On Thursday, May 5, Pink Triangle Services (PTS) celebrated sexuality and gender identity in a bawdy way. The saucy event featured balloon-wearing boys, burlesque performers and a dominatrix corner for feather and pleasure.
Claudia van den Heuvel is the executive director of PTS.
“Who we have sex with is the big reason we are the community that we are,” she says. “Sex is obviously a big part of our community – it’s not the only part, but it is a big part. I think to really start embracing the sexuality of our community is where we need to go… to be more open, to be less conservative, to be less afraid to express our sexualities or our identities or genders.”
Although the gala was lighthearted, the sex-positive message was evident in the bawdy attire, raunchy shows, availability of condoms and the “Sexy Ways to Fuck Like Bunnies” brochures.
“I think if we are going to start looking at sex positively, we also have to start looking at the positive use of sex language. ‘Fuck’ is obviously a very sex word; it can be a derogatory word – it takes on so many different meanings,” says van den Heuvel.
The brochures – pink and pocket sized – contain information on STIs, how to use condoms, the risk levels of HIV infections and risk-reduction tips.
The brochures are a tiny part of the wider goal of PTS – to find a way to tackle safer sex, HIV awareness and prevention. Van den Heuvel hopes that, in the future, PTS will partner with other agencies on HIV/AIDS awareness, but she stresses that it is an idea still in the early stages.
Under van den Heuvel’s direction, PTS is in the process of rebranding; it has a new strategic plan, an updated logo and will soon launch a revamped website.
The agency has also just launched Transaction, a new program that targets the Trans Community. It is the only program of its type in Ottawa and one of very few in Ontario.
“We have to beef up how we are actually supporting the trans community. We are already doing it as an agency, but we can do it better,” van den Heuvel says. “I think the trans community needs it – it is probably the most underserved community.”
Early this year PTS received a grant from the Trillium Foundation for Transaction. The agency has already established a resource directory for trans persons and service providers, and they have hired a trans coordinator, Jayda Kelsall.
Kelsall’s responsibilities include putting a team of volunteers together to develop and deliver trans-awareness workshops.
“As someone who identifies as genderqueer, I’ve definitely faced some challenges trying to do things everyday that everybody else does without thinking – things like going to the doctor or using a public restroom and being told that I am in the wrong space. That happens frequently enough to me,” says Kelsall.
PTS has also had its challenges. In February, dissenting members of the organization called a special general meeting to demand the resignation of the current board. Although members quashed the coup, the SGM raised a number of concerns.
“That was something very difficult for the agency, and it is still something that we are recovering from in a sense. We’re mending some feelings and finding new ways to get everybody on the same footing and everybody happy. We’re a big family – that’s what this community is, and there is always infighting,” says van den Heuvel.
Van den Heuvel feels that PTS will be a stronger agency because of what happened at the SGM and that some adversity within the community is to be expected. She feels that the gala evening is a way forward and an opportunity for the community to see that PTS is still going strong.
“Hopefully they can see that we are still functioning as well as we ever have; we’re still delivering our services and, in fact, I think we are delivering services better that we ever have,” she says.
The gala is the agency’s annual fundraiser. This year PTS picked up a large sponsorship from Barefoot Wines and, combined with the other community sponsorships, managed to be $3,000 ahead before the doors opened.
Along with ticket sales, funds were raised during the evening through popping the balloons on scantily clad boys, a silent auction, a cocktail raffle and a live auction for dates with local community members.
Mike Tattersal, Mr Leather Ottawa 2010, was one of the auction participants and the last man onstage. Wearing his trademark leathers, Tattersal stripped to his trousers and outstripped the other participants, raising $225.
The highest bidder was none other than van den Heuvel.