Championing Spaces Session 1-3: Highlights of the Social Health Needs Discussions

Championing Spaces is a new webseries for individuals identifying as members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community within the Peel Region allowing them to explore and learn about their social health needs through conversation, art, and activity. It happens every Tuesday @ 6pm – 8pm!

We’re honoured to have Rahim Thawer, a clinical social worker and psychotherapist based in Toronto, leading the exploration of social health needs in the 2SLGBTQ+ community. Every week he brings us a new topic to both educate us on and create discussion around.

The first week of the sessions focused on discussing ‘What is Health to you?’ and the health determinants faced by the 2SLGBTQ+ community. A space was created to critically analyze how we think about health, how anything beyond physical health (mental, spiritual, emmotional, etc.,) isn’t taken seriously or given the same attention and care. Other points of discussion included how certain health determinants severely affect the 2SLGBTQ+ community (drug abuse, alcoholism, depression, anxiety, etc.) and how these health determinants occur and/or become aggravated due to living in a cisgender white heteronormative society that doesn’t allow us to exist without punishment. A highlight of this discussion was self-reflecting on why we may feel and react in certain ways to situations that don’t usually warrant that emotion or reaction. We learned that quite often these reactions come from past events / trauma, and understanding the root issue in turn helps you understand your emotions and creates the ability to move on. This first session set the tone for the rest of the webseries as each week we continued to discuss more specific topics on social health needs in the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

In the second week of the sessions, Rahim discussed the Pandemic: Loss and Grief under the 2SLGBTQ+ context. Participants were asked to make a graph/drawing of how we felt throughout the pandemic so far. Most individuals visualized their mood constantly fluctuating throughout the pandemic. And for most people, they enjoyed the beginning of the pandemic. Having time off from work or being able to work from home was a nice vacation from the 9-5 structure they were used to. But as the pandemic continued, participants discussed feeling worn out by the constant negative news and the inability to physically talk to or meet with any friends or family. The topic of George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter movement became relevant to the discussion as Black queer and/or trans folks discussed how the constant news and social media posts of police brutality played a huge role in adding to the difficulty of dealing with the pandemic. Non-black queer and/or trans folks also discussed the reevaluation of what allyship truly looks like. There was also discussion on the pressure to constantly be engaged on social media and the idea of performative ‘wokeness.’

The discussion then moved on to the unique losses faced by the 2SLGBTQ+ community during the pandemic including the loss of safety and acceptance. Some participants were stuck in homes with people who don’t accept their gender and/or sexual identity. Others were unable to be with their found families, and many lost opportunities to connect with other queer and trans folks. One participant compared their current situation to how it felt living during their high school time. Moving back with their parents, and having to resort to old coping methods to live in a unsupportive household or a household unaware of their sexual and/or gender identity. Folks living by themselves talked about loneliness and how they often went days or weeks without talking to someone. This caused many participants to cope in ways that were deemed ‘unproductive’ by society , and created a cycle of guilt and shame when participants weren’t using their ‘free time’ to their ‘advantage’. 

What we learned, from this week’s session, was that all the emotions and the coping methods we employed to deal with the pandemic were valid. We learned that being unproductive or not having the ability to do anything was ok because we’re going through an abnormal time, and it’s okay for people to simply try and survive.

The third week’s topic focused on the concept of ‘coming out,’ a unique experience faced by Queer and Trans folks. Coming out is seen as a huge milestone in every Queer and Trans persons life and the ‘last step’ of fully accepting their identity.

When having this conversation about coming out, everyone had varying relationships to the concept. Some participants felt it was very important to their development of accepting their gender and/or sexual identity, while others didn’t see it as a big deal and didn’t feel the need to come out. This made it evident how diverse the coming out experience is, and how the mainstream coming out story (of mostly gay white men) is this huge fanfare and public declaration of being gay. What this mainstream portrayal doesn’t show is that many individuals, especially Queer and Trans BIPOC, don’t have this experience and if they do, it tends to not be a positive one. When discussing the differences between mainstream coming out and real life coming out, a lot of people’s coming out wasn’t blatant. A majority of folks carefully selected who they wanted to come out to, whether it was family or friends or both. Sadly, some didn’t have the option of coming out, as they were outed and lost their agency to come out on their own terms. A recurring theme that was seen during this session was how queer and trans BIPOC folks had to worry about and take a more community based approach of revealing to family their gender and/or sexual identity. There was an understanding that if you came out, there was going to be negative repercussions, not only for yourself, but also for those close to you. As well as an unspoken rule that coming out and addressing your sexuality and/or gender publicly was a huge no no. It was known that people would rather ignore the obvious indications that someone is Queer and/or Trans to keep the peace in the family. This brought us to discussing questions and statements we’ve received from our family or other loved ones when/if we came out.

