COVID-19 Resources: April 2021

Last updated: April 8, 2021

A lot has changed in the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic. After the the lockdowns began in 2020, we put together a resource list to help our communities feel supported while experiencing the challenges staying at home or working in essential jobs put on them. With us entering a third wave and new lockdown measures this month, we’d like to highlight additional resources to help keep our communities informed, safe, and healthy.

General & Informational Resources

Ontario COVID-19 provincial resources (updated data, vaccine information, and testing information)

Region of Peel COVID-19 resources

Public Health Ontario resources

Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) COVID-19 updates and resources

North Peel & Dufferin Community Legal Services (for legal questions, including those about renting, employment, immigration and ODSP)

Steps to Justice – “Who qualifies for the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)?”

Region of Peel food programs

Renting information during COVID-19

Food delivery, financial support, counselling, and other supports for folks in isolation waiting for results or who have tested positive from a COVID-19 test from WellFort Community Health Services in Peel Region:

Graphic featuring four an image of a femme presenting person looking at a tablet and four rectangles featuring icons and words describing COVID-19 supports. Bottom of image reads "Looking for support or testing in Peel? Call 905-451-4920 or email support@wellfor.ca"

WellFort CHS COVID-19 testing for those who are eligible

COVID-19 Vaccines

Booking a COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine Explainer Video: Why It Actually Took 50 Years to Make COVID mRNA Vaccines | SciShow

Vaccine Explainer Video: mRNA vaccines, explained | Vox

Vaccines for COVID-19: Authorized vaccines | Government of Canada

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

Health services for Central West

Health services for Mississauga Halton

Clinics who can provide PrEP

HIV, Hepatitis C & COVID-19 from CATIE (available in French here: https://www.catie.ca/fr/vih/ressources-covid-19)

YMCA free video exercises

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): HIV and antiretrovirals | World Health Organization

Information on COVID-19 for People Living with HIV | UHN Toronto General Hospital

Mental Health Resources

Bloom Clinic Mental Health Resource

YMCA mindfulness and mental health

Crisis support & community resources in Peel Region | Distress Centres of Greater Toronto (includes accommodation, food resources, and more)

COVID-19 and mental health | CMHA

24.7 Crisis Support Peel Dufferin | CMHA Peel Dufferin

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”

Coronavirus Anxiety Workbook | The Wellness Society

LGBT Youth Line

AYSP Youth Beyond Barriers Program: confidential services for youth ages 12-17 who identify as 2SLGBTQ+

The Gender Spectrum Collection by Zackary Drucker

Zee Thompson, Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator

When arriving to Canada as a refugee, it was very important for me to access quality healthcare. For me, quality healthcare would mean finding a nutritionist, a counsellor and a doctor who understood that I was trans and what my needs were because of this.

Where could I find all of these services? It would have to be near where I live because money was scarce, some months having to choose between food and bills. I thought, “what if I can find a place that gives me food and everything else that I need?” Life would certainly be easier and survival would be feasible.

I lived at Main and Danforth during that time and there was a nearby facility called  Access Alliance that offered everything I needed—not initially but eventually. They were located at Victoria Park and Danforth and I used to walk there for group meetings with other LGBTQ new comers. We discussed many topics that would help our seamless adjustment to Canada. After two months of group sessions, which came with a serving of hot food, Access Alliance informed us that they would be taking new patients at their clinic. I registered right away.

Since 2013, my style was a representation of the gender I felt I was. As soon as I could verbalize that I was trans without being held captive by the chains of religion and family expectations, I told my nurse practitioner. We discussed what steps I wanted to take to further the process of medically transitioning. She encouraged me to have top surgery as opposed to taking testosterone, commonly referred to as “T”. I didn’t take her advice though. 

Even though she wasn’t convinced that I needed to take testosterone, she arranged an appointment with the Endocrinologist at the Michael Garron hospital. She also wanted to refer me to another clinic for my T-shots, but I insisted that I did not want to find a new doctor.

Although she originally encouraged me to go elsewhere, after a discussion she agreed to continue my care at Access Alliance. Rather than going to the popular clinics around Toronto that were known for offering trans health care, I wanted to stay close to where I lived. I wanted to stay in the community of people who had grown to like me and appreciate my trans presence. I also wanted to be in walking distance from my counsellor, my nutritionist, my doctor and somewhere I could go to for hot food.

When talking to my community about where to go to find quality sexual health and gender identity care, I encourage them to utilize establishments in the community that are reputable. These type of facilities, the ones that prioritize the patients’ happiness, are rare. If you should find one of these establishments as a trans or non-binary person, it might serve you better to stay where you already feel safe, appreciated and encouraged to flourish.

Photo by Joshua Mcknight.

Anonymous submission.

