Student uses drama to explore transgender issues
In the age of blogs, Twitter and Tumblr, Dan Vena still believes in the power of theatre to reach young people and influence attitudes about gender and sexuality.
“As an out and proud trans guy, I feel passionate about sharing my stories and the difference of perspective they offer,” says Mr. Vena, this year’s recipient of the Positive Space Award. “I want to open minds, and theatre allows me to tell these deeply personal stories.”
Mr. Vena has been active in the Queen’s community since beginning his master’s degree in the Gender Studies Department in 2011. He has written and performed an autobiographical monologue for Down There, a play inspired by The Vagina Monologues, and he is currently writing a play that Kingston’s only queer theatre collective – a group he co-founded – will perform at this year’s Kingston Pride Week.
The Positive Space Award committee recognized Mr. Vena’s efforts to encourage a discussion about transgender issues through guest lectures and the classes where he’s a teaching assistant. He also co-founded Queen’s only male-centred feminist group that aims to combat sexual violence on campus through the promotion of healthier interpersonal practices.
“It’s nice to receive the award, which is an acknowledgement of the tireless work students are doing around the issues of sexual and gender diversity,” says Mr. Vena. “I am encouraged in my own advocacy work because there is a community of students out there working for the same things.”
The Positive Space Award honours undergraduate and graduate students who promote the recognition and celebration of sexual and gender diversity. The award was established in 2009 to mark the 10th anniversary of the Positive Space Program, which fosters safe workplaces for sexual and gender diversity at Queen’s.
The award presentation marked the beginning of Pride Week at Queen’s, an annual event to promote a queer-positive environment at the university.
“A campus Pride Week allows for Queen’s students, who may otherwise be separated from friends by many kilometres during the summer when Pride generally occurs, to celebrate this diversity in a safe and inclusive environment,” says Alexander Strelbisky, Director, Queen’s Pride Project.