Serving 2SLGBTQIA+ Communities
Published: June 30, 2021
June is Pride Month, and it was a joy to see posts, celebrations, education, and events taking place all over the province in support of rights for people who identify as Two Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual. Pride commemorates the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn in 1969 - a gay club where people came to express themselves with freedom.
Two women holding hands with the words "For those of us standing farthest from justice, Pride will always be a riot"

Remembering, celebrating

June is Pride Month, and it was a joy to see posts, celebrations, education, and events taking place all over the province in support of rights for people who identify as Two Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual. Pride commemorates the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn in 1969 – a gay club where people came to express themselves with freedom. The community fought back against police harassment and galvanized the gay rights movement. Pride month is a chance to raise our voices for 2SLGBTQIA+ rights, and it’s an opportunity to advocate for health and wellbeing for 2SLGBTQIA+ people!

We invited CHCs around the province to help us understand the legacy of Pride. Adrienne Smith is the Legal Director of the All Genders Legal Clinic from the Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre (CWHWC) in Vancouver BC. Here’s what Adrienne shared with us:

“Pride is the anniversary of the moment trans femme sex workers of colour stood up against routine police harassment at one of the few places they could safely gather. At the uprising outside the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rae Rivera stood their ground in a prescient #ACAB gesture; a beachhead of resistance that we, living now in safer times (for some of us)- sometimes have the luxury to forget. Our community has always been criminalized. It is still illegal to be gay in 72 countries in the world. And if not outright illegal in many others, our attackers are often allowed by police to commit atrocities against us with impunity.”

The violence experienced that night by the 2SLGBTQIA+ community was part of a broader culture of exclusion and systems of oppression that hindered – and continues to hinder – the wellbeing of people with diverse gender and sexual identities. Community Health Centres exist to create access to health and wellbeing for populations that face barriers to care, and several CHCs in BC specifically serve people who identify as Two Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual. We caught up with a few of our members who focus on providing stigma-free care to talk about what Pride means to them this year.

A purple square with the words "Accessing health and social services shouldn't be a traumatizing experience. Support gender affirming care.

So how do CHCs make a difference?

First-off, let’s get a refresher. What is a Community Health Centre (CHC)?

Bobbi Tuner, Executive Director, Island Sexual Health, Victoria BC:

“CHC’s are health and wellness organizations governed by a community-based board of directors who listen to the needs of their local community in order to tailor their services and direct them towards those identified needs. CHCs deliver comprehensive, patient-centered, culturally-safe care, and regularly change and grow with the community in order to remain relevant and current in their health care delivery.”

Jeremy Mailloux, Queer, Gay, Bi Men’s Wellness Educator, AVI Health Centre, Nanaimo, BC:

“CHCs allow underserved populations to have a better chance at achieving equitable and fair health outcomes by removing barriers to care and by honouring and incorporating the knowledge and voices of the communities and people that CHCs serve. The combination of community-led clinical, education, community, and outreach services, all under one roof, helps to ensure that our communities have a safer space to build capacity and connect with each other and that we all can have positive experiences when accessing health care.”

Adrienne Smith, Legal Director of the All Genders Legal Clinic, Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre, Vancouver BC:

“At the Catherine White Holman Centre we built our services from our queer and trans community up. Our board and our service providers are people from our community. Our clinic is the only place in BC that you can see a transgender lawyer for free. Our clinics have an on-call crisis counsellor in case people need extra support after getting advice about their legal issue. Since the coronavirus pandemic we have moved many of our services – particularly name and gender change applications online- which has extended our reach to folks outside of the Lower Mainland. We have also been consistently holding in person clinic so folks without internet or expensive computer equipment can still get service.

Most importantly we’ve fundraised a fund to cover the costs of applying to change or replacing identity documents for trans and non binary people. This feels like a little thing, but as I have seen hundred of times, being recognized as who you are- and being able to prove it- makes life safer for trans and non binary people when they go out in public, go into a store, seek out healthcare, deal with police or immigration police, cross the border or manage their money. Recognition is a prerequisite to full citizenship. If this has never struck you, or if you have never had an issue with your documents, consider making a donation to the fund here. “

 

.What does PRIDE mean to you this year?

