Members of the University of Toronto community gathered at Varsity Stadium on Friday for the fourth annual raising of the Pride flag, to mark the start of Pride month.
For the first time this year, the Trans flag was raised as well, in a nod to the transgender community on campus.
Ira Jacobs, dean of the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education, welcomed everyone and spoke about the faculty’s and university’s continued support for the LGBTQ+ community.
“Not only does this event signify the beginning of Pride month, it also shows our dedication to promoting equity, diversity and inclusion at all levels – in research, education and our broad spectrum of co-curricular physical activity and sport programs, and student-driven initiatives,” he said.
It’s a sentiment much appreciated by Michelle Campbell, member of the KPE Student Council and Equity Movement Team, who invited U of T’s LGBTQ+ community to show up, take space and get comfortable.
“The raising of the Pride and Trans flags serves as a reminder to all members of the LGBTQ+ community that they are not alone and that there is a place for them both here at the university and in sport,” she said.
The Pride and Trans flags going up at the Varsity Stadium (photo by Arnold Lan)
Kelly Hannah-Moffat, vice-president of human resources and equity, recalled that the first Pride flags were raised in San Francisco 40 years ago and shared her pleasure at seeing Pride flags everywhere and in different forms today, symbolizing LGBTQ+ identity and solidarity with the community.
“As you celebrate Pride month with your families, friends, partners, colleagues or allies, please remember that we here at U of T are celebrating with you,” she said.
The idea for the flag-raising ceremony came from Varsity Blues staff member Ivan Canete, who suggested a Pride flag be raised at Varsity Stadium after seeing the entire city covered in rainbow flags for World Pride, hosted by Toronto in 2015. Beth Ali, executive director of athletics and physical activity, embraced the idea and suggested an annual ceremony be instituted the following year.
“I just wanted to raise the flag. I didn’t think that it would turn into an official ceremony with people coming and talking,” says Canete, who works as the Varsity Blues co-ordinator of promotions and marketing. “To see how it’s become such an integral part of the university’s calendar, not just the Pride calendar, is really amazing to see.”
“Raising the Pride flag has always been an affirmation of LGBTQ+ communities at the University of Toronto,” says Allison Burgess from the Sexual & Gender Diversity Office. “This year we are proud to also raise the Trans flag to demonstrate the university’s commitment to the inclusion of trans communities on campus.”
Seeing the Pride and Trans flags flapping alongside the Canadian and Varsity Blues flags is a beautiful sight for Terry Gardiner, who works across the street from Varsity Stadium, as manager of diversity, equity and student experience at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.
“As a member of the LGBTQ+ and U of T communities, it is exciting to see the Pride and Trans flags flying at Varsity Stadium, letting me and all of our students, staff and faculty, as well as the broader community know that we, LGBTQ+ people, are U of T,” he says.