Over the past 40 years, communities have mobilized to make progress in terms of supporting people living with HIV/AIDS (PHA) and reducing the spread of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Despite advancements in medication and addressing social stigma, sexuality-based disparities in HIV/AIDS prevention and care program design remain high. This is an area that intrigues me as a community health promoter. I conducted a review of the literature (academic and grey literature) to identify sexuality-based disparities in this area of program design. For the purposes of this paper’s inquiry, I explored “sexuality” as sexual orientation or patterns of emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction (HealthLinkBC, n.d.). My findings in relation to sexuality and HIV include the following: 

  • Firstly, syndemics were identified in multiple contexts. Syndemic theory explores how the interactions of multiple, simultaneous epidemics (systemic racism, unemployment, lack of universal healthcare, substance use and COVID-19) synergistically contribute to health inequities and a disproportionate representation of HIV among racialized communities specifically Black men who have sex with other men (Poteat, 2020). These co-occurring factors were represented in the HIV in Canada—surveillance report, 2019 where gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM, 39.7%) and people who inject drugs (PWID, 21.5%) represented a high proportion of all reported adult cases with known exposure (Haddad, 2019). Similar statistics were reported the previous year. New infections among gbMSM represented half of all new HIV infections in 2018, despite making up only 3-4% of the Canadian adult male population (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2020).
  • Secondly, I decided to look at sexuality and related access to HIV prevention and care programs. Exploring the Sex Now survey dashboard developed by the Community-Based Research Center (CBRC), interesting relationships between variables were identified. Among online Canadian survey participants that identified as gay (n=4708), 70% reported being out to their health provider, however for those who identified as bi (n=1176) or queer (n=1231), the percentage dropped to 40.6% and 61.6% respectively (CBRC, 2019). Not being out to your health care provider means that a health care provider would not have sufficient context about an individual’s social determinants of health and what potential structural vulnerabilities may be disproportionately impacting them.        
  • Thirdly, I reviewed how race, gender, and ethnicity was reported among sexuality-based disparities in HIV prevention and care in Ontario. The Ontario HIV Epidemiology and Surveillance Initiative reported 687 first-time HIV diagnoses in Ontario in 2019 and breaking the percent of diagnoses by key populations and sex revealed; 53.6% were gbMSM, 15.1% ACB (African, Caribbean and Black) males, 11.9% ACB females, 2.9% Indigenous males and 2.0% Indigenous females (OHESI, 2020). The same report found 12.2% representation among folks who inject drugs. HIV is also disproportionately represented among ACB women (25% of all new HIV diagnoses in 2015), despite accounting for only 5% of Ontario’s population (OHTN, 2019). The worldwide burden of HIV on trans women is very high as well (Baral, 2012).  
  • One cannot forget the effect of COVID-19 on queer and trans communities and the fact that more members of the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) LGBTQI2S community live with physical and mental health disabilities as well as other health conditions compared to the LGBTQI2S community at large and the national population (Egale, 2020).     

These findings portray the harsh reality of sexual health inequities, specifically the disproportionate representation of HIV/AIDS among various key populations. These same populations are structurally vulnerable when you consider the other social determinants of health and syndemic factors that amplify HIV risk. Research demonstrates that economic (financial crisis), legal (past incarceration), and social (housing instability) hardships are important factors that will contribute to the increased likelihood of HIV infection among Black MSM populations (Nelson, 2016). Syndemic factors will also result in increasing viral HIV loads and reducing medication adherence among PHAs (Friedman, 2015). This same study suggested the integration of mental health care, substance use interventions, and sexual risk prevention into HIV care. A standard program design that is operationalized in various ways. When the Government of Canada looked at their 90-90-90 HIV targets in 2018, they found only an estimated 87% were diagnosed, 85% of those diagnosed on antiretroviral treatment (ART) and 94% of people on treatment with a suppressed viral load by the end of 2018 (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2020). These trends are a product of current HIV prevention and care programs that are delivered federally and provincially in Canada and remain under target. A strategy that is outlined by the Pan-Canadian Framework for Action: Reducing the health impact of sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections in Canada by 2030, all levels of government are tasked to take a syndemics approach to dealing with STBBIs (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2019). 

Social and Environmental Impact of projects, products, programs, and policies

When I consider the various social and environmental interventions that take the shape of projects, products, programs, and policies, one must consider the multiple social determinants of health that influence the ability of an individual to access and uptake potential HIV/AIDS prevention strategies.  

1) Programs: I was able to identify two tiers of HIV prevention and care programs in Ontario, Canada that support projects at local, regional, and national levels. The Community Action Fund, administered by the Public Health of Agency of Canada (federally), invests over 26 million in funds annually to support stakeholders address HIV, Hepatitis C and other sexually transmitted blood borne infections (Government of Canada, 2021). The AIDS and Hepatitis C Programs unit lead and support AIDS Service organizations (ASO) across Ontario provide HIV/AIDS care (Government of Ontario, n.d.). Similarly, each province and territory will have a unit within its Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. Sexually Transmitted Blood Borne Infections or STBBIs are tested for, traced, and treated through regional branches of Public Health. Access to testing and treatment can also be achieved through an individual’s primary care provider, however significant structural barriers exist when it comes to 2SLGBTQ+ folks accessing STBBI testing, treatment, and counselling. Despite dominantly discussed themes of “mistrust” between 2SLGBTQ+ folks and primary care providers, we must disrupt this theme to consider the turbulent relationship between clinical care and trans folks given the only recent de-pathologizing of gender incongruence (World Health Organization, 2018). Access to timely Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) treatment and wrap around care also remains somewhat difficult with the patchwork of treatment options available through the Trillium Drug Plan (ODP), Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), Ontario Works (OW), and one’s availability to private insurance (ACT, 2017).         

