After six years, they are becoming ubiquitous — white rectangular cards with rainbow swirls, and uplifting words written in distinctive font. “Positive Space.”
The cards are a show of support for the lesbian, gay, bi, trans, two-spirited, queer and questioning community. This fall, the Positive Space campaign enters its sixth year. Organizers hope it has made the campus a little more accepting since 2004.
“Generally speaking, it raises visibility and shows that this is a sector of our community that is welcome here,” said Lynne Prout, manager in the Office of Human Rights and Equity Services.
“I would hope that when students in particular see (the cards), they feel empowered.”
About 500 members of the Brock community have participated in the program since 2004, displaying a Positive Space card or button upon completion. Staff and students take a two-hour workshop that first clarifies the definitions of terms such as two-spirited, queer and transgender. Participants are guided through individual and group activities that challenge them to see life through someone else’s eyes. It also suggests how they can promote a more accepting environment.
Once the workshop is completed, participants are given cards to display in their rooms or workstations. The cards act as a beacon for those looking for assistance or a friendly face. But more than that, they are a symbol of welcoming, especially for newer students, Prout said.
“Fairly early on, I got an email from an incoming student who saw the posters,” she said. “He said, ‘I’m so excited to see that this is a place where I’m welcome. My high school wasn’t like that.’”
A graduate student first started the program as a social justice masters thesis. Since then, there have been about 75 workshops. Three sessions are planned between now and November.
Volunteers facilitate sessions and sitting on the steering committee. Attendees are often allies of the lesbian, gay, bi, trans, two-spirited, queer and questioning community who want to become more comfortable and knowledgeable, Prout said. Some join to learn to better support their friends.
Not everyone who joins has to display a card or button, said Marla Portfilio, human rights and equity officer in the Office of Human Rights and Equity Services.
“You don’t have to make that level of commitment,” she said. “You can just come for the information.”
Upcoming Positive Space sessions:
- Monday, Sept. 27: 2 to 4 p.m.
- Wednesday, Oct. 13: 4 to 6 p.m.
- Tuesday, Nov. 23: 5 to 7 p.m.
To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org