Many of these questions / statements revolved around what other people would think, to not tell anyone else about your gender and/or sexual identity, dismissing it as something learned from Western culture, and parents questioning what they did wrong to have their children identify as Queer and/or Trans. None of the questions asked are about the individual coming out. None of them focus on that individual’s personal experience of coming out and how it’s going to change their life. Instead the focus is on how it’s going to affect the family and how they are going to be perceived by society. 

We ended the session with tips and concerns surrounding coming out and all participants agreed that coming out is the individuals choice. You choose when, who, and how you want to come out, as well as the choice to never come out. We further discussed the pressure to come out to validate your identity and how some participants felt that they weren’t allowed into the 2SLTBQ+ community unless they came out. No matter what, you are a part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community whether you come out or not, and the validity of your sexual and/or gender identity isn’t based on if you came out or not.

These were the main highlights of Sessions 1 -3 of Championing Spaces. If you want to learn and be a part of a safe, educational, and inclusive space on 2SLGBTQ+ social health needs, you can go to this link:

Championing Spaces


The next Championing Spaces session will be on Tuesday August 4th, 2020, and the discussion will be focused on Spirituality. We will also be ending it with a Yoga session with The Virgo Queen!

If you have any questions or concerns about Championing Spaces you can contact Amneet Bhogal at amneetb@moyohcs.ca.

In light of the recently publicized acts of violence against Black and Indigenous communities in the US and Canada, member agencies of the 2SLGBTQ+ Collaborative of Peel Region have taken the time to reflect on how we can support those in our community who are subject to this continued racism.

Please click the links below to read our statements.

Statement on anti-Indigenous racism

Statement on anti-Black racism

Content Warning: This post contains content that discusses abuse, mental health, suicidal ideation, illicit substances, rape and religion, as well as explicit language. If you are in need of support, please reach out for support: CMHA Peel Dufferin Branch (https://cmhapeeldufferin.ca/mental-health-information/find-help/), Distress Centres of Greater Toronto (https://www.dcogt.com/), LGBT Youth Line for 2SLGBTQ+ folks ages 16 – 29 (https://www.youthline.ca/).

Our bodies carry so many secrets; they hold deep wells of guilt, shame and anger that intersect with our identities. You’ve heard about us before; we stand in the shadows of Pride. We are told that we’re hard to find or that there’s not enough of us to have organisations cater to our needs. Guilty that we can’t fulfill what is expected of us, shamed for not participating in being out and proud, angry at systems failing us when we reach out for help.

This month, take the time to listen to our stories.

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Hi, I’m 19 and I’m currently burying my nose in a pile of cocaine and popping ecstasy tabs at the cost of $90 a week. Drowning my sorrows seems so much fun at this point. Do I care if I overdose? Not really, at least it’s ended.

I don’t have to take that “brave” step to come out anymore. It’s funny, I got called into the dean’s office the other week to tell me if I don’t get my shit together, they’re kicking me out of the Law program. In my head I’m thinking who knows if I plan on being here another week?

I’ve already written 3 suicide notes and made an apology video. Maybe I’ll do it then? I come up with some lame excuse for now to hold them off. Am I really going to tell them what’s going on? Fuck no.

For now, I’m going to enjoy my drugs with these friends of mine who I know are only here out of pity for the poor little paki boy who can’t come out. That’s how I slipped through the cracks of the education system…

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Hi, I’m 10 and my aunt has found a letter I wrote to myself. The letter includes a look into my mind, saying how useless I am, how much I hate myself, how I should just die; it asks—why did god make me a boy?

She slaps me for writing the letter; how else does a South Asian parent make their voice heard without fear? Of course, I deny writing it, I apologise for having those thoughts. She tells me that next time I feel that way, I can tell her—she won’t tell mom.

She won’t let go of trying to reaffirm that I am a boy and not a girl; that’s how god made me. There’s no way I can tell her that I like boys and that if I were a girl, I could like boys, I could have a “normal” future as a “normal” husband and wife.