2) Projects: A combination of community-based interventions, clinical care programs, social support programs and community based participatory research contribute to the growing array of project designs currently delivered in Ontario. Guided by the Ontario Accord, peer-based projects allow for meaningful engagement and greater involvement of people living with HIV (OAN, n.d.). However, a significant amount of social stigma and discrimination reduce access to available resources.    

3) Products: Antiretroviral therapy (for folks living with HIV), PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis for folks who are HIV negative with seropositive sexual partners) and PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis for folks who are HIV negative who may have been exposed to HIV) are current HIV prevention strategies available for communities (CATIE, 2017). With new HIV testing innovations approved by Health Canada, the access to self testing technologies means that there are a lot more variables to consider when creating community HIV testing opportunities (CATIE, 2020).      

4) Policies: HIV decriminalization has not yet caught-up to the science and several gaps in policy result in criminalization of communities while placing folks living with HIV at risk of ongoing structural violence (HALCO, 2019). Organizational spaces (physical and virtual), policies (hours of operation, training for staff) and templates (intake forms) have also found to create barriers to accessing care among femme identifying folks affected or effected by HIV/AIDS (WHAI, n.d.)  

Key Debates and Discourses 

Language amongst sexually and gender diverse communities continue to evolve and change over time, this requires public service organizations to adapt in a timely fashion and create opportunities for communities to meaningfully engage. Gaps that contribute to delays in cultural humility and awareness of structural vulnerabilities result in degradation of service pathways and reduced uptake of care. Independent, routine community-led monitoring of programs and services would support quality improvement, client satisfaction and care accessibility (MPact Global Action, 2020).

Despite interests in leading decentralized pre-existing, community centered, and peer-led HIV prevention and care services, the majority of programs and services deliver specific stand-alone treatments representing current states of evidence-based practice. Unfortunately, single interventions that reduce depression, anxiety, substance use, and HIV risk in siloed and sequential approach to prevention and treatment ignore intersectionality and client centered care (Pachankis, 2019). 

Queer communities are often regarded as a monolith. Service providers and decision makers must recognize that sometimes even the most effective HIV prevention strategies like PrEP will not be accessible, acceptable, and sustainable for all 2SLGBTQ+ folks and that factors such as socio-economic status, geographic location and literacy will affect intervention uptake (Morgan, 2018). The most important piece of context is the historical trauma that the state perpetuated against queer and trans folks. From the Toronto Bathhouse raids to the lack of a systemic response during the Bruce McArthur murders in the Gay Village, examples of state violence and lack of civil protections are disproportionately numerous among BIPOC 2SLGBTQ+ folks. In order for community programs to develop authentically and meaningfully with colonial systems there must first be reparations and restitutions for the harmful impacts. In order to move forward, there must be multisectoral, indigenized and anti-oppressive ways of co-designing, implementing and evaluating programs.

References

ACT. (2017). Getting hiv meds. Retrieved February 08, 2021, from http://hivnow.ca/getting-hiv-medications-in-ontario/

Baral, S., Poteat, T., Strömdahl, S., Guadamuz, T., Wirtz, A., & Beyrer, C. (2012). Worldwide burden of HIV in transgender women: A systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 13(3), 214-222. Retrieved February 8, 2021.

CATIE. (2017). Canadian guidelines for prep and PEP to help prevent HIV infection. Retrieved February 08, 2021, from https://www.catie.ca/en/catienews/2017-11-27/canadian-guidelines-prep-and-pep-help-prevent-hiv-infection

CATIE. (2020). HIV Self-Testing. Retrieved February 08, 2021, from https://www.catie.ca/en/fact-sheets/testing/hiv-self-testing 

CBRC. (n.d.). Sex Now’s Our Stats Dashboard. Retrieved February 08, 2021, from https://www.cbrc.net/ourstats_dashboard

Egale Canada. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 on the LGBTQI2S Community – Second National Report (Rep.).

Friedman, M. R., Stall, R., Silvestre, A. J., Wei, C., Shoptaw, S., Herrick, A., Surkan, P. J., Teplin, L., & Plankey, M. W. (2015). Effects of syndemics on HIV viral load and medication adherence in the multicentre AIDS cohort study. AIDS (London, England), 29(9), 1087–1096. https://doi.org/10.1097/QAD.0000000000000657

Government of Ontario. (n.d.). GO: Government of Ontario employee and Organization Directory. Retrieved February 08, 2021, from http://www.infogo.gov.on.ca/infogo/home.html#orgProfile/4659/en 

HALCO. (2019). Response to federal Justice committee report on criminalization of people living With HIV. Retrieved February 08, 2021, from https://www.halco.org/2019/news/crim-stand-cttee-report-2019june 

HealthLink BC. (2020, July 20). Sexual orientation. Retrieved February 08, 2021, from https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/abj9152#:~:text=Sexual%20orientation%20is%20a%20term,%2C%20or%20neither%20(asexuality).

