After a quiet year, St. Thomas University’s Queer and Allied People Society has been rebranded as Sexuality and Gender Advocacy.
Steven Greer, a third-year English honours and history major student, is the external director of SAGA and last year’s co-chair for the former Q&A. They said it’s important to keep LGBTQ2+ people representation at STU.
St. Thomas University Students’ Union sexuality and gender diversity representative Tyler MaGee said Greer approached him with the idea of starting SAGA once the 2019-20 academic year started.
“Rather than try to hold on to an older group … we started the group over again to see if we could have better chances of success,” said MaGee.
MaGee, a second-year sociology honours and communications student, said he saw it as the perfect opportunity to lend his connections with STUSU and other resources to help get the group started.
“Within my position, my mandate is to help out student groups and to ensure that queer visibility remains on this campus,” he said.
Greer said they think SAGA will flourish in comparison to the last year’s Q&A since they said the executives were mainly senior students who had to put a lot of their focus onto completing their final year of school.
“I think on a personal level … I have more time and motivation this year to put the work into it,” Greer said.
According to a survey carried out by the STUSU for their 2019 spring general election 2019, out of a sample of 758 students, 27 per cent identify as LGBTQIA2S+.
Katrina Amos, who co-chaired with Greer last year, said she is excited to see the group take a new direction and hopes it will be successful.
“Having worked with Steven last year and having met with the current queer representative on STUSU regarding continuing the society this coming year … I hope that they will be able to learn from the experiences we shared and continue to provide a safe place for queer students on campus,” she said.
But she doesn’t think the obstacles Q&A faced were entirely due to “senior executives’ lack of focus.”
Rather, she said the obstacles they faced came from the fact that they were trying to keep the group afloat after the Q&A from the year previous to her time as a co-chair had faced “conflict” that caused the group to be inactive.
“Despite the fact that I was a fourth-year student with other focuses, I poured a lot of time and effort into building a team that would be able to keep Q&A a ratified society on campus, which I think is important at STU where the LGBTQIA2S+ population is so large,” she said on Facebook Messenger.
A complicated process
Al Cusack, outreach coordinator for last year’s Q&A, was one of Q&A’s three founders five years ago. They are also glad that Greer and MaGee are taking the group on, making it their own and trying to move forward from the “stagnant” time the Q&A experienced.
However, they said they feel a little uncomfortable about the change in name because to them, saying that SAGA advocates for sexuality and gender, means advocating for everyone, not just the marginalized who need to be advocated for.
They said they are a little disappointed the word queer has been taken out.
“I see that happening so much in broader society. People are afraid to use the word queer,” they said.
“It’s almost like [an] ‘everyone is human’ kind of approach, as opposed to some people are different and they’re marginalized because of those differences, and we need to lift them up to those differences.”
Cusack added that running organizations for queer and trans people is complicated because they all have different needs and are constantly changing.
“I think that there’s still a lot of growing pains in order to figure out how to best advocate for the diversity,” they said.
A new constitution
Greer said the group’s logos, name, executive and structure are new, as well as the constitution, which hasn’t been finalized yet.
“We want to start up and have a whole fresh slate,” Greer said.
Greer said there will be members and non-members of SAGA. STU students and club executives will make up the member population while partners, friends and students of other universities and the community will be non-members.
Greer said only members will be able to vote.
“We want only STU students voting on STU students issues, but people are welcome to come,” they said.
The group meetings will be structured into two different parts. There will be a social side to the meeting where people can come, hang out, and enjoy themselves while being in a safe space. In the other part of the meeting, they will provide educational resources. Members and non-members have the choice to attend both parts or just one or the other.
MaGee said both he and Greer wanted something “multi-dimensional” for the name.
Greer thinks representation is important.
“I want everyone to have some sort of representation for themselves within our group,” Greer said.
Greer said after the constitution is laid out, they will need to find executive members who are dedicated to the cause and their position, and then identify student needs and figure out how they can help. After that, they plan on formatting the group’s first information session.
Greer said their personal goal is to have the information sessions up and running by early November in hopes of getting the group established at STU before the break for Christmas.
Greer said they have big events planned for next semester.
“I think it’s really important for us to maintain representation here. People need to feel like they have a comfortable and safe space to go to.”