Struggle continues for students seeking designated queer space on campus

2SLGBTQI+ TRU students have been struggling without a designated safe space on campus. Since its original proposal in 2017, students have fought to have their request fulfilled to create a designated 2SLGBTQI+ space.

The students rallying for the space say TRU is one of the few campuses in Canada without a designated pride centre.

Monty Armstrong said TRU’s campus needs a place where 2SLGBTQI+ students can seek safe refuge. They noted how difficulties connecting with other queer individuals in Kamloops leads to people feeling as though they are not a part of the community.

“When it comes to social connections, it’s hard to find other queer people in Kamloops,” Armstrong said. ”It makes you feel kind of isolated.”

Many students have reported they have experienced some sort of 2SLGBTQI+ discrimination while on campus during the course of their studies. Advocates say a designated pride space would be a place for special resources, a place to go for help when facing discrimination and would build a strong sense of community on campus.

One of the initial students to propose the pride centre back in 2017 was Eliana Babiou, who told the Omega the space would provide a dedicated place to have social events, like Queer Connections.

Pride Club vice-president Payton Hiebert joined in advocating for the centre in 2020, several years after the original proposal. They have started a petition for students to show their support and need for this designated pride centre.

Hiebert said previous talks with the university took place in 2021, with the understanding that once a manager was hired, further progress toward the centre would be made. In October 2023, Noah Fischer was hired as the university’s new manager of gender and sexual diversity, but Hiebert said there has been no discussion on further progress since then.

“[Noah’s] been doing an awesome job … but we still don’t see the actual pride space,” Hiebert said.

According to Hiebert, there’s been no correspondence from TRU since Fischer was hired

“[The pride centre] is not just going to impact students, it’s going to impact everybody in Kamloops,” Hiebert said. “The fact that we don’t have any form of pride space at all in Kamloops is really hard on our community. With TRU opening the pride centre, it would fill this massive gap and it would be a step towards what we need. It wouldn’t just solve a bunch of issues for students, it would create a sense of togetherness, a sense of belonging, community and connection for all.”

Hiebert said the original plan for the Pride Club’s event called Queer Connections was for it to eventually be hostable in the designated pride centre; however, it continues to be hosted in the UPREP room in Old Main. They said although UPREP has been welcoming to Queer Connections being hosted in their room, it isn’t practical for the students nor for the members of the Pride Club to work out of that space. Booking the space to host Queer Connections is not always guaranteed.

“When we look at Kamloops Pride, they’re all volunteers. They’re exhausted… It is just people donating their time to make this happen. There’s just about no people in Kamloops that are being paid for their work [in pride events and spaces], we’re just doing it because nobody is doing it for us,” Hiebert said.

If you would like to support the creation of a pride centre on TRU’s campus, the link to Hiebert’s petition can be found here.