By B.J. Caldwell
There are many fears that incoming university students have, but for incoming queer youth there are a whole variety of added concerns and fears. Are there going to be other queer people? Can I be out in residence, or will I have to go back /stay in the closet? Am I going to be safe? Will I fit in? First, let me put your mind at ease, you are not alone. There is a fairly large queer population at both the University of Guelph and in the surrounding community. We are well represented in student leadership positions, there are queer staff and faculty at the university, and there are plenty of queer students in every program of study.
As incoming students, you will probably be living in residence which can be a very intimidating experience. Please feel free to talk to your Residence Assistant (RA), as they have been trained in human rights and diversity issues and can help you find the necessary resources on campus. If you don't feel comfortable talking to anyone, or if you just want to find out about what's going on in the queer community, give OUTline a call.
OUTline is a support and resource line dealing with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, or questioning issues. OUTline is staffed with queer-identified trained volunteers who have all had some sort of coming out experience. If you want to get out and meet other queer students there are groups on campus that can help. Guelph Queer Equality is a group that meets weekly in a social setting to discuss a variety of issues, or just hang out. GQE also helps sponsor various educational and social events such as Queer Identities Week, Pink and Black triangle Week, and AIDS Awareness week. They have a lounge/office that you can stop by during the day.
There are also a variety of clubs and organizations that are queer positive. CFRU is the queer positive campus radio station that is always looking for more queer programming, so if you are interested give them a call. The Ontarion and the Peak, are both queer positive student newspapers that cover a wide range of queer issues. Pick them up and give them a read, you won't be disappointed. The Central Students Association, your undergraduate student government is also a queer positive and safe organization that sponsors queer positive events.
And now the big question... does Guelph have any queer bars? Over the years there have been a few queer bars that have operated here, but none have lasted. There are, however, queer and/or queer positive nights at local bars. The Underground has queer positive Thursdays, and the Albion hosts queer positive nights, too. For more information give OUTline, or GQE a call, they know the place to be for the queer community.
The fact of the matter is, there are resources out there for you and there are other people out there coming from similar experiences. Hopefully, you feel comfortable right from the start, although I understand the comforts of the closet. Whenever you feel ready, give one of the aforementioned organizations a try. If they prove to be of little help, start a support group of your own. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you stay safe and have fun. And believe me, the fun starts in Orientation week. Be sure and check out your Orientation Guide for the queer positive events! Hopefully, I'll see you there.