People of SFU

Pride Recap: SFU celebrates 2S/LGBTQIA+ community

August 15, 2023

For Kirk Hill (he/him), the spirit of Pride is in community. As the co-lead for SFU’s Pride Parade application and assistant dean of external relations at the Beedie School of Business, Hill fondly recalls his first experience finding a strong sense of connection while living nearby Soho, a historically gay neighbourhood in London, England.

“That experience of being surrounded by your community, and people you can relate to, is really quite moving.”

This year, SFU appeared in the Vancouver Pride Parade for the first time as an institution. The Simon Fraser Student Society and Out on Campus last represented the SFU community at Vancouver’s 2013 parade.

Kirk Hill, assistant dean, external relations at SFU Beedie and his husband Scott, a former SFU adjunct professor, walk in the parade. / Photo by Candace Ratelle

Hill and his husband moved to Vancouver in 2001 and while they had attended local 2S/LGBTQIA+ events, Hill was reminded of the power of togetherness when visiting Sydney, Australia. There, he witnessed nearly 500,000 attendees at World Pride and their Mardi Gras Pride Parade.

“I came home inspired,” says Hill. “The week I got back, I joined Vancouver’s Pride Society.”

Invigorated, Hill approached SFU leadership to submit an SFU entry into Vancouver’s pride parade and was met with resounding support. Hill then brought in Nicole Dorssers (she/her), executive director, alumni relations, to co-lead the project.

“To have an initiative like this come together so quickly shows the strength of SFU’s community,” says Dorssers. “There is rich queer history at SFU, and Pride is an opportunity to celebrate and elevate these under-represented groups.”

When reviewing parade applicants such as SFU, the Vancouver Pride Society emphasizes intersectional equity, including demonstrated support for diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity, anti-racism and accessibility. The society acknowledged the university’s commitments and progress towards equity, diversity and inclusion through major institutional initiatives such as the Equity Compass, as well as 2S/LGBTQIA+ supports, resources and programming.

This year’s parade theme, Reconnect, was especially fitting for SFU participants.

“From a staff and faculty perspective, I had a sense of all the community activities that had stopped due to the pandemic and are still trying to get back up and running,” says Hill. “One thing in particular I remember is an email group for 2S/LGBTQIA+ graduate students, staff and faculty. I was able to reconnect with the manager of the group, chat about how it had been defunct for a while, and this new opportunity with Pride to bring the community together.”

“I don’t want this to be just about the parade,” says Hill. “I want this to be an opportunity to galvanize the queer community on campus. We really hope to build spaces for people to get connected and support each other.”

"I've attended many pride parades over the years, but none as special as this one," says SFU President Joy Johnson, who led the SFU walking group with her partner, Pam. "We were able to have amazing conversations, and many shared ideas about how we can have an even bigger presence next year."

"Especially during a time when gender-diverse people are facing increased hostility and discrimination, it was such a meaningful experience to be there with everyone," she says.

“While planning for the parade, there were a number of people from the trans community who reached out to me and shared their feelings of fear,” says Hill. “That touched me. I think that’s an extraordinarily vulnerable group right now, because of what’s happening in the States, and we need to do what it takes to make that group feel more included.”

“We’ve not always been in a place where individuals can feel authentically represented,” says Dorssers. “I think these opportunities are a wonderful thing.”

“It’s not just about participating in the parade – it’s about what we do afterwards, as a university and as a community,” says Hill. “That’s an important distinction, the university and all of us. There’s a joint ownership on what we do together.”

To stay up-to-date about events and initiatives by and for the 2S/LGBTQIA+ community at SFU, join the reestablished Queer Graduate, Faculty and Staff Network email list.

Read more about SFU’s work towards safe and welcoming spaces for all in the Equity Compass and at the EDI Office website.