Montreal, April 20, 2010. Youth is supposed to be the best time of your life, but it’s often not so when you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. So for five years, the Open Door Network at Vanier College has worked to improve attitudes towards differences in sexual orientation and gender identity. The organization offers sensitization workshops on LGBT topics to Vanier faculty and staff and organizes panels and film screenings. The five years of work are well worth celebrating.
“A major change that we have seen is the empowerment of many faculty and staff members,” says Vanier teacher, Jacky Vallée, a member of the Open Door Network. “They are now equipped to deal with incidents of homophobia and transphobia and this benefits all students, not just the LGBT ones. They are also better able to help students in crisis because they have access to peer support from a network of people who are sensitive to LGBT realities.” He adds that more and more teachers are also finding ways to incorporate knowledge about LGBT communities into their curriculum.
U.M.B.R.E.L.L.A – students offering support
A new affiliation of the Open Door Network is U.M.B.R.E.L.L.A – an association of Vanier students. Acting as a mixture of a support group, club and all-around resource center, this group is open to all individuals regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The acronym, which stands for United Members Bringing Respect, Engaging, Learning and Loving All, tries to convey the idea of unity among the diverse Vanier College populations and help bring an end to intolerance and ignorance.
The ODN is open to everyone
You don’t have to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered to become involved. The ODN is open to anyone who is interested in improving student life through understanding and cooperation. Jacky Vallée points out the importance of the ODN. “Among the students, the knowledge that there is an entire network of faculty and staff who are committed to maintaining Vanier College as a campus that is free from all forms of discrimination, including that based on sexual orientation and gender identity, helps them know that they can turn to us for support and that they are not alone.”
Events celebrating 5 years of work
Several events will celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Open Door Network and its commitment to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of the Vanier Community. On April 21, the ODN will host an informal reception. A few days later the winners of an essay-writing contest on LGBT issues will be announced. Then on April 28, an LGBT Fair will take place in the Metro and Marketplace area of Vanier College. The ODN, U.M.B.R.E.L.L.A. and local youth LGBT groups such as Ethnoculture, Project 10, Helem, Jeunesse Lamda, and Arc-en-ciel d’Afrique will host information tables. Several of these organisations reach out to specific cultures where sexual and gender diversity is sometimes taboo.