I don’t have the language around me right now to know what “gay” is or that being transgender is something completely different. I’ll just get back to being bullied by the other kids for being different, I guess…

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Hi, I’m 17 and my religion forbids me from drinking. I’ve never had a sip of alcohol or smoked before. I’ve lived a pretty orthodox life up until now; I’ve only just started hanging with these western friends. They think I’m being too hard on myself when it comes to religion, so tonight I’ll give in and earn my badge.

I’ve been served my first underaged drink in a pub; how liberating! I can fit in with these guys! Some of them are bisexual like me!

I don’t know why it seems to be more acceptable to come out as bisexual, rather than gay; but for now, it feels like I’ve let someone in on the secret. Someone knows; I don’t feel so alone.

Bisexuality is a real thing but, deep down, I know I’m not bisexual. This is the start of years of emotional abuse, feeling lesser, and shunning from my community…

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Hi, I’m 12 and I’m in bed crying for my mum. I’ve spent the last week staying with my abusive father; tonight was the worst of it. I drew a heart for my younger half-sister to colour in. “Look Dada, Paaji drew a heart for me.”

Clutching the paper in his hand, “are you fucking gay?” *smack* “no, Dada”.

He beats me while screaming and shouting; words like “wuss”, “puff”, “gay boy” come from his mouth. He forces me to lift heavy weights and laughs at me. How am I going to be man enough to protect my sister?

Tonight, I’ve learned that expression of femininity as a man is shameful and that acting femme makes me a lesser man…

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Hi, I’m 21 and I may have thought I felt low before, but this time I don’t know if there’s any coming back from this place. I’m in hospital with a mental health crisis nurse and her placement student. I’m staring at the corner bracket of the notice board on the wall thinking what does this white woman know about my pain?

Tonight I overdosed on my mom’s meds and gin. I was promised a happy ending for coming out! All I know is that when I was queer in secret, I was able to go about my life without much trouble and dress as ‘quirky’ as I wanted without being questioned.

Now they control where I work, who I speak to, where I go, how I dress and what I say. I haven’t got much of a choice but to let them shove me back in the closet until I figure out my options. I have no choice but to tell Jane that it was a silly mistake on my part and go back to my prison cell.

It will take me 6 years to undo the damage coming out has done. I can see now why gay guys just get married to women; I couldn’t cope with that though, I’m not that strong…

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Hi, I’m 15 and I can’t quite figure out who’s in trouble here—me or the guy? The police have confiscated my cellphone, my laptop and keep questioning me on what my story is. Cop cars keep coming back and forth from the house with snippets of information for my mom, none of which I’m consulted or privy to.

I don’t know anyone gay at school, so I went online. I’m not gay though, I’m just confused! I’ve been talking to guys online, meeting some; my brown genetics gave me a beard at 13, so I can get away with people thinking I’m 18.

One of the guys lied about his age too; he’s a lot older than what he said. I hope I didn’t get him in trouble. I’m not gay, so I need to stop this. I’ll keep supressing these urges for a few more years…

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Hi, I’m 19, should I tell someone? I’m not sure, it’s not like it was rape. I shouldn’t waste people’s time with this nonsense.

I mean, I did say no several times and he kept pushing…but after the fourth ‘no’, he stopped. So that’s okay, right?

It wasn’t rape but I’m never going to ‘bottom’ ever again. I’d rather keep in control of the situation. It’s going to take me 6 years to confront this and deal with my complex feelings around shame, guilt and sexual pleasure…

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These are just pieces of my story. I alone can recount hundreds, if not thousands, of similar stories that I have helped carry.

We see others in our community, we acknowledge each other, we share our secrets and we comfort each other’s pain. We step in when no one else will.

When will allies and organizations stop using the same, tired, cookie cutter approaches with us? When will they peer below the surface? When will they support us in breaking our silence?

A male-presenting person sits shirtless in a blue-lit room in the corner. A rainbow light goes across their head and hand.

This story is part of a series highlighting the experiences of QTBIPOC folks in Peel. If you would like to submit your story, email us at rainbow@moyohcs.ca.

Thank you for supporting Rainbow Salad and the 2SLGBTQ+ communities in Peel Region! We are glad to have you here on our virtual hub.

