Some of the most brilliant minds in history were homosexuals. Socrates. Michelangelo. Leonardo da Vinci. Even Sir Isaac Newton was rumoured to be a homosexual. The University of Regina Queer Initiative (URQI) is allowing more brilliant members of the queer community to share their works at the U of R.
URQI is putting on a lecture series called the In and Out Speaker's Series. The lectures are a place of sharing for professors, scholars and others who are queer and/or working on queer-related material, be it scholarly or creative.
“It’s another platform to present and to work with an audience that might be critical in a different way or supportive in a different way. And partly it’s to raise awareness that there is this queer research going on or this research by queer researchers that’s happening. I think the more it’s known and understood, it just makes a better community then,” said Wes Pearce, who runs the series.
While Pearce admits there is a sense of comfort presenting to people who share similar thoughts, feelings, and experiences, he does not believe the Speaker’s Series is a “safe haven” from the outside world.
“The good thing is it’s not 1954 anymore. I don’t think there’s anyone here who wouldn’t feel comfortable taking their work they’re presenting here to a discipline-specific conference. It’s probably just a bit more… friendly support.
This week’s presenter was Kelly Handerek, a theatre professor at the U of R. He read part of the play he is currently working on, called “Akimbo of Thoughts”.
“It’s basically a reflection of growing up, and what it meant to grow up in a small community and discover at an early age that you’re gay. And also, how that has or has not had impact on your life,” Handerek explains.
While growing up as a homosexual was difficult at times, Handerek considers himself extremely lucky as he grew up in a very loving community. Handerek knows first-hand that others did not have it so easy.
“A friend of mine that I grew up with… one night, when we were together, I encountered him with a bread knife in his hand going for his wrist. And it was because he was gay. And we were able to talk through that and stop that… the other person, who I didn’t get to know, took his life. And I have a feeling it was because he didn’t have anyone to talk to.”
Queers now have that opportunity to have their voices heard, thanks to the In and Out Speaker’s Series. And by using the series as a platform for their works, people like Handerek can make an impact on society. And who knows? Maybe someday there won’t be a need for an In and Out Speaker’s Series.