Awareness, SPECTRUM News

National AccessAbility Week

National AccessAbility Week (NAAW) takes place from May 26th to June 1st, 2024. We’d like to take this opportunity to share some of the work Spectrum has done to become more accessible over the past several months.

  1. One of the three Strategic Priorities in our 2024-2027 Strategic Plan is Accessibility and Inclusion in Programs and Personnel: Spectrum is committed to continuing our journey to becoming a more inclusive, equitable, and accessible organization that is welcoming and relevant to members of all 2SLGBTQIA+ communities. We will create programs and recruit personnel using an anti-oppressive and intersectional framework. We will prioritize accessibility, inclusivity, equity, and well-being – celebrating and affirming our diverse community.
  2. We worked with INNoVa to conduct an accessibility audit of our physical space and the building we are in. This audit resulted in a report with many recommendations that we have already begun to explore.
  3. We worked with Accessibrand to conduct an accessibility audit of our website. This audit resulted in a report with many recommendations that we have already begun to explore. Watch for updates that will improve the accessibility of our site over the coming months.

We’re also pleased to share that the City of Cambridge is hosting a series of webinars on dismantling ableism in the community, healthcare, and education. The webinars will feature presentations from local organizations, service providers and individuals with lived experience. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about best practices and tools on how we can create a welcoming and inclusive community.

  • Tuesday, May 28, 2024: Dismantling Ableism in the Community (Fun)
  • Wednesday, May 29, 2024: Dismantling Ableism in Healthcare
  • Thursday, May 30, 2024: Dismantling Ableism in Education

For more information and to register, visit

You can also visit the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW) for resources and ideas for observing NAAW in a meaningful way.

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Black History Month: Andrea Jenkins

Born May 10, 1961

Andrea Jenkins is an American politician, writer and poet who made US history by being the first openly Black trans woman to be elected to public office in 2018. Andrea was born in 1961, in Chicago and spent her childhood living in lower-income working class communities with her single mother. From a young age, Andrea was heavily involved in arts, often writing and creating poems and other spoken word pieces.

Andrea came out as gay in her 20s, and began to transition in her 30s. She returned to college attending Metropolitan State University, to finish her bachelor’s degree. Following that, she earned two masters degrees, one in Creative Writing and one in Community Based Economic Development. Her political career started shortly after, when she worked as a vocational counselor for the Hennepin County Government.

In 2005, Jenkins worked as a political aide to Elizabeth Glidden, and earned a fellowship focusing on trans issues. She successfully established the Transgender Issues Group in 2014, and organized a council summit to highlight the struggles and issues trans folks face in Minnesota. In 2016, after Elizabeth Glidden decided not to run for re-election, Andrea Jenkins announced her campaign, with the slogan “Leadership. Access. Equity.” The following year, she successfully won with over 70% of the votes.

In her other endeavours, Andrea has participated in the Trans Lives Matter movement, and was the grand marshal of Twin Cities Pride Parade. In 2020, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first Pride parade, she was named one of 50 heroes leading the nation towards equality, acceptance, and dignity.

Currently, Jenkins is a performance artist and poet, and lives with her partner of eight years. Her contributions and representation as a trans woman in politics have paved the way for many other folks to become more involved in the political landscape.

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Black History Month: Miss Major

Born in Chicago in the 1940s, Miss Major is a trans activist and icon well known for her outspoken activism towards trans rights and freedoms. As a young child, Miss Major often explored her gender expression, trying on her mothers’ clothes while no one was home, and befriending older drag queens who allowed her to experiment with makeup and dressing in drag. When Miss Major came out as trans to her family, they struggled accepting her transition and gender identity. At the age of 16, Miss Major graduated from high school and moved into a post-secondary dorm room.

Although she had been out to her close family and friends, she still presented in a traditionally masculine way, resulting in her being placed in a men’s dorm. During this time, Miss Major was outed when one of her roommates found dresses and makeup in her room, leading to her expulsion from the college.

