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3 min

Say ‘Ahhh’

Queer Health Matters writes a prescription for wellness

Canadians have a huge cultural appetite for advice on healthy living. We can be quite ravenous for lists of dos and don’ts, especially as we begin shedding layers after the long winter’s nap. But good health, queer style, is more than dusting off the old sneakers and reevaluating your new year’s resolution. It involves the mind, body, soul and community.

Now in its third year, Queer Health Matters is a day of workshops and research presentations designed for queer and trans people. Sponsored largely by Sherbourne Health Centre, the fair takes place Sat, Apr 29 at the 519 Community Centre. Here’s a taste of what’s in store.

Sticking it in

Just imagine having to thrust an inch-long needle into your own thigh muscle without someone showing you how. Now you can imagine filmmaker Vlad Wolanyk’s motivation in making Taking Care Of Business: A DIY Guide To Self-Injecting “T” (2pm).

This video is a hot ticket item. Requests for copies have already come in from as far away as Scotland, and the video hasn’t been released yet. Maybe it’s the hottie construction worker on the poster who, upon close-up in the video, pulls a syringe from his tool belt. Or maybe it’s because it’s the only health resource video of its kind in the world.

Featuring local trans folk, the video addresses both emotional and practical concerns of testosterone self-injection. A panel discussion will follow the screening. From the hype it’s getting you might want to get a seat early.

The first cut is the deepest

“We can claim our bodies as maps for places we’ve been,” says naturopath Masina Wright. But where and how does one draw the line between cutting as self-harm and cutting as an empowering act of beauty? This distinction is what participants will be discussing at Self-Harm Or Safe Ritual: A Discussion On Body Modification And Why We Do It (4pm).

Wright took on the topic in response to a request from last year’s Queer Health Matters. She says she has both clients and friends who use cutting, branding and tattooing — some to cope with trauma and some as a form of self-expressive, affirmative ritual.

This workshop is designed to bring together a diversity of opinion and experience, with time to share “views, stories and scars.” One warning: Wright says that talking about this issue may trigger hard-to-handle feelings and self-harm behaviours for those who use these strategies to manage stress. Planning self-care for during and after the workshop is recommended.

HIV & stress

Naturopath Denis Marier knows stress and its impacts intimately. On his breaks from working with HIV-positive clients in Toronto, he’s provided naturopathic relief support in rural Tibet and Sri Lanka following the tsunami and in Gujarat after the 2001 earthquake. His workshop HIV And Mind-Body Medicine: Improving Immunity Through Stress Reduction (2pm) will outline the physiological impacts of stress as well as techniques to reduce its harmful cycle.

“Stress is defined as a perception of threat with an inability to cope,” says Marier. “Once the stress pathways are initiated they can become overreactive and ultimately inhibit the immune system’s capability. Changing our relationship to stress is possible.”

Do these techniques actually work? “Definitely,” says Marier. “It’s well documented in evidence-based journals, and I’ve seen it.”

Although of particular interest to HIV-positive people, their friends, family and caregivers, everyone is welcome.

It’s not what you think

If you’re not quite sure what “intersex” means, you’re not alone. Who knew there were 21 distinctions between male and female which are considered intersex, or that many people only discover they’re between genders later in life due to health concerns? Martine Stonehouse will be covering the basics in Intersex 101: A Sense Of Community And Health Needs (12pm).

Stonehouse knows firsthand some of the related challenges, medical and psychological. She is also involved in the first Canadian community research on the needs of intersex people. She hopes this workshop will open the door for greater inclusion of intersex people in queer and trans communities.

“Right now, it’s a community that mostly exists on-line,” says Stonehouse, adding that intersex people are often “deep in the closet still because of the stigma and shame.”

Who’s your daddy?

Parenting is no easy feat, especially if you’re queer. But lots of ‘mos are doing it these days, and researchers are taking note. LGBT Parenting Network coordinator Rachel Epstein and associate researcher Scott Duggan will be presenting preliminary outcomes from three studies: Gay Fathers, Impact Of Homophobic Discourse On Young People With LGBT Parents and Mothering On The Margins (2pm). An open discussion of the findings and next steps will follow the presentation.

“This research is coinciding with a key moment in queer parenting,” says Epstein, referring to the core funding just received from the Ministry Of Health for the LGBT Parenting Network, which will make it possible to put the research recommendations into action.