Morgan, J., Ferlatte, O., Salway, T., Wilton, J., & Hull, M. (2018). Awareness of, interest in, and willingness to pay for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis among Canadian gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. Canadian journal of public health = Revue canadienne de sante publique, 109(5-6), 791–799. https://doi.org/10.17269/s41997-018-0090-1 

MPact Global Action. (2020, July 07). The HIV response we NEED: Gay and bisexual men demand equity and justice on the road to Ending AIDS. Retrieved February 08, 2021, from https://mpactglobal.org/the-hiv-response-we-need-gay-and-bisexual-men-demand-equity-and-justice-on-the-road-to-ending-aids/ 

Murray, K., & Lyons, L. (2017, August 15). African, Caribbean and Black Communities, The Ontario HIV Treatment Network. Retrieved February 08, 2021, from https://www.ohtn.on.ca/research-portals/priority-populations/african-caribbean-and-black-communities/

Nelson, L. E., Wilton, L., Moineddin, R., Zhang, N., Siddiqi, A., Sa, T., Harawa, N., Regan, R., Dyer, T. P., Watson, C. C., Koblin, B., Del Rio, C., Buchbinder, S., Wheeler, D. P., Mayer, K. H., & HPTN 061 Study Team (2016). Economic, Legal, and Social Hardships Associated with HIV Risk among Black Men who have Sex with Men in Six US Cities. Journal of urban health : bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 93(1), 170–188. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-015-0020-y 

OHESI. (2020, November 27). World AIDS Day 2020. Retrieved February 08, 2021, from http://www.ohesi.ca/news-and-updates/

Ontario AIDS Network. (2018, February 13). The Ontario Accord. Retrieved February 08, 2021, from https://oan.red/ontario-accord/

Pachankis, J. E., McConocha, E. M., Reynolds, J. S., Winston, R., Adeyinka, O., Harkness, A., Burton, C. L., Behari, K., Sullivan, T. J., Eldahan, A. I., Esserman, D. A., Hatzenbuehler, M. L., & Safren, S. A. (2019). Project ESTEEM protocol: a randomized controlled trial of an LGBTQ-affirmative treatment for young adult sexual minority men’s mental and sexual health. BMC public health, 19(1), 1086. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-7346-4 

Poteat, T., Millett, G., Nelson, L., & Beyrer, C. (2020). Understanding COVID-19 risks and vulnerabilities among black communities in America: The lethal force of syndemics. Annals of Epidemiology, 47, 1-3. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.annepidem.2020.05.004

Public Health Agency of Canada. (2019, July 17). Government of Canada. Retrieved February 08, 2021, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/infectious-diseases/sexual-health-sexually-transmitted-infections/reports-publications/sexually-transmitted-blood-borne-infections-action-framework.html

Public Health Agency of Canada. (2020, December 01). Estimates of HIV incidence, prevalence and Canada’s progress on meeting the 90-90-90 HIV targets. Retrieved February 08, 2021, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/summary-estimates-hiv-incidence-prevalence-canadas-progress-90-90-90.html#s1

Public Health Agency of Canada. (2020, November 30). People living with HIV in Canada: Infographic. Retrieved February 08, 2021, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/hiv-canada.html

Public Health Agency of Canada. (2021, February 05). HIV Surveillance Report 2019. Retrieved February 08, 2021, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/reports-publications/canada-communicable-disease-report-ccdr/monthly-issue/2021-47/issue-1-january-2021/hiv-surveillance-report-2019.html

Public Health Agency of Canada. (2021, January 29). Government of Canada. Retrieved February 08, 2021, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/funding-opportunities/sexually-transmitted-blood-borne-infections.html

WHAI. (n.d.). Women, HIV & Stigma: A Toolkit for Creating Welcoming Spaces (Tech.).

WHO (Director). (2018). WHO: Revision of ICD-11 (gender incongruence/transgender) – questions and answers (Q&A) [Video file]. Retrieved February 8, 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyCgz0z05Ik

Please scroll to the bottom for Community Guidelines

Day 1: Art and Research: Intersections of Activism

  • Session 1: Indigenizing Art
    • What does it mean to Indiginize art spaces? Storyteller and poet Jennifer Alicia speaks about her experiences as a queer, mixed (Mi’kmaw/Settler) storyteller in art spaces.

Jennifer Alicia (they/she) is a queer, mixed (Mi’kmaw/Settler) storyteller originally from Elmastukwek, Ktaqmkuk (Bay Of Islands, Newfoundland), now residing in Toronto. She is a two-time national poetry slam champion and member of Seeds & Stardust Poetry Collective. Jennifer Alicia’s debut chapbook is being released by Moon Jelly House Fall 2020. Find out more about their work here: www.jenniferalicia.com.

  • Session 2: Challenging Tokenism: QTBIPOC folks in creative spaces

Anu Radha Verma (she/her) has lived, worked, played, studied and struggled in places as disparate as Mississauga, Peterborough and New Delhi. She is committed to social justice work, in particular around the areas of sexuality, gender, race, the environment, abolition, gender based violence, and health. Anu Radha is a curator, community-based consultant, writer; she organizes with QTBIPOC sauga (a grassroots gathering for queer and trans, Black, Indigenous and people of colour communiteis from across Peel). She is a queer, diasporic, sometimes-femme, a survivor, and someone who lives with mental health struggles.