This year, as part of the Collaborative that runs Rainbow Salad behind the scenes, we are conducting an outcome mapping exercise to identify the health priorities of the 2SLGBTQ+ communities in Peel Region. In order to do this we are looking for a consultant to utilize outcome mapping, strategic visioning and priority resource mapping exercises to develop a road map for the Collaborative and its member agencies to support these communities.

Does this sound like something you’re interested in? Read more about the position here in the RFP: https://www.rainbowsalad.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/2SLGBTQ-Collaborative-Outcome-Mapping-RFP-Final.pdf.

The deadline for submissions is June 29, 2020 at 11:59 pm. If you have any questions about the project itself or the submission process, reach out to the 2SLGBTQ+ Special Projects Coordinator, Allegra Morgado, at allegram@moyohcs.ca.

Thank you for your continued support of Rainbow Salad and the 2SLGBTQ+ Collaborative of Peel Region.

As a female-identified transwoman, it is essential for me to feel included amongst my community, especially on the milestone days of each year. This year on May 17th, 2020, in honour of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, it was a pleasure to be included and take up space at WE BELONG hosted by MOYO Health and Community Services.

Through our series of videos, you have experienced the contributions of so many beautiful and talented folks. We had the privilege to hear a variety of thoughts, evidence, and perspectives.  We discussed the many issues with the system in which we live. And, it served as a reminder that there is still much work to be done.

In Peel, there is a distinct lack of social and healthcare services, and an equal amount of stigma aimed at 2SLGBTQ+ folks, especially so where it pertains to trans-identified people. I had left the care of medical practitioners because their staff constantly misgendered me. I was fortunate enough to be directed to an excellent nurse practitioner. Erin Zeigler is a nurse practitioner with The Wise Elephant in Brampton. One of the very few medical clinics in Peel that I can name. It is easy to count on one hand the medical clinics within Peel that openly support the 2SLGBTQ+ community. It really shouldn’t be.

There has been a push for many years now towards the youth in our community for services aimed at employment help, social support etc. That’s amazing. But, do we suddenly stop needing services once we age out of the youth population? What about the youth who were previously receiving services, whom no longer qualify, yet still find themselves in need? Where are all the supports for social programming,  employment assistance, and medical care for non-youths? The “golden years” for the 2SLGBTQ+ community aren’t so golden when consumed with concern about how they will access much-needed healthcare services and social supports.

My heartfelt thanks go out to MOYO for inviting me to this lovely event and all of the contributors involved. From the beautiful music of Brenda MacIntyre, the Wisdom of Rosalyn Forester, the talented dancer Sam Yoon and our keynote speaker Dr. Andrew B Campbell’s passionate talk, it’s an event to be remembered.

Written by: Laura Vincent

Disclaimer: this article is written as an opinion piece and is not a replacement for a professional referral or medical advice. Rainbow Salad suggests this as a good starting point to discuss potential treatments or resources with your physician or other health care provider.

The first week of May (May 4-10, 2020) marks the Canadian Mental Health Association’s (CMHA) mental health week, a time to openly discuss and educate ourselves on mental health issues and initiatives. In honour of this, we would like to share a new mental health initiative geared towards guys into guys (G2G) – gay, bisexual, queer, questioning, and/or men who have sex with men—goodhead.ca.

Goodhead.ca is a valuable new resource that acts to educate, destigmatize, and create a dialogue about G2G and mental health. When exploring mental health resources, it can be hard to know where to start, what resources are right for you, and what resources are accessible—goodhead.ca helps with all of that. The website acts as a starting point for those who are looking to work on their own mental health or to educate themselves.

The website does a good job of approaching various topics from an unbiased, no shame approach. It provides historical context and discusses various mental health pressures, as well as other stressors unique to G2G, all without adding to the stigma and judgement that often surrounds these discussions. Goodhead.ca encourages folks to reflect on their actions and coping mechanisms but does so in a non-judgemental way; in fact, it encourages readers to abandon learned stigma while approaching these reflections.

Goodhead.ca also acknowledges intersectional identities and the impact that being part of a marginalized group has on one’s mental health. It’s refreshing to see the extra thought and care that went into this initiative, acknowledging the mental health struggles of G2G beyond and in combination with their sexual identity. So often, people of colour and gender nonconforming folks are left out of these initiatives; however, goodhead.ca assures they are given a place in the conversation.

When navigating the website, it feels like any possible question you could have is concisely answered. For questions they may not have the exact answer to, they provide other valuable resources to help users as much as possible. They also recognize that not all folks want the same things out of mental health services and provide information on various types of mental health care options and professionals.

