June is Pride Month, a time to celebrate the history, courage and diversity of the 2SLGBTQ+ community in Toronto and around the world.
At our studio and across Ubisoft, we believe that trans rights are human rights, women’s rights are human rights, and equal rights for all are essential to creating a world where everyone can be their authentic selves and thrive.
We spoke with Gav Sarafian (she/they) and Jonathan Pavan (he/him), the co-leads of Rainbow 6ix, our studio’s employee resource group (ERG) supporting 2SLGBTQ+ employees, to talk about the importance of the ERG to our studio and its goals, the initiatives they have lined up for Pride month and working more closely with other ERGs in the future.
Creating community with Rainbow 6ix
Initially starting off as a social event, Rainbow 6ix has grown considerably over the years. The ERG gives queer and trans people at Ubisoft Toronto a safer space to work and connect with others in the 2SLGBTQ+ community, increases cultural awareness for a range of issues, shares educational tools and resources, and improves the representation of queer people in our games, as well as much, much more.
As they look ahead, the group wants to build momentum and gain new members over the next year.
“We want to keep going and growing,” says Gav. “Our goal is to continue with recruitment and building awareness for Rainbow 6ix at our studio. We want to redouble our efforts in reaching out to queer people at the studio to make them feel welcomed, since it’s also not always the easiest thing to make others aware of.”
Rainbow 6ix has been instrumental in building partnerships with 2SLGTBQ+ groups outside of the studio, like through our studio’s partnership with QueerTech, a Canadian non-profit organization that breaks down barriers and empowers 2SLGBTQ+ individuals in tech to achieve their personal and professional goals. They have also donated to the Rainbow Railroad, which helps 2SLGTBQ+ people facing persecution based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristic.
Pride at Ubisoft Toronto
Building on last year’s Pride @ Home, the speaker series has returned with talks throughout the month – along with a celebrative Cabaret to cap off the month’s activities.
“We wanted to ensure there was a safe avenue to celebrate, which was why we made the choice to go hybrid,” says Jonathan. “We also wanted a mix of content, from serious to lighthearted, covering a range of topics and showcasing different walks of life across Canada and even the US.”
Throughout the month, Gav and Jonathan will be joined by external speakers discussing a variety of topics, from sex mechanics in games, the nuances of using graffiti in video games, the process of attracting and retaining diverse talent.
This year’s line up of speakers includes:
- LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX (…mechanics in games) with Allison Kyran Cole (she/her): This talk discuses how LARP designers have (often very queerly) addressed designing for sex in games, what consent looks like in these spaces, and what lessons designers outside of the realm of LARP can learn from the mediums complex history.
- AMA: Demystifying being Transgender (with a dash of demystifying autism and sexual orientations, too) with Cloé Anne Sophie Veilleux, (she/her/elle): Cloé is a gifted, autistic, and transgender AAA Technical Designer and indie game dev; she’s also a member of a group in Quebec called the GRIS, and routinely visits schools or workplaces to talk about herself and her journey, as well as answer any questions that people may have about being transgender.
- APPROACHABILITY OF OPPORTUNITY: How to Commit to Attracting and Retaining Diverse Talent with Renee Wooten (he/they): Renee will discuss the problems of targeting specific skills that may not be attainable for the diverse talent companies claim to search for, mixed in with their own lived experience as an openly trans person.
- SECOND PUBERTY: Making a Queer Videogame Album with Squinky (he/they): For anyone interested in how games can intentionally convey feelings, Squinky takes us through a an album of short games they created as a means of personal artistic expression, while going through medical transition and coping with isolation during a pandemic.
The Cabaret on Tuesday, June 28 will feature drag and burlesque performances, and comedy sets.
What’s next for Rainbow 6ix
While planning for Pride month, one thing was abundantly clear – ensuring the speaker series and cabaret were inclusive of a range of intersecting identities. But the ERG wants to continue building relationships with other groups in the studio.
“As marginalized people, our struggles are intersectional with other marginalized people. Their problems aren’t exclusive,” says Gav.
Each speaker session opens with both a land acknowledgement and a recognition of the importance of understanding the intersections of where we have come from – June is also Indigenous History Month – and where we are still moving towards for inclusion and belonging. And that while Pride is a time to celebrate the 2SLGBTQ+ community, it’s important to remember that this all comes from hard work – Pride originated from a riot against systemic oppression which still affects people to this day.
In the future, Gav and Jonathan want the ERG to be more than a safe space, they want it to become a brave space to have difficult conversations, and understand different vantage points and identities. There’s also the prospect of partnering with the studio’s other ERGs, like with the Women and non-binary ERG.
“There’s an opportunity to help further breakdown certain norms – like with gender and language – so people can bring their full selves to work and their life,” says Jonathan.