Jeremy Mailloux, Queer, Gay, Bi Men’s Wellness Educator, AVI Health Centre, Nanaimo, BC:

“Pride is an opportunity to reflect on our struggles and celebrate our victories as we move towards a more equitable world. As a teenager it was a chance to make my voice heard, to protest and demand equality, to define myself and my community, and to celebrate without fear of reprisal. Over the years, the commodification of Pride has grown to outshine the activism components and the community celebration. This year, it is important for us to pause and take a moment to remember the many queer, trans, gay, bi, non-binary, lesbian, and Two Spirit people that have gone before us and the sacrifices that they made to get us here.”

Adrienne Smith, Legal Director of the All Genders Legal Clinic, Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre, Vancouver BC:

“Johnson famously said “As long as gay people don’t have their rights all across America, there’s no reason for celebration”. At a time when white supremacists face little accountability for an insurrection at the seat of government and trans rights are being rolled back; when black and indigenous people – who are members of our queer community – are literally standing in the street screaming for justice against police murder and state perpetuated genocide in the form of colonial genocide-; when hundreds of trans women just like Marsha and Sylvia are murdered every year for being trans; it is well past time to let ourselves believe that Pride has anything to do with the pink washing of white bodies in gold hot pants dancing on corporate floats. It is time for all of us to stand for each other as accomplices in dismantling systemic discrimination. For those of us standing farthest from justice, Pride will always be a riot.”

Abbey Eurchuk, Sexual Health Educator, Island Sexual Health, Victoria, BC:

“What does pride mean to me this year? Pride is about the affirmation and celebration of the LGBTQ2SAI+ community! It is about honouring the diversity of gender identity and sexual orientation while acknowledging the unjust history of LGBTQ2SAI+ folks having to fight for their human rights. Interwoven into the meaning of PRIDE is equity, dignity, love of all kinds, respect towards the self and others, expression, freedom and liberation.”

 

What can we do to support LGBTQ2SAI+ health in BC?

 

Abbey Eurchuk, Sexual Health Educator, Island Sexual Health, Victoria, BC:

“Listen to LGBTQ2SAI+ voices and take a person-centred approach. Become engaged and supportive of LGBTQ2SAI+ voices and spaces to make health care services increasingly accessible and stigma-free for queer and trans folks.”

Jeremy Mailloux, Queer, Gay, Bi Men’s Wellness Educator, AVI Health Centre, Nanaimo, BC:

“End the HIV pandemic by ensuring that our communities have easy access to culturally appropriate sexual wellness services and that all barriers to PrEP, regardless of geographic location, ethnicity, or access to drug coverage, are removed.”

Adrienne Smith, Legal Director of the All Genders Legal Clinic, Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre, Vancouver BC:

“For accomplices who want to support trans and non-binary folks in healthcare, first of all we need to go back to our workplaces after the hot weekend and do a survey.

  • Is this space safe and welcoming for people who are not cis?
  • Is our pronoun game impeccable?
  • Are we using the vocabulary for people, bodies, and our services that trans people use for themselves?
  • Have the toilets and changing spaces been liberated from the gender binary so the sign just says “toilet”?
  • Are they unlocked, with sufficient lighting and a sharps box? Are we trauma informed?
  • Do we understand the burden of deep poverty and racial discrimination and transmisogyny?
  • Have we fully integrated harm reduction?
  • Are we sex positive and pro-sex worker?
  • Do trans people recognize themselves in the people who work here?
  • Do we provide healthcare without people who are not documents, or to those who have a mismatch in their ID?
  • Are we advocating with all levels of government responsible for health to make sure our records don’t misgender, dead name, or otherwise hurt people who come to us for healthcare? Trans or non binary people can make an appointment to see a lawyer or counsellor by emailing contactus@cwhwc.com.

 

Happy Pride 2021!

Thank you so much to everyone who contributed comments and to all in our network striving to improve the lives of LGBTQ2SAI+ people. We will continue to march toward our vision for a future free of stigma and exclusion, a future where the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ2SAI+ people is a priority, and one where everyone is safe to be exactly who they are.

Check out these CHCs for more information about how you can access gender-affirming care, and how you can support organizations that provide these valuable services:

STEPS for Health in Kamloops, BC
Island Sexual Health in Victoria, BC
AVI Health Centre in Nanaimo, BC
Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre in Vancouver, BC