3 min


Queer Health Matters

Queer Health Matters

An annual health fair, Queer Health Matters is presented in partnership with the Rainbow Health Network and will be held this year on Sat, Apr 21.

“It’s going to be a little bit different this year,” says Sherbourne Health Centre (SHC) health promoter Michele Clarke.

Traditionally held at the 519 Community Centre on Church St, this year’s fair will take place at SHC (333 Sherbourne St). Instead of soliciting presentations from health professionals the programming has been opened via a call-out to any and all interested parties.

“We really want the programming to be as diverse as possible and not just people coming to listen to someone with a PowerPoint presentation.”

Opening The Closet On Aging

An annual daylong conference on the needs of older queer and trans people presented in partnership with the Senior Pride Network and The 519. This year’s will be held at The 519 (519 Church St) on Tue, Mar 20 from 8:30am to 6pm. The event is free for older queer and trans folks; $60 for others. (See page 16 for more.)

Bent On Quitting

An ongoing project to raise awareness of elevated smoking rates among queer and trans folks, which are nearly twice the rate of the general population.

“HIV/AIDS has dominated people’s health thinking around our communities in the last 20 to 25 years,” says Clarke. “For lesbians, maybe breast cancer or those two things together. But smoking kills more of us than those two things combined.”

In addition to ongoing cessation programs and a new two-day program that will teach workshop leaders from across the province how to better help queer and trans smokers kick the habit, Bent On Quitting includes a research component.

“We had no Toronto data on how many of us smoke, so that was our first step,” says Clarke, referring to a prevalence survey released earlier this year. “The next step is to try and go a little deeper and try and get more of an understanding about what’s going on. Why do we smoke so much? Why are the rates so high?”

Outside The Lines

A 12-week expressive arts therapy group for isolated queer and trans women. The program is offered three times a year; the next group starts on Tue, Apr 17 and will run for 12 Tuesday afternoons in a row.

“Talk therapy isn’t for everyone, which is one of the reasons I wanted to create the expressive arts group,” says SHC counsellor Carole Baker, who cofacilitates the group along with an expressive arts therapist. “Some women may be more comfortable expressing themselves in an arts-based way.”

Gender Journeys

One of the longest-running programs at SHC, Gender Journeys is an eight-week group for people considering transitioning genders. The next session begins Thu, Mar 22 and will be cofacilitated by SHC counsellor Rupert Raj and Yasmeen Persad.

Trans Pride Day

An annual celebration of trans people; the next will be held at SHC on Tue, May 8. Open to all trans people and allies.

“What I like about it is the parents can come out, the children and partners and family members,” says Raj, who is one of the event’s organizers.

Let’s Talk About Health

An ongoing series of workshops that run every fall and spring (although this spring’s schedule has been thrown off somewhat by SHC’s move into its renovated space).

“Health is not something that’s top of the list among queer people when we talk about queer issues,” says Clarke. “Let’s Talk About Health is an attempt to just start raising awareness.”

In addition to the workshops, there’s a monthly newsletter with all the latest queer and trans health news from around the world. To subscribe e-mail

Supporting Our Youth

A SHC program since 2004, Supporting Our Youth (SOY) runs a ton of groups and including Black Queer Youth, Trans_fusion Crew and the writing group Pink Ink. The program has been operating out of 365 Bloor St while construction has been ongoing at 333 Sherbourne.

“Whatever challenges we face in terms of the move are going to be way overshadowed by the benefits of being in the new space,” says SOY’s community programs coordinator Clare Nobbs. “Being within the LGBTT program, not to mention the newcomer programs and the infirmary that supports people who are homeless and underhoused — we’ll be able to build on that in really good ways.”

The LGBT Parenting Network

Previously a project of The 519 and the Family Service Association Of Toronto, the parenting network originated in 2001 with money from the Counselling Foundation Of Canada. Last fall it was announced that the network would become a three-way partnership with Sherbourne.

“At the end of 2005 the parenting network was actually slated to close,” says network coordinator Rachel Epstein. “Then some activists kind of arose… and managed to get a meeting with [Ontario Health Minister] George Smitherman and talked to him about how important the work of the parenting network was and he agreed to fund it through the Sherbourne Health Centre.

“I think there’s some exciting possibilities in terms of what it will mean,” says Epstein, who will be moving to Sherbourne this week. “There’s some of the specific health-related services that we’re interested in developing. Meeting the reproductive needs of the queer community.

“Maybe we’re in a position to develop a more comprehensive set of services that people can use all the way along in their journey. Which could include prenatal counselling or preconception counselling, which could include pregnancy, similarly with adoption. I’d love to see the insemination services expanded.”