UC's rainbow community celebrates Pride Week

11 March 2020

Diversity is part of campus life and rainbow communities are becoming even more visible at the University of Canterbury (UC) this year, an advocate says.

  • Emily Syne

    QCanterbury President and fifth year UC student, Emily Syme.

Ari Nicholson took up the role of UC Rainbow Co-ordinator in July last year to be a point of contact and a voice for the university’s LGBTQIA+ community. Ari’s goal is to increase knowledge and visibility for the 15 per cent of UC students who identified themselves as being members of rainbow communities in a survey last year.

Ari wants to make sure they don’t feel alone and says the UC environment is changing in positive ways. “One of the key things I have heard lately is teaching staff being approached by students in need.

“Each of the three staff who reflected that to me had taken part in the rainbow awareness training that we provide, and were using the lanyards or rainbow bands we had given out to show themselves as a rainbow safe staff member.

“Supporting staff with skills and tools to become rainbow allies has brought about huge change and it’s awesome to see those visibility initiatives working.”

Ari’s goal is to continue to increase that knowledge and visibility. Pride Week, which is from this Thursday 12 March until Sunday 22 March, is an opportunity to raise awareness and celebrate rainbow communities.

“Many of our rainbow students tell me they feel very alone, they struggle to make rainbow friends and connect with others with the same issues and barriers as them. In reality, there are many people here all feeling the same way. This year we’ll be doing more to bring them together to reduce the isolation they feel.”

QCanterbury President Emily Syme, who is in her fifth year at UC studying towards a Graduate Diploma in Teaching and Learning for Secondary School, believes Ari’s appointment has had a big impact already.

Membership of QCanterbury, a UC club for sexuality and gender diverse students, has grown from about 250 members last year to 350 this year.

“Just having someone who is available to be a point of contact and have a public profile has really changed things for us.

“I think with QCanterbury being more popular it means we’ve got more of a community at UC as well as someone to go and talk to with Ari as the new Rainbow Co-ordinator. Before, people might have been more afraid to be out on campus.”

University life is a great opportunity to explore your identity and sexuality, Emily says. “At high school you tend to stay with the same group of people but at university you’re thrown in with new people and it gives you an opportunity to question who you really are, if you haven’t thought about it already.” 

Students and staff on campus tend to be more accepting because they are encountering a diverse range of people all the time, she says.

“I’ve never felt uncomfortable on campus being out as gay but I have felt uncomfortable holding hands with my partner out in public because we’ve had snide comments made about us for being lesbians.”

  • Q Canterbury is holding a quiz night to mark Pride Week, on 15 March at UCSA Haeroa.
  • The UC branch of the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) is hosting a Rainbow Te Kahukura barbeque lunch for Pride Week on Tuesday 17 March at TEU house, 41 Creyke Rd which is open to all LGBTQIA+ staff and postgraduate students.

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