A&S alumna helping her community 'recharge, have fun, fall in love and laugh'

June 24, 2020 by Michael McKinnon – A&S News

To celebrate Pride Month, we are recognizing the achievements and experiences of the A&S LGBTQ2S+ community and — as allies and community members alike — we are working to build on a more welcoming, inclusive and representative community. 

The University of Toronto wouldn’t have been the same for Mahfam Nikoo without safe spaces of celebration, learning and support — so she helped make them a reality.  

“I’m passionate about creating spaces for 2SLGBTQ students because those same spaces were created for me when I was younger and continue to be where I find communities that feel like family,” says Nikoo, who earned her bachelor of science degree in neuroscience, psychology and sexual diversity studies in 2020 as a member of Victoria College

“I want 2SLGBTQ people to be able to recharge, have fun, fall in love and laugh so I do my best to help create a variety of spaces where transformative learning, personal growth and community building take place in ways that allow my community to move through the world a little easier and feel more uplifted.” 

A&S Alumna Mahfam Nikoo — then a student — speaks at an Alumni & Student Networking Night on March 5, 2020.

Through her work with U of T’s Sexual & Gender Diversity Office, she helped run events including U of T’s Pride Pub, participated in the Trans March, Dyke March and Pride parade, and participated in a number of other on-campus events. In 2018, she facilitated A Conversation Café called The Words We Use, which invited participants to explore the labels that are applied to people and how they empower and limit us. 

“2SLGBTQ identity terms can be a really helpful way of finding community and exploring gender and sexuality, but many people feel labels can also be limiting or might feel too much pressure to find the words that resonate with them quickly and confidently,” she explains. “Maybe it goes without saying, but I think it’s also important to remind ourselves that people who share identity labels will not all have identical experiences. I feel it’s helpful to use labels as tools to build community and explore our own sense of self. It’s more of a step rather than a final destination.” 

With COVID-19 limitations this year, her time has been focused on promoting online Pride events and designing a career guide for trans students. 

“Throughout my undergrad, I made the time to work on annual Pride events because without spaces of 2SLGBTQ celebration, learning and support, my academic life would have definitely suffered. I imagine that many other queer and trans students would feel similarly, in that having a sense of community really helps us thrive in other various aspects of our lives as well,” she says.  

“Pride feels special for me because it is a time to reflect on the histories of 2SLGBTQ communities and recommit to showing up for one another in new ways.”