By Nancy Killen, submitted 2019.
Photo: Liam Mackenzie
Augustana said goodbye to a highly engaged student when Thomas Iglesias Trombetta graduated with majors in both sociology and global and development studies in 2016. Originally from Brazil, Thomas found connections at Augustana through the International Students Club and enjoyed discovering the worldviews of fellow “visitors [of] Turtle Island”. During his studies, he worked alongside his best friend, Jaynita Maru, as an International Student Coordinator with Student Services and was introduced to student advocacy and governance with the Augustana Students Association as an International Students Representative. Eventually, he became more involved with Augustana Queers and Allies and the Camrose Pride Community, taking his first steps toward the field of LGBTQ2S+ health, where he remains today.
Thomas’ time at Augustana offered him opportunities for connecting with people in the community, for which he is immensely appreciative: “All of the strong students of colour, all of the resilient queer and trans students, who despite the conservative surrounding[s], took a step forward in teaching others about anti-oppression and equity. I have so much respect for all of the students who have the courage to stand up and fight for what they believe is right while often surrounded by barriers and prejudice. These students are working part-time jobs, volunteering, taking full class schedules and existing, while also finding time to bring forward ideas of equity and justice. They deserve all of the support they can get.”
Thus inspired, he worked to complement his Augustana degree with further “training in mental health, crisis intervention, anti-oppression, queer and trans health and harm reduction”, which has led to his employment with the Community Based Research Centre and the Edmonton Men’s Health Collective. In his work, Thomas manages programs and services for gay, bi and other sexual minorities in the prairies and develops provincial education for HIV prevention as the PrEP Alberta Coordinator. These positions involve outreach work and presentations with the collective goal of increasing health outcomes and decreasing stigma within the LGBTQ2S+ community. Thomas feels that the most rewarding part of his work is “getting a chance to work with the community” as he experiences inspiration and rewards from “being surrounded by powerful and tender people who are interested in changing the world.”
“Seeing their solidarity toward each other and their community really gives me hope during these times of rising conservatism and threats toward queer, trans and migrant rights.”
Of course, Thomas faces heavy responsibility in his line of work: “When talking about sexual health, it seems like it's up to community organizations to convince our systems that there are creative, evidence-based and community-driven ways to speak about HIV and STIs.” However, he remains committed because he believes that “we can be creative, inclusive and informed by evidence all at the same time. We can have the best of both worlds, we just have to want it enough.”
With plans to begin a masters degree, Thomas is eager, positive and open to a variety of avenues for his future. He may explore liberation movements, performing arts or societal change through government. Although his interests are varied, one thing is certain: he is influencing positive change and appears fearless in the presence of adversity.