“There are a variety of injustices different people face,” said Lucas Shumaker, a third- year Environmental Engineering student at the University of Waterloo from Lancaster, PA. “Sometimes, certain problems are somewhat invisible to those who don’t face them.” At Grebel’s April End-of-Term Banquet, Lucas was presented with the 2024 Abundance Canada’s Spirit of Generosity Award, which is given to students who have been generous with their time and talents in the Conrad Grebel University College community and beyond.  

For Lucas and many other transgender students at UWaterloo, a stoppage of injection supplies for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) became a serious problem with no clear solution. “These medications are necessary for a lot of people, including myself,” he said. “My work over this past term has been focused on getting those injection supplies readily available to those in the transgender community.”  

As an Environmental Engineering student, Lucas has also been heavily involved in environmental justice initiatives around the university. He has been involved with the Climate Justice Ecosystem and performed organizational work for Fossil Free UW. Lucas recently finished a research co-op position performing environmental research on the nutrient retention capacity of Southern Ontario wetlands.

Lucas Shumaker smiling.

When sharing about his personal mission to advocate for justice, Lucas referenced the “curb cut effect.” He explained how the benefits of curb cuts, which were originally designed as a disability aid for people in wheelchairs, also help people riding bicycles or families with baby strollers. “The same can be said for people facing different kinds of inequalities,” he said. “By making things better for a certain group of people, those efforts also have unintended implications for bettering the human condition for everyone.” While HRT supplies might not be a universal need, people with diabetes or other medical conditions might still require injection supplies. “As a broader topic, a lot of these problems interact with everyday life for a lot of people,” he added. 

Lucas has continued advocating for himself and his transgender peers by initiating a personal research project with the help of his partner. “I’ve been running trans-healthcare research for about a year now,” he said. “A major gap within transgender research has been analyzing the physical effects of hormonal replacement therapy.” As part of his research that began in January 2023, Lucas and his partner sent out a survey that received more than 150 responses, with questions surrounding the physical effects of HRT. “As far as my partner and I are aware, we currently have the largest database on the physical effects of HRT in the world,” he said. The pair is also working toward creating interactive data visualizations on their website, www.hrtimelines.com, based on their research findings. “As two university students, neither of whom are in health-related studies, this research has proven to be very demanding.” Despite the taxing responsibilities of managing this personal project alongside his own studies, Lucas is optimistic. “We hope to continue this research while creating a space for medical professionals to assist.”  

Not only has Lucas effected tangible change at UWaterloo, but the persistence he has shown in advocating for transgender care and environmental justice has inspired his peers to speak out against other inequalities in society. For these reasons, the Grebel community congratulates Lucas as the recipient of the 2024 Spirit of Generosity Award and thanks him for his countless hours promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion for the UWaterloo community.  Lucas was awarded $500 from Abundance Canada and was given another $500 to donate to the AIDS Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and Area – the charity of his choice. 

By Jiho Mercer