Ally Western campaign gets a "Helping Hand"

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Want to lend a helping hand? Ally Western’s new campaign offers a way.

At last week’s University Students’ Council meeting, James Arthurs, VP-campus issues, announced the release of Ally Western’s ‘Helping Hands’ campaign.

This “new face” for the Ally program indicates a different direction for the quickly growing initiative.

Ally Western began in December 2005 as a program for students, staff and faculty at Western who wished to be allies to those of various sexual orientations.

The program offers support to those wanting to discuss queer-related issues and aims to create a network of inclusive individuals. Workshops discuss topics like the power of language and how to respond to various issues such as someone coming out.

According to Ally Western commissioner Cara Eng, flaws in the original Ally program were identified over the summer.

“We recognized different problems we were having with the rainbow symbol ... and people not being comfortable with it,” Eng said.

“Instead of using the Ally pins and PrideWestern bracelets, we’re using hand charms to help motivate people to be involved but not have an instant recognizable symbol ... it was kind of creating a weird stigma around the program and people were not really understanding the message.”

In the past, there has been discrimination and acts of violence against those wearing the Ally pin.

While Eng was initially concerned eliminating traditional symbols, such as the rainbow bracelet, would not get the program’s message across, she chose a more subtle approach since “it’s all about inclusion.”

Eng explained the purpose of the ‘Helping Hands’ campaign is to bring Ally back to the basics of being a friend and a point of contact, rather than being an activist for the gay community.

PrideWestern member Jess Surtees noted while some people may feel Ally’s new campaign hides the message, she disagrees.

“Wearing the rainbow in itself labels you as being queer and you’re actually in the gay community, whereas I think the [new bracelet] is a symbol of [accepting] it. It’s a different message,” Surtees said.

“Everyone assumed [Ally] was just for gay people ... and I really want to create a network of communities inside Western,” Eng said.

Share this article on:

Facebook | DiggDigg |

Copyright © 2008 The Gazette