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Q Centre expands programming

By Scott Strasser, September 18 2014 —

The Students’ Union Centre for Sexual and Gender Diversity, better known as the Q Centre, has moved across the hall to their new space in the former Conference and Events office.

At more than 1,000 square feet, the new office is roughly eight times larger than their previous location.

“We were so cramped in the old space,” Q Centre co-coordinator Leah Schmidt said. “We were full all the time, always running out of seating. We used to make a lot of ‘in the closet’ jokes, because [our old room] was literally a closet before we went in there.”

Q Centre co-coordinator Katie O’Brien said the new location has attracted a number of new visitors.

“It’s easier for people to come into a space with open glass windows and a rainbow flag rather than having to open a dungeon door,” O’Brien said.

The Q Centre has several outreach programs and educational resources to teach students about sexual and gender identity.

Their most popular resource, the Outlet Project, is an email service where students who wish to remain anonymous can seek one-on-one peer support from a Q Centre volunteer.

“Every Q volunteer is trained to be a peer supporter. Peer supporters are not counsellor. We’re not qualified to diagnose or make referrals, but we’re trained on how to listen and ask questions,” Schmidt said. “If someone comes in with issues on coming out, or if they have questions, our volunteers are trained to help them.”

Questions and Queries is a discussion group focusing on sexual identity. Last year, topics included bisexuality, pansexuality and trans-identities. Schmidt said the high attendance and popularity of the discussion group means it will expand this year to two discussions per semester, rather than one.

Other Q Centre programs include the Q-rious Readers book club and the Out and About with Q speakers series. The centre is also involved in the University of Calgary’s annual Sex Week.

Schmidt said approximately 30 students use the Q Centre every day. The Centre employs 30 to 40 volunteers per year.

Prior to the move this August, the Q Centre spent four years in the 140 square foot office in MacHall. Schmidt says the larger space will have fewer barriers for creating a safe atmosphere for visitors.

“We can divide up the new space. If we want to have a meeting about an event, we can still have a socializing area. People can find their niche within the new space more than they could in the old one,” Schmidt said.

The Q Centre was founded during November 2010’s MacHall renovations.
Students’ Union vice-president student life Jonah Ardiel attended the grand opening of the new space on August 27. He said the Q Centre is a leading figure in the LGBTQA community among Canadian campuses.

“Our campus Q Centre is a post-secondary leader across the nation, in the sense that other institutions across the country look to it as a Q Centre to emulate,” Ardiel said. “It’s a note of pride.”

The U of C is not the only post-secondary campus in Calgary with a centre devoted to sexuality and gender-identity. Mount Royal University has a Pride Centre, while SAIT has a Queer Ally Student Assembly.

“I think it’s very important, especially on a university campus, to talk about issues of gender and sexuality because there aren’t the barriers of social convention that you get outside the university environment,” Schmidt said. “When you talk openly about these issues you clarify the misconceptions. The more informed students are the fewer issues we’ll have and the better people will be represented.”

The move was funded with a Quality Money grant that moved the Conference and Events’ office to the old Women’s Resource Centre.

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