When you come out as queer and are comfortable with your identity, it can be lonely — especially if you don’t have a strong community around you. Even if you do, there’s something to be said for having a friend group who gets it. But for university students, in between work and school there doesn’t seem to be enough time to make new friends, let alone find some queer people. It’s intimidating. But this is where QVic comes in.
QVic originally was a residence-only program run by the Office of Student Life (OSL) where LGBTQ+ students would meet up once a week and organize events for students in residence. But QVic attracted so many students that there wasn’t enough space for everyone. First-years would move off campus, tell their off-campus friends about QVic, and those friends would tell their friends, and they would all show up for the next meeting. Around the same time, OSL happened to be looking for an LGBTQ+ initiative to support, so they made a version of QVic aimed at the rest of the university and part of the general public. This group is called QVic Life.
“We’re trying to build a sense of community,” said Ali Barr, one of the team leaders and a founding member of QVic Life. “Our job in building community is more event-based and connections-based: we bring people together for a short period of time and, hopefully, create some connections … they’re able to go off into the world and continue those connections, or at least know that when they come back to the next event, hopefully the same people will still be there.”
QVic Life organizes events for students to participate in with a focus on the queer community. There are two types of events: active and passive.
Active events have set start and end times and a schedule.
“Just before the holidays, QVic Life had ‘Make the Yuletide Gay’, which was an event that was a three-hour time peroid, you come to this place, you could do some crafts, you could have some food, have some cookies.” Barr said.
Passive events, on the other hand, allow people to come and go. QVic Life’s first event, the “Big Gay Photoshoot,” was set up in the quad for five hours, allowing people to drop by in between classes and take photos.
The events are also open to anyone outside of UVic. For “Make the Yuletide Gay,” QVic invited LGBTQ+ elders from the local community to alleviate some of the isolation they might experience during the holidays.
Allies are welcome to come to the events as well.
“Our stuff is aimed specifically at the queer community — [but] we definitely want people to be comfortable at our events, and there are a lot of people who might not have any queer friends,” said Barr.
She acknowledged that people might be coming to the event to make more queer friends, but may not want to go alone and might choose to bring someone who is not part of the LGBTQ+ community.
“You are welcome to come and show your support,” Barr said.
The next QVic Life event coming up is Queer Speed Dating, which is on Feb. 10 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
“The [focus] is not necessarily on romantic relationships,” Barr said. The event will provide opportunities for people to look for friends as well.
QVic Life encourages feedback from people who may not feel like the events are as accessible as they could be, or that some intersectionalities may have been overlooked.
“Our ability to serve on this team requires us to have a certain amount of privilege.” Barr said. “We’re able to take that time because we already come from a place of advantage and we try to acknowledge that as much as possible and try to, as much as we can, acknowledge the voices not in the room. For example, no one in our team identifies as Indigenous.”
“Please come to the events, please spread information about them even if you’re not LGBTQ, you never know who … might be really excited to see something like that,” said Barr. “We’d really love if people who might feel like they’re not being represented, please, if you’re comfortable, say something. Because we have an ongoing policy that we set up at the beginning, which is from the original QVic life and we carried it over to QVic Life, ‘call in, not out.’”
Barr also invited people to provide feedback on QVic Life’s Facebook page.
QVic Life allows queer students to get together as a community and have fun. For people either moving away from home or students trying to make some friends, it can mean a lot.