A surprising, yet key feature, of this site is the section that prepares folks who are ready to access services. It provides questions to ask yourself before and after accessing services, as well as questions to ask service providers to ensure they are a good fit. This is such an important addition as so often we may not feel equipped to access or navigate the services when provided with information, which leads to users not reaching out when they made need it most.

Overall the Goodhead.ca initiative provides a valuable and necessary resource for G2G. It acts as an inclusive resource, acknowledging varying identities, and acts as a good tool for mental health education. While being aimed at G2G, navigating the site can be a good tool for educating yourself as an ally as well.

With increasingly challenging times, we hope this initiative is found by those who need it. Stay safe and take care of yourselves. 

With growing concerns in regards to the Covid-19 pandemic, we want to assure that our community is still able to access various resources. We would like to extend our gratitudes to our friends over at Interim Place for putting together a document with external resources currently present in the Peel Region. We will also be adding resources to this page as they become available.

It’s a scary and confusing time for a lot of folks and we sincerely hope these resources help everyone stay safe and healthy.

General Resources

Public Health Ontario resources: https://www.publichealthontario.ca/en/diseases-and-conditions/infectious-diseases/respiratory-diseases/novel-coronavirus/public-resources.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html.

Information regarding rentals during COVID-19: https://www.ontario.ca/page/renting-changes-during-covid-19.

North Peel & Dufferin Community Legal Services (for legal questions, including those about renting): https://www.northpeeldufferinjustice.ca/.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) application and information: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html.

Region of Peel Food Programs: https://geohub.brampton.ca/datasets/region-of-peel-food-programs.

Central West Healthline: https://www.centralwesthealthline.ca/.

Non-medical masks and face coverings from Government of Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/prevention-risks/about-non-medical-masks-face-coverings.html.

Physical and Sexual Health Resources

Clinics who can provide PrEP: ontarioprep.ca.

HIV, hepatitis c and COVID-19 from CATIE: https://www.catie.ca/en/covid-19-resources (available in French here: https://www.catie.ca/fr/vih/ressources-covid-19).

YMCA free video exercises: https://www.thisisy.ca/body/.

Q&A: HIV, antiretrovirals and COVID-19: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/question-and-answers-hub/q-a-detail/q-a-on-covid-19-hiv-and-antiretrovirals.

COVID-19 and HIV: What you need to know: https://www.iasociety.org/covid-19-hiv.

Mental Health Resources

Bloom Clinic Mental Health Resource by Stacy

YMCA mindfulness and mental health: https://www.thisisy.ca/mind/.

Crisis Services Canada: crisisservicescanada.ca/en/.

CMHA COVID-19 and Mental Health resource: https://cmha.ca/news/covid-19-and-mental-health.

CMHA Peel Dufferin crisis supports: https://cmhapeeldufferin.ca/programs-services/24-7-crisis-support-peel/.

BounceBack Ontario, “a free, guided self-help program that’s effective in helping people aged 15 and up who are experiencing mild-to-moderate anxiety or depression, or may be feeling low, stressed, worried, irritable or angry”: https://bouncebackontario.ca/.

Big White Wall: https://www.bigwhitewall.com/about-us/.

The Wellness Society Coronavirus Anxiety Workbook: https://thewellnesssociety.org/free-coronavirus-anxiety-workbook/.

Within the peel region there is a definitive lack of resources, spaces, and services catered to queer identifying women. Moyo HCS is working with communities and service providers to conduct a community needs assessment to address the divide between service providers and queer women within the Peel Region. Through this process we hope to provide an opportunity for queer women to identify their needs through the use of surveys, focus groups, and in-person / phone interviews. This opportunity is open to individuals who self-identify as being queer, and a woman, and have an attachment to the Peel Region. This attachment can range from currently or previously residing within the region (preferably within the last 5 years) or spending a significant amount of time within the region.

After the data collection, Moyo HCS is aiming to arrange open community meetings with queer women in the Peel Region to share the results, have an open space for discussions on the assessment and recommend the future direction of the project. We hope the Queer Women’s Community Assessment can be used to explore more programs, workshops, and opportunities to deliver more services directed towards queer women in the Peel Region.

If this assessment sounds like something you, or someone you know would like to be involved in, please contact Amneet Bhogal at amneetb@moyohcs.ca or 905-361-0523 ext. 236 for further information.