 Drawing by Jasmine Noseworthy Persaud / @jasminedrawing on Instagram
  • Session 3: Queering Research
    • Local researchers join us to speak about their studies focused on queer and trans communities and how they queer the field of academia.

Dionne Gesink is a Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on the social epidemiology of sexual health, including the geography of sex and how people build their sexual networks. Dionne use mixed methods to investigate sexual health as a complex system, with connections to physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social health. Dionne’s projects are often community based and consider culture so effective interventions that transform sexual health at individual, community, and provincial levels can be developed.

Janice Du Mont is a senior scientist at Women’s College Research Institute of Women’s College Hospital and professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, where she is also Director of the Collaborative Specialization in Women’s Health. Her work has focused on addressing the health and legal responses to sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and the abuse of older adults through the development and evaluation of innovative programs of care and trainings. She is a sought after expert in these areas having served on many occasions as an advisor to the provincial and federal governments of Canada and international organizations such as the World Health Organization. In recognition of her international impact in the field of gender-based violence, she was recently awarded the International Association of Forensic Nurses’ Distinguished Fellow Award in 2019 and the Nursing Network on Violence Against Women International’s Excellence in Policy and Practice Award in 2020.

Joseph Friedman Burley is the trans-LINK Project Coordinator at the Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres. He has worked with a number of organizations and research labs focused on improving 2SLGBTQ+ health, including the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, Re:Searching for LGBTQ Health, the HIV Prevention Lab, the HIV Legal Network, the AIDS Committee of Toronto, and Women’s College Research Institute. A recent MPH graduate, Joseph is excited to continue building a career working in community-based research that promotes health equity for 2SLGBTQ+ communities. He is grateful for this opportunity to share his work, connect, and collaborate.

  • End of day special performance by Jennifer Alicia

Day 2: COVID-19, Community Health and What the Pandemic Has Revealed

  • Session 1: How COVID-19 Pulled Back the Curtain: Systematic Issues Brought Forward During the COVID-19 Pandemic
    • This introductory talk will, following the acknowledgments, start off the day with a look at the systems issues that disproportionately impact marginalized communities, much of which was revealed to the larger community during the continued global COVID-19 pandemic. This will introduce the ideas of how these systems are not built for all and the need for change to better serve the broader community.

Hope Ramsay comes to the Moyo team with over 25 year’s experience in the HIV sector in Canada and the Caribbean. Prior to joining Moyo, she managed the Communication and Member Development portfolio of the Ontario AIDS Network (OAN) and before OAN, Hope held senior management positions at 360 Kids, Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (BLACK CAP) and the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN). After beginning her career as a Registered Nurse, she went on to earn a Masters degree in Public Health and to become the Director of the first HIV program established in Jamaica – The Centre for HIV AIDS Research and Services at the University Hospital of the West Indies. She was also Founding Director of Nursing for the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life. 

Hope is passionate about enriching the lives of others and her work with vulnerable populations has been evidence of this. 

Ames is Anishinaabe and 3rd generation Irish 2S harm reduction advocate and worker. They have been living in Tkaronto, Dish With One Spoon Territory, for over 10 years and have been at the Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy (Oahas) for over 2 years.

  • Session 2: Race-Based Considerations and Community Health
    • This panel discussion will focus on racism and community health, looking at data collection as well as other considerations that impact community health. It will also look at the reciprocal relationship we have with technology, in that we rely on it to be an unbiased source to collect information on despite its inherent bias in that it is developed by humans.

Kathy Moscou’s background is eclectic and unique, merging visual arts and health. Her lived experience informs her art, focus on Black cultural aesthetics, contemporary design for social justice, and research focus – equity and empowerment of Black and Indigenous youth in Canada, United States, and across the African diaspora. Kathy is an assistant professor at OCADU in the Faculty of Design. She has a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Global Health; Master’s in Public Health; and BSc Pharmacy. Her Ph.D. research of pharmacogovernance and comparative health policy addresses equity in drug safety and governance to foster healthy communities. Participatory research with Indigenous youth used Indigenous frameworks to explore characteristics of healthy neighbourhoods and holistic health derived from urban gardening. Her art has been exhibited in Art Gallery of Southwest Manitoba, Royal Ontario Museum, M. Rosetta Hunter Gallery, Seattle and Bellevue Art Museum.

Ames is Anishinaabe and 3rd generation Irish 2S harm reduction advocate and worker. They have been living in Tkaronto, Dish With One Spoon Territory, for over 10 years and have been at the Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy (Oahas) for over 2 years.

Adwoa Afful is a public health researcher and writer, born and raised in Toronto. Trained as an urban planner, Adwoa’s work often explores the increasingly central role that technology is playing in community building and its implications for Black women and gender non-binary people across Toronto. Adwoa is also the founder of Black Futures Now Toronto (BFNTO), a grassroots initiative, that works to engage Black women and non-binary people in anti-oppressive placemaking.

End of day special performance by Sam Yoon


Day 3: Space for Us All: Housing, Employment and the Barriers Folks Face

  • Session 1: The Roof Doesn’t Cover Us All: Inaccessibility in Housing for Marginalized Communities
    • For Day 3’s introductory discussion, following the acknowledgments, we will take a look at the barriers to housing for marginalized folks and how the basic need of shelter is inaccessible for so many people who face marginalization and oppression. This session will have a specific focus on BIPOC folks.

