LGBTOUT Statement on the AGM

LGBTOUT is disappointed by the results of the October 29 UTSU AGM.

Our reasons are many. Namely

  • 1. The reforms we wanted passed were voted down.
  • 2. More important motions were not discussed
  • 3. Everybody needs to make the space safer next time.

1. Represent Us. The reforms made sensible steps towards representing LGBTQ+ issues on the UTSU. But they challenged the college elite.

That night, the empire struck back. Their organized opposition stopped the reforms.

Our members have found that the college board system does not represent them. Colleges are not designed, suited, or intended to act against oppression. That said, the reforms still gave College heads the ability to appoint people on UTSU committees.

All is not lost. The wonderful Victoria College Director Zach Morgenstern made a good point to LGBTOUT: we can hopefully negotiate a grand peace settlement between the UTSU and Colleges that oppose any relations with the Canadian Federation of Students at all costs.

If we can agree to a structure together, we can make a unified, democratic, and inclusive union to reduce fees and combat oppression.  This is an opportunity we must work to seize.

2. Good Ideas Not Discussed. Zach put forward incredible motions on organizing around issues such as anti war and student mobilization. Unfortunately some colleges were organized with the single purpose of defeating the reforms, which made further discussion of good ideas impossible.

These movements are the types of actions we want our union putting its energy towards.

We want to reiterate the point Zach made to the Varsity and re-sent to us: we don’t vote for UTSU representatives just to make rules about how to vote for UTSU representatives. We vote for the UTSU to advocate for us.

3. Safer Spaces. Of particular concern to LGBTOUT was the AGM’s atmosphere.  LGBTOUT would like to point out that safe spaces are a verb—not a noun. The AGM needs to be a space where people feel they are safe to speak without being personally disliked, or disrespected.

What we do can either make people feel safe to speak or not.

The atmosphere was not unsafe in the sense that active discrimination made it difficult for people to speak. The atmosphere was unsafe in that sense that intense polarization created an environment where people jeered and hollered. If someone was shy, the AGM was not a welcoming zone to speak in.

Changing this will need responsibility from leaders in the UTSU and the Colleges. Basically: restrain your rabble. We understand emotions run high around the AGM. This does not make hurting other people’s emotions okay.

This polarization was clear when one side of the room erupted cheering. It was clear when “suck it” was exclaimed by someone on that same side.

If you are going to mobilize a mass bloc, also use your mobilization as an opportunity to educate them about how to conduct themselves in a way that makes others’ feel safe.

Concrete Steps both sides can take:

  • Reduce polarization. Animosity between both sides motivated people. We should see this animosity as a threat to our union. We shouldn’t demonize eachother or the reforms. This isn’t good versus evil; this is student politics. The UTSU, Colleges, and Professional faculties should meet and negotiate more beforehand. We applaud Ryan Gomes recognizing Yolen’s work in his first statement. LGBTOUT wants to draw attention to how the UTSU President Yolen attended College and Faculty meetings, but was not always allowed to speak. We expect better next time and will help hold both sides to account on this.
  • Education is a duty. Groups organizing for more attendance need to make sure the people they are encouraging to attend know how to behave. Train them how yelling, cheering, hollering, booing, shouting might make others’ feel.
  • Focus on having an inclusive Student Union. Make sure everyone knows our collective goal is a union where everyone feels they have a voice. Everyone should consciously think about how this is what we are working for. Everyone should ask themselves how they can help achieve this.

Safe spaces are a verb. Make them.

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