Guest post

Guest post: exploring your queer identity as a bisexual person

I first encountered biphobia before I was even out to myself and a woman at a gay bar in Montreal asked my sexual orientation. When I said I wasn’t sure, she scoffed and said women who “weren’t sure” always defaulted back to men. (Ma’am, who hurt you?) It bothered me at the time, but I didn’t know why.

Now I’m proudly bisexual. I’m also in a relationship with a cisgender man, and there’s been no revelation that I was straight all along. In fact, it’s made the need to connect to my queerness stronger–not to compensate or prove something, but to nurture parts of myself that are vital to who I am, regardless of my partner.

When I asked other friends in “straight-passing” relationships, they said the same thing. They want to express and explore their queer identity, but aren’t sure how. It can be a challenge for any 2SLGBTQ+ person, but especially for those who feel excluded by others in the queer community or erased by the world at large. So how can you engage with and cultivate your queerness? With some exploration, I’ve found ways to embrace, as bell hooks put it, “the self that is at odds with everything around it.”

Engage with queer art. 

Nurture yourself with 2SLGBTQ+ culture. Read works written by queer folks about queer folks (fan fiction counts). Watch movies or shows where 2SLGBTQ+ people are realized characters who aren’t killed off for the drama. Listen to queer music artists. Hang queer art on your walls. You might even be inspired to create for yourself!

Learn about queer history.

Queer history is your history! Deepen your connection to yourself by reading up on 2SLGBTQ+ events and people from the past. Understanding queer history in Canada and globally can help you appreciate how far we’ve come—and understand where we need to go.

Volunteer for a cause.

If you have the privilege of time and energy, putting it to use helping an 2SLGBTQ+ cause is a worthy and warming use of it. There are lots of non-profits focused on a variety of queer causes, so find one that speaks to you and put yourself out there. 

Find personalized community spaces.

My boyfriend, best friend, and I play video games together. One game we like allows you to add a Pride flag charm to your character’s outfit. When you see other players wearing the Pride charm, it’s customary to do a little dance by crouching to acknowledge each other. The tiny spark I feel as I tap the CTRL key—I see you!—is weird and special.

Participating in queer spaces can be affirming and validating when you find ones that suit you. Luckily, the recent Zoom boom (sorry), means events are becoming more accessible for all. Organizations like Spectrum have support groups online and off, and also host seminars and social events. So get out there and find your own video game Pride charm crouch dance!

Riley Wignall is a writer and a total nerd from Waterloo, currently being queer as h*ck in Hamilton, Ontario.

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Guest post

Guest post: Finding the sport that fit for me – the struggle as a POC Lesbian woman

This guest post is by Lakisha Hoover.

People often joke to me about how I navigate through the world as a triple threat: bi-racial, a woman and a lesbian.  I never really thought of these things until I got older and realized the community I grew up in lacked resources and spaces that felt comfortable. 

Attending Catholic schools all of my life, I knew I was always part of the minority –  especially within sports. There was a clear lack of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ representation in my city’s sport leagues, and not many people were out. I never felt safe enough to engage in the conversations everyone else had about dating and who they found to be “hot”, which meant missing out on chances to connect to my teammates when we travelled together.

Eventually I lost my passion for basketball after playing for many years and I feeling I was never going to get anywhere with it as a woman. So I slowly disconnected myself from the sport I have always loved and began playing rugby. 

Starting rugby, I was a bit worried about how I would be treated; I loved the chance it gave me to feel strong and empowered, but I was worried about how people would see me. I have heard people joke before in my small group of 2SLGBTQ+ friends  that rugby is a “gay persons dream”. Though it was a joke, I was very worried my teammates would get the wrong idea if they knew I was a lesbian. I was already fearful of being labelled as the aggressive black girl. These fears meant I never felt comfortable or good enough, and I eventually disconnected from rugby as I had with basketball and stopped playing altogether. 

Fast forward to 2021 when I found a rugby league in my city. Though it was coed and non-contact, I thought it could be a great way to build connections. However, I struggled with not knowing anyone. It was dominated by mainly men who were vocal about not wanting to play with women. Being one of three BIPOC there made me feel even more out of place. I attended a few sessions and eventually quit. I spent the rest of the summer looking into Leagues elsewhere that had a space that I could be myself. 

Recently I have signed up for the JAM sport league for co-ed basketball. Typically, co-ed leagues require two women to be on the field at all times. However, in this league there are no minimum gender requirements when playing, which means people who aren’t men are put in the vulnerable position of potentially being benched. 

Luckily, places such as Toronto offer great resources and spaces for BIPOC and the LGBTQ+ community. With the help of my amazing partner, I found an inclusive rugby club called The Rainbow Griffins. (More information can be found on Pride Toronto’s Instagram page.) And I am still

I am still hopeful for more small or medium sized cities to create the spaces bigger cities already have.

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Guest Post: performing bisexuality for others

This month’s guest post was written by Julia Cowderoy.

When I was 19 I posted a status on Facebook that said “when people ask me about my sexuality, I’m just going to start saying my thirst knows no bounds’. While that’s obviously hilarious I understand now that I was using humour as a faux shield against any kind of scrutiny (real or imagined). During this time I felt I had to “prove” my bisexuality in order for it to be valid. The irony of writing an essay to prove that I don’t have to prove anything is not lost on me, but just bear with me. 

I’ve realized that not feeling “queer enough” is a common theme within the bisexual community. Why is that? I’ve noticed that bisexual men are assumed to be gay, whereas bisexual women are painted with a broad brush as straight girls who drunkenly make-out with their friends for the enjoyment of their googly-eyed yokel boyfriends. In both instances, the attraction of men is the underlying motivation for expressions of sexuality.  

While I can’t wholly speak to the experiences of bisexual men, I will say that I’ve had straight men view my sexuality as a performance for their pleasure. (“Performance” is a useful word because it implies we are actors and bisexuality needs to look a certain way in order for it to be valid.) While trying to come to terms with my own sexuality I was influenced more by external sources than I understood at the time. 

I’ve had people in my life question my sexuality because I’ve never dated a woman, and recently my best friend even told me I was “90% into men”. She didn’t mean this maliciously; I’ve only dated men, so the judgement was based more on how I’ve presented than how I feel. The reality is that my attraction to people is more fluid rather than a rigid percentage. This interaction sent me into an anxiety spiral wondering if I was just cosplaying as a bisexual person this entire time.

When I volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters as a peer mentor, I encouraged conversations about gender and sexuality. I marvelled at how accepting much of this younger generation is of sexuality and how they realize it isn’t static and doesn’t need to appear a certain way to be real. When I was that age I thought sexuality was something predetermined and permanent, and as such I had a lot of confusion surrounding my attraction to women since I considered myself straight. 

I’ve come a long way in understanding my sexuality, but there is still work to be done. I hope as a society we can come to a place of understanding that sexuality and gender are more complex than scientific definitions. And, like any sexuality, bisexuality isn’t some hypothesis that needs to be tested, experimented, cross-examined and held to rigorous scientific standards — it simply exists.

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Year-end giving: donations needed for Chrysalis Fund

The end of the year is approaching, and with it the last chance for year-end charitable giving. SPECTRUM is in need of donations to support our Chrysalis Fund for Mental Health, which helps to provide no cost and subsidized counselling to members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, with a focus on transgender and non-binary people. 

This service is badly needed in our community; stigma, violence, and discrimination mean that 2SLGBTQ+ people are at elevated risk for serious mental illness, addiction, and suicide:

Transgender and non-binary people experience even higher levels of risk because of lack of community support and rejection by friends, family, and loved ones:

  • Per the Outlook Study, less than half (43%) of trans people in Waterloo Region have come out to people outside of their immediate family. Nearly a third of those who have (31%) say that the people they came out to are unsupportive.
  • In one Waterloo Region study, 42% of trans respondents reported having to move away from family or friends because of their gender identity. 
  • Of the 40,000 homeless youth in Canada, between 25% and 40% identify as 2SLGBTQ+. Family conflict relating to sexual orientation or gender identity is the main reason 2SLGBTQ+ youth become homeless.

In addition to there being a lack of mental health professionals qualified to provide trans and non-binary inclusive care, many trans and non-binary people who experience employment discrimination or economic marginalization are unable to afford counselling services, which are expensive and not always covered by benefits. 

Of especial concern is that trans and non-binary people have disproportionately suffered negative economic impacts of COVID 19 while also experiencing much higher rates of depression and mental illness:

  • According to Statistics Canada, almost 70% of gender-diverse participants reported fair/poor mental health, compared with 25.5% of female participants and 21.2% of male participants. Gender-diverse people were 2 times more likely than women to report symptoms of anxiety, and 3 times more likely than men. 
  • Gender-diverse respondents were 1.6 times more likely to report that COVID-19 had a “moderate”or “major” impact on their ability to meet their financial obligations or essential needs, such as rent or mortgage payments, utilities, and groceries. 
  • According to a 2018 survey, the age and gender distribution of the 2SLGBTQ+ population in Canada was also associated with higher risk for experiencing loss of employment.
  • 2SLGBTQ+ Canadians are also significantly over-represented among low-income earners.

Your donations are needed to continue providing access to this vital service for those most in need. We urge you to give directly to the Chrysalis Fund for mental health as part of your year-end giving. Monies from the Chrysalis Fund will be used to provide counselling services through the OK2BME program at KW Counselling Services. $130 will cover the full cost of a counselling session for someone in need. We thank you for prioritizing 2SLGBTQ+ mental health in your year-end giving!

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Events, SPECTRUM News

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2021

Every year on November 20th, we observe the Transgender Day of Remembrance to remember the transgender people we have lost to violence in the past year.

This year, the Glow Centre and SPECTRUM are partnering with ACCKWA and SHORE Centre on a virtual vigil event for the Transgender Day of Remembrance on Saturday November 20, 2021 at 3pm. From 3-4pm we will hear from speakers, and from 4-5pm there will be a facilitated healing circle.

Click here to register for the event.

(A small number of students will be able to attend in-person on the U Waterloo campus, other community members will be able to attend virtually)

The event will be hosted by Sam Faulkner. Our speakers will be Dewe’igan Bearfoot, Cait Glasson, TK Pritchard, and Teneile Warren. The healing circle will be facilitated by Mandi Cowan and Washington Silk.

Dewe’igan Bearfoot (she/they)

Dewe’igan Bearfoot is a two-spirit transfemme Anishnaabe woman hailing from Spry Lake Ontario. They came out as Bisexual at the age of 16 and then came out as Trans between the ages of 19 and 20. Since then they’ve become an advocate for Mental Health Awareness, 2S and LGBTQA+ Rights and Land Back.

Sam Faulkner (they/them) 

Sam is a design student interested in advocacy work and community event planning as well as user experience research and hearing health. They have participated on numerous committees that focus on improving transition related health care and LGBTQ+ sports inclusion including co-founding Ottawa-based trans youth group, SAEFTY. In their free time, they enjoy crocheting and writing articles for their university’s student government.  

Cait Glasson (she/her) 

Cait is a lesbian who came out as such 29 years ago, and at 55 is a mother, grandmother, activist, educator, and, incidentally, trans. Cait is the former President of the Board of Directors of SPECTRUM, Waterloo Region’s Rainbow Community Space. 

TK Pritchard (they/he) 

TK is the Executive Director for SHORE Centre, a reproductive rights and sexual health non-profit. TK has previously worked as the Public Education Manager for the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region, a Sexual Health Educator,  and as a facilitator for OK2BME running social support groups for queer youth. 

Teneile Warren (they/them) 

Teneile Warren is a Black, Nonbinary, and Queer identifying Racial Equity and Anti-Oppression Educator based in Kitchener, Ontario. Through their professional practice, they consult with public and private institutions on addressing racial equity, gender equity, creating anti-oppressive spaces, and guiding organizational equity change initiatives.  They are the co-founder of insideWaterloo and the Equity and Inclusion Officer at the Waterloo Region District School Board. 

Washington Silk (they/them) 

Washington Silk is a Registered Social Worker. They hold a BA in Anthropology from the University of Lethbridge (2010) and a Master of Social Work from Wilfrid Laurier University (2013). Wash is a passionate transgender and queer social worker with over 10 years of clinical and community experience. They are a white settler from Alberta. They have lived experience of ADHD, learning disabilities and mental health struggles and recovery. 

Mandi Cowan (they/she) 

Mandi Cowan is the co-owner of Cultivate Counselling. They graduated with a Master of Social Work from Carleton University in 2014 and have worked in the KW area ever since. As an experienced therapist, and also someone who has accessed mental health services, Mandi believes in the importance of finding a counselling space that values you as a unique and complex person or couple, and can adapt to meet your needs and goals. 

Below are local resources for transgender people, and those looking to learn more about trans and gender-diverse people here in Waterloo Region.

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A statement about Chick-fil-A’s opening in Kitchener

SPECTRUM is aware that a new Chick-fil-A franchise will be opening in Kitchener this weekend. As we expressed in the 2020 interview linked above, we have significant concerns with this company and its CEO who continues to donate to anti-2SLGBTQ+ organizations including the National Christian Charitable Foundation, a massive organization which is currently engaged in a campaign against a 2SLGBTQ+ equal rights bill in the United States and which has pushed anti-2SLGBTQ+ bills in over 30 states this year. 

These bills have had a direct impact on the lives and safety of transgender people, especially youth. They include efforts to ban transgender student athletes from sports, support for conversion “therapy”, provisions to block trans youth from receiving transition-related medical care, and even some bills that call for genital inspections of children to ensure compliance with these regulations.

Conversion “therapy” is torture. As an organization that serves and affirms 2SLGBTQ+ people and works to ensure their well-being and belonging in Waterloo Region, we cannot support organizations that advocate for the torture of queer people. Conversion “therapy” is still happening in Canada, and in our own community. Bill C-6, an act that would amend the criminal code to ban these practices, has yet to pass in the Senate.

We would respectfully ask that individuals and organizations who are considering relationships with Chick-fil-A do some research about the company and consider the impact that working with them or shopping with them might have on their 2SLGBTQ+ friends, family members, and co-workers.

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SPECTRUM News, Survey

Help Us Create a Trans Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Toolkit for Waterloo Region

SPECTRUM Waterloo’s 2SLGBTQ+ / Rainbow Community Space is working to develop a mental health promotion and suicide prevention toolkit for the transgender community in Waterloo Region. We need to hear from members of the trans community in the region, as well as from family members, carers, partners, friends and service providers, to learn more about their perspectives related to trans mental health promotion and suicide prevention.


The purpose of this project is to create a toolkit that reflects both research and community priorities to support trans people in Waterloo Region. In the initial phase of this project, we’re working to understand the perspectives of trans folks, families, carers, friends and service providers, in order to identify key areas of priority and key resources to be incorporated into the toolkit.

Who We Are

Opening their doors in 2012, SPECTRUM is Waterloo Region’s 2SLGBTQ+ / Rainbow community space. SPECTRUM provides a safe space for the region’s Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer community through programing, resources, events and more.

Wisdom2Action (W2A) is a 2SLGBTQ+ owned and operated social enterprise and consulting firm. Through W2A’s commitment to anti-oppression, community engagement, and evidence-based practice, we help civil society organizations and governments facilitate change and strengthen communities. Wisdom2Action is working with SPECTRUM to execute community engagement and support content creation of a toolkit around the mental health promotion and suicide prevention toolkit for the transgender community in Waterloo Region.

Get involved

If you would like to share your perspective on mental health promotion and suicide prevention for the trans community, and ultimately inform this toolkit, please complete the survey here:

If you would like to dive further into your perspectives with us, please consider expressing your interest to participate in a key informant interview here. Honorariums will be provided to all key informants for their time.

If you have any questions about this project, or would like more information, please contact Alyssa at Wisdom 2 Action.

Thank you for your interest and participation in this very important project.

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Research, Survey

Perception of LGBTQ2+ people in Waterloo Region: SPECTRUM’s survey results

Perception of LGBTQ2+ people in Waterloo Region: SPECTRUM’s survey results

One of the key accountabilities defined in Project Excelsior’s WAGE Grant funding application was to conduct community surveys both of LGBTQ2+ people and non-LGBTQ2+ people in Waterloo Region. In conducting a survey of non-LGBTQ2+ people in Waterloo Region, the goal was to better understand community perceptions of LGBTQ2+ people, knowledge gaps, and what support we can provide to non-LGBTQ2+ people looking to become better allies.

In part thanks to the assistance of community partners and stakeholders, SPECTRUM received 367 qualifying responses to our survey – which was more than double the response that we got to our Spring LGBTQ2+ Community Survey. A huge thank you to everyone who either completed the survey or helped promote it!

One of the things we heard during the survey process was that there was interest in the outcome, so now that the analysis of the results is complete SPECTRUM is making a report summarizing the survey results available.

Click here for a summary report that presents the most notable findings.

Click here for a full research summary that includes open-ended response data.

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Panel Discussion

LGBTQ2+ Parenting: Straight Parents of Queer Kids

LGBTQ2+ Parenting: Straight Parents of Queer Kids

The first in a series of four virtual panel discussions for Pride month. In partnership with PFLAG Waterloo, Wellington, Perth Region SPECTRUM presents a panel of four straight, cisgender parents who will discuss the unique challenges and opportunities of parenting LGBTQ2+ children. Moderated by Suzie Taka. Recorded June 9, 2021. Thank you to our panelists: Theresa Barrick, Emily Gaede, Maryanne Paul, and Matt Lucid.

View Video

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IDAHOTB 2021: Together resisting, Supporting, and Healing

IDAHOTB 2021: Together resisting, Supporting, and Healing

Created in 2004, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia exists to draw attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTQ2+ people. It is observed on May 17th to commemorate the World Health Organization’s declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder, which did not occur until 1990.

While strides have been made with regard to equality for people with marginalized sexual orientations, LGBTQ2+ people still do not have equal rights. And while people have grown more accustomed to gay and lesbian relationships, discrimination against Bisexual and Pansexual people is still shockingly rampant. Bisexual people experience higher rates of violence and are less likely to receive critical health screenings than gay men and lesbians.

People attracted to multiple genders also have much lower social support than gay men and lesbians. Bisexual people are significantly less likely to be out to everyone in their lives. There is also still widespread distrust of Bisexual and Pansexual people as potential romantic partners, even within the LGBTQ2+ community. This inter-LGBTQ2+ discrimination means that Bisexual and Pansexual people both experience more severe marginalization and have less access to the social support needed to deal with that marginalization.

The escalation of hateful rhetoric over the “trans debate” in the United States and the UK is another painful reminder of how far we still have to go. Politicians fan the flames of transgender and non-binary hatred by “debating” their existence and pushing legislation aimed at banning them from public spaces and public life.

In the United States, more than 100 anti-trans bills have been proposed in 33 states banning things like trans participation in sports or even transition-related medical care. And while Canada, a notable haven for “rainbow refugees” and one of the first countries to legalize marriage equality, conversion “therapy” is still legal in half of the provinces.

There is no scientific evidence that a person’s gender or sexual orientation can be changed through “therapy”, and a wealth of evidence to support that people who experience conversion “therapy” experience lasting and irreparable harm. A third of men who survive conversion “therapy” go on to attempt suicide. And yet, there are federal MPs who are currently advocating against efforts to fully outlaw this outdated and unspeakably cruel practice.

