Why Did the Rainbow Cross the Road?

Having a dedicated permanent pride flag on campus is a dedication to allyship, celebration and a reminder of how far we have come.

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Over the past year, Residence Services has been working on the installation of three PrideWalks across campus as a way to show the commitment of our residence community to inclusivity. Two of the crosswalks are temporary and will wear away with time, but the third PrideWalk is permanent and will continue to be updated. The permanent PrideWalk was installed on September 25, 2021 and was unveiled with a ceremony and reception

The PrideWalks were installed using the Residence Improvement Fund (RIF) which supports projects that Residence Associations believe would make an immediate difference in their communities. The Residence Associations alongside the Student Union (SU) put together a list of projects and Residence Services works hard to make those projects a reality. 

Last year, the Council of Residence Associations approached the RIF discussions with the proposal for PrideWalks around residences. The idea was met with unanimous support and enthusiasm. The SU offered to help fund the crosswalks allowing one to be installed at Lister, one near HUB and one by International House. The Crosswalk outside of International House will last five years before it needs to be updated again while the other two will wear away with time. However, in two years another permanent crosswalk will be installed outside of Lister Centre when the current crosswalk wears away. 

The past few years, the concept of pride crosswalks has been one of controversy. The arguments range from them being too distracting for drivers (they are not), too expensive for taxpayers (they cost the same), or being targets for vandalism (this one is unfortunately true). All in all, pride crosswalks are often just seen as surface level performative installations that make a city gain a few diversity and inclusion points. As a Queer person, I disagree. 

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Hayle Dambrowsky, the 2SLGBTQ+ Non Academic Cohort Leader for Residence shared that this crosswalk is incredibly impactful for them. “I cannot imagine how much it would have meant to me as a first year student to see such a large display of support for my community” they said. “Having a pride crosswalk at residences on campus really inspires me with hope for the future. I am so happy to know that there will be students who get to experience this show of acceptance and know that they are welcomed and appreciated in residence and at the University of Alberta”. 

At the unveiling ceremony, all speakers contributed to the resounding support of the PrideWalks. MLA and University of Alberta Alum Janis Irwin spoke about how important out 2SLGBTQ+ people were during her time in the closet during her degree. Irwin commented on how impactful this installation will be to residents who may feel ashamed of their identity like so many Queer people are. Students' Union VP Student Life, Talia Dixon, noted that this crosswalk is only the beginning of bettering the lives of 2SLGBTQ+ students. 

Growing up in a small town, closeted and feeling isolated, I wanted nothing more than some real representation. I would read too far into anything multicolored because I wanted it to mean something. I wanted to see myself somewhere. I wanted to know where I was welcome. As I got older, some of my teachers would have “safe space” stickers on their doors and those teachers were my favorites. After coming out, I became the GSA president of my high school and wanted to hang a pride flag for our first pride week. Our principal said it was “too political” and we were not allowed to hang it. I was heartbroken. I used this symbol as a beacon for my safety and all of the sudden, it was too political. Non-verbally declaring a space safe, is too political. My safety is too political. 

The pride flag therefore can be conflicting. We grow up closeted seeing it as a safe haven of sorts but when we get old enough we realize everything is not what it seems. This is where permanent installations of pride come in. The installation of PrideWalks in common areas make it so that 2SLGBTQ+ celebration is not confined to a month. They take extensive planning to install and do not necessarily reflect on one person alone. Because so many people use PrideWalks we all get to take a bit of ownership of them and they belong to a geospatial area rather than a brand or business. The faces of a PrideWalk are the people who use it. PrideWalks also do not generate revenue, they are installed solely so that 2SLGBTQ+ people can see a bit of themselves in their day to day lives. 

So, why did the rainbow cross the road you may ask? To bring campus a little bit further to the other side of history.


about-reagan.pngAbout Reagan

Reagan Morris (they/them) is the Diversity and Inclusion Intern for Residence Services 2021-22. This is their second year working for residence and they are dedicated to making residence a safer place. They are in their third year of Elementary Education. In their free time, you can find Reagan seeking out opportunities for advocacy both on and off campus.