Laurier Brantford, long devoid of any kind of LGBTQ group, finally opened a Rainbow Alliance last year. Prior to the Rainbow Alliance forming, there was no LGBTQ support group in all of Brantford.
Despite the group’s relative anonymity around campus, many LGBTQ people and groups find their experiences on campus to have been overwhelmingly positive.
Cody Lee, an openly gay Laurier student, discusses his experiences since arriving at campus.
“I haven’t had any problems so far,” says Lee. “The people I’ve told have been amazing. I feel really safe about who I am. Actually, I feel safer here than I do at home [in Toronto].”
“I don’t just go around telling everybody I’m gay,” he goes on to explain. “But if people ask me, I don’t mind answering.”
Laurier Brantford opened a Rainbow Alliance last year – a student service dedicated to educating and promoting LGBTQ awareness. They have event nights with their members, hold educational seminars and volunteer throughout the community.
Andrea Shine, the founder and president of the Rainbow Alliance, discusses why she felt inspired to act.
“I talked with Dr. Rossiter and we were both surprised that there wasn’t a Rainbow Alliance at Laurier Brantford,” says Shine. “I figured I couldn’t complain that nothing was happening while still doing nothing. We started with just ten people, but we’ve grown to about 30. Since we’ve started, we got nothing but praise.”
The Rainbow Alliance’s most notable event so far was their participation in an anti-homophobia rally last November, led by a local lesbian couple to raise awareness about homophobic bullying in Brantford schools.
“There was a police presence there for safety,” says Shine. “But we didn’t have any problems.”
Many Laurier students have LGBTQ family and friends. “My aunts are lesbians, and babysat me growing up,” says Michelle Eng. “I always took it as a very positive experience. I’ve had gay friends here at Brantford too. At our age, I think a lot of people are starting to come out.”
Some students reflect that other towns haven���t been as accepting as Brantford.
“I felt a lot more comfortable coming out here,” says Lee. “I had a few problems with homophobia in high school and more problems in elementary school. But you’ll always have judgmental people and you just have to brush it off.”
Jori Lacey, first year student and active member of the Rainbow Alliance, went through a similar experience.
“I went to a Catholic high school, we didn’t have a Gay-Straight Alliance and that bothered me. When I came here I started to see a lot more tolerance.”
Despite how far Laurier Brantford has come, the community continues to change.
Sue Ferguson, an associate professor in the Journalism department, describes looking at Laurier Brantford’s campus tolerance through the eyes of a staff member.
“I’ve never seen any students making bigoted comments. Still, we live in a very normalized culture where being straight is the norm. So it can be damaging when a professor describes in their lecture a husband and a wife as an example of “what a family is”. It can make people feel less worthy.”
Considering the campus’ high level of tolerance, Andrea Shine is focusing the Rainbow Alliance’s efforts on community outreach.
“There aren’t really any Brantford community groups for LGBTQ people. There isn’t any counseling. We’re it. So in the future, we’re hoping to help fix that.”