After her expulsion, Miss Major moved to New York in 1962 and began working as a sex worker. While in New York, Miss Major became involved with drag shows, and performed as a showgirl. Within the community, Miss Major was accepted for who she was, and began to feel a sense of belonging. During the Stonewall Riot in 1969, Miss Major played a role in protecting queer community members against the brutality by the police. As an activist, Miss Major has said that although Stonewall was a turning point in the 2LSBGTQ+ rights movement, transgender and queer women of colour had long since been advocating and organizing for the rights and freedoms of the community. 

In 1988, Miss Major and her partner moved to San Diego California. She continued working as a drag performer, and started mentoring younger drag performers and trans women, earning her the nickname Mama Major. During the AIDS crisis in the 80s, Miss Major became involved in AIDS activism after losing her partner. Moving to San Francisco in 1995, Miss Major continued her work in HIV/AIDS activism, becoming a health promoter and educator for Tenderloin AIDS Research Center. She developed a mobile outreach centre, where she went into the streets to meet with unhoused folks who needed assistance. 

Currently, Miss Major lives in Arkansas with her partner, and has continued her work in activism and advocacy.

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Black History Month: Stormé DeLarverie

B. December 24, 1920 – D. May 24, 2014

Stormé DeLarverie was a long-time gay rights activist and drag king, known as one of the founding figures in the drag community and pioneers of gender-fluidity. DeLarverie was born in New Orleans in 1920 and spent many years of her life performing and hosting at venues such as the Apollo Theater, and Radio City Music Hall.

An important aspect of DeLarverie’s history is the role she played in the Stonewall Rebellion. Stormé confirmed and often spoke about throwing the first punch at The Stonewall Inn. During a police raid in the early morning on June 28th, 1969, a woman (often thought to be Stormé) was the victim of police brutality while being handcuffed. As tensions rose, and police violence increased, a larger scuffle ensued, causing what is now known as the Stonewall Rebellion. 

In the aftermath of the events that took place at Stonewall, Stormé DeLarverie continued to be a fierce activist and key player in the Gay Liberation movement in New York. She was an active member of the Stonewall Veterans’ Association, and was a regular in Pride parade and celebrations for many years after. She also spent many years as a volunteer street patrol worker, guarding and keeping an eye on queer folks in The Village. On top of her work with the Gay Liberation Movement, Stormé also organized and planned benefits and fundraisers for victims and children of domestic violence.  

Often credited as a force to be reckoned with, Stormé DeLarverie lived her life in service of the queer community, advocating and fighting for equitable treatment and freedoms for all. In 2019 on the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, she was honored as one of the inaugural fifty American Pioneers, trailblazers, and heroes inducted onto the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor at the Stonewall National Monument. 

Stormé DeLarverie passed away peacefully in her sleep on May 24, 2014 after a dementia diagnosis. Her contributions to the 2SLGBTQIA+ liberation movement, and passion for justice and protecting the next generation of queer folks will never be forgotten.

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Black History Month: Bayard Rustin

B. March 17, 1912 – D. August 24, 1987

Bayard Rustin was born March 17, 1912 in West Chester Pennsylvania. Raised by his maternal grandparents, who were members of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People), Bayard quickly found his passion in civil rights advocacy and activism. As a youth, Bayard spent time working with W.E.B Du Bois, and James Weldon, and campaigned against the racially discriminatory Jim Crow Laws.

Rustin played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement in America, serving as an advisor on non-physical conflict resolution to Martin Luther King Jr. and was the main organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. As a Black gay man, Bayard Rustin faced many challenges in his career. As a teen and young adult, he maintained his privacy surrounding his sexual orientation, not allowing it to become a part of activism work until later years. Unfortunately, as with many influential queer men, Bayard was the target of homophobic laws and policies, contributing to his arrest for “vagrancy and lewd conduct”. He pleaded down to a lesser charge, however was still sentenced to 50 days in jail. This arrest served as the first time Rustin publicly acknowledged his sexual orientation and as a result of this, he moved to a more behind the scenes role, resigning from his role as Race Relations Secretary at the Fellowship of Reconciliation. 