Jakki Buckeridge is the Manager of Family Services at Indus Community services.  Family services  programs at Indus provide crisis intervention, counselling, mediation, case conferencing and day-to-day support to youth and adults to decrease the risk of violence and abuse, homelessness, mental health crisis and hospitalization.  Jakki’s experience includes justice program and policy development, intimate partner violence and non-consensual union risk assessments and safety planning.  Jakki is an advocate for social change and has been working with marginalized communities for the past 23 years. 

Kim is a Senior Policy Advisor at NWAC, working in the Gender Diversity and Social Inclusion department. She has a background in sociology with a focus on LGBTQ+ health and well-being, social determinants of health, and critical media studies. The projects she’s currently involved in focus on creating better supports for Indigenous 2SLGBTQQIA+ people with lived experience of gender-based violence, Indigenous women and gender-diverse people living with a disability, and Indigenous youth who involved in gender equality advocacy.

Amit is a Registered Social Service Worker, currently working as a Youth Specialist with Services and Housing in the Province (SHIP) within the Youth Transitional Program Peel Youth Village. He identifies as an openly gay male of colour using he/him pronouns and is committed to advocating for youth, 2SLGBQTI folk and BIPOC folk within the Peel Region. Over 5 years experience working with homeless youth within the Peel Region who are struggling with mental health, addictions and housing challenges.

  • Session 2: Woke Marketing
    • We’ll hear from Breakfast Culture’s Jefferson Darrell (https://www.breakfastculture.org/) on how to market inclusivity authentically and the tools you need to do it well.
    • Is a brand or company being truly authentic to its core values? All. The. Time. Not just for one month of the year and not just in their marketing. They demonstrate it with their supply chain. They demonstrate it with their hiring practices. They demonstrate it with their internal culture. They ALWAYS demonstrate it! This is what we call Woke Marketing.

Jefferson Darrell is an accomplished marketing communications and change management professional with more than 15 years of brand strategy expertise, generating earned and owned media using traditional and digital channels. In the DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) space, Jefferson was instrumental in the creation of the Diversity Inclusion Anti-Racism Action Team at the Ontario Science Centre and represented them on the DEI Committee with the Canadian Association of Science Centres. He was instrumental in organizing the Centre’s involvement in the world’s first Pride in STEM Day. Jefferson’s change management project with the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention resulted in increased revenue opportunities for the non-profit by diversifying the organization’s development committee. Jefferson’s delivered numerous presentations and keynotes about the importance of DEI for organizations that include the International Association of Business Communicators, AdClub Toronto, Institute of Communications Agencies, Pride at Work Canada and he’s been a guest lecturer at Ryerson University.

  • Session 3: Housing Barriers for 2SLGBTQ+ Older Adults
    • Joining us from Halifax, Dr. Jacqueline Gahagan will discuss how policies impact marginalized folks when it comes to temporary housing and assisted living, with a special focus on 2SLGBTQ+ older adults.

Jacqueline (Jacquie) Gahagan, PhD is a medical sociologist and full professor in the Faculty of Health at Dalhousie University. Dr. Gahagan’s program of health promotion research focuses on addressing the system-level drivers, such as policy and programmming, within health and social systems that contribute to poor health and social outcomes among marginalized popualtions, including older LGBT Canadians and housing precarity, access to health care among trans youth, and uptake of STBBI testing innovations within diverse populations, among others. Jacquie is a Founding Fellow of the MacEachen Institute for Public Policy and Governance and an Affiliate Scientist with the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

End of day special performance by The Virgo Queen


Day 4: Equity in Allied Health Systems: Where We’ve Gone Wrong (and How to Change)

  • Session 1: Protecting Vulnerable Youth: Examining the Historical Impact on the Mental Health of Queer Youth in our Healthcare System
    • Youth are often discussed as one of the most vulnerable populations we as service providers work with, especially those with intersecting marginalized identities. Despite this many youth have been subjected to harmful treatment from service providers with lasting impact. Looking at this from the perspective of queer and trans youth, what are the harms our youth have dealt with and how can we ensure we are not continuing this harm with those we work with now.

Daniel is a Registered Psychotherapist and a 2SLGBTQ+ Counselor at Associated Youth Services of Peel.

Tobias Evans-Hinostroza is a queer, Latinx, nonconforming trans guy who works as a 2SLGBTQ+ youth counsellor at Associated Youth Services of Peel. He has been transitioning as a trans person for over 6 years and as a human being since birth. He hopes queer and trans communities continue to lift one another up, and is dedicated to advocating for that cause in both his personal and professional life.

  • Session 2: Intentional Inclusion: Actively Centring Racism and Other Relevant SDOH in Your Practice
    • What does it mean to be intentionally inclusive? This session will explore this idea with a focus on BIPOC and 2SLGBTQ+ clients and how you can ensure your practice is meeting the needs of all folks who walk trough your door.

