Prairie Homos Should Check Out the University of Alberta’s Pride Week!

A Prairie Homo Companion is a regular column that celebrates the Canadian prairies, canola fields and big skies, and the paradoxes of being a fine-ass lady prairie homo.

Header by Rory Midhani

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Hello my beautiful prairie homos! Imagine crawling out of bed in the nick of time, downing your coffee and reviewing your biochemistry notes, the stress lines already starting to appear around your lovely, prairie homo sleep deprived eyes only to finally arrive on campus and be greeted by… what’s that in the distance? There are rainbow flags! You see posters and flyers announcing things like queer movie nights, queer anti-oppressive yoga, and drag shows. Suddenly you’re not so tired anymore, are you? Prairie homos, set aside your study notes and go ask that cute girl to be your Rainbow Yoga partner. From March 13th to March 22nd, the gays are taking over campus: it’s Pride Week at the University of Alberta.

via news.ualberta.ca

via news.ualberta.ca

There are many organizations that have helped to make Pride Week possible. One such organization, the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services (ISMSS), you may have already heard of from the No Homophobes Campaign. OUTreach, the University’s LGBT student organization, has also worked hard to make this week into the dreamy gay wonderland it’s sure to become, as has the Safe Spaces Initiative, an organization “built on the university’s promise that its campuses are safe spaces physically and emotionally for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered faculty, students and staff.”

Sure, there have been queer campus events now and then, but never before in the university’s 105 year history has there been a full, institutionally-supported week of GAY. This is huge, folks. Alberta is often looked down on by by other provinces as a conservative hotspot filled with cows, cowboys and oil; but as I’ve been trying to emphasize time and time again in this column, we are so much more than our conservative government and environmentally questionable (read: horrible) oil extraction methods. For the University of Alberta — one of the top five universities in Canada — to host a pride week sends an important message: being gay is a-okay; in fact, it’s more than okay. It’s something to celebrate!

via prideweek.ualberta.ca

via prideweek.ualberta.ca

And wow, there are a lot of ways to celebrate. Some of the events I’m most looking forward to involve prairie homos I’ve previously mentioned in my column. Vivek Shraya, friend of ultra cool prairie homos Rae Spoon and Tegan and Sara Quin, will be presenting his film, What I Love About Being Queer. He’ll also be reading from his book, God Loves Hair. Darrin Hagen, author of The Edmonton Queen (the only queer book of which I’m aware that’s set in Edmonton) will be giving a talk on the history of queer communities in Edmonton. In addition to books, history, and film, there will be sex toys! The Travelling Tickle Trunk will be giving a presentation on sex toys and safer sex practices. Pride Week will also have not one but two yoga workshops: Rainbow Yoga (in which you will you have to wear rainbow leggings and meditate on the energies of each colour of the rainbow, obviously) and Yoga as An Anti-Oppressive Practice.

The event description for the anti-oppressive yoga is perfect:

This yoga practice is a safer space for us to explore yoga as tool for healing from the trauma of oppression. We’ll explore our feelings and attitudes towards our bodies though gentle movement, breathing, and meditation, working towards building a compassionate relationship with our bodies.

While it’s important to celebrate queer lives, it’s crucial that in doing so we don’t gloss over the difficulties and oppression faced by LGBT people in Alberta and elsewhere. This is why I’m glad that Pride Week’s keynote speech is entitled, “Relationship Violence in LGBTTQ Lives: Thinking through a framework of intersectionality.” According to the Pride Week website, the speech, to be given by Dr. Janice Ristock, will use a framework of intersectionality to “make connections between “public” and “private” violence and will also consider the impact of structural and systemic violence on lgbttq relationships.” Following the talk there will be a workshop focused on preventing violence in the lives of LGBTQ individuals.

via prideweek.ualberta.ca

via prideweek.ualberta.ca

Pride week prides itself (see what I did there?) on being accessible to anyone wanting to be a part of it. Child care, English-ASL interpreting services, realtime captioning, or other access-related services or accommodations can all be arranged. For a full listing of events and/or to make accessibility arrangements, visit the Pride Week page. I can’t mention enough how important it is that you visit this page because you guys, there are so, so many events, far more than I could mention in this humble little prairie homo post. There’s queer boot camp! A queer art night with an open mic! A Hedwig and the Angry Inch screening and again, let me emphasize, so much more. Happy University of Alberta Pride Week, everyone! Hope to see you there! But of course, I won’t be able to see everyone there because I’m not a super-human who can be at a gazillion events at once. This makes me sad, so if you can, send pictures of your lovely prairie homo selves at Pride Week to [email protected]!

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Malaika likes books, drinking tea, long conversations, dinner parties, making funny faces, bike rides, and dogs. Originally from Edmonton, she now lives in Montreal where she edits, runs, and writes about the Alberta Tar Sands for The Media Co-op. You can follow her on twitter @Malaika_Aleba.

Malaika has written 83 articles for us.

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    Also, for those in the lovely city of Camrose, the U of A’s Augustana campus will be having some events as well! We’re showing Hedwig and the Angry Inch Thursday night, having a rainbow day on Wednesday, and will have a info/sexual health table set up on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

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    I would like to point out that Mount Royal University(also in Alberta) has had a pride week for years! It takes place in February and has events like queer karaoke, the gender bender, and a tea party/open house. It’s organized by the pride centre, the university’s LGBT student association. I believe the University of Calgary has also had something similar for years as well. Alberta may be super conservative and crazy sometimes, but it’s not all bad.

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        We know that we’re not the first campus to have pride week, but the significant difference is that this is officially sanctioned and supported by the University of Alberta. This isn’t just a student-run event, though this wouldn’t have happened without the initiative of us students.

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    I went into Starbucks and as I was smiling at the very cute barista who just gave me my coffee, I saw a rainbow out of the corner of my eye, and realized they were plastered on the back page of every newspaper in there. When I realized it was Alberta pride week I was ecstatic and wasn’t sure if I had read it correctly. If only I lived in Alberta…i’ll be going to Halifax for school in September and i’m worried on whether or not it’s going to be as lgbt friendly as Toronto.

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