Fundamental values represented in the TRUSU Pride Parade are the same as those that drive the university movement to make the world a better place.
About 250 students, staff, faculty and community supporters spoke with their feet, holding aloft banners and placards Wednesday for the fifth annual affirmative stand organized by the student union.
“You don’t have to feel shame,” said James-Dean Aleck, First Nation representative with the student union, welcoming peers to the TRU Commons rally. “You’ve overcome that.”
Five years in, it remains vitally important to recognize the diversity of LGBQT students and the need to create safe, inclusive spaces on campus, said Caitlin Orteza, LGBQT representative with the student union. Staff and faculty have worked to create those spaces, while students have bolstered events such as the parade.
“That work really needs to be celebrated here today,” Orteza said. “However, let us make no mistake, there is still plenty of work to be done."
LGBQT students face higher rates of violence and sexual assault on campus, and they are 14 times more at risk of suicide and substance abuse, she said.
TRU President Alan Shaver recalled the first pride parade on campus and said the gathering felt like a family reunion. He, too, underscored the importance of diversity and freedom.
“The ultimate freedom is not having to explain yourself,” Shaver said. “We need the diverse views you’re celebrating … freedom, diversity and the university movement to make the world a better place.”
“What we really need to do today is to walk as equals,” added Tom Friedman, faculty association president.
The turnout exceeded organizers' expectations.
"It does seem to grow year after year," Orteza said.