Calgarians gathered to celebrate pride over the weekend
By Julie Patton, News Editor
Ten of thousands of Calgarians flooded downtown to celebrate the annual Pride Parade.
A joyful event, balloons and colour filled the street as attendees marched down 9th Ave toward Fort Calgary. Among the many organizations showing their support, the Students Association of MRU (SAMRU) joined the parade.
Hayl Balla is a student from Mount Royal University (MRU) who joined the parade.
“We have a good community on campus, but being able to have that stage where people are able to be proud of themselves and who they are was really, really awesome,” they say.
Balla is one of the pride ambassadors at the SAMRU Pride Centre. They have attended the Pride Parade in the past, but this was their second year walking with SAMRU.
“I love seeing students come together for the event and to see the staff on campus participate too, I just think it’s really important to have community on campus and being able to be a part of that is a really big deal.”
Balla was pleased with the turnout from MRU in the parade as they believe there was more in attendance than last year.
The Pride Centre at the SAMRU has been around for 10 years. It exists not only as a support for the 2SLGBTQ+ community, but as a support for everyone.
Lisa Antichow, support services manager at SAMRU, says the Pride Centre has a broader mandate to make all students feel welcome at school.
“We’re creating a safe space for people to come together,” she says. “They can meet, they can connect, and they can build community.”
The Pride Centre offers weekly programming for students so they can connect with each other as well as de-stress from the school day.
“We have a weekly program called ‘Crafternoon,’ so students can get together, make crafts, and again, build community,” Antichow says.
There is also the Wellness Wind Down where an MRU counsellor, Janet Miller, joins the students to help them work through any mental health problems that can affect their academics or personal life.
Importance of community
At university, students are in one giant community. However, it’s easy to find yourself lost in the large group. The Pride Centre offers a different community. Welcome to all, it is a safe space to create strong social connections.
The weekly programming makes it easy to meet and connect with like minded individuals.
While Balla has strong connections to the Pride Centre, they advise students to join clubs with like minded people to build community on campus.
“Community is huge for me,” they say. “Being able to find like minded people on campus is really important but also being able to foster my own identity in a safe space… and it really helps me with my studies as well.”
At the Pride Centre, Balla was also able to garner some much needed support. When transitioning, Balla attended a clothing swap at the Pride Centre where they were able to get some gender affirming clothing.
“When I transitioned, that was a really big deal for me,” they say, adding that it is not easy to build a wardrobe of gender affirming clothes on a budget.
In addition to the Pride Centre and its weekly events, SAMRU also has other pride programming throughout the school year like the popular Sex Toy Bingo and Gender Bender.
SAMRU hosted over 200 students at its latest Sex Toy Bingo in February, 2023. First come, first serve only, the event filled the Wyckham Bowl and had to close its doors to many waiting students. As for the Gender Bender in March 2023, there were 70 in attendance.
“As the students association, our mandate is to represent and serve students to help them succeed,” Antichow says. “We’re not just focused specifically on one demographic… we are here to serve everybody.”
Antichow hopes students feeling lost and looking for community utilizes SAMRU and the help they offer. She encourages new students to check out the Wyckham House at MRU and see what services SAMRU has to offer.
“We’ll hear feedback from students when they’re in their third or fourth year and it’s always ‘Oh, I didn’t know you were here’ and ‘I wish I knew about this sooner,’” she says.
All students, new or returning, are welcome at SAMRU and the Pride Centre. SAMRU’s main hubs and other programs can be found at Wyckham House, near the West Entrance of Campus.