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4 min

Meet me at the fair

Queer Health Matters offers a bent twist on wellbeing

ON THE BRAIN. The annual Queer Health Matters fair offers a little something for everyone. Credit: Ablestock

If you’ve been looking for an excuse to check out the newly renovated Sherbourne Health Centre (SHC) look no further. The fourth annual Queer Health Matters fair will fill the shiny new space on Sat, Apr 21 with an array of workshops and presentations on a wide range of homo health issues.

Presented in partnership with the Rainbow Health Network, this year’s fair is “going to be a little bit different,” says SHC health promoter Michele Clarke.

“Previously what we’ve done is gone out and recruited people to host workshops, so we’ve come up with topics that we think haven’t been covered yet or we think are of interest.”

But this year the lineup was determined by an open call for workshops. “We really wanted the programming to be as diverse as possible and not just people coming to listen to someone with a PowerPoint presentation.”

Here’s just a taste of what’s on offer. For the full schedule and updates check out Sherbourne.on.ca.

WORD MADE FLESH

They say that clothes make the man, but what about when it’s time to take your clothes off?

“If you’re a trans man interested in men there are different body issues than if you’re interested in women,” says Rupert Raj, a 55-year-old trans activist and moderator for the panel Man In The Making: Body Image Of Transmen (4pm).

“In the gay male community, without a phalloplasty or one that doesn’t look good, it may not be as easy to get a partner because the community is very phallocentric.”

Raj says this is something that’s slowly changing as queer men get used to trans men in their midst.

“In San Francisco and in Toronto some gay and bi men are starting to accept trans men with or without the phallus,” he says.

Although community politics between queer women and trans men have had their share of problems — “In San Francisco in the ’80s they called it ‘the border wars,’ when the dyke community and the trans men’s communities were at war” — Raj says that women may be more accepting of trans men’s bodies when it comes to personal relationships.

“With a lot of trans men that I knew in the ’70s and ’80s, some had straight women partners who wouldn’t be so hung up if they didn’t have a phallus, and former lesbian partners may not be so upset if their partner doesn’t have a penis or a perfect penis.

“Now the dyke community ironically or surprisingly at least in Toronto, San Francisco and New York are supporting trans men in a political way,” adds Raj. “Some are now interested in trans men as partners and may be tranny chasers.”

GILDA’S A FRIEND OF DOROTHY

Most everyone knows someone whose life has been affected by cancer. But many queers may not know about Gilda’s Club, a support agency headquartered just south of the Church-Wellesley village at 110 Lombard St.

“Gilda’s Club is a cancer support service for anybody who’s been touched by cancer,” says Gilda’s Club program facilitator Maureen Aslin. “People who are friends or family members, or people who’ve had a diagnosis themselves.”

Aslin will be presenting A Day’s Worth Of Gilda’s Club (3pm) to introduce the organization to homos and to promote its queer-friendly vibe.

“In the past we’ve had a network for queer people with cancer but now we’re looking into bringing that into the program in a specific way, making sure that Gilda’s is a welcoming place for the queer community,” says Aslin.

In addition to a support group for queer women with cancer and those close to them, Gilda’s is also currently running a joint program with the AIDS Committee Of Toronto for people with AIDS and cancer. But Aslin says that queers dealing with cancer are encouraged to explore all of Gilda’s offerings, which include yoga, dance, meditation and art-making groups.

“We have facilitated groups and peer-run groups…. We want to emphasize it’s for the whole family. Everybody is affected by cancer.”

For more on Gilda’s Club check out Gildasclubtoronto.org.

TRANS HISTORY 101

“People often imagine that the trans experience began in the 20th century and is primarily or only an American experience,” says Hershel Russell, who will be presenting an illustrated history of trans culture in Joy Of Gender (12pm).

“I argue that just as white colonialism has destroyed a myriad of human languages it has attempted to destroy an extraordinary range of human expressions of gender,” says Russell. “I have documentation going back to classical Greek and Rome. I have images and quotes from indigenous people across the planet.

Russell says knowing their history will help trans people to be more grounded in the present.

“If we don’t know our history, we don’t know who we are, it’s awfully hard to see what comes next. When we can place ourselves on a historical trajectory with something behind us and something ahead of us it puts everything in proportion.”

LATEX FOR THE LOUVRE

Just when you were wondering what to do with those awkward sheets of latex, Planned Parenthood Of Toronto (PPT) and SHC are copresenting an art-making session using dental dams and latex gloves with Dam This Is Fun (1:30pm).

“This is a fun, creative exploration of the reproducitve health needs for WSW [women who have sex with women],” says Cindy Weeds, PPT’s program coordinator of women’s programming.

The session, for WSW in their 30s to 50s, is part of an ongoing partnership to address the lack of safer sex info for queer women.

“Part of what we’ve heard is that there isn’t a lot of information for WSW and their communities about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and there are not a lot of gloves and dams out there,” says Weeds.

Weeds says the workshop was inspired by a similar session with condoms last summer.

“A couple of us had been to the International AIDS Conference last August and saw a workshop on making art with condoms. We thought we would do the same thing for WSW.”