Following his public arrest and outing, Bayard continued his advocacy work within the Civil Right Movement, but started engaging in LGBTQ+ advocacy and activism in the 1980s. A key part of his activism was a speech he gave in 1986, in which he compared the Gay Rights Liberation to the Civil Rights Movement in the sense that “gay people are the new barometer for social change, the question of social change should be framed with the most vulnerable group in mind: gay people”. This speech, while controversial, raised many crucial points about cross marginalization and the key concepts behind intersectionality. How our many different identities impact the ways in which we go through life, and how we face systemic oppression based on these identities. 

Bayard Rustin was a successful activist, and heavily contributed to the advancement of Civil Rights in America. His story is one of oppression, systemic racism and homophobia, and how one queer Black man can create social change and betterment. Although he passed away in 1987, he will always be remembered as one of the first openly gay Black Civil Rights leaders. 

A new 2023 film starring Colman Domingo as Rustin is now available on Netflix.

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Awareness, SPECTRUM News

Forest of Reading

The Forest of Reading is Canada’s largest recreational reading program! This initiative offers ten reading programs to encourage a love of reading in people of all ages. The Forest helps celebrate Canadian books, publishers, authors and illustrators. More than 270,000 readers participate annually from their school and/or public library. All Canadians are invited to participate via their local public library, school library, or individually.

In the 2024 nominees are four titles with 2SLGBTQIA+ themes that the Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) has placed in it’s “PRO Section”. This section is used primarily by teachers but students are able to access the materials — provided a teacher first gives them “Catholic context”.

Some activists are calling this a “shadow ban” of these books. Restricting access to books that include 2SLGBTQIA+ content is discrimination. We know how important it is for 2SLGBTQIA+ children and youth to see themselves represented in media. It has a significant impact on their sense of belonging and well-being. It’s also important for straight-cisgender children to read books that have 2SLGBTQIA+ themes so they can be better prepared to live in a world where 2SLGBTQIA+ people have always existed, and will always exist.

You can read a Cambridge Today article from November 16, 2023 about this, here.

Spectrum has added these titles to our lending library where they can be borrowed without restriction.

If you’d like to write to the WCDSB trustees, their email addresses are below:












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Awareness, Guest post

Attacks on Education Hurt Us All

By Sue Senior

On October 16, 2023, Sue Senior delegated to the trustees of the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB). Sue is a retired educator who worked for 30 years in the WRDSB teaching Physical and Health Education (including sexual health), biology, kinesiology, math, and a variety of extra curriculars. This post is based on the reflections she shared with the Board.

25 of my 30 years were as a closeted straight-passing teacher. I was afraid that I would not be permitted to teach or to coach and would be the object of derision and stigmatization should I have come out.

By 2008, I realized that being closeted was doing far more harm to my well-being than the risks associated with being out. By then the board had done some excellent work in creating an environment where 2SLGBTQIA+ students and staff could learn and work, knowing that there were policies in place to protect them and affirm them.

Nothing really changed for me as a teacher after coming out.

I did not make any big announcements. I just lived more authentically and was a healthier and more confident teacher, colleague, and friend, and then a spouse, with my wife whom I met two years later.

I share this reluctantly as I am aware that there are some people who believe that there is a ‘gay agenda’ and that I am speaking to you with some sort of ulterior motive. My only motive is to ensure that this board and all adults provide the duty of care that that is required when entrusted with the supervision of children.

ALL OF US have a legal duty of care, which means a duty to act in a way that avoids causing harm to others – in this case, children – when such harm might reasonably have been foreseen.

The motion before the board would undermine that duty of care if a teacher were required to report every single instance where a parent has decided what parts of a lesson are considered to be ‘not age appropriate’ or ‘suitable’ for their child.

As well, foundational to the Physical and Health Education Curriculum, it is stated that:

Research has shown that teaching about sexual health and human development does not increase sexual behaviour and can actually prevent risky activity.

