An open letter to UVic Pride

Dear University of Victoria Pride Collective,

Yours was the first Pride Collective I felt drawn to be a part of. Your members, location, funding, and overall presence is much more impressive than I’ve seen with other Gay-Straight Alliances and Pride Collectives. Above all, your team was the biggest draw for both my partner and myself, as we separately sought inclusion and participation in the Collective over the past four years. We recognize you as friends, neighbours, and colleagues within our community, and we respect the work you do, initiatives and activism you undertake, and the many events you organize. It is for this reason that I must address the alienation and isolation I and others have experienced at your hand, which breaks your Constitution and Bylaws, as does the alarmingly problematic behaviours of your Safer Spaces Coordinator.

Over the past year I have felt compelled to contact the University of Victoria on several occasions regarding the problematic behaviours of UVic Pride team members, as well as the unwelcoming atmosphere in the Pride Centre, both of which conflict with your declared intent: “to promote and provide an atmosphere that . . . build[s] community; and [is] fully inclusive and supportive of all members, including people of any race, culture, ethnicity, gender, sex, colour, age, ability, class, sexuality, nationality, appearance, and religious or political affiliation.” We expect our leaders to be held to the same (if not higher) standard as other members of society. Although my partner and I haven’t explicitly been told that we aren’t welcome, we have faced silence, cold shoulders, and averted eyes upon entering the Pride Centre which suggests that it is the case. I assume that your actions as individuals are a result of personal opinions, judgements, and perceptions and not those of the UVic Pride Collective or the university.

Ignorance is not an excuse, in that I am firm, especially when it comes to equal treatment of others. I am grateful that you facilitate training and educational functions on a regular basis and have an abundance of information available in the Pride Centre. While I feel you are well equipped to teach others, the elitism exuded by those governing UVic Pride does not permit everyone to feel comfortable sharing the purportedly accessible space or information. You carefully outline “privilege” and the need for everyone to acknowledge “the power and privilege that come with their social location,” yet use educational status to determine social standing and denote others as unworthy of acknowledgement in your space.

May I remind you of a time not so long ago when you too were ignorant of such topics?  In your Anti-Oppression and Anti-Racism Policy you state under the subheading ‘Access’ that you aim to use language to engage in dialogue easily accessible to the general student body. Like yourselves, I have the privilege of education; I have read, and believe I not only understand, but adhere to your policies. If I am correct, then I, as well as others you’ve turned your backs on, am “learned” enough to enter your space (although you claim pre-existing knowledge is unnecessary). Each of us holds and has a right to our personal opinions, perceptions, and judgements of others, but when we step into the role of coordinators it is our job to give them up in times of leadership. No one should be expelled or excluded based on personal prejudice.

I question the ability of UVic Pride coordinators to govern the Collective due to the lack of self-governance, and the deviation from your mandate and community. Not only are members of the UVic Pride team holding themselves to standards far from what is claimed in your Constitution and Policies, but you are enforcing standards which you yourselves do not uphold. Being a team member is a responsibility that should be undertaken only by responsible members of the community who aim to better the Society, not simply to exert power. The goals and well-being of the UVic Pride Collective have been damaged by the behaviours of its coordinators and their treatment of members of our community. As representatives of the Pride Society, the Student Society, and the University of Victoria, and as representatives of the queer community in Victoria and beyond, you should be held to higher standards by yourselves, your colleagues, and by the community you serve.

The behaviour you have exhibited individually and as a whole is unacceptable. The UVic Pride Collective is a community group funded by UVic undergraduate students meant to serve and respect the queer community. It is not a private club of select members who deem themselves “better than” and whose actions apparently have no consequences. Your job as team leaders is to live up to your Vision, Mission, Values, and Goals and when you do not, it is in your best interest and your duty to enact change. I believe that each of the UVic Pride team members adds value to the Collective. I have seen amazing growth in the Pride Collective over the past four years as well as in the individuals who work daily at making UVic Pride as great as it is. I in no way wish to discount your importance as a constituency group of the UVic Students Society or your importance at UVic and in Victoria. I believe Pride Collectives are vital to our community and are of immense importance on university campuses. My hope in writing this letter is to share the perspective of individuals who have not been given a voice in your Collective, those who have been turned away, unwelcomed, and mistreated by the UVic Pride Society.

UVic Pride: you need to address these concerns and take a critical look at your practices both individually and as a collective. Why are members of our community finding the Collective inaccessible, unwelcoming, and problematic, and why are UVic Pride Coordinators not being held accountable for their actions?

6 Comments

Avatar Mary Brockman

boy! somebodies privilege was stepped on for sure. Anonymous is a white cis privileged person who is a cheapo and also very much ‘put sown’ by other people standing up. wow. wow wow.

Avatar lil p

I feel like I just read the same letter repeated 3 times in slightly different wording. Also, the accusations aren’t really backed up. What specifically makes them elitist? What views does the author have that could explain the behaviour of the collective towards them? What is being “learned” in this context? What actions should Pride realize have bad consequences? The author poses questions raised by the article at the end, but those are the questions that the author should have answered clearly for them. Pride members aren’t mind readers! No one is! Help them overcome their flaws by being specific.

Avatar Iron

Wow I just put a lot of work into a thoughtful comment, expressing no hate toward any individual or group and offering serious reasonable criticism toward the Pride Collective, and it was censored. Message received Martlet, loud and clear.

Avatar The Martlet

Hi Iron,

Your comment was made at approx. 10:40 p.m. on a Friday evening when all of our staff were currently out of the office for a function, so nobody was readily available to approve your comment. Our apologies for not getting to it sooner, but we’ve now approved it. Thank you for your contribution, and have a great weekend!

Avatar Iron

Hey thanks, my mistake. The comment disappeared after saying “awaiting moderation” for a few minutes so I assumed a mod had deleted it. I retract that second comment. Cheers!

Avatar Iron

They’re not accountable because thanks to a culture of political correctness they are immune to reasonable criticism. Dare try to cut or reduce their funding and you had better believe they’ll smear you with homophobia accusations rather than give a serious accounting of what they do with all that money and how it helps people efficiently and concretely. They grow entitled and think they can’t do wrong, because when they do do wrong nobody will say so because nobody wants the stink of sexism/homophobia/racism accusations following them around. Is that not why your letter has been written anonymously? And they get tens of thousands of dollars to… do what exactly? I don’t even know. Nothing on their website comes close to explaining what on earth they do with all that money. $150 bucks on Amazon for 1000 condoms so it sure as hell can’t be that. And why are students being made to pay for other students’ sex lives by the way? Mandatory student fees are going to their LUBE expenses and they wonder why they aren’t so well-liked by a heavily indebted student population.

It’s funny, the more categories of people an organization goes out of its way to list and /claim/ to include, the less inclusive it is in actual practice. More emphasis “inclusiveness” in name = less inclusive in reality. I swear these people who tell you they’re super happy and inclusive of all LBGTQ%XPZ folk are the same people who will freak out and trash talk you to no end if you don’t believe exactly what they believe. The whole point of developing their own little nomenclature of “appropriate” vocabulary is so they can easily identify people who agree with them ideologically, and so they can ridicule and cast out those who don’t. It’s that simple.

Organizations that simply say “everyone welcome” and make zero fuss about it, those are the ones that are actually inclusive. That’s the big irony, your average chess club, lan party or YMCA b-ball night or boxing class is far more inclusive and welcoming to anyone and everyone than these ridiculous organizations founded supposedly for the whole purpose of inclusiveness. Riddle me that!

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