If you are on campus at all during Welcome Week, you might notice a wave of Welcome Week representatives out and about with flamingo patches on their suits. These patches symbolize the new Pride Representative Network at work, a pet project of Miranda Clayton, the McMaster Students Union Pride Community Centre coordinator.
“This year, when I took over the [PCC], we did this whole thing where we rebranded it, we completely overhauled it and how we conceptualize our LGBT community on campus,” she said.
If a representative has a flamingo patch on their suit, it means that they are knowledgeable about all the services and supports available to McMaster students. These representatives also serve as ambassadors for the PCC during Welcome Week, as they can offer information to any first-year students who may be interested in learning more.
According to Clayton, the LGBT community at McMaster has felt fractured for many years, partly due to the focus on cisgender, gay men in typically LGBT spaces.
“I started at Mac in 2011, and I’ve been a bisexual on this campus for about 8 years now… When I got here, and I knew the QSCC existed, but I didn’t feel like it was a place I could go, because it was very much presented itself as a place if you are gay and only gay, which I’m not,” she said.
“I wasn’t in that straight/gay binary that people seem to think exists, so I was like, “I guess this isn’t a place I can go,” Clayton added. She also pointed to results from her survey, which illustrated that many students on campus felt they were not welcome at the PCC, whether they were trans, non binary, bisexual or lesbians.
“We are truly for everyone under the LGBT spectrum,” Clayton said.
As a part of her initial assessment of the service, Clayton sent out a community assessment survey for LGBT students to complete, and found that many LGBT students were either unfamiliar or unaware of the PCC’s existence.
Another issue plaguing the service, according to Clayton, is simply its location; unlike other MSU peer support spaces on campus, the PCC’s main space is in a part of the McMaster Student University Centre that does not receive a large amount of foot traffic.
Clayton hopes that the Pride Rep Network will alleviate some of that confusion by offering students information about LGBT spaces on campus the second they enter campus grounds.
At the time of writing, there are currently 192 representatives signed up to be a part of the Pride Rep Network, and Clayton only expects that number to grow as more representatives are given the chance to sign up. Both the PCC and other faculty societies will post about the initiative during Welcome Week to ensure students are aware of what the flamingo patches mean.
For another representative, supporting LGBT students comes at a crucial time, as they will be a social science representative and is one of the reps a part of the Pride Rep Network.
“When [the MSSS Welcome Week planner] reached out to us about this experience, that’s when I researched roughly some of the communities, I looked up Miranda, and saw some of the movement and the story she was telling and I thought that was very compelling and I thought it was an important initiative that needs to be on campus,” they said.
As the summer winds down and campus is flooded once again, LGBT students attending McMaster can take solace in the flamingos that will quietly attending classes with them.