Leaving the discrimination behind
It’s an initiative designed to challenge homophobia and heteronormativity on over 25 campuses across Canada, and on Oct. 11, Regina’s UR Pride launched its own chapter of the national Positive Space Network.
The Positive Space Network invites people to half-hour seminars and then certifies them to promote gender equality on campus. During the seminar, UR pride breaks down key issues and looks for participants to engage themselves.
At the launch, there were about 40 people present and 15 people got certified. Once participants finish the half-hour seminar, they are then invited to five more workshops in order to receive a certificate. The project was in the works for a year.
Lisa Smith, executive for UR Pride Centre for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, defines a positive space as “a space where people can go in and be themselves regardless of what that means, so when somebody comes into the space they are to be addressed as a person instead of a gender.
“This is really important just to have a visual signifier to show people that they aren’t alone and they can have space where they feel safe and be loved in a space,” he said.
Smith said that gender discrimination is still common on campus, something that fourth-year Fine Arts student Joel Kovach agreed on.
“I’ve noticed things personally; it happened a couple of times, like at the Owl,” Kovach said. “ It I guess makes you feel a lot less human, cause it kind of pulls you out of yourself a little bit so you realize people think there’s something wrong with [you] and it’s not a really pleasant realization to have.”
Both Kovach and Smith agreed discriminatory language has even become part of culture.
“It can go as far or as close as people standing in the hallway calling their best friend a ‘fag’. That wasn’t to actually hurt that guy, but from the standpoint of someone walking past them who is actually homosexual, it actually really, really hurts,” Smith said.
Cassandra Hojnik, third-year business student, feels that the Positive Space Network could help change perspectives.
“I think that talking about these issues brings them into the public consciousness and that kind of familiarizes people with them,” she said “Hopefully if people get talking about it then people can understand and learn.
“Everybody should have the right to feel safe and have a space they can be themselves. I don’t like to see people discriminated against and I don’t like to see people put down for who they are.”
While Hojnik is in favour of it, Kovach doesn’t think everyone will be as thrilled.
“Oh, I’m sure they’ll be people that are opposed to it; there’s always people that are opposed to pretty much anything, but it’s something that has to happen and I’d really challenge those people to give us a logical reason why,” he said.
Moving forward, UR Pride hopes that the University of Regina will become a welcoming environment, and that any sort of discrimination will be left behind.