Sadly, there are already students who don’t have access to the sexual health and human development curriculum due to many false notions that the curriculum indoctrinates children to being gay or transgender or makes them initiate sexual activity at a young age.

Additional misinformation is being spread based on the myth that there are only two genders: male and female. Biologically, that is incorrect. Intersex people have always been among us.

Intersex is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.

For example, a baby might be born appearing to be female on the outside but has mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. A person may also be born with mosaic genetics or cells with both XX and XY chromosomes.  

It is important to note that being intersex is not a disease or a disorder any more that being born with blue eyes or brown eyes or hazel eyes. There are about the same number of intersex individuals on the planet as there are red-headed people. (Here is a short video as a reference regarding the complexities of gender.)  

So, how do those who strongly believe that there are only males and females reconcile this fact? How does the school board make sure that ALL GENDERS are affirmed without stigmatizing those in the minority?

We have a duty of care for ALL students.

Back to the motion at hand and what is most problematic about being forced to report on specific content that can arise in a school day.

I can’t even begin to list the number of times that questions or comments are made in a variety of classes – often outside of the designated ‘sexual health curriculum lesson’ that relate to sex, relationships, birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, and loads of other topics.

If a student casually mentions their two dads (for example) when talking about their summer holiday, would the teacher be expected to stop the lesson, silence the child and/or shoo some pre-identified children from the room, or pick up the phone and call the parents in that moment?

That would be harmful in so many ways, and not only to the child with two dads! Not to mention how disruptive to the class it would be.

The classroom needs to be a place where all students feel that they can ask questions or enter a discussion without fear of reprisal or being shamed because of their life experience. Only in cases of overt and deliberate bullying or taunting of others would a teacher stop the comments being made and manage the situation appropriately.

The other situation that has me extremely worried about student safety and care relates to those students who often confide in a trusted teacher or staff member. It might be a student who shares that:

  • the marks on their arms are from a family member abusing them, OR…
  • they might share that they think they are attracted to someone of the same-sex and don’t know what that means…. OR…
  • they might indicate that they don’t want to wear ‘girls’ dresses anymore and would prefer pants and a shirt.

In all of these and many more situations, one of the very first things a staff member would do is ask if they have shared this with their parents or caregivers. If not, then the next step is to ask if they want to share with the parents and if they would like some help in doing so. In most cases, students WANT their parents to know. In most cases, the parents already know.

In cases where the information shared by the student leads the adult to believe that harm might come to that student or to others, the adult is required to report that information to the appropriate protective agency such as Family and Children Services.

So, if the policy and laws are revised as suggested to force school staff to report certain disclosures to the parents, they will be in direct contravention with the required Duty of Care.

Unfortunately, there are some children and youth who are at great risk of rejection, abandonment, and deep emotional and physical harm by their family or designated caregivers.

In other words, those children and youth would not ever be able to safely access the resources they need to navigate the situation with professional support.

I also speak from a religious context as the motion points to a broadening of religious accommodations. I am an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC). I was also appointed by the PCC to co-lead a special Listening Committee (also known as Rainbow Communion) to report on harm done by and through the Church, in all of its contexts, and to make recommendations to ensure that the harm is addressed and does not continue.

After four years of listening and work, it is important to note that all 23 recommendations brought to the denomination were adopted. The reports and supporting resources are all available on the PCC website. You can also watch a video summary of stories shared.

We heard accounts of harm that ranged from people being isolated, embarrassed, shamed, physically attacked, threatened with spiritual harm, and heartbreakingly, learned about those who tried to cope by turning to drugs, alcohol or other behaviours of self-harm including death by suicide.

It was the religiously institutionalized hypocrisy, homophobia, transphobia, and heterosexism that perpetuated ongoing harm. This harm extended not only to those who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, or intersex. It also affected their families, partners, and allies. Furthermore, this institutionalized fear, and even hatred, created a culture of fear and suspicion within and between churches, presbyteries and synods. I do not want to see a culture like this return to our church, or to our public school system.

