“Queerify” your clothes with Queer Concordia

Queer Concordia, in partnership with the Concordia University Centre for Creative Reuse, held an event on March 7 that allowed people to “queerify” and decorate their clothes for free

Queer Concordia held an event on March 7 in collaboration with the Concordia University Centre for Creative Reuse (CUCCR) to give students the opportunity to “queerify” their old garments with free patches, pins, paint and more.

The event, made possible by one of Queer Concordia’s event coordinators Jessica Winton, was a way for Concordia’s queer community to meet, join and craft together. 

“I think a lot of queer people are afraid of showing their pride in smaller ways, so it’s an encouraging environment when you have multiple people doing it at once so you don’t feel alone, and you can meet people while doing it,” said Winton.

Queer Concordia is a resource centre on campus for queer students and allies. They host different events and parties throughout the year and even have office hours. In addition to the ‘“queerify your clothes” event, they’ve also organized movie nights, greenhouse hangouts and laser tag, to name a few.

A handful of people attended the event to decorate their clothing with an assortment of pride flag iron-on patches, colourful threads and buttons. Some of the attendees were veterans of Queer Concordia events, while others were newcomers.

Isabella Bortot, an exchange student from Italy, attended her first Queer Concordia event to fix up an old pair of jeans. “I love embroidery and I love the fact that it was a queer event because I’ve been meaning to get in touch with my community since I’ve been here a couple of months,” she said.

Queer spaces not only build community, but they can also save lives. According to The Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ youth aged 13 to 24 years old report lower rates of suicide attempts when they can access LGBTQ+-affirming spaces.

These spaces can also help people feel less alone and build new connections. “I’m someone who had to abandon all of my friends when I came out as trans,” said Winton, “So, I know that if I wasn’t socialising at queer events, I probably wouldn’t have very many.”

For Bortot, even if she believes every university event should be a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community, she still finds value in queer events.

“As a minority, we find our strength in our community, in people that are like us, and so to be able to bond with people that are like us is to be stronger and to find our place in this city,” she said.

This event offers a change from alcohol-centered queer events. “It’s very important for people with anxiety, or people like myself who don’t drink, to try and have these more relaxed spaces rather than nightlife,” said Winton.

Upcoming Queer Concordia events can be found on their Instagram and other social media pages.


Changing your name at Concordia — what you might not know

A simple application through CU’s website allows any student to change their name without need for justification

Concordia University has a very diverse student body, whether through ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.

Because of this diverse student body, there are some issues that the administration has tried to address. For example, there is a very clear and precise procedure Concordia offers in order for students to change the name they use, without needing to give a reason.

The issue is, many students aren’t aware it exists.

Gino Eloise studied Biochemistry at Concordia, and has used they/them pronouns ever since enrolling. However, they used to go by a different name, which is still used in academic settings. They haven’t officially registered their new name with Concordia, in part because it’s a recent change, but also because they didn’t know how.

“I didn’t even know it was something that can change or whether it would just be extra trouble for everyone,” said Eloise.

“I just feel like my identity is a burden. So I don’t go through like, the trouble of making it known, especially in academic settings,” they said. They also explained that they experience a lot of misgendering, “Especially since I look the way that I look — I’m very fem presenting.”

Ariane Lussier-Gendron, the health and resources coordinator at Queer Concordia explained that although there is a way of changing names at Concordia, it isn’t necessarily well known.

One common thread at Concordia may be that there is a gap between what the university does for its students and what the students know about. Having recently gotten involved with Queer Concordia, Lussier-Gendron has already received emails from students, asking for help accessing these resources.

She explained, “Personally, I’ve had people come to me by email asking me questions. Not exactly related to this, but something similar, and I have had to do the research myself. So we don’t have a protocol or anything, but that is actually something I’m working on.”

Through her research, Lussier-Gendron found two students who had gone through the procedure to change names, and to her surprise they had fairly positive experiences.

One downside to this process may be that Concordia doesn’t inform professors of changes.

“[One student] changed their name, like mid-semester. And they said, ‘I kind of wish [Concordia] would email your profs about the change.’ Because they wound up having to do it themselves, and that was a little bit awkward,” said Lussier-Gengron.

