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Building LGBTQ+ allies

An event marking International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia will explore both the personal and conceptual aspects of gender.

[Markus Harwood-Jones]
Markus Harwood-Jones will speak at Thursday's event. (Supplied Photo)

A group of employees in cooperation with United Steelworkers (USW) Local 2010, is organizing an event on campus to International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia on May 17.

“The USW Local 2010 Human Rights Committee has a mandate to raise awareness and education around Human Rights issues – which is why we chose to mark this day,” says Liza Cote, a Queen’s staff member and chair of the committee. “Having a guest speaker shed light on what it means to be transgender affords us an opportunity to increase awareness on campus.”

This free event will be held on Thursday, May 17 at noon in Mackintosh-Corry Room B201. The theme for this year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia is “Alliances for Solidarity”, reflecting the need for persons from LGBTQ+ communities to find supportive communities so they can effect change and build safer environments.

It’s a theme that Markus Harwood-Jones, this year’s presenter, can relate to. Mr. Harwood-Jones is pursuing his masters in Gender Studies at Queen’s, and identifies as transgender. When he came out as transgender, he had to confront family rejection and he experienced housing insecurity. Mr. Harwood-Jones says his talk will delve into both the terms and concepts as well as the very personal experiences of being transgender.

“My hope is that those who attend will not necessarily leave with a single definition, but instead will have an interest in these terms and concepts,” he says. “I have a passion for this, and a sincere belief we can transform the world. That’s why I invite anyone who is attending to ask questions – don’t be afraid of not knowing enough or saying the wrong thing.”

Prior to joining the Queen’s community, Mr. Harwood-Jones was a student at Ryerson University where he helped found their Trans Collective, lobbying for gender-neutral bathrooms and hosting regular speaking and dinner events for the transgender community.

The United Steelworkers Local 2010 Human Rights Committee became aware of Mr. Harwood-Jones' story through Gender Studies staff member Terrie Easter Sheen, and approached him to speak. Ms. Easter Sheen says these causes are both political and personal to her – she identifies as queer; chairs the USW 2010 Pride Committee; is a Board Director of Reelout, Kingston’s queer film festival (which many Queen’s departments sponsor); and is active in the broader Kingston LGBTQ+ community.

For more information on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, visit dayagainsthomophobia.org