Oshawa Anung Kwe/Yellow Star Woman N’dishnakaaz. Maegun N’doodem. Baawaating N’doojibaa. My colonial name is Theodore Syrette. Friends and enemies know me as Teddy. They are from Rankin Reserve of Batchewana First Nation of the Anishnabek. Teddy has a background in social justice and theatre. They have been advocating for First Nation and LGBTQ+ rights for almost 19 years. Prior to Covid, Teddy was spreading intersectional awareness about 2Spirit, First Nation and LGBTQ+ identities and experiences in many parts of Turtle Island (Canada). Teddy has received different awards for their advocacy including the Mark S. Bonham Centre award for Sexuaility, the Toronto Planned Parenthood LGBTQ person of the year award and the History & Geography award for grade 8. Teddy currently lives in Sault Ste. Marie, ON (across the tracks from Rankin Reserve).

Ronnie Ali (they/them/their) is a Registered Psychotherapist with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. They have worked as a therapist and consultant within and in support of queer, trans, BIPOC and other intersectional communities for over 6 years. They approach their work through a critical lens with the aim of examining contexts of systemic dehumanization and directly challenging the pathologization of individuals and their relationships.

  • Session 3: Workshop: Case-based session on making services equitable
    • How do we take the knowledge of inclusivity and put it into practice? We’ll take a look at different cases and work together on applying our knowledge from earlier sessions.

Andres Gayoso Descalzi (he/him/his pronouns) is a queer trans man hailing from lands currently known as Peru, also known as Tahuantinsuyu. He is a settler on this northern part of Turtle Island and is currently the 2SLGBTQ+ identity-specific School Social Worker at the YRDSB. He works every day at practicing from an affirming, anti-racist, youth-centered, harm reduction framework in person-to-person interactions as well as those he has with “the system”. He believes in the transformative power of relationships and has been working as a counsellor and group facilitator with 2SLGBTQ+ youth for almost 10 years.

End of day special performance TBA


Day 5: Equity in Clinical Care: Who Has Been Left Behind (and How to Push Them Forward)

  • Session 1: Client Care Around U=U with CATIE
    • As an opening to the day, CATIE will support a discussion on HIV and U=U. How can we take the knowledge on U=U and ensure we are actively combatting stigma in our daily practices? Where are we now in the midst of two pandemics (HIV and COVID)?

Shriya Hari is the Regional Health Educator, ON at CATIE. Currently, she is also CATIE’s COVID-19 project lead, and has developed a workshop for national dissemination within the HIV and hepatitis C sectors. She is a Co-Investigator for the YSMENA study which aims to investigate youth sexual health in Middle Eastern and North African communities in Ontario. She holds a Canada Graduate Scholarship at the University of Toronto where she is pursuing her Master’s in Public Health specializing in epidemiology; her research is based out of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s hospital. Shriya has a strong interest in investigating population-level health disparities. In her spare time, she writes poetry and tutors health sciences for midwives, nurses, and pre-med students. She also has two plump cats named Cassie and Polly who are very cute.

  • Session 2: Safe Access and Harm Reduction
    • With a focus on social prescribing and other forms of safe supply and services, how can we use these practices to better serve our clients? Panelists will also review learnings from COVID-19 service provision around safe access for service users.

Marsha Brown has over 20 years’ experience in Health Promotion/Education within the Community Health Sector, which has sparked and driven her interest and dedication to health equity and social justice and also led to her involvement in community based research with the University of Toronto. As a Research Project Coordinator, Marsha coordinated published research works that include, “Racial Discrimination as a Health Risk for Female Youth” and “Sisters, Mothers, Daughters & Aunties: Protecting Black Women Against HIV/AIDS”. Marsha is currently the Interim Manager of Programs and Services at WellFort Community Health Services, where she continues her work and dedication to addressing health disparities amongst equity seeking groups.

Liam Michaud has worked in Montreal and Toronto in harm reduction for roughly 15 years, providing support to prisoners, conducting outreach and developing outreach programs in street, residential and shelter settings. He has organized alongside the Association Québécoise pour la promotion de la santé des personnes utilisatrices de drogues (AQPSUD) and the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society.

  • Session 3: Reflections on Harm Reduction: Peel Region and Beyond
    • What does harm reduction look like in Peel and other regions? What has been done and what needs to be done? Members of the Moyo HCS harm reduction team, the Peel Drug Advisory Panel and other panelists will discuss these important topics in this panel session.

Shradha is a newcomer to Canada and has a Master of Public Health and a Degree in Medicine. She is currently guiding the development of a drug strategy in Peel Region through the Peel Integrated Drug Strategy (PIDS). She also coordinates the work of the Peel Drug Users Advisory Panel (PDAP), an expert panel that supports the development of the drug strategy and provides feedback on service design and delivery from the perspective of lived/living experience. Over the years, Shradha has developed a deeper understanding of how systemic oppression impacts the health and well-being of marginalized communities and is driven to work towards creating equitable health solutions.

