Fostering a queer community at University
With the 2023 Mardi Gras Parade and WorldPride events happening across Sydney, we spoke with four students about being part of the queer community on campus and how all students can help foster a safe and inclusive environment.
In 2019, Sydney was successful in winning the bid to host WorldPride in 2023 – a global event awarded to a different host city every two to three years. While Pride month in the northern hemisphere is celebrated in June, this year’s WorldPride occurs during the traditional timing of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, between Friday 17 February – Sunday 5 March 2023.
This year’s WorldPride theme is Gather. Dream. Amplify. – an invitation for everyone to participate in a gathering and conversation, celebration and ceremony. Excitement is high for this year’s festivities, with queer events and activities happening across Sydney and the famous Mardi Gras Parade returning to Oxford Street on Saturday 25 February.
Ewan, SHADES President and Education and Theatre & Performance studies student, says he plans on enjoying a variety of events during WorldPride, including art showcases, Heaps Gay at Manning Bar, and Mardi Gras itself.
Alexander, USU Queer Officer and Music (Musicology & Ethnomusicology) student, says they also plan on attending Heaps Gay, as well as participating in queer events and activities at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. “We’re looking at just celebrating the really long link between music and queerness, and how they both influenced the other, and putting that at the forefront,” they said.
Harry, SHADES Publicity Officer and Ancient History and Linguistics student, says they plan on taking advantage of the many SHADES events happening during WorldPride, including Queer Beers, an annual welcome drinks event held in collaboration with USyd Queer Action Collective (UQAC), USYD Queers of Colour (QOCO), Sydney University Queer STEM Society (QUEST) and Queer Revue Society, as well as directing Queer Revue shows.
Izzy, SHADES Events Officer and Visual Arts (Photography) student, says she wishes she could be “everywhere, all at once”. She’s looking forward to attending the Mardi Gras Parade and film festival, as well as all the exciting SHADES events coming up – board games and online games nights, movie night, tea party, and end-of-semester party, just to name a few.
Ewan, Alexander, Harry and Izzy are all part of SHADES, an all-inclusive queer society at the University where the focus is on making like-minded friends in a fun and safe setting. SHADES hosts events and activities for LGBTQIA+ students, their friends and allies year-round, including (but not limited to) welcome and end-of-year parties, game nights, BBQs and speaker nights.
For Izzy, while studying online and overseas for the first year of her degree meant she couldn’t join her peers physically on campus, she nonetheless felt connected to the University and its queer community through SHADES.
Just being able to immediately join and be welcomed by one of the University's queer societies, and that when I actually got to campus, I would have people I can meet and go see and already have this brilliant group of people at the University, brought me that sense of community.
Like Izzy, Harry joined SHADES in their first year of university. They're also part of the Queer Revue Society – an annual sketch show put on by and for queer students and allies at the University.
“Performing in Queer Revue as part of the band was one of the best nights, three nights technically, of my whole life, and every SHADES event is really fun,” they said. “It helps to have a community and group of friends where everyone’s been through the same stuff, everyone’s formed a sense of community based on shared beliefs and values to a certain extent.”
For Alexander, the presence and number of queer communities at University, and seeing all the different ways queer students express themselves on campus, allowed him to feel comfortable and supported in expressing his own identity and queerness.
“Queer communities presence on campus makes University feel a whole lot safer and a whole lot more inviting,” he said.
For Ewan, being part of SHADES made im feel supported and comfortable expressing imself at University.
“I definitely think that SHADES has given me the opportunity to really find a kind of family on campus, because pre-university I wasn’t very open about my queerness” he says. “But very much SHADES was a big part of me kind of realising that this is something to be proud of, this is something that I'm happy to show off to the world.”
But no matter how supported you may be, it can still be hard to take that first step and join a queer community, group or society on campus. Alexander, Ewan, Harry and Izzy share some advice to help queer students and allies make that first step:
There are some simple ways you can help foster a safe and inclusive environment for all students at University. One way is to share your pronouns. Pronouns are how you would like to be referred to when your name is not used. These might be he/him, she/her, they/them or neo-pronouns such as ze/hir or ey/em.
An easy way to share your pronouns is when you introduce yourself. Next time you introduce yourself to the room or someone new, try sharing your pronouns after you share your preferred name. For example,
“It’s nice to meet you. I’m Louise, and I use they/them pronouns.”
When you share your pronouns, you create a safe space for others to share theirs. Using another person’s pronouns correctly not only demonstrates that you respect and care for them but helps to create an inclusive and safe environment for everyone.
At the University, you have the opportunity to share your pronouns with us in Sydney Student when you enrol at the start of each year. You can then update your pronouns, along with your preferred name and gender, at any time. Learn more about updating your personal details in Sydney Student.
Browse hundreds of USU clubs and societies to find your people at University.