News
2 min

Ottawa hosts conference on queer and kinky health

'This time around we have a lot more content': conference organizer

Sex geek Andrea Zanin recently found a benign cyst on her kidney, but she doesn’t know who to ask about whether she can still wear a corset, or if this will affect it.
 
Zanin guesses most doctors would say it’s probably not a good idea, but most doctors also wouldn’t understand how important wearing a corset is to some people.
 
Hers is only one of many possible concerns people in the kink community may have about how to reduce risk in their sex lives and where to get accurate, non-judgmental information.
 
Zanin will address these issues alongside kink-friendly doctor Erin Sandilands in a seminar at this week’s Rainbow Health Ontario queer health conference.
 
“We wanted to talk about the concept of risk,” says Zanin. “The point isn’t to pathologize any kind of play; it’s to look at how knowledge gets produced and who holds it.”
 
The information that is available about how to play safely doesn’t often come from doctors, Zanin says. There are many misconceptions about BDSM practices that can lead to misinformation or discrimination.
 
Queer folks often face discrimination when they come out to their healthcare practitioner, and the stigma is even greater for folks who enjoy bondage, whipping and other kinds of kinky sex play, Zanin says.
 
“If you get hurt while you’re playing, there’s the fear that you’ll be blamed or you partner will be blamed, and legal action will be taken,” she says.
 
There is a long history of queers and kinksters being deemed mentally ill by medical professionals. In the United States there have even been instances of people losing child custody when they are out or outed as kinky, Zanin says.
 
Legal action, stigma or even just the fear of facing discrimination all act as barriers to accessing health services.
 
Zanin’s and Sandilands’ seminar will demystify a range of common BDSM practices, discuss health concerns for kinksters, and introduce the medical and community-based research on the subject.
 
Their seminar is one of dozens the conference offers, all sharing essential health information and new research tailored to the queer community.
 
Ottawa is hosting the second bi-annual conference March 20 to 23. Approximately 300 people are already registered to attend, says Donna Turner, the communications coordinator for Rainbow Health Ontario.
 
“This time around we have a lot more content,” she says.
 
The workshops and seminars cover everything from assessing the needs of queer immigrant youth to disordered eating among queer women, to sexuality and disability, to trans aging.
 
Turner says there is a range of people attending the conference, and the number of nurses and doctors registered this year impresses her. Since it is the only conference of its kind in Canada, it is especially important that healthcare practitioners attend.
 
“There are health disparities in LGBTQ communities, and as much as we have the same health needs as other folks, there are some things that are different for us,” Turner says, noting that rates of anxiety, depression, suicide and even smoking are higher among queer people.
 
The goal of the conference is to get people talking about queer health in a safe, open environment where they can learn from each other and share best practices, she says. Ideally, the conference will enable healthcare providers to go back to their communities and offer appropriate health services to queer people, she says.

For more information on the conference, visit rainbowhealthontario.ca/conference/welcome.cfm.