Celebrating the impact of Glow

The Glow Centre spans decades of making a difference to thousands of 2SLGBTQIA+ folks

Gllow dance poster from 1989The Glow Centre (previously GLOW, GLLOW and WUGLM) is the oldest continuously running university-based 2SLGBTQIA+ group in Canada. The group of dedicated student volunteers provide a wide variety of peer support, social events, advocacy work and resources for anyone who needs it. 

Despite knowing about Glow before starting his undergrad at Waterloo, Paul Barton (BSc ’82) spent the first two years passing by the Glow Centre and weekly coffeehouse meeting held in the Student Life Centre (SLC). In the summer of 1980, he finally dared to act and joined Glow as a volunteer.

“I answered the phone helpline, advocated for gay rights with the local municipality and wrote regular columns in Imprint and the Glow newsletter,” Barton said. He remembers the monthly dances held by Glow in Waterloo’s humanities building (now Arts Lecture Hall) becoming a meaningful experience he could never forget, and he even met someone. 

“It was just such a profound experience to finally do something that I had thought about my entire life,” Barton said. “To actually go somewhere where I did not have to guess if someone was gay or not. To finally be among my chosen family.”

For more than 50 years, Glow has fostered a supportive network that aims to promote a positive, welcoming environment to everyone regardless of sexual orientation, romantic orientation or gender identity.

Glow has provided me with incredible ways to find community among fellow members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community at Waterloo. While also providing invaluable professional development in team management, self-direction, and advocacy work.

AJ, Co-ordinator of Glow Centre

Throughout his degree, Mark Schaan (BA ’02) was very involved with the Federation of Students — now known as the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA) — where he spent a lot of time in the SLC and eventually became an assistant editor of Imprint. Although he wasn’t involved with Glow, he knew many volunteers through Imprint and the student government. One of those connections helped him come out. 

“Glow played this extraordinary role in my coming out,” Schaan said. “Before university, I was a sheltered kid from a Mennonite community in Manitoba. At Waterloo, I was exposed to the world and was kind of figuring things out. Glow became an important piece of my story because it opened the conversation. I had never met a proud, out, queer individual before university. Glow created the infrastructure that allowed for this connection to happen, ultimately driving me to find a huge chunk of myself.”

Mark Schaan“Glow became an important piece of my story because it opened the conversation.”

Mark Schaan (BA 02)

Glow continues to be a safe space where students can visit the centre during peer support hours and experience confidential help from trained student volunteers. 


For Rahim Thawer (BA '08), after coming out to his family, he was ready to engage in community programs and found the Glow Centre to be a lifechanging experience. Thawer started attending Glow discussion groups that were held on Wednesday nights in Hagey Hall, as an opportunity to meet other people from the community and discuss really important issues.

“I realize now that you can get accepted spaces and you can get fun spaces,” Thawer said. “But explicitly affirming ones, where you are celebrated and not merely tolerated — they are hard to come by. Glow really provided that for me.”

Rahim Thawer

Rahim Thawer (BA 08)