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Breakspear leaving Qmunity

Queer resource centre looking for new ED after amicable split

"Jennifer [Breakspear, above] is such a kingpin at community building," says her new boss, Siobhan Aspinall, from Options for Sexual Health. Credit: Janet Rerecich photo

After serving as executive director for four years, Jennifer Breakspear is leaving Qmunity to head the BC Options for Sexual Health, formerly Planned Parenthood.

“I’m moving into a great opportunity for the next step in my career,” she says.

While excited about the new challenge, Breakspear has mixed emotions about leaving the organization she is passionate about. “I’ve had a great time here. It’s been a rewarding, exciting, interesting, challenging four-plus years here at Qmunity,” she says.

Jeffery Preiss, chair of Qmunity’s board of directors, calls Breakspear’s resignation “bad news.”

“The board is extremely sad by the news that Jennifer Breakspear is leaving us,” he says. “She has done amazing work at Qmunity.”

Since taking Qmunity’s reins in 2008, Breakspear has played an integral part in some significant changes at BC’s queer resource centre, including its rebranding. “When I stepped in, we were The Centre, and a year and a half later we became Qmunity, BC’s queer resource centre, and with that we moved into a website that was of the 21st century and we moved into social media engagement and we moved into a higher profile,” she says.

“I’m very proud of all of us in that,” she says. “It was as challenging as any rebranding experience is, but everyone stepped into it and we were due for it and it was clear that the time was right.

“And then in February of 2010 we were the Pride House for the 2010 Olympics,” she continues. “That is certainly a highlight of which I am enormously proud.

“We stepped into a whole vibrant international discussion about homophobia in the world of sports, and it really put us out there in a way that we probably couldn’t have imagined before the Olympics,” she says.

The higher profile has helped the organization get new sponsorship and corporate investors, she says.

Breakspear is confident the organization will continue to flourish without her. “It will just continue to take off,” she says. “Qmunity is in a really good place. In so many respects, things are really solid.”

“I’ve invested a lot in this organization, and if Qmunity weren’t in a good place I couldn’t feel good about stepping away,” she adds.

“Far be it from me to give advice to anyone who will do this job, but it’s not a job to do sitting at this desk all the time,” she suggests. “It’s a job to be done by being out in the community and engaging with the people. Engaging with the queer community, engaging with the mainstream community and engaging with the funders and donors. And to make sure that what we’re doing here is relevant and continues to be relevant.”

The application deadline for Qmunity’s new executive director is April 5, but Preiss can’t say how long he expects it will take to find a suitable replacement for Breakspear. “We are hoping not to leave the position open for a long period of time,” he says. “But we’re focused on finding the right person rather than worrying about the timeline.”

Preiss doesn’t foresee Qmunity going through any major changes with the appointment of a new executive director. He says the board and staff met last fall to discuss Qmunity’s vision and decided they were happy with the direction the organization was taking.

Meanwhile Breakspear says she’s looking forward to working with Options for Sexual Health and its sex-positive mandate.

“Before I even knew I was a lesbian, I knew I was a feminist,” she says. “I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s in a time when there were a lot of legal battles going on in regard to the rights of women and the rights of women to have a choice and make a decision about their own bodies, and that strikes a chord.

“But Options is so much more than whether a woman chooses to carry her pregnancy or not,” she continues. “It’s also about advocating for, and educating about, sexual health for everyone. I’m excited because, as a queer woman, I get to take into this organization issues that I care about, and I get to be mindful of the issues that affect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sexual health.

“We are all sexual beings,” she concludes.

“We’re just tickled pink to be having her on board,” says Siobhan Aspinall, chair of the board of directors at Options for Sexual Health.

Aspinall says she met Breakspear through various community events in the city and admired her networking and fundraising abilities. “Jennifer is such a kingpin at community building. She’s a great fundraiser and great leader.” 

So when the executive director seat came open at the end of last year, Aspinall contacted Breakspear to notify her of the opportunity.

Aspinall predicts Breakspear will “fit like a glove” at Options for Sexual Health and says her work in the queer community will be an asset to the organization.

“We want everyone to have a great, healthy sex life. That’s what we’re about. We’re proud to serve all communities, including the LGBT community, and we think Jennifer will only serve to strengthen that link to the community,” Aspinall says.

Breakspear starts at Options for Sexual Health in May.