An easily fixable detail.

All in all, this procedure does what it needs to do — now it’s just a question of telling students that this is an easy process; that, despite some hurdles, it’s possible to change your name without having to justify your decision.


Graphic by @the.beta.lab


Study invalidates the existence of a “gay gene”

A recent study invalidated the existence of a gene linked to homosexuality after decades of scientific debate.

The study, led by Andrea Ganna, a research fellow with the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Harvard Medical School in Boston, examined data from thousands of participants that shared both DNA samples and behaviour information to two genetic surveys – the UK Biobank study and the private genetics firm 23andMe.

Instead of a gay gene, the study suggested evidence of five genetic variants strongly associated with what scientists call nonheterosexual behaviours. From the two that were associated only to men, one had been previously found to predict baldness, and the other was present in regions rich in olfactory receptors.

However, the published study emphasized that genetic markers cannot be used to predict sexual behaviour.

“Behavioral traits, like sexual behavior and orientation, are only partially genetic in nature,” wrote the research organization on its website. “They are shaped by hundreds or thousands of genetic variants, each with a very small effect, yet they are also shaped in large part by a person’s environment and life experiences.”

Ganna also acknowledged that what they called in the research as “nonheterosexual behaviour” is part of a large spectrum of sexual experiences.

“[The sexual experiences] go from people who engage exclusively in same-sex behaviour to those who might have experimented once or twice,” said Ganna in an interview with Science. This limited the experiment, since, in reality, people who have a single same-sex experience might be categorized as open, while not being gay or bisexual.

The research also found that people with these genetic variants were more inclined to suffer from mental illness such as depression. It was noted in the findings that LGBTQI+ people are more likely to suffer from such illnesses due to societal pressure.

Some people from the LGBTQI+ community that faced societal pressure think that linking sexual orientation to genetics can have a negative impact on the long run.

“This could be a very slippery slope to eugenics,” said Queer Concordia’s Administrative Coordinator, Anastasia Caron. “There could be situations where people decide ‘let’s make DNA tests in the womb to figure out if your baby is gay or not’ and decide to keep it based on that.”

Queer Concordia is a student organization that aims to create a safe environment for all LGBTQI+ students at Concordia. Caron created a support group for students to act against discrimination towards community members.

As a member of the LGBTQI+ community themselves, Caron observed that societal pressure adds a lot of stress to students going through similar situations as them.

“A lot of people feel alone and don’t think that others feel the same way as them,” said Queer Concordia’s Resource Coordinator, Akira De Carlos. “It’s even better when you’re talking about your problems and see that someone else has the same ones and realize that ‘oh my god! I’m not alone in this.’”

De Carlos and Caron hope that biological research over sexual orientations stays moderate due to this potential rhetoric that can be used against the LGBTQI+ community.


Feature photo by @sundaeghost


Concordia’s plight against HIV

This past week, students and staff were able to get tested for HIV at the Concordia Student Union (CSU) office on the seventh floor of the Hall building. A rapid HIV testing clinic was set up with the help of the CSU, the Concordia University Psychology Association (CUPA), Queer Concordia and Concordia Health Services. This is the second testing session put together by these organizations.

For this test, a certified nurse takes a prick of blood from your finger and, using a special kit, can tell you whether or not you are HIV positive or negative. The whole process, which takes around 20 minutes, includes going over your risks and sexual history, and the nurses can give you advice on how to improve or continue your safe sex practices. If the result comes back positive, the nurses would be able to put you in contact with various HIV-related resources in the city of Montreal as well as provide psychological support.

While we understand that many students might have been wary about getting tested at school, we think this issue is critical, and we applaud all four organizations that facilitated this testing clinic.

Let’s face it, students are sexually active while they’re in university and many are not properly educated when it comes to having safe sex and HIV prevention. In Canada, one in five people with HIV are unaware they’re HIV positive, according to Community AIDS Treatment Information Exchange (CATIE). Over one-quarter of all new HIV diagnoses in 2015 were in youth, according to the same source.

The Globe and Mail reported in 2014 that a person is infected with HIV every three hours in this country. In Saskatchewan the rate is nearly three times higher the national average, with 71.4 per cent of cases happening because of intravenous drug use. These figures are absolutely startling to say the least, and reveal the challenges our society has in addressing the epidemic.

One key role these rapid testing sessions fulfill is to help fight against the taboo of HIV. HIV and those who are HIV-positive face a lot of stigma, even criminalization, for having this virus. According to Sarah Schulman’s book, Conflict is Not Abuse, Canada was the country in the world to charge someone with murder for transmitting the disease. This country’s harsh criminal pursuit of HIV-positive individuals actually creates a fear around being tested. By making the testing process public and providing students accurate information about HIV, this project at Concordia helps dispel misinformation and allows the community to better understand and face HIV head-on.

Although we’ve come a long way in terms of scientific research and awareness, we need to press further and forge a discussion. We applaud the CSU, CUPA, Queer Concordia and Concordia Health Services for being progressive and open-minded about this issue and we encourage the school to hold more rapid clinics. We also encourage the student body to get tested for HIV and to properly educate themselves on safer sex practices and harm-reduction strategies like needle exchanges, which help reduce new cases of HIV. If we’re to eliminate HIV/AIDS in the near future, it’s time we start tackling this issue head on and minimize the risk of this virus being transmitted.

Contact Concordia Health Services to get tested for HIV or to speak with a medical specialist.

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Pennies push the popular vote

Money may buy you votes, but it shouldn’t buy you an election

Buying votes is unacceptable at any level. You’d think it would require tact, or at the very least, deep pockets. But if you’re trying it with a Concordia organization, it might be easier – and cheaper – than you think.

It’s a harsh lesson that Queer Concordia had to learn on Friday, Sept. 26. That evening, QC held their Annual General Meeting, which serves as the electoral debate for the Board of Directors, in addition to the vote and the announcement of the results. At the meeting, one candidate arrived with a group of people, whom he had rallied in an attempt to sway the vote in his favour.

“He had a bunch of friends come in,” explained Caitlin O’Neill, financial co-ordinator for Queer Concordia. “He explicitly was like: ‘I’m bringing my posse’ and ‘look at all the people I brought.’”

O’Neill, who was handing out the ballots at the time, overheard the man encouraging the others to vote along with his choices.

“He filled out his ballot as soon as he got it, before hearing the speeches or anything,” said O’Neill. “He was like: ‘Oh, just copy my ballot’ – I don’t know how many actually did that or not. When I was giving them their ballots, I said, ‘Please wait until after the speeches.’”

When asked, O’Neill estimated that about a dozen people arrived with the candidate – none of whom, including the candidate himself, were Concordia students.

Only constituents of Queer Concordia are eligible to vote in their annual election. All Concordia students are automatically constituents, due to their payment of the fee levy. However, a non-student may also become a constituent for the year by paying the equivalent of the fee levy, which is 60 cents.

“There are certain positions [non-students] can run for if they opt-in to the group,” explained O’Neill. “There are four positions on the board that they are not eligible to run for if they are not a Concordia student.”

However, that leaves the other four positions – half of the board – open to non-Concordia students, including the position the candidate was running for. O’Neill and Samantha Bell-Moar, communicators co-ordinator, both confirmed that the man had never attended a Queer Concordia event prior to the AGM.

The ballots completed by the man’s associates were invalidated, but only by technicality, due to them handing the ballots to a third party, the candidate, instead of to the organizers directly.

Neither O’Neill nor Bell-Moar could confirm that a change of policy would take place following this incident, but agreed it was something they would discuss in the future.

This is the very definition of a close call. If all it takes to win a Concordia organization’s election is 60 cents and a bunch of friends, then there is a critical failure in our system. Elections — even for student organizations — should be based off platform and merit, not pennies and popularity.


Queer Concordia bows to anti-Israel pressure

Event exploring LGBTQ experiences in Israel proves too hot to touch

It was meant to be non-political snapshot of Israel’s sexual minorities for the purpose of fostering dialogue and widening viewpoints. Yet the documentary ‘Out in Israel’, hosted by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) and featuring noted speaker and activist Jayson Littman, instead caused protests and a last-minute pull-out by sponsor Queer Concordia.

“As soon as the event went live [on Facebook], people went nuts. There were really inflammatory posts, there were accusations of pinkwashing, and very very quickly the topic shifted from LGBTQ rights to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict,” said CAMERA fellow, Concordia student, and event organizer, Michelle Soicher.

Pinkwashing is a term that refers to when a corporate entity or state brings attention to its LGBTQ-friendly policy for the purpose of drawing attention away from other abuses. In the past, Israel has been accused of pinkwashing to distract from its track record with Palestinian human rights. Littman, an activist in both Jewish and gay communities and a worker with the organization A Wider Bridge, was on hand to speak of pinkwashing and Israeli LGBTQ experiences in general.

The pressure caused Queer Concordia, invited to co-sponsor the event as it touched upon issues of interest to its membership, to pull out.

The event carried on as scheduled only to be intruded on physically by a small group of very vocal protesters, allegedly claiming to be affiliated with Queers against Apartheid, a group in solidarity with Palestine. For some half hour or so, the dozen or so individuals chanted and protested before leaving.

“What I expected was a bunch of people with contrasting views. I expected a great Q&A,” Soicher said in reaction to the disruption, clearly disappointed with the protesters who hadn’t stayed for the event and left as swiftly as they came.

Though Soicher insisted the event wasn’t political, she did have an opinion on pinkwashing.

“The LGBTQ rights in Israel are the results of LGBTQ fighting for them. They weren’t handed to [them] — you can’t create a culture of tolerance to distract from something else. As Jayson [said] it, Israel sells itself as LGBT friendly for tourism [purposes] and nobody is distracted from the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.”

When reached for comment, Queer Concordia reiterated the negative reaction to the event was behind their cancellation.

“After discussing the situation as a board and considering the feedback we received from other on-campus organizationswe work closely with, we decided participating in this event would not be a good representation of our organization,” said Queer Concordia Communication Coordinator Emmett Anderson. Other QC members were unable for comment.

Despite the negative attention, Soicher said it is important to have such conversations, despite their sensitive nature, in an effort to give depth to what she calls “a very complicated, long-standing conflict.”

“I think Concordia students owe it to themselves and owe it to the student body to have two sides — at least — of what’s going on.”

The Concordian attempted to reach Queers against Apartheid but received no response.


Queer Concordia hosts Dr. Alan Shepard

Photo by Marilla Steuter-Martin

“The first time I went anywhere as a gay person…it was 1984. I was 22-years-old and I was going to my first meeting at the Lesbian and Gay Student Union at the University of Virginia. I was absolutely terrified.”

At a talk organized by Queer Concordia on Tuesday, Jan. 14, Concordia President Alan Shepard reflected on his experiences being openly gay in life and in academia.

“Flash-forward about five years after that – with many adventures in between – I was the president of the Lesbian and Gay Student Union, which if you told me in 1984, it would have seemed as far-fetched as emigrating to Quebec and becoming university president,” said Shepard.

He began his speech, directed at an assembly of approximately 50 students and community members, by joking about being one of the few openly gay presidents in Canada. Shepard then recounted a series of personal stories, some light-hearted, some poignant. He spoke candidly about his early life growing up in a small town in the Midwestern United States, his coming-out process and his role as a parent.

“If you had said to me at 23, ‘Will you have kids? Will you have a partner of a long time? Will you have financial stability? Will you have professional recognition and success’? All those things that, to various degrees, people want, I would have been pretty discouraged,” he said.

The talk was very well received, with organizers and attendees praising Shepard’s openness and candour.

“I was positively surprised how personal he was with us,” said Marie-Lisa Porten, events coordinator at Queer Concordia. “It’s one thing to be out, it’s another thing to talk to students about ‘this is how I met my partner and we adopted two kids’.”

After the talk, Shepard stayed to speak with students and receive feedback.

“I feel Concordia is a very accepting community,” said Jade Legault, a board member at Queer Concordia. “Having you as president is very empowering.”

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