Ashley Smoke is an Ojibway woman who started this work because of her lived expertise when it comes to sex work and drug use. She has a diploma in Community and Justice Services and a wide range of experience in the field of Peer Work in Harm Reduction. She currently sits on the Peel Drug Users Network Group, Peel Peer Advisory Board, COM-CAP and their Selection Committee (Ontario Public Health Drug Strategy), The Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs, Ontario Safe Supply Working Group, Canadian Safe Supply Advisory Group, The Peel Drug Users Network Group and other Working and Advisory Committees in the region of Peel, Ontario. She is also working with Health Canada as a judge for drug checking technology. Ashley is currently working for Moyo as a Harm Reduction Outreach Peer Worker and previously worked as Indigenous Communities Animator in order to complete a Needs Assessment to determine needs, barriers and gaps in the Indigenous Communities in Peel. Currently she is the Program Coordinator of Maggie’s Toronto’s Peel Indigenous Arts Program for Indigenous Sex Workers. She is passionate about her work and loves helping folks advocate for what is right and what is needed in the community. She is determined, loud and has lots to say about the state of affairs for Drug Users all over the country!

End of day special performance TBA

Additional sessions and speakers TBA. Please note that this agenda is subject to change. Further session information, including speakers, will be updated closer to the event.


Community Guidelines 

As service providers who are committed to the diverse communities we serve, we feel it’s important to share guidelines to help keep everyone feeling safe(r) and supported in the space we’re sharing.  

In the spirit of mutual respect and understanding, we note that as participants, whether attendees, moderators or presenters,: 

  1. We are responsible for respectful interactions with all those present. All folks come to spaces such as these with their own set of experiences and biases and it is important to reflect on our own internal experiences as well as those of others when interacting. Some things to consider when conversing with others: 
  • Am I making any assumptions? What are these based on? 
  • Can I give this person the benefit of the doubt? Are they learning and coming with the right intention? Can I help them get on the right course? 
  • How can I call in this person for something hurtful or damaging they have done to create a space of learning? Do I have the energy for this? 
  • How can I be aware of my own biases and assumptions when participating in a conversation about a topic that does not personally impact me? 
  • How can I be aware and considerate with the language I use to express my thoughts on this issue? 
  1. We can and should respect personal experiences. Many folks, whether they are moderators, attendees or presenters, will be sharing from their own personal experiences, many of which may be difficult to share. These personal experiences are important in discussions on inclusion as they enhance our understanding of important issues, such as racism, homophobia, transphobia and sexism. The experiences someone else shares are not up for debate and should not be criticized or disagreed with based on language used, unless they are explicitly targeting or hateful towards another marginalized group. When this is the case, we expect respectful calling in to ensure the safety of all participants in attendance.  
  1. We value respectful listening. This can look like: 
  • Asking questions before making an assumption or sharing your opinion 
  • No cross talk or interruptions (we understand this can be challenging virtually with technological delays, but expect folks to try their best at this) 
  • Suspending judgement 
  • Taking pause between people’s stories and offerings 
  1. We value speaking from your own experience. This can look like: 
  • Telling our own stories 
  • Using “I” statements 
  • Being honest 
  • Being vulnerable 
  1. We value taking risks and the expression of emotions. We understand that discuss sensitive issues can be challenging for folks and trigger difficult and overwhelming emotions. We encourage folks to be open when and if they feel comfortable and to do periodic check-ins with themselves and their support systems (if necessary & available) to ensure they are only taking risks they feel comfortable with. We value vulnerability but also want folks to reflect on their own safety, comfort and emotional capacity when sharing their experiences. With that being said, emotions of all sorts are welcome here.  
  1. We value sharing space with each other, especially those most marginalized. Many of us will have a lot to say about the topics that are being discussed, especially when they are related to personal experiences we’ve had. When reviewing the chat, our moderators will prioritize participants who have not yet had the chance and those who identify as a peer to the topic being discussed. We will do our best to ensure as many folks as possible are able to participate in the time given. Please ensure you are only submitting questions or comments in the chat once to give space to all folks who would like to participate.  
  1. We value being respectfully challenged and learning together. We recognize that this is a space of learning and we should come to discussions with an open mind. We all have things we can learn and teach in this space and your participation will help enhance discussions and enact change, so please share your comments and questions in the chat. 
  1. We value silence; all folks have the right to listen and “pass” on active participation. Folks should reflect on their comfort and safety prior to participating in discussions or sharing personal information. 
  1. We will follow and respect the guidelines set out in each session. Depending on the speaker or session set up, different presenters or moderators may have different guidelines. It is important to be respectful of these to ensure all participants are comfortable and able to learn together. Most sessions will be recorded and shared after; please email us at allegram@moyohcs.ca if you have any concerns with this.  
  1. We have shared responsibility for this week’s success. It is important for us to work together to ensure everyone is able to come to this space feeling comfortable and open to learning. Please reflect on this when deciding whether or not to share something in the chat. 

Racism, transphobia, biphobia, sexism, homophobia, ableism, anti-Semitism, classism, fatphobia, Islamophobia, and other forms of discrimination or hate speech, as well as intimidation and personal attacks, are not permitted. Our team will address any of these instances immediately, including removing any participants who behave in this way from the virtual space.  

Content warning: Adjust Your Lens IV: Examining our Systems will cover a range of topics, including those that may bring up difficult, harmful or traumatic experiences. These topics include racism, substance use, sexuality and gender identity, addiction, housing barriers and healthcare discrimination. We encourage folks to reflect on their experiences and to reach out to the moderators identified at the beginning of each session if they are feeling unsafe or triggered.  

Sources: Capacity Building Working Group, Regional Diversity Roundtable and CBRC 

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.