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Health fair explodes

Queer Health Matters becomes a weeklong affair

Since 2004 the Sherbourne Health Centre has run Queer Health Matters, a one-day health fair, offered in partnership with the Rainbow Health Network. This year that day is expanding into a week of events all over the city.

“We’re trying to bring more attention to events that are happening around the city so this should give people choice,” says Michèle Clarke, health promoter in the LGBT program at Sherbourne Health Centre.

“There are more agencies offering queer health support and we’ve also found that people don’t always want to come downtown,” says Clarke. “We’re hosting an event every day of the week but have others hosting throughout the week. We’re trying to engage more people across the city. It’s a pilot this year that we hope will grow and that it will create more buzz.”

Launching on Mon, Apr 7, World Health Day, and running until Apr 13, the week includes more than 20 events. Here’s a look at just a few.

(Dis)Engaged

So much of the push around sexual health education is targeted at teens but what do queer women in their 30s, 40s and 50s need when it comes to sexual health services? Last winter Planned Parenthood Toronto undertook a community consultation project to find out. On Thu, Apr 10 at 10am program coordinator Cindy Weeds will be presenting the findings in the Women’s College Hospital auditorium (76 Grenville St).

“What women really wanted to talk about was dissatisfaction with the healthcare system, assumptions that they’re heterosexual, never mind what they needed,” says Weeds. “The second thing was that women are resilient and strategic about taking care of themselves in spite of the healthcare available.”

Weeds says a common refrain was the confusion from healthcare workers when queer women revealed that they were sexually active, didn’t use birth control and yet were confident that they weren’t pregnant.

The report includes steps to make the system work better for women who have sex with women.

“The consultation showed that there’s a need for education and training to increase LGBT awareness,” says Clarke, who was also involved in the project, “not just for physicians but for many levels of programming involving sexual reproductive health and within the training system of the health and social service sector.”

“Some want to access queer-specific services and some don’t,” says Weeds. “It should be a choice.”

For more info or to register contact Weeds at cweeds@ppt.on.ca or (416) 961-0113 ext 223.

Opening the Closet on Aging

Whether you’re approaching your golden years or firmly rooted in them the Senior Pride Network’s daylong conference is designed to help you make the most of them.

“Do you have supports in the community or know where to find them?” asks conference coordinator Jack Cunningham. “We’re having one large break-out session dealing with those issues. You want to make sure you’re going to a place which is gay-friendly.”

Cunningham says it’s especially important for queer seniors to plan for their retirement so that they are in a queer-friendly environment.

“A lot of people are in denial about their aging and don’t want to face up to it,” he says. “Many, even 80-year-olds, may say they don’t need support yet. We can be taken by surprise. If people don’t have their legal issues in place like power of attorney, someone else, perhaps an institution, will make decisions for them. Health decisions can be made that you may not like if you don’t have a living will.”

The conference, which runs 8:30am to 4:30pm on Wed, Apr 9 at the Metro Central YMCA (20 Grosvenor St), will include a workshop on mental health and substance abuse, a presentation by the City of Toronto’s Homes for the Aged on making retirement homes queer-friendly and a panel of queer seniors breaking stereotypes.

The event is free for seniors and $75 for others. To register contact Cunningham at (416) 392-6878 ext 306 or seniors2@the519.org.

Being Sexually Comfortable

You don’t have to be a porn aficionado to know who Buck Angel is. The self-proclaimed man with a pussy made waves in Toronto last October with his challenging performance at Switch, the annual Northbound Leather party.

At 7:30pm on Mon, Apr 7 Angel will be offering insight into how to get comfortable with yourself as a sexual being. The workshop is offered by local sex shop Come as You Are (701 Queen St W) and is the second of two that Angel will offer. (The night before he’ll be speaking about becoming a porn pioneer, also at Come as You Are. Check out Comeasyouare.com for details.)

“I am very excited to be able to talk about how I have learned to become so comfortable with my body sexually and to be able to share this with my Toronto fans,” says Angel. “I think this is an important talk because there are so many of us, and not just trans people, who just never feel totally comfortable sexually.”