By Shannon Boklaschuk
A University of Saskatchewan (USask) professor has been honoured for her contributions to Saskatoon’s 2SLGBTQ+ community.
Dr. Martha Smith (PhD), a professor in the Department of History in USask’s College of Arts and Science, was named the 2022 recipient of the RBC KnockOUT Award during OUTSaskatoon’s Glitter Gala on May 28. The award, part of the OUTShine Awards presented annually, is open to an individual, organization or business within or outside of the 2SLGBTQ+ community that has made significant contributions to the community. Nomination criteria may include community support, leadership, activism and a general openness, understanding and support of gender and sexual diversity.
Smith received the RBC KnockOUT Award following a decade of volunteerism and leadership with OUTSaskatoon, which she describes as “an amazing non-profit organization that provides services, resources, education and supports—including youth housing—using a community-based approach.”
“During my time as the chair of the board of directors, I came to understand that OUTSaskatoon is not only well known locally and provincially but nationally as well,” she said. “When (former) executive director Rachel Loewen Walker and I were invited to Ottawa in 2019 to testify before a House of Commons committee on the health of 2SLGBTQ+ communities in Canada, I realized that OUTSaskatoon has a growing national reputation and is considered to be a model for other organizations across the country.”
In an interview, the College of Arts and Science asked Smith about the award, her volunteer work with OUTSaskatoon and about Pride Month, which is being celebrated in June on the USask campus and in communities across Canada.
College of Arts and Science: How did it feel to receive the RBC KnockOUT Award?
Martha Smith: Given that there are so many deserving people, I was absolutely thrilled and honoured to receive the award!
College of Arts and Science: What inspired your involvement with OUTSaskatoon?
Martha Smith: My then 12-year-old, JQ, was the one who initially inspired my involvement in OUTSaskatoon. I first became involved as a volunteer about 10 years ago when JQ started attending Rainbow Coffee, a safe meeting space for queer youth at OUTSaskatoon. I could see what a transformative effect this experience had on JQ and other youth and wanted to become more involved in the organization as a whole. My increasing involvement as a volunteer in various capacities led to my role as a member of the board of directors for eight years, including three years as the chair of the board. In response to the needs of the community, OUTSaskatoon experienced significant growth and change during this period. The renaming of the centre to OUTSaskatoon, the move to a bigger and better location and the creation of Pride Home—a home for 2SLGBTQ+ youth ages 16 to 21—are all good examples of the exciting changes that took place. Throughout these years, I was continually inspired by the hard work and commitment demonstrated by community members, executive directors, staff, volunteers, board directors and other supporters of OUTSaskatoon. Now 22 years old, JQ continues to inspire me as a brave and resilient role model.
College of Arts and Science: What does Pride Month mean to you?
Martha Smith: For me, Pride Month is a time to remember the challenges, struggles and suffering experienced by 2SLGBTQ+ people, but also an opportunity to celebrate the incredible bravery, resilience and achievements of the community.
College of Arts and Science: How will you be celebrating Pride Month this year?
Martha Smith: As an ally, I will be walking in the Saskatoon Pride Parade on June 18, 2022. The parade is my favourite event of the year and I also hope to attend other festival activities, like OUTSaskatoon’s Welcome to the Gaybourhood BBQ.
College of Arts and Science: How can people show their support for the Two-Spirit, Trans and Queer community and demonstrate allyship during Pride Month and beyond?
Martha Smith: Attending the Pride Parade and other festival activities is a great way for allies to demonstrate support for the 2SLGBTQ+ community. Flying a Pride flag at your home—I put one on my balcony—is another way to display support. There also are many ways to show support throughout the year, such as helping out gay-straight alliances in schools, promoting the university Pride Centre, volunteering at OUTSaskatoon and making donations to Pride Home and Camp Fyrefly, a retreat for gender and sexually diverse youth and allied youth ages 14 to 24.
Pride is an opportunity to celebrate and learn together. More information about resources and programs at USask, including the USSU Pride Centre, Queer Housing, the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Policy, and the College of Arts and Science’s new Certificate in Queer Theory, Gender Diversity, and Sexualities Studies, is available on the USask Pride webpage. The webpage also includes details about USask-sponsored Pride events, including a June 17 panel discussion featuring Dr. Alessio Ponzio (PhD), a faculty member in the Department of History in the College of Arts and Science, and Dr. Rachel Loewen Walker (PhD), College of Arts and Science graduate and Ariel F. Sallows Chair in Human Rights in the College of Law.