Comfortable on campus: tips for LGBTQ+ students at UW


University can provide lots of opportunities for social connection and meeting like-minded peers. For members of the LGBTQ+ community however, it can sometimes be difficult not knowing where to look. Here, you’ll find current student perspectives, resources, and other information about being LGBTQ+ on campus.

UW’s primary LGBTQ+ group is the Glow Centre for Sexual and Gender Diversity (commonly referred to as Glow), which is a student-run group under the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA). Glow runs regular events like board game and movie nights — many of which operate on a drop-in basis — and offers students the opportunity to volunteer with them.

“Getting involved in community activism helps with meeting people who understand your experiences and have similar values,” said Amaya Kodituwakku, a third-year arts student and past Glow volunteer.

The Women’s Centre at UW is another group under WUSA. It focuses on supporting women and people under the trans umbrella, but its services — which include drop in peer support hours, sexual health resources like free pregnancy tests and pads, and over 900 books about women’s studies and more — are available for anyone to explore.

UW’s Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism (EDI-R) is another resource that LGBTQ+ students might want to use. The office works on a number of initiatives including their Inclusive Washrooms Project in collaboration with Glow, which has opened several all-gender washrooms on campus, and hopes to eventually open one in each building.

St. Jerome’s University (one of UW’s affiliated colleges) has its own student-run LGBTQ+ group called PRISM. “For a lot of folks, university is the first time they have the freedom to explore their own identities,” said Caleigh Davies-Kneis, program coordinator. “PRISM was created to support [them] and anyone else who feels like they’re missing that access to the queer community.” PRISM offers volunteer opportunities, online resources, and social gatherings such as film screenings on campus.

University websites are also beginning to implement services to support LGBTQ+ students, such as the ability to update one’s name and pronouns on Quest, UW’s student information system.

Kodituwakku also suggests getting involved online. “Glow, QTPOC, and the UW Student Organizing Platform all have Discord [servers] where you can connect with others and form a support system,” they noted. To find a link for joining these servers, head to the clubs’ Instagram pages.

There are also several clubs at UW geared towards the LGBTQ+ community, including EngiQueers for LGBTQ+ engineering students; QTPOC KW for individuals at the intersection of LGBTQ+ and racialized identities (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour); and UW Drag Club.

“[EngiQueers] is a great place to meet new people — especially if you’re just starting your journey at UW — due to the laid back atmosphere and accessible events,” one of the club’s members said.

Like many clubs, EngiQueers offers students the opportunity to take on leadership roles and plan Pride events. “[It] provides a safe and welcoming space for everyone,” the club member said.

Reflecting on her experiences so far at UW, another student said, “I’m extremely grateful to be an ARBUS and English major where there’s a larger LGBTQ+ community that I find comfort in. The people, rather than the institution, are the main reasons I get to have positive experiences on campus as a queer woman.”

Finally, there are many groups in the Kitchener-Waterloo area that can foster connections and provide local resources for LGBTQ+ students, such as SPECTRUM, an organization that supports local LGBTQ+ people and hosts many events throughout the year.

Hopefully now you have a better idea about the LGBTQ+ community at UW. There’s lots to explore and be inspired by — maybe one day you’ll even start a club of your own!