
A peer support counselling program has been offered since the 1989/1990 school year, said Kathryn Dance, a psychologist at the SDC. The program, provides an opportunity for one-to-one peer support. Counselling is also offered for family and friends of students just coming out, Dance said.
Lewkowicz said she has not received any requests from students for more support from the school.
"There is a big need for student queer space on campus. We have a room for retail space but not for queer students?" Duggan questioned. "People believe Pride Library is enough queer space. But there should be a space run by students, especially women," she said.
It is hard enough for people to come out in a first place, Flear said. The fear is pervasive because students believe they have nothing to gain and everything to lose, if people know they are gay. "However a support group would go a long way to fight fear and misunderstanding," he said. "It creates sense of community on campus."
Lewkowicz said Western has a very welcoming quality but with the Western stereotype, students are discouraged from coming forward. "Western is willing to foster a positive environment and now we're finding people who really want to get involved."
Copyright © The Gazette 2000