First-year Humber student Leoar Dulnuan’s eyes sparkle with excitement as he talks about his newfound confidence in identifying as a gay male.
In less than a year, the 18-year-old has gone from a shy Catholic high school student to a young self-assured man on the path to being out within the LGBTQ+ community.
And he credits Humber’s LGBTQ+@Humber Student Support Group and Gender and Sexual Diversity Committee discussion groups for much of this positive change.
“It’s an amazing safe space,” said Dulnuan, who points to his increased confidence for also giving him the courage to seek help for personal problems and speak out at support groups.
“Having the confidence to reveal your true nature to strangers is a huge stepping stone,” he said.
Deborah Mandell, a counselor in Humber’s Student Success and Engagement office and co-facilitator of the queer support group, said the group works in conjunction with the committee and Humber Counseling Services to encourage and strengthen education around LGBTQ+ issues in an effort to make Humber a more queer-positive space.
“We’re just trying to LGBTQ-up the campus,” Mandell said enthusiastically.
The discussion groups run for eight weeks each semester, focusing on a different topic each week. Students who are LGBTQ+-identified or questioning their gender or sexual orientation are welcome to attend and can join for as many or as few weeks as they want.
Mandell stressed that students don’t need to sign up in advance and can simply show up when they wish to.
She also explained the committee works hard to create a supportive environment where students can feel accepted no matter where they are in their gender or sexuality exploration process.
“We really welcome students wherever they’re at,” Mandell said.
University of Guelph-Humber Family and Community Social Services student Stephanie Finelli has been attending the weekly discussion groups regularly since her first semester at Humber. She’s now in her third year and continues to find the sessions educational.
Finelli said she had questions about her own sexuality when she accompanied a queer-identified friend to her first support group sessions and didn’t expect to take as much out of the experience as she did.
“I didn’t think I was really going to learn anything besides what I already knew…which was that I didn’t know,” she said. “I ended up exploring that aspect of myself and with the outlets that they offered, it made me more confident in who I was and who I felt more close to.”
Finelli’s increased confidence and self-awareness has inspired her to look for social outlets for LGBTQ+-identified students, something she said Humber is lacking in, despite its strength in the arena of support and self-discovery.
When asked for his own suggestions for improving LGBTQ support awareness at Humber, Dulnuan said the group would benefit from having more advertising on campus and the web.
LGBTQ+@Humber Student Group discussions kicked off on Jan.27 and continue next week with a discussion on Exploring our Gender and Sexuality. Discussion groups are held Tuesdays from 11:40 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in room GH 101 at the North campus and Wednesdays from 11:45 a.m. to 12:35 p.m. in room A116A at the Lakeshore campus.