This year, Conrad Grebel University College Student Council introduced a new elected position on the student leadership team – an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity Officer. The person in this role represents students on Grebel’s EDI committee, advocates for EDI at the College, acts as a liaison between dons and Student Council as well as between the student body and Student Services, and connects to UWaterloo’s EDI initiatives and endeavors. As part of Pride month, Grebel’s first StuCo EDI Officer, an upper-year Health student, reflected on their experience of gender identity, self-realization, and support from the Grebel community.

I had only just found the words to accurately describe my gender identity – non-binary – a few months before starting at the University of Waterloo. I knew about my sexuality for a while now, so I was not unfamiliar with the 2SLGBTQ+ community, but I had never met a trans and/or non-binary person who used pronouns that are not binary. I only figured out that what I had been feeling for years was gender dysphoria by texting a friend asking about the intense anxiety I would feel looking at my body and discovering that not everyone feels this way. 

I had felt guilty when I first started using they/them pronouns because I believed I didn’t look androgynous enough. Trying to get people to gender me correctly was a disheartening experience. People always used her instead of their, she instead of they. Was I wrong? I don’t look like a non-binary person, so should I really be using these pronouns? On top of this concern, I was raised and still am in the Catholic faith, which describes non-binary as a “fictitious construct.” Grebel is a Christian-affiliated residence. I came to Canada for the hope of a blank slate in a more accepting community, but will that be all for naught? These were the questions in my head when I took my first step at Grebel.

Student with prayer shawl

My fears were alleviated when we got to introductions. Grebel was the first time I was asked for my pronouns when introducing myself. The first time meeting other gender queer people who used all sorts of pronouns. The first time that knowing and respecting people’s preferred pronouns was the norm, not the exception. Being surrounded by a queer-friendly community allowed me to grow in my understanding of not only myself, but of others around me. I learned how people could use a variety of pronouns and not have to stick to just one “set.” I learned about the culture, the history, the struggles of the 2SLGBTQ+ community at Grebel and beyond, and it inspired me to do my part in equality.

I never thought tiny little me could run for office for a brand new position for Student Council and work to improve Grebel, but that is what happens when you love your community. I’m so honored to be Grebel’s first Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity Officer, and I’m excited to help shape Grebel to be a place where everyone is welcomed and loved.

Photo: The writer stands with a prayer shawl given to them by their church community.