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Pride Flag Raised for First Time at Waterloo

June 16th, 2017

The Pride flag flies for the first time ever at the University of Waterloo. It was raised on June 12 to mark one year since the Orlando Pulse massacre and was followed by a vigil to remember the victims. The flag will fly underneath the provincial flag at the University's main entrance until the end of June to commemorate Pride Month.

Feds President Antonio Brieva was asked to provide remarks at the event:

"I’d like to start off by saying thank you to The Glow Centre for organizing this event, and all of you for attending today.

As we celebrate the raising of the Pride flag tonight, I want to take the time to remember and reflect about the senseless violence that occurred at Pulse nightclub in Orlando one year ago today -- now the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

This attack particularly hit hard the black, Muslim, and Latino members of the LGBTQ+ community. As many of you did, I -- as a gay, Latinx man myself -- felt incredibly saddened, shocked, and honestly terrified when I heard and processed the fact 50 people’s lives were taken in an LGBTQ+ designated space; a space where members of the LGBTQ+ community should be able to come together and be who they are without fear of violence or social marginalization.

On this night my mom called me, crying, admitting to me she feared for my physical safety -- which was not a feeling new to me walking through life as a gay male. She even encouraged me to skip Pride festivities in Toronto last year in fear that a similar attack might target the community on a larger scale.

This request really put things into perspective. After the shock and sadness passed in the weeks after, I realized that if I chose not to attend Pride as per my mom’s request, I’d be letting fear win. I’d be letting the killer, who took those LGBTQ+ lives away, win! The fact that this attack happened during Pride month in a designated safe space is a harsh reminder of how far we still are, as an LGBTQ+ community and its allies, from achieving true equality. We have so much work to do and it reminds me why it’s so important that we continue to celebrate Pride month, so that our children and grandchildren may one day live in a world where they don’t fear walking through life being who they are.

I ask that, instead of pinning this attack on an entire religion, we look deep inside -- within ourselves, our families, our communities, the media, and political leaders -- and evaluate how we consciously and unconsciously legitimize, and or subtly normalize homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of fear and discrimination towards the LGBTQ+ community.

Although this attack happened in the United States, we have a lot of work to do here at home in Canada within the context of the post-secondary environment. We have professors that use their positions and identities of power to openly refuse to acknowledge their students’ humanity and non-binary identities. They’re celebrated as champions of free speech and academic freedom -- dangerously legitimizing the zero-sum fallacy that marginalized groups’ gains and quest to equality and equity are a threat to others’ identity, position and their rights in society. We have political leaders winning party leaderships who have a lengthy record of voting against all the advances the LGBTQ+ community has made over the years in Canada; and threatening to take funding from post-secondary institutions that don’t uphold “freedom of speech” -- aka protect the rights of professors who refuse to recognize non-binary identities, make a mockery of safe spaces, and defy laws that are there to protect marginalized groups by claiming they are being silenced by them. The advancement of free speech and academic freedom does not have to come at the expense of the advancement of the LGBTQ+ community or vice-versa.

Although these may seem like political statements, I remind you that we did not ask for our identities to be politicized. Our identities have become politicized by people who feel threatened by our thriving, existing, lived experience and use feeling uncomfortable as justification to continue to marginalize us.

If we are to achieve true equality, I ask you all in attendance tonight, members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community, to come together and empower one another to face and overcome these challenges and forces that look to halt our progress. I encourage those in the LGBTQ+ community to not be afraid, and for those who are not ready to come to terms with their identity to know you have an entire community waiting to support you and fight beside you every single day.

Visibility in the public sphere is a great tool of empowerment. Let visibility empower us to live our lives openly challenging heteronormativity and the strict confines of the gender binary. Love others unconditionally and embody who you are. Don’t let this shake your faith in humanity; we’re moving in the right direction (for the most part), so let's remember today and keep fighting tomorrow."