What’s in a name? And why the Women’s Centre is changing theirs

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The Women’s Centre, located in the SUB, is undergoing a name change to make their space more inclusive.

Outreach and Communications Coordinator Kay Gallivan explained that “last year, we changed our policies from having this space be open to self-identified women to having the space be open to self-identified women, non-binary, and gender-fluid people. So now there’s the concern that our centre’s name is not an accurate portrayal of who’s welcome in the space.”

In order to determine what name will best serve the space, the Women’s Centre is pursuing a public consultation. The survey will be released online and in print, with the hopes of reaching as many students as possible. This will, however, take time. Gallivan is hopeful that the consultation will be completed by summer 2016, with the possibility that the name change could be implemented for the following fall or winter terms.

“We advocate for people on campus when they experience marginalization based on gender . . . and none of that’s going to change.” 

“We’ll still be providing a lot of services for women — and that’s not going to change,” said Gallivan. “The difference is that there were multiple complaints over many years about people who were not able to access the space because, for example, they are female-bodied but don’t necessarily identify as women, or because they identify as a woman but don’t have a female body . . . So we noticed that the people who wanted to use the space or potentially use the space, that were the most marginalized on the basis of gender, were finding a barrier to access our resources.”

While the name of the centre will be changing, the services and resources will remain the same. These resources include pregnancy tests, menstrual products, safer sex supplies, referrals to services on campus, as well as the opportunity to be published in the centre’s annual publication, thirdspace, noted Gallivan. “We advocate for people on campus when they experience marginalization based on gender . . . and none of that’s going to change.”

Another one of the centre’s policies that will not change is the absence of cisgender men from the space.

“We’re not going to be changing the policies to allow cisgender men into the centre at any point in the near future” said Gallivan. “There are a ton of resources on campus [such as the men’s circle run by the Anti-Violence Project] that are available for cisgendered men who want a safe space to explore these issues, and we can still provide resource referrals for cisgendered men.”

While the Women’s Centre itself is not open to men, their resources library is open to all people regardless of gender.

“It’s just that [accommodating men is] not necessarily our main priority. If somebody came to us and they needed to know about services on campus, we certainly would not turn them away.”

The yet-to-be-elucidated centre continues to provide vital support to marginalized individuals on campus, and will continue to do so over the coming months. As the name change will enhance their environment of safety and support, they don’t want to rush the process.

“We are just at the very, very beginning of considering this name change and we are doing this with the intent of becoming more effective in providing resources to people,” said Gallivan. “We just hope for lots of input and patience as we navigate this.”

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