On February 28th dozens of alumni and friends gathered at the Royal Conservatory of Music on Bloor Street West for a fun-filled evening of mingling, entertainment and edification. Since Snowflake was launched in the winter of 2007, the annual event has become a highlight in the alumni calendar, bringing LGBTQ alumni and friends together to celebrate and reconnect.
Barbara Dick, Assistant Vice-President for Alumni Relations, kicked off this year’s event with an inspiring history of LGTBQ activism and Canadian firsts at the University of Toronto. “Almost 40 years ago, on October 7, 1974,” Dick said. “Professor Michael Lynch and thirteen students launched the first gay studies class to be taught at a Canadian university.”
Other important LGBTQ milestones followed over the next several decades, including new courses and programs, student and faculty organizations, the introduction of social events and public awareness campaigns. Students, faculty and staff challenged University traditions and policies that stood in the way of sexual equality. Individual and collective action paid off. In 1991 the University extended benefits to same-sex partners of employees and in 1999 the University established the office of LGBTQ Resources & Programs, a first for a post-secondary institution in Canada.
“These milestones give us every reason to be proud and optimistic for the future of LGBTQ scholarship and the LBGTQ community at the University of Toronto,” said Dick. “Today on campus, there are sexual diversity groups cross all faiths, faculties and ethnicities. And more than four decades after Michael Lynch launched Canada’s first gay-studies course, U of T boasts one of the largest Sexual Diversity Studies programs in North America.”
The longstanding link between LGBTQ activism, pedagogy and scholarship was recognized and honours paid to several U of T faculty members whose work—past and present—has helped to advance sexual equality in Canada and internationally. Professor David Rayside, a pioneer on issues of sexual diversity, was lauded for his four-decade career as both a professor and administrator at
U of T.
Professors Maureen FitzGerald, Scott Rayter and Brenda Cossman—who was recently awarded the prestigious Ludwik and Estelle Jus Memorial Human Rights Prize—were also distinguished for their exceptional scholarship and for their work on behalf of the LGBTQ community. The formal portion of the evening featured Professor Elizabeth Gould of the Faculty of Music who presented a dynamic talk titled “Feeling H.O.T. Or How Queer Saved Music.”
These accomplished scholars underscore the tremendous breadth and depth of LGBTQ scholarship and learning at U of T that contributes to all facets of Canadian and global society.
The annual Snowflake event is one of many programs that help keep alumni connected. Keep abreast of the latest events on the U of T alumni website.