In October, the results of the Thriving on Campus study on the experiences of 2SLGBTQ+ students on campuses across Ontario were released.
The study led by Michael Woodford, a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University’s faculty of social work, is unique in scope as it surveyed nearly 4,000 students. Not much is known about the experiences of 2SLBTQ+ students and the information available comes from individual campus studies.
“It’s really important that we actually study and create studies that are designed specifically for the experiences of 2SLGBTQ+ students,” said Woodford. “That’s really what the Thriving study aims to do.”
Woodford said one of the findings of the study was the need for intersectional or holistic student supports that “emphasize not seeing students in silos.” He said it’s important to consider gender identity and sexual orientation, but also factors like race and disability.
Woodford said one concern that came up in the survey was the use of microaggressions or phrases, like “that’s so gay” and “no homo.”
“Society’s attitudes are changing and people are becoming more accepting of 2SLGBTQ+, yet these subtle forms of microaggressions still exist,” said Woodford.
The study looked into students’ perceptions of their university’s leadership on 2SLGBTQ+ issues.
“While overall the perceptions were affirming, they were not very highly affirming,” said Woodford. “So, it seems like we have a lot of growth to do in terms of changing the larger campus climate.”
As an incoming first-year, Sage Lopez, was not very worried about being queer on campus. Lopez, a second-year forensic psychology and criminology major, is lesbian and uses she/they pronouns. Coming from a Catholic high school with little to no supports for 2SLGBTQ+ students, Laurier Brantford was a welcome change.
“I was honestly surprised at how many people had flags and stickers supporting queer identities pretty much all over campus,” said Lopez.
Lopez has been able to make use of campus support for 2SLGBTQ+ people, such as the Centre for Student Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (CSEDI) and the Student Wellness Centre.
“It’s been really nice, especially knowing that some of them are queer,” said Lopez. “There’s a lot more understanding than if I, a queer person, was talking to a straight person.”
At CSEDI, staff offer education, advocacy and support for students dealing with experiences of identity-based harm. Manager of CSEDI Lauren Burrows said one way CSEDI offers students’ support is through “systems navigation.”
This can look like helping students go through an accountability process related to the harm faced, the process of name changes, finding gender inclusive washrooms or being granted academic accommodations.
CSEDI also offers inclusive training and programming for student leaders, like residence dons and icebreakers, to help them identify what microaggressions are, how to respond to them and how to support the people they were directed to.
Moving forward, “looking at those policies and processes become really important,” said Burrows. “I think it would also be really beneficial to have more opportunities for representation of folks that live at those intersections.”
Burrows said CSEDI wants to work in solidarity with 2SLGBTQ+ students.
“If folks are looking for support, they can reach out to us,” she said. “If people are looking to do programming on campus and want to do that in collaboration, we’re really excited to do that.”
Learn more about the Thriving on Campus study at lgbtq2sthrivingoncampus.ca.