Claire Marsh’s experience in her summer student position with OUTSaskatoon is about to reach a high point during Saskatoon Pride 2015.
OUTSaskatoon, previously known as the Avenue Community Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, provides social events, education, counselling services and a wealth of other programs to people of all sexual orientations and genders. Their goal is to create a community free of bias and phobia for the betterment of society in general.
Marsh, a fourth-year English student at the University of Saskatchewan, heard about OUTSaskatoon during a women’s and gender studies class she took in 2014-15.
“My professor for the class was Rachel Loewen Walker, the executive director of OUTSaskatoon,” Marsh said in an email to the Sheaf. “I was eager to continue my education about queer issues by joining her team.”
OUTSaskatoon hired Marsh as the summer student events assistant for May to August of 2015. She has been involved in organizing the Pride events that OUTSaskatoon is contributing to during the week of festivities and is looking forward to seeing that work come to fruition.
Marsh helped to organize OUTSaskatoon’s annual event Welcome to the Gaybourhood, a free BBQ and community fair that takes place during Pride week.
“It’s a great way of connecting people to really positive and helpful services in the city,” Marsh said.
There will be a variety of events throughout the week but the Pride Parade and community fair on June 13 is one thing Marsh mentioned not to miss.
“It’s so uplifting seeing all of the diversity in the queer community as well as the support from allies. It’s always such a uniting experience and a real testament to how far society has come and where society is heading.”
Saskatoon held its first Pride Festival in the summer of 2001 and the event has grown ever since. Pride week includes a lengthy list of contributors from across the city, with even City Hall getting into the spirit through the raising of a rainbow flag in an official city ceremony open to the public.
Organizations like OUTSaskatoon contribute events throughout the week under the coordination of the Saskatoon Diversity Network (SDN), which is ultimately responsible for the festival.
“They do an amazing job of pulling such an action-packed week together,” Marsh said.
SDN stresses that Pride is an inclusive event for people of all “races, cultures, ages, sizes, abilities, sexes, genders, orientations, relationships, economic groups and affiliations,” a goal that harmonizes with OUTSaskatoon.
OUTSaskatoon holds annual events such as the AIDS Walk for Life in September, the Pink Revolution anti-bullying week in April and a queer arts festival in February. The events calendar posted on their website is chock full, so it is always easy to get involved.
“After getting to know more about all of the services provided by the centre and getting to meet the many diverse members of the community, I’ve been reassured that I chose the best possible place to spend my summer,” Marsh said.
Working for OUTSaskatoon has also helped Marsh solidify her career goals.
“I want to apply to the College of Law and continue my work and education in a social field.” Marsh said.
During the year, Marsh spent some time at the drop-in area of the U of S Students’ Union Pride Centre. She describes the centre as a “very comforting and positive presence on campus” and hopes to enroll in further women’s and gender studies classes in the future.
Saskatoon Pride week is happening from June 7-14. For more information and to see a list of events visit saskatoonpride.ca. More information on OUTSaskatoon is available at outsaskatoon.ca.