June is Pride Month! At Engineers Canada, we are excited to celebrate Pride Month and what it means to create a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive engineering profession for LGBTQ2+ persons. For many years now, Engineers Canada has been proud to partner with EngiQueers Canada, a national organization that advocates for LGBTQ2+ rights among engineering students. 

We reached out to EngiQueers Canada this month to tell us more about EngiQueers work, upcoming events, and advice for being a better LGBTQ2+ ally. Our interview with Trestan Elsea, EngiQueers Canada President, is below.

Engineers Canada: What has EngiQueers has been working on over the past year?

Trestan Elsea: Last year’s executive team shifted our focus from organizing in-person events and presentations to answering the question ‘what can we improve while in this virtual situation?’ We decided to take the time to completely revisit our constitution, make the roles of our team more clearly defined, and add three new positions: marketing officer, services officer, and finance officer. Until we could get those roles ratified at our annual general meeting, we hired a marketing consultant to strengthen our online presence. We also took the time to improve our EDI training modules to better explain and describe the racial tensions happening currently and include anti-racism, as well as create additional, more advanced, training modules such as Online Inclusivity and Allyship in Action. To strengthen our connections within the student community, we tried to hold more online de-stress events as well as speaker panels. It has been a very busy and interesting year of growth for us.

EC: The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly been top of mind for many organizations over the past year. What has been the impact of the pandemic on your organization and your members?

TE: A large portion of what EngiQueers Canada does is attend conferences to provide equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) training. COVID-19 has unfortunately prevented us from being able to give that service in-person, making it more difficult to keep people's attention and have open discussions during these trainings. Additionally, EngiQueers Canada participates in Pride Parades every year, to represent Canadian LGBTQ2+ engineering students. Unfortunately, almost all parades have had to be converted to a digital platform, meaning that many students who participate in EngiQueers Canada or one of our 30 student groups have not had a chance to meet in-person. On the bright side, the rise of virtual events during the past year and a half have made connecting with all of our student groups simpler. We’ve created an online community using the platform Discord, which is similar to Slack, to be able to casually talk and get to know each other more effectively.

EC: As June is Pride Month, what are your activities for this month and how are you celebrating?

TE: Our executive team has put together a variety of unique events to celebrate this month! We have already hosted a virtual paint night, and still have four more events to go. One such event will be an Irrelevant Debate night, where we invite students to debate silly topics such as "is mayonnaise an instrument?" Another event is a webinar presentation about Trans Inclusivity in Sports, as well as a virtual games night. And finally, we will also be hosting an event for students to get creative and draw their own personal pride flags, using elements from their unique identities, sexualities, romantic orientations, and genders. I am very excited to see the turnout at these events. Please keep an eye on our social media (find us on Facebook and Instagram) if you want to keep updated with what we’re doing!

EC: As we all reflect this month on how we can contribute to making engineering a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive profession, what advice do you have for people looking to become stronger LGBTQ2+ allies in the engineering profession?

TE: There are an endless amount of ways to make a workplace or service more inclusive and welcoming to LGBTQ2+ people, you might just have to get creative. For example, my local EngiQueers student group, Ryerson EngOut, hosts an annual Industry Night for companies with inclusive workplaces. We really appreciate when professionals get involved in our events. People can also advocate for their company to have an effective policy on EDI. Sometimes a real impact can be made simply by advocating for asking people’s pronouns on company forms, including the ability to check off multiple sets of pronouns, and accepting gender-neutral pronouns. There is a lot of work that can be done, once you’ve done a little research. And if you’re still at the research stage of being an ally, that’s fantastic too! New allies are always needed and welcome. If someone has any specific questions, they’re welcome to reach out to info@engiqueers.ca or president@engiqueers.ca.