By Вen Li
“I Â find the university really bad. People make fun of you, it’s really hard when people stare,” said Maria, a second-year science student. “I don’t feel like it’s a safe environment. Holding someone’s hand, even. I feel unsafe doing it.”
Maria came out two months ago, to face a campus and a community that has become vocally hostile toward gays, due to the same sex marriage debate. She relies on fellow students and the Gay and Lesbian Association of Students and Staff for support.
“Generally, people at university are a lot more accepting than people in the city as a whole,” said Paul, a GLASS member and fourth-year sociology/economics major. “It’s harder for men than women because lesbians seem to be more accepted.”
Both Maria and Paul have felt discriminated against by professors for being gay.
“I’ve had a couple of profs blatantly shoot down my term paper ideas because of sexual overtones,” recalled Paul. “It can sometimes be difficult to discuss with faculty members and profs, to disclose your sexual orientation to someone in a position of power. So I use my better judgement and don’t confront them, I don’t want to feel compromised academically.”
Maria has kept her sexual orientation from professors for the same reason. She finds that those in her native Saskatchewan, and in B.C are much more tolerant of gays and lesbians.
“As soon as I’m done school, I’m moving away, probably to Victoria,” she said. “People are so narrow minded here that it drives us away, so our gay community sucks here.”
For those who choose to stay though, it can be tough.
“Graduate students want some sort of networking from GLASS, so they know who in academia is more or less tolerant,” said Paul. “For myself, being out for a few years, I don’t necessarily notice the nasty looks. It’s hard if you don’t develop some kind of coping mechanism.”
Despite positive campaigns and progress in the last four years, Paul worries about the out-migration of gays from Calgary.
“[Leaving] partly allows Calgarians to stay in our conservative mind set, and not have to challenge the ideas as much. It slows down social progress.”