While the imposition of religious beliefs has no place in the public school board, I felt it was important to underscore that not all religious groups seek to exclude and further harm those who are not heterosexual. Not all religious groups marginalize and stigmatize those who do not clearly identify and present as either male or female. Instead, I believe we must reflect on the basic values that are common to all religions: compassion; respect for the human person; and the Golden Rule of, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’

These same values are part of the classroom and school ethos.

Let us continue to support, encourage and empower all students to become skilled, caring, and compassionate global citizens.

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Awareness, Statements

“We’re here! We’re Queer! Get used to it!”

Spectrum strongly opposes the 1 Million March for Children who spread anti-2SLGBTQIA+ hate under the guise of protecting parental rights.

Parental rights are not under attack. Religious freedoms are not under attack. Queer and trans youth are under attack.

2SLGBTQIA+ children and youth have the right to express their gender identity to whomever they feel safe doing so with. No one has the right to out a 2SLGBTQIA+ person to anyone else without consent.

Queer and trans people have always been here and will always be here. Queer Nation’s 1990 slogan “We’re here! We’re Queer! Get used to it!” was well chosen. 2SLGBTQIA+ people will not be erased or made invisible.

To the 2SLGBTQIA+ people – especially youth – who may feel hurt, or scared because of this coordinated hate movement please know that you are seen and loved. You are not alone.

Spectrum will participate in the Queer Youth Defence rally on September 20th at 9am. There is #NoSpaceForHate in Waterloo Region. We are grateful to GroundUpWR and the University of Waterloo Solidarity Network for their work in organizing this event.

Find GroundUpWR’s Queer Youth Defence Safety Guide here. If you plan to attend the rally, please be careful and protect yourself.

Allies – this is your time. If you want to be an ally to 2SLGBTQIA+ people in your community then it involves more than putting up a rainbow sticker during Pride month. Amplify queer voices, and speak out against hate.

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Awareness, Research, SPECTRUM News

BIR Community Engagement Final Report

Our community engagement project with Black, Indigenous, and racialized (BIR) 2SLGBTQIA+ people has come to an end — though this work will go on.

Spectrum would like to thank the Government of Canada and WAGE for investing in 2SLGBTQIA+ organizations. We would also like to thank Janet Egan (she/her) and Kerry Gervais (she/her) who were extremely helpful as WAGE Program Officers.

Special thanks to all the organizations and community members who engaged with us during this project. We are grateful for your time and trust. Spectrum looks forward to being a more welcoming and safer space for Black, Indigenous, and racialized members of 2SLGBTQIA+ communities because of your engagement with us.

We also acknowledge those community members who were not prepared to engage with us. We understand your position and will work to become an organization that you can trust.

We recognize this project as a first step in a journey towards becoming an organization that better serves all 2SLGBTQIA+ people.

As promised, we’d like to share our final report with the community. This report summarizes what we heard during the community engagement project and includes recommendations for things that Spectrum (and potentially other organizations) can do to better serve BIR 2SLGBTQIA+ people.

We have already begun working on some of the recommendations. You have told us that you would like a BIR 2SLGBTQIA+ program that is run by paid BIR co-facilitators. Our hope is to create a space in which racialized folks can feel safe to discuss and find support regarding all aspects of their identity. We will soon be hiring two co-facilitators who will work with us to create and deliver this program. Stay tuned!

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Awareness, Statements

In Response to the Stabbing at University of Waterloo

We are not surprised by yesterday’s targeted attack of a gender studies class at the University of Waterloo. It is an escalation of the rise in hate speech targeting trans and non-binary people which 2SLGBTQIA+ people have been ringing warning bells about.

It is past time for our leaders to act for queer safety.

Coming as it does, on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, this attack only further galvanizes us. Pride has always been a protest. Queer people have always been here, and will always be here. For decades, we have fought for liberation, rights, and safety. Our visibility is key to our safety and we will not be erased.

To our leaders, how will you now take action to make people in your community safe against this violence? A statement about hate having no place here is not enough. The queer community of Waterloo Region demands that action be taken to keep our community safe.

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