Commentary  Queer McGill should evaluate its legacy

Hyde Park

At McGill, anyone who is politically involved is bound to run into Queer McGill (QM); for whatever reason, QM seems to attract some of the most dynamic students on campus. The club is involved in a huge cross section of issues, from Reclaim Your Campus to Radical Frosh. QM has an incredible legacy on campus, but we think it is important to evaluate its positive and negative aspects as the club continues to evolve.

QM only has 330 members on its listserv – a miniscule amount when you consider its influence on campus. But while some might find this remarkable, we genuinely wish it was more. For some, QM is a safe space, and most importantly, a home. It is a place away from the hetero-normative world that doesn’t provide them the freedom of expression and identity that we believe everyone – whether queer, straight, black, white, or purple – deserves. But like other small groups, it can seem hard to enter from the outside.

Once upon a time, QM was associated with a particular brand of queer politics – it may have even kept away queer students who were not ready to follow the trend of the club. We are happy to note, though, that in the past year, the QM constitution was revised to – among other things – make more members of the queer community feel welcome through greater queer-positivity and a stronger attitude of anti-oppression.

But among the ally community at McGill there is still a need to dissipate the perception that allies are not valued as much as members. In the past some have felt rebuffed and not fully welcomed to queer events because they were not “queer” enough. Some may have even experienced “straight bashing” at certain events. We have to remember, though, that the acts of one or two individuals do not represent an entire community or an entire club – though it is easy for them to drag a reputation down. The “anti-oppressive” attitude of this year’s executive extends to all: queer or not. And so do their events, activities, and meetings.

QM has come a long way from its roots in 1972 as Gay McGill. In addition to its ever-growing-mandate to include the more marginalized, less mainstream queer sexualities, QM also changed its name around 20 times, added a number of books to its public library, and incorporated two subsidiary organizations, QueerLine and Allies Montréal.

More recent executives have actively pursued the francophone community – through attempts to foster bilingualism and participation in francophone community events– hosted more pay-what-you-can events, and have made an honest effort to pursue wheelchair accessibility for events. Those positive changes have all been an attempt to make QM an organization for everyone. And with the final implementation of the fabled Queer McGill Undergraduate Fund, QM is not just expanding its role as service and resource to the McGill community, but making McGill University more accessible to queer students everywhere.

As students, we all contribute to QM, so in some sense we are all members. Thus, it is important that we all take a look at the legacy of one of the most influential groups on campus. We may not always like some of the things we saw in the past, but we can’t forget about how much has already changed in the present, and will continue to in the future.