Navigating University as a Queer student
In my final year of high school I came out to my friends and family as Transgender. I began going by the name Sebastian instead of my birth name and asked people to refer to me using he/him pronouns. While I was mostly met with widespread support, there were teachers and students at my high school who struggled to come to terms with my new found identity.
When it came time to select what university I wanted to attend after graduating, I wanted to go somewhere where I could start fresh, and UVic was at the top of my list.
There were many factors that contributed to my decision to attend UVic such as location, size, and academic reputation, but one of the primary reasons was because I felt comfortable and accepted on campus.
When I visited UVic for a tour one of the first things I saw was the rainbow crosswalk painted in front of the Student Union Building. This seemingly small detail let me know that I was welcome here on this campus.
In September 2021 I packed up everything I owned and prepared for this new chapter in my life. Making my way from my home town to Victoria I felt overwhelmed with nerves and excitement, but I was ready for whatever would come my way.
The first thing I did when I got to campus was go to the OneCard office to get my student ID. After four years of having a high school ID with my birth name on it, I wanted to have a card that displayed my preferred name.
I was worried there would be a big process involving a lot of paper work that I would have to go through to make this happen, but to my surprise it was very easy. All I had to do was tell the OneCard office that I wanted my preferred name on it, and within the hour they made one for me. Holding that small piece of plastic I felt happy and accepted.
The next step in my journey was to move in to my new home on campus. The housing type that I had chosen was a mixed gender Cluster unit. Having the option to live in a mixed gender house was very important to me, and it allowed me to feel comfortable in my living environment.
After I had unpacked most of my stuff, I decided to attend a campus event. That night in the Student Union Building they were hosting a drag show for all the new residents to attend. When I stepped into the room I was in awe. Coming from a small high school in a small town the only exposure I had to other Queer people were my close friends and the only Queer events I had the opportunity to attend was the Gay Straight Alliance, which never had much of a turn out.
Here at UVic I was surrounded by others like me, standing shoulder to shoulder were tons of other Queer people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Everyone I met was just as excited to be there as I was. Finally the show began. There were drag queens and kings and women who performed burlesque. There was music and dancing and crowd engagement. When the night came to a close my voice was hoarse from cheering.
The first week of classes was exhausting and overwhelming as I familiarized myself with the layout of the campus and the course materials. Something that surprised me was how each of my professors introduced themselves using their name and pronouns. In high school I had never encountered this. What’s more is when called upon in class, professors would ask for my pronouns instead of just assuming. I felt seen and accepted.
Another pleasant surprise I encountered was gender neutral bathrooms. At my high school we had one gender neutral bathroom the size of a broom closet. But at UVic there seems to be one everywhere you go! As a trans man who does not fit into the binary expectation of what a man should look like, I often feel very uncomfortable in female or male segregated bathrooms. Having the opportunity to use a gender neutral bathroom anytime I wanted anywhere on campus was a huge relief. I have found that not every building on campus has a gender neutral bathroom, but if it doesn’t you don’t have to walk far to find one.
After a month at UVic I learned about the Queer resources available on campus. One of them is the UVic Pride room which is a space in the basement of the Student Union Building. This room is a space for LGBTQ folks to hang out and get to know one another. There is also a lending library filled with Queer books and donated gender affirming items for students to take if they need them, as well as safe sex information and supplies.
Throughout the school year the UVic Pride organization also hosts events and community circles for Queer students. There is also a pride group run by the Community Leaders who work and live in residence. This group is called QVic and they host events every Sunday evening for any Queer students who live on campus. During my first year at UVic I was able to attend some of these events and I had so much fun meeting other individuals in the community.
Now, I am in my second year and I am a Community Leader who is an organizer of QVic. It is so rewarding to put together events for first year students who are still growing accustomed to university life and all the opportunities it has to offer.