You start at a new university. You know no one but are excited about your beginning studies, a new page in your life. However, behind all this excitement and pure joy of learning new things and meeting new people, there is a shadow in your brain; you are afraid of whether you will be accepted. We think this is a fear everyone faces when going to new places. LGBTQ+ people, however, need to face it every day. In every interaction, they must decide: do I feel comfortable showing who I really am?
Against this context, it is apparent why the university needs an outspokenly safe space for LGBTQ+ students. GAYY, the LGBTQ+ association of Aalto University, is where these students do not have to think if they will be accepted — they can trust they will be. The main goal of GAYY is to provide a safe space for all students under the rainbow. We exist to welcome everyone regardless of their sexuality, gender, ability, or other characteristics and identities.
Otaniemi GayDay is the main event that GAYY organizes: a picnic and an all-day party on the Sunday of Pride week. The event started as a celebration of the queer in Otaniemi. There was also a slight protest atmosphere; the community wanted to show that we were here, and even though the environment might not celebrate us and might even be hostile, we still have a right to exist and flourish. Some might call this radical, but actually, it is just us trying to be equal and live our lives.
The cis-hetero lifestyle is celebrated throughout our society and student culture: At our Sitz tables, we are sat in a male-female-male order. In our songs, we sing about strong men and beautiful women. As GAYY, we would like to add a queer touch to these age-old traditions and let the minorities also enjoy the community that we have here in Otaniemi.
Organizing an event around the LGBTQ+ community of Aalto is a great way to increase the visibility of minorities in Otaniemi. We want to organize an event made by queer people and designed for queer people. We want to make Smökki a safe space for everyone to enjoy and celebrate.
In every interaction, LGBTQ+ people must decide: do I feel comfortable showing who I really am?
GayDay is not exclusive to the members of the LGBTQ+ community. We want to welcome everyone to enjoy a beautiful summer day with us and learn more about the LGBTQ+ community, our culture, and the ways we have fun. We only ask you to keep in mind that this is an event designed for and by queer people. So, you must be respectful and remember that you might not be the center of attention here and that it’s okay. We do it at every other party.
The hardships LGBTQ+ people face
But why do we still need Pride, isn’t everything okay now?
We dare to say no; everything’s not okay. Still, many sexual or gender minority people face hate speech or violence, leading some to hide their true identities.
This spring, the GAYY chat faced a hate speech attack where our chat was invaded by anonymous accounts spreading abhorrent material. This was a hit against our feeling of safety.
LGBTQ+ rights need to be discussed and be more visible in different communities so that all community members can be heard and feel safe. That’s why we find it important to raise an issue that may affect non-binary gender or transgender students throughout Finland: the Sisu system does not automatically provide an option to change your name.
We dare to say no; everything’s not okay.
This has led to the ‘deadnaming’ of students in courses: the use of their old names, which is disrespectful and a very personal issue. There have also been cases where a graduation certificate includes the old name instead of the current one. For this reason, changing one’s current name should be made easier in the future to avoid similar situations. We wonder why this issue was not considered in the planning phase of Sisu.
The entire GAYY Board would like to wish everyone a joyful Pride Month. The month includes a variety of events where you can be yourself in a safe space in the company of other rainbow people. We would like to remind all rainbow students that you have not come out of the closet but arrived at a community that accepts you just the way you are.
We would also like to invite everyone to Otaniemi GayDay on 3.7. in Smökki! It is an all-day picnic celebration of our lovely community.