Ottawa’s gay men are hell bent on turning February from drab to fab. And it’s all in the name of being healthy.
As the whole-person health approach takes hold in Ottawa, the way Ottawa’s queer community tackles men’s wellness is changing. Nowhere is that more evident than Snowblower, a month-long health festival that’s as much about parties, friends and hookups as formal health workshops.
Now in its second year, Snowblower blends nights on the town with outreach work. A handful of the 34 events are aimed at men living with HIV/AIDS, the Asian men-who-have-sex-with-men community, gay seniors, trans men and other subgroups. Others cast the net wider, such as Social Acupuncture, a barrier-breaking party at Shanghai Feb 6.
Adam Graham, the gay men’s prevention coordinator at the AIDS Committee of Ottawa, is hard at work promoting Snowblower.
“Gay men are prone to feeling socially isolated,” says Graham. “If we accept that social inclusion is part of gay men’s overall wellness, then bringing people together like this makes sense.”
With the events scheduled mid-winter, six months away from Pride, it’s a time when gay men’s calendars don’t tend to be overflowing. And with many of the events free, it’s not likely to put a strain on pocketbooks.
“I think Ottawa is really unique,” says Graham. “You don’t see the same sort of gay men’s community building in Vancouver, you don’t see it in Toronto.”
Snowblower came out of the Gay Men’s Wellness Initiative, with the bulk of the legwork was done by the folks at ACO.
Ricky Barnes at Pink Triangle Services senses the momentum that Snowblower is garnering.
“It’s grown from last year. There’s lots of events for everyone,” say Barnes. “There are events that will help with wellness and make you feel good about who your are.”