Tewksbury promotes Positive Space Campaign

By Mary Chan

In an effort to raise campus awareness of sexual and gender-related issues, the University of Calgary launched its Positive Space campaign Wed., Oct 18.

"The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness, to disseminate accurate information, to invite the campus community to think about and discuss the issues, and generate a visible commitment to welcoming sexual and gender diversity," said campaign coordinator Shirley Voyna Wilson.

The launch included a press conference where U of C alumnus and Olympic gold medalist Mark Tewksbury spoke of being secretly gay while at the U of C.

"In my day, I felt it was life and death because at that time my life was sports and swimming," said Tewksbury, who came out in 1998. "I thought that my life and my livelihood would be seriously, seriously threatened.

"If this [campaign] had been here when I was in university, it would have made such an enormous difference."

The ongoing campaign consists of stickers, brochures, a Web site, workshops and speakers, including Tewksbury’s speech at the Rozsa Centre Wednesday night.

"What we’re doing now is we want to create this ability for the campaign," said Voyna Wilson. "So we’ll do more information tables. We’ll be offering workshops in January for people who want to learn more about the issue and we’ll continue to have speakers."

Male Co-chair of the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Academics, Students and Staff Nils Olson said the campaign is necessary because homophobia exists on campus.

"Homophobia lives scratched on bathroom stall walls and study carrels, in name calling, in bad jokes, it lives in everyday life, both on and off campus," Olson said. "The positive space campaign seeks to reduce gender discrimination on campus by raising awareness, by educating, by creating a safe space in which all students, staff and faculty can study and work without fear, without discomfort."

The Positive Space campaign Web site is found at www.ucalgary.ca/positivespace.

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