Aug. 22, 2018

Politics on parade: Faculty share the political roots of Pride

Join the UCalgary community and walk with courage
Marie-Andrée Bergeron and Dennis Storoshenko are helping organize a booth at Pride in the Park, an event to be held on Prince’s Island Park after the Sept. 2 Pride parade.
Marie-Andrée Bergeron and Dennis Storoshenko are helping organize a booth at Pride in the Park, an e Riley Brant, University of Calgary

On June 28, 1969, a riot broke out at the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in downtown Manhattan, as patrons fought back against a police raid. The riot resulted in six days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement — a spark that ignited the beginning of the gay rights movement.

Now, 49 years later, firebombs and smashed windows have been replaced by feather boas and Beyoncé, expressing the vibrancy of the LGBTQ+ community. But, according to Dennis Storoshenko and Marie-Andrée Bergeron, Faculty of Arts instructors and members of the UCalgary Pride working group and the Faculty of Arts Equity and Diversity Committee, it is important for attendees at Pride to recognize the political beginnings of what has now become a celebration.

“Every Pride parade that happens is basically an outgrowth of one trans woman of colour throwing a brick at a policeman in New York City,” says Storoshenko. “That’s where it started, and we need to remember that. This idea of celebration — I get it, but it’s not enough. There’s a tension between celebrating how far we’ve come, but being aware that there’s still a long road to go.”

Moving forward with courage and pride

On Sept. 2, 2018, for the third year in a row, UCalgary is a silver-level sponsor of the annual Calgary Pride Parade, with representation from 13 faculties, LGBTQ+ student clubs and more than 300 walking participants, including Storoshenko and Bergeron. UCalgary staff, faculty and students are encouraged to volunteer to walk in the parade and to attend the Pride festivities to follow.

As the past linguistics division undergraduate advisor for the School of Language, Literatures and Cultures, Storoshenko worked closely with students, prioritizing openness and understanding. “Being able to provide a safe space has become more and more of a priority for me the longer I’m here. It’s not often that students acknowledge the value of safe spaces directly, but when it does happen, you realize how important, and how rare it still is for students to feel that they can be themselves with faculty members,” he says. “Being able to offer that space has been really rewarding.”

“For me, it’s not fun to walk in Pride. It’s political,” explains Bergeron. A feminist activist for years in her home province of Quebec, she is determined to share the political significance of Pride with fellow UCalgary community members. “I’m not glad that I have to walk in the street and tell people not to be homophobic,” she says, “but I want students, faculty and staff to know that there’s a real movement here to fight homophobia and transphobia. A safe space is possible, especially on campus.”

Driven by their desire to showcase the research and awareness-building being done by student groups and faculty around gender and LGBTQ+ topics, Bergeron and Storoshenko are helping to organize a booth at Pride in the Park, an event hosted in Prince’s Island Park following the parade on Sept. 2.

“We’ve been reaching out across the university and we’re hoping to provide an opportunity for faculty to share their research about gender and queer-related studies, and to set up a space where undergraduate and graduate student groups, like OUTLaw, The Q Centre and Queers on Campus, can share their resources,” says Storoshenko.

“The intent is to demystify queer research and create dialogue between students and faculty,” says Bergeron. “If I have a chance to talk more about the purpose of being a political lesbian as it’s developed in some texts I do research on, it’s going to be very worthwhile for me.”

On Sunday, Sept. 2, show your support for courage, community and diversity on and off campus by marching with UCalgary in the 2018 Calgary Pride Parade. Learn more about UCalgary’s involvement with Calgary Pride.