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 Cambridge.ca/accessibility

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

Read More
SPECTRUM News

Transgender Peer Support Group Updates – March 4, 2024

The Transmasc Peer Support Group has returned to its regular schedule — the 1st and 3rd Monday of the month from 7-9pm!

The full schedule of Trans Peer Support Groups is:

-Transgender Peer Support Group – 1st and 3rd Thursday and 2nd and 4th Monday

-Transmasc Peer Support Group – 1st and 3rd Monday

-Beyond the Binary – 4th Tuesday of the month

-Cambridge Trans Peer Support Group – biweekly on Thursdays

Be sure to check the Rainbow Community Calendar for the most up to date details on all of Spectrum’s programs and other 2SLGBTQIA+ events across the region!

A special thanks to the volunteers who make these groups possible!

Read More
SPECTRUM News

Strategic Plan 2024-2027

We are pleased to share our new Strategic Plan for 2024-2027.

Spectrum’s Board of Directors and Executive Director struck our triennial Strategic Planning Committee in July of 2023 and began working on a new plan. The work included doing a new environmental scan, new SWOT and PEST analyses, in-depth reviews of three years of feedback from program participants, a review of our community engagement project on creating Trans-Autistic supports, a review of our community engagement project with Black, Indigenous, and racialized folks, and a series of surveys of our board members.

The work culminated in a full-day strategic planning session on November 19, 2023 during which we established three new Strategic Priorities for 2024-2027:

Sustainability and Stability: Spectrum is committed to becoming a more stable and sustainable organization. We will work to become an equitable employer of choice through fundraising and fund development, community collaboration, and partnerships. Being an equitable employer will give us the capacity to better meet the needs of 2SLGBTQIA+ people in Waterloo Region. Spectrum will continue to work towards an inclusive community where all 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals are welcomed, celebrated, and supported as their authentic selves.

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.

Community and Advocacy: Spectrum is committed to continuing to build and maintain strong relationships and partnerships that increase capacity to serve 2SLGBTQIA+ people in Waterloo Region. Spectrum acknowledges the importance of public policy dialogue and development activities, where reasonable, to advocate for 2SLGBTQIA+ people having healthy and vibrant communities where they feel a sense of belonging.

These priorities build on the work we achieved with our 2021-2023 plan and we look forward to continuing the momentum we have established. Special thanks to our Board of Directors for their volunteerism and commitment to governance.

Read the complete Strategic Plan for 2024-2027.

Read More
SPECTRUM News

Thank You to the Kitchener Sports Association

We’d like to thank the Kitchener Sports Association for a grant of $3,500 that will allow us to purchase sports equipment for our 2SLGBTQIA+ Multi-Sport Drop-In!

The Multi-Sport Drop-In is totally free and is run out of the Downtown Community Centre and Stanley Park Community Centre in Kitchener. Each week we play a variety of sports like badminton, pickleball, volleyball, and basketball. From time to time we invite guest coaches for special events like Muay Thai and yoga.

Almost every participant that comes, comes because they want to meet other queer folks and move in a space exclusively for queer folks. Participants are at all levels and abilities. We have some people who are brand new to sports, while others are trying out for national sports teams. We’ve created a space that allows all abilities to play and have fun.

We’re also starting a Queer Run Club! Stay tuned for details.

Read More
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:

·        david.guerin@wcdsb.ca

·        marisa.phillips@wcdsb.ca

·        bob.sikora@wcdsb.ca

·        kathy.dohertymasters@wcdsb.ca

·        winston.francis@wcdsb.ca

·        renee.kraft@wcdsb.ca

·        tracey.weiler@wcdsb.ca

·        conrad.stanley@wcdsb.ca

·        linda.cuff@wcdsb.ca

·        bryanna.donoghue@wcdsb.ca

·        xavier.petrie@wcdsb.ca

Read More
Fundraising, SPECTRUM News

Fundraising with Factory Shoe

We’re excited to announce a new collaboration with Factory Shoe that will raise funds to support Spectrum’s programs for 2SLGBTQIA+ people in Waterloo Region. Factory Shoe has provided us with $5 fundraiser cards. When they are used to make purchases at Factory Shoe of $35 or more, Factory Shoe will make a $5 donation to Spectrum!

We asked about how Factory Shoe ensures its stores are safe and welcoming to 2SLGBTQIA+ people. They have a Diversity Policy that demonstrates a commitment to creating a workplace that values and respects individual differences. Factory Shoe has clear policies in place to ensure inclusion and prevent harassment for all customers, including 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals. These policies are designed to maintain a safe and respectful atmosphere for all visitors. Their employees are well-versed in these policies and are committed to upholding them. 

Factory Shoe understands that the experiences of transgender individuals in retail settings can be challenging, and they are dedicated to providing a different, positive experience.

You can pick up your $5 Fundraising Card at Spectrum any time we are open for programming! Visit the Rainbow Community Calendar for details or email info@ourspectrum.com to arrange a pick-up time.

Note, the cards have no cash value.

Read More
Research, SPECTRUM News

Waterloo Region 2SLGBTQ+ WELCOME Study

Spectrum is working with health researchers at Wilfrid Laurier University, in partnership with the AIDS Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo & Area (ACCKWA), on a new grant funded research project called the “Waterloo Region 2SLGBTQ+ WELCOME Study” led by Dr. Todd Coleman, Associate Professor at Wilfrid Laurier University. This project aims to assess 2SLGBTQ+ needs in Waterloo Region, given that our community has largely been ignored in the context of health research. We wish to better understand the needs as well as the health and well-being of our community and offer programming and policy solutions to improve health outcomes. 

The research will include a 40-minute survey and a qualitative interview to understand 2SLGBTQ+ experiences about community health, health status and behaviour over the life-course, healthcare and social service access, safety, and social support. It will also include consultative engagement with health system stakeholders. 

The Waterloo Region 2SLGBTQ+ WELCOME Survey is part of a multiphase grant funded project aiming to conduct a 2SLGBTQ+ needs assessment to advance the current understanding of the general health landscape of 2SLGBTQ+ identifying persons who live, work, or reside in the Waterloo region. The results of the survey will help inform the latter phases of the study and be disseminated to our constituents as part of our knowledge translation activities in different formats.  

Once the information has been collected, analyzed and distributed (e.g. at community meetings, reports, academic publications), the research team hopes to work with the community on initiatives that promote the health and well-being of 2SLGBTQ+ populations in Canada 

We are seeking participants who:

  • Identify as 2SLGBTQ+ 
  • 16+ 
  • Live, work, or reside in Waterloo Region 

If this is you and you’d like to take the survey, . Note that the password is “welcome2023”. If you have questions or would like to be considered for an interview, please connect with Robert Chin-see (he/him).

This study has been approved by the Research Ethics Board at Wilfrid Laurier University (REB# 8419) 

Read More
SPECTRUM News

Construction Notice – Kitchener Utilities

Please note that from October 3, 2023-November 17, 2023 there is construction happening around our building that might make it more challenging for you to find us! In particular, the bus stop at Duke & Victoria may not be available. The closest alternatives are Weber & Wellington or Central Station.

View the official notice here. This document includes details about what work is planned for specific dates.

As always, we recommend you use the Breithaupt Street parking lot entrance to visit Spectrum.

Read More
Research, SPECTRUM News

Assessing the Need for Trans-Autistic Support in Waterloo Region

In Spring 2023, Waterloo Region Family Network (WRFN) and Spectrum Waterloo Region’s Rainbow Community Place (Spectrum) came together to assess the need for supports for the trans-autistic community. Trans and autistic communities face their own unique challenges navigating society. Trans individuals might experience transphobia, barriers to accessing public spaces, and threats of violence while autistic individuals can experience ableism, lack of accessibility and/or accommodations, and other forms of systemic discrimination. When someone is both trans and autistic, the discrimination they face is compounded – meaning any support given to this community is incomplete if it does not consider the intersections of their identity.

Interviews and surveys were conducted to gather insights from the community to help inform the establishment of potential programming for the trans-autistic community. We were so fortunate to work with Cayden Genik on this project. Cayden played an instrumental role in conducting interviews, research and report writing. Cayden’s full report, Establishing Effective Trans-Autistic Support, can be found here.

Our Objective

This collaborative project sought to acknowledge the increasingly visible intersection between autism and gender divergence, elevate the voices of autistic and/or trans community members, assess the need for programming, and establish next steps to implement potential programming.

Our Method

We connected with the trans-autistic community through three group interviews (one in-person and two virtual) and an online survey. All information collected was anonymous. We had a total of sixteen participants, some of whom were members of the trans-autistic community (either with formal diagnosis or without) while others were parents of individuals in this community. While we valued all insights, emphasis was given to voices of those within the trans-autistic community themselves.

Common Challenges for Trans-Autistic Individuals

When speaking with those belonging to the community, many common themes began to emerge:

  • Lack of overall support at the intersection of autism and gender divergence.
  • Uncertainty of where to access informed resources.
  • Difficulty finding others within the trans-autistic community.
  • Lack of racial diversity in community programming.
  • Lack of safe, social spaces for the trans-autistic community.
  • Preference to engage in programming carried out by individuals with lived experience.
  • Preference for reliable, in-person, drop-in programming that requires little commitment.

When speaking to the parents of those belonging to the trans-autistic community, the following themes were identified:

  • Virtual programming made it difficult for their children to connect and engage.
  • A lack of access to resources and information.
  • Need for a safe, social space where their trans-autistic children feel represented.

When asked about the challenges they have encountered, those identifying as autistic and/or trans shared the following:

  • Society has a limited understanding of what autism is, thus contributing to the incorrect belief that all those with autism have reduced mental capacity.
  • Transness is often invalidated in the presence of autism.
  • Systemic discrimination, microaggressions, and stigma.
  • Navigating as non-binary in a binary world.
  • Fear of taking up space (i.e., not being trans or autistic enough to fit in with each individual community).
  • Lack of moderated gatherings and safe spaces to meet other individuals belonging to the community.
  • Lack of support in communication and accessibility needs.
  • Lack of racial and neurodiversity in community programming.

Need for Inclusive and Flexible Programming

Out of all autistic and/or trans participants, only five had experience with existing programming. Those that commented on their experiences with programming shared that they valued having the ability to learn about themselves and connect with peers in a safe space where they did not feel the need to justify their existence. In addition, these individuals shared the following critiques of their experiences with programming:

  • Cisgender folks have made formal attempts against programming in an attempt to have it disbanded.
  • Organizations often assume what the community needs without getting them involved in the conversation.
  • Difficulty in meeting criteria for in-person programming (e.g., formal diagnoses, non-binary exclusions).

Next Steps

Through our collaboration, interviews, surveys, and research gathered by Cayden, it is clear there is a need in our community for a specialized program for the trans-autistic community. WRFN and Spectrum will continue to work together to build a program to address the unique needs expressed by our local trans-autistic community.

As Cayden highlights, effectively supporting this diverse community involves constantly revising current practices and seeking ways in which they can be improved. With the guidance provided in Cayden’s report, we aim to create programming that is led and informed by those with lived experience where others can feel understood and have access to reliable resources. 

Read More
SPECTRUM News

Transgender Peer Support Group Updates

UPDATE! The Trans Peer Support Groups will return to the second and fourth Mondays of the month starting October 9th!

We’ve had some questions about recent changes to our transgender peer support group schedule and wanted to provide an update.

Our general trans peer support group is currently meeting on the first and third Thursdays of the month. We don’t currently have enough volunteer co-facilitators to run the meetings that we used to have on the second and fourth Mondays of the month, but we hope to bring them back in the near future.

Our Beyond the Binary group meets once per month on the fourth Tuesday of the month.

Our transmasc group is currently on hold as we look for volunteer co-facilitators. Ideally, we would also like to have a transfemme group, but again we’d need the volunteers to make it happen.

Our Cambridge transgender peer support group continues to meet bi-weekly on Thursdays.

For transparency’s sake, we schedule two volunteer co-facilitators to run every group. Our volunteers are required to take training in accessibility, health and safety, racism, and our own Rainbow Diversity Training. They’re also required to have a police check for the vulnerable sector, be familiar with our policies and procedures, and participate in additional training as we identify other important opportunities. Not everyone who applies to be a volunteer is well-suited to facilitation of a peer support group. We interview people and check references to make sure that our volunteers will be able to commit to running the groups at specific times and have strong facilitation skills.

We currently have four volunteers on our trans peer support team, and three of them are relatively new. Special thanks to our volunteers for making these groups possible! If you are interested in volunteering with us you can complete the application here.

We will provide more updates as the program evolves. We know how important these groups are to participants and we will provide as many of them as we safely can within our resources.

Read More