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Toronto hosts national conference for queer service providers

Dare to Stand Out includes sessions on queer parenting and gender-based violence

Inspired by the American CenterLink Conference, the summit is bringing together service providers from across the country. Credit: ThinkStock

A national summit for queer service providers opened June 26 in Toronto.

The idea for the Dare to Stand Out summit was born a few years ago when organizer and Jer’s Vision founder Jeremy Dias began visiting different cities around the country.

“There was this amazing stuff happening in Toronto, amazing stuff happening out east and out west, but no one seemed to be communicating and working together,” Dias says.

Jer’s Vision and the Manitoba Rainbow Resource Centre decided to take action.

Inspired by the American CenterLink Conference, the summit is bringing together service providers from across Canada to meet face-to-face, share resources and best practices, and work on a national vision.

Organizer Chad Smith, executive director of the Manitoba Rainbow Resource Centre, says he hopes to connect with other centres that have run the Totally Outright program, a leadership workshop series for young gay men, which launches soon in Winnipeg.

“If we can share resources in a time when funding is challenging for a lot of people, it eliminates some of the work and some of the steps,” Smith says.

Almost 200 people registered for the summit, Dias says, including teachers, government workers, union workers, politicians and bank employees.

One of the main goals of the summit is to establish a national vision. “The national dialogue that used to happen doesn’t happen in the same way,” Smith says. “The pressure is off.”

Dias says that in a society that is almost 10 years past legalizing same-sex marriage — and in the context of pop culture phenomena like It Gets Better and Glee — queer culture and history is starting to disappear.

“What happens when we don’t perceive the oppression anymore? What happens when we don’t learn our history? What happens when we tell ourselves ‘It Gets Better?’ Because it doesn’t,” he says. “Things get worse — especially when you’re not paying attention.”

The summit will include two days of panel and group discussions on topics including queer parenting, working with the media and gender-based violence. Participants will facilitate most discussions, Smith says.

Dare to Stand Out is a free event at Ryerson University, but attendees must cover the cost of their travel and accommodations.