Question: As a lesbian student, would Guelph be an accepting school overall? I know there will always be the occasional bigot, but could I be comfortably out of the closet or even in a (not hidden) relationship there? This is one of my main concerns with choosing a university (believe it or not).
There isn’t anything unbelievable about your question. It is a concern many students have and consider when choosing a place to study and live for many years.
The University of Guelph has a history of supporting the rights of its students, including students with lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer identities. The Human Rights and Equity Office (a department of the University) and the Central Students’ Association Human Rights Office (operated by students) work to create change that provides equity to all students, regardless of identity.
The University of Guelph also has one of the oldest queer student groups in Canada (Guelph Queer Equality) and has some of the most diverse services that support queer students. Apart from the services already mentionned, Counselling Services operates a Coming-out support group call CampOUT, The Wellness Centre provides queer-specific health information and the Guelph Resource Centre for Gender Empowerment and Diversity has a feminist library filled with queer-related publications. Of course there is also OUTline which provides confidential and anonymous support.
Other non-queer specific departments that are queer-positive (i.e. they actively talk about and train staff in sexual orientation and gender identity issues) include (but not limited to): Police Services, Housing Services (residence), Aboriginal Resource Centre, Multi-Faith Resource Team, Student Volunteer Connections and the Central Students’ Association (the governing student body).
In the community, Guelph has a rare gem: a queer lending library in the downtown core (Out On The Shelf ) that also houses a number of social groups. At the end of May there is a Pride Week that celebrates a variety of queer identities.
All this being said, you are correct: there are narrow-minded people in Guelph, as there are in any community. Hateful graffiti and comments can still be seen and heard, particularly as new communities are formed with new students arriving in September. The reality is, wherever you choose to go you may encouter this.
That being said, the University of Guelph has had a number of hate-crime vigils when it does take place, put on a production of the Laramie Project (which included members of staff, faculty and student bodies, including the current President of the University) and hosted the 2009 Canandian Universities Queer Services Conference. It also operates the longest running Human Sexuality Conference in the country.
If you want to chat with someone about any of these, you can always give us a call (519-836-4550). We’re open Tues, Wed, Thurs from 6-9 pm starting next week.