UBC’s Equity and Inclusion office is bringing an LBGQ and Trans Pride installation to campus, which will incorporate the colours of both pride flags onto a surface outside of the Nest. The installation is expected to be formally revealed in the fall.
According to Sara-Jane Finlay, associate vice-president equity and inclusion, the project is meant to signal values of diversity, inclusion and acknowledgement towards communities that have not always been recognized. AMS President Marium Hamid and Associate VP Campus and Community Planning Michael White echoed this sentiment in written statements to The Ubyssey.
“Visibility of safe spaces that not only acknowledge but also celebrate the LGBQ and Trans community is vital for us,” said Hamid. “We hope that this space is also a great way for us to start conversations about inclusivity and visibility in action on this campus.”
“UBC’s public realm is a showcase of our community’s culture,” White said. “This is a great project that reinforces for everyone that our campus is a positive space where we respect and celebrate diversity and inclusion.”
Funding for the installation will come from the Grad Class of 2018, as part of the annual tradition of graduating classes providing a gift to the university. These funds are from the AMS graduating class fee, which is collected from students in their final year of study.
In designing the project, the university consulted with multiple campus stakeholders, such as the AMS, the UBC Pride Collective and the First Nations House of Learning, amongst others. The wider campus community was also asked about three possible design options in a survey that recently closed on June 24.
While declining to say which design got the most votes until UBC’s annual Pride event on August 1, Finlay noted that the survey received over 600 responses that mainly leaned toward one design.
“It’s nice that it wasn’t one-third one-third one-third [for each of the three designs], but actually that there’s a clear preference,” she said.
The installation itself was also originally planned to be unveiled at UBC’s Pride event, but Finlay said that the project will likely be delayed into August in order for the Equity and Inclusion Office to explore new suggestions about how they could enhance the design to recognize the diversity within UBC’s community.
Instead, completion is slated for September 1.
“We may still announce the future location of this installation, but at this point it is unlikely we will make the timeline to have the painting done for the Pride event,” she said in an emailed statement.
“It definitely needs to change”
Pride Collective volunteer Shoshana Messinger expressed appreciation over the installation.
“As far as gestures go, it’s a really nice one,” Messinger said. “I hope it can be something beautiful and a source of pride that can help students who are part of the LGBTQ2+ community feel safe on campus and feel a little bit more represented.”
But the Pride Collective is also “strongly against” the project’s name — the LGBQ and Trans Pride installation — as it distinguishes transgender individuals from the broader community.
In particular, Messinger warned that this separation could make the installation look like it’s aligned with the “Drop the T” movement, which advocates for the removal of the “T” from LGBTQ acronyms. Critics have accused the movement of having transphobic undertones.
“We think it’s important to keep Trans individuals as part of the acronym,” Messinger said.
“I think they just did it because there are two flags and they thought one was specifically a Trans flag, so maybe they thought it was repetitive, but yeah it definitely needs to change before we’d be happy signing off on the project.”
Instead, the Pride Collective would like to see it renamed as the LGBTQ2+ installation, which would also acknowledge Two-Spirit individuals as well as other gender identities and sexual orientations.
Finlay acknowledged that there’s “a debate in the wider community,” but said that it’s not UBC’s intention to “take sides” but to “honour the different histories.”
“As you may know, we actively use the acronym LGBT2SQIA+ in reference to our overall Positive Space efforts across UBC,” she said in an emailed statement to The Ubyssey.
“Rather, we went in this direction to highlight that there are two flags represented in this installation, to honour the different histories and political awareness of the LGBQ movement and acknowledge the more recent visibility of the Trans and non-binary movement, as this recognizes recent events (update to the BC Human Rights Code, passing of Bill C16, etc.)”
Finlay then noted that UBC is also looking into suggestions about adding black and brown stripes, which are used to celebrate the community’s members of colour, as well as Two-Spirit symbolism.
Beside the project’s name, Messinger also noted that the installation’s announcement arrived just a few months after the AMS’s failed fee-restructuring proposal, which would have put the Pride Collective’s funding up for a referendum every three years if passed. Similarly, they also touched on the recently-diverted decision to end the Sexual Assault Support Centre’s support services.
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But, overall, they expressed hope that the installation would have a tangible influence over future decisions by the AMS and UBC regarding inclusion and diversity.
“I’m hopeful that especially something so prominent on university life will be something that the university can use to follow through with when it comes to actually maintaining resources and keeping resources in place,” Messinger said.