The Rad Sex Week workshop, Desires: A QT*POC Exploration, caused controversy on campus after organizers stated that the event was not open to white people.
“This workshop is closed to folks who identify as LGBT*QIA and as a person of color,” the event description reads. “‘A’ here denotes asexual, not ally. POC here denotes anyone who self-identifies with the term [….] We will not be policing your self-identity around race or skin tone: If you feel like you will benefit please come.”
The page had been edited to remove the phrase “white folks need not attended,” which had previously been included in the event description.
Rad Sex Week is hosted by Queer McGill and will run from Jan. 26 to Feb. 5. According to the Facebook page, Rad Sex Week constitutes a series of events that explore gender and sexuality through anti-oppressive, feminist, trans and queer friendly perspectives.
Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens stated that the McGill administration had corresponded with the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) after receiving complaints from McGill students about the event.
“There was a complaint; we looked into it,” Dyens said. “The Quebec Charter of Human Rights says you can’t discriminate on different bases and race is one of them. We told [SSMU] that we understand why this is being done but we’re not comfortable with it. This is a SSMU club and this is SSMU’s responsibility. Our role is to reach out to SSMU […] but ultimately it’s their call.”
SSMU Vice-President University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan explained that she believed that the event was in accordance with SSMU’s Equity Policy.
“Our Equity Policy acknowledges that current and historical processes affect the safety and well-being of groups targeted by these processes,” she said. “Accordingly, we acknowledge that offering spaces to comfortably discuss lived experiences resulting from these processes is an important step in building safer, supportive environments.”
In light of the controversy surrounding Rad Sex Week, the Science Undergraduate Society’s (SUS) General Council passed a motion from the floor in support of Queer McGill and Rad Sex Week during their Jan. 26 Council meeting.
“Be it further resolved, that the SUS reaffirm its commitment to the equitable treatment of all students and the promotion of safer spaces, as well as its belief in the necessity and propriety of closed POC spaces,” the motion read. “Be it further resolved, that the SUS work with Queer McGill in promoting Rad Sex Week, including but not limited to offering Queer McGill promotion of the event on the SUS Facebook, SUS Website, and SUS Listserv.”
SSMU Science representative Zacheriah Houston co-sponsored the motion with SUS Vice-President External Emily Boytinck. Houston explained that he co-sponsored the motion because he believed that Queer McGill and Rad Sex Week offered importance services to the McGill community.
“I initially heard about the controversy regarding Queer McGill’s decision to host the event when the QM Resource Coordinator emailed […] Boytinck, letting us know that they were looking for endorsements for the concept of closed-POC events,” Houston stated. “I support Queer McGill’s decision to hold this event, and was saddened by the negativity surrounding it. To me, the scope of the event was clearly within Queer McGill’s objective of creating [safer]spaces.”
The SUS is planning to host similar closed events in the future, said Boytinck.
“The SUS equity committee is working on a bunch [of initiatives] this semester, including on passing on this information for years to come.” Boytinck said. “We’ve talked about creating queer science spaces, women in physical sciences spaces, people of colour in science spaces [….] We’ll totally have allyship events where we welcome allies, but I definitely think it’s important to have closed events.”