Dear members of the UBC community:
As we reflect on international Pride Month and anticipate Vancouver’s upcoming Pride celebrations, we recognize it as a time to celebrate and honour 2SLGBTQIA+ (Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer (or Questioning), Intersex, Asexual) lives. It’s also a time to reflect on and affirm our commitments to make UBC a more inclusive campus community.
Pride in our diversity – diversity that makes UBC such an incredible place to live, work, and learn – is something to celebrate and honour all year-long. But Pride is also a recognition of a long-standing fight for equality and justice, and an opportunity to reflect on and consider what each of us can do individually, and institutionally, to be inclusive – so that we all feel welcome and can fully access, participate, and thrive in all aspects of university life.
With the current protests against anti-Black racism, I want to invite a reflection on the origins of Pride and the intersections with the role of Black, Latinx, and people of colour in what the movement is today. The Stonewall Riots that took place on June 28, 1969 in response to a police raid on the Stonewall Inn led to the current Pride celebrations in the United States – yet often missed in this recognition is the leadership of Black, Latinx, and people of colour who worked tirelessly to push the transgender, gay, and lesbian – now 2SLGBTQIA+ – movement forward.
This includes, amongst many, Stormé DeLaverie, a Black biracial butch lesbian and drag king, Marsha P. Johnson, a Black transgender woman, and Sylvia Rivera, a trans Latinx activist – they not only participated in the riots, but also tirelessly advocated for equality and justice, providing safe spaces for and championing 2SLGBTQIA+ communities. I take this opportunity to invite the recognition of the many Black, people of colour, trans, non-binary, Two-Spirit and queer individuals who continued and continue to lead change and fight for more inclusive societies.
I also take this opportunity to reflect on our own efforts to build a more inclusive university for 2SLGBTQIA+ community members. Over the past year, I’ve had an opportunity to hear from countless voices in our communities – including Two-Spirit, transgender, non-binary students, staff, and faculty – who bravely spoke up to help us understand how we can keep building a truly inclusive UBC. As a result of these conversations, it became clear that we need to do more.
To that end the Provost, Vice President, Students, Vice President, Human Resources and the Deputy Vice Chancellor at UBCO have formed a new university-wide Trans, Two-Spirit, and Gender Diversity Task Force, comprised of faculty, staff, and student members from both campuses. The Task Force will work to provide strategic direction on how we can better bring a lens of gender diversity and inclusivity to UBC’s systems, policies, and practices, and better address human rights concerns at UBC related to gender identity and gender expression.
A truly gender inclusive environment means that gender diversity is embedded in all areas of life at UBC. This includes our policies, processes, and practices – across student services, health and wellbeing, athletics and recreation, and other academic and administrative settings. The process starts with listening to and centering the voices of folks who have lived experience as Two-Spirit, transgender, and non-binary people.
Let me state unequivocally: transphobia and gender-based hate have no place at UBC. We are proud of the work of our Two-Spirit, trans, and non-binary students, staff, and faculty, and our work at the university is richer thanks to their diverse perspectives and contributions.
For more information on the Task Force, read the full announcement.
In addition to the Task Force, there are a number of educational initiatives in place that can help us learn about gender inclusion and inclusive practices at UBC.
For one, I invite you to join me in learning about gender diversity by watching the community-led and produced Beyond the Binary at UBC video.
You’ll see from the video that one of the things that we can all do right now to support gender inclusion at UBC is to ask our students, peers, and colleagues how they want to be referred to – and then ensure that we use the name and pronouns that they share with us. This can be as simple as asking: “Which pronouns do you use?” or “How may I refer to you?” Not only will you be respecting their identity and supporting their well-being, it’s also a great way to model gender inclusion and signal to our communities that we support a gender inclusive environment.
Using each other’s correct pronouns is part of how we create a respectful and inclusive environment at UBC. I now strive to make sharing my pronouns part of regular introductory greetings, a practice that has itself led to me having an increased number of conversations about gender diversity.
In the spirit of Pride, I invite you to keep learning, including through the free Gender & Sexuality: Applications in Society online course, led by Dr. Janice Stewart, and viewing the educational blog post and video about Two-Spirit peoples.
I want to take this opportunity to also thank the many campus units that continue to seek ways to recognize Pride, including the annual UBC Pride celebrations at UBC Vancouver and UBC Okanagan, and further research, education, and engagement related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
Lastly, I want to assure all our community members that if you have concerns related to human rights and discrimination, please get in touch with the human rights advising team at the UBC Equity & Inclusion Office. It’s here to support you.
With Vancouver’s own Pride celebrations coming up in August, I wish you a safe and happy Pride – and I share my ongoing commitment to address the needs heard from our gender-diverse communities in order to build a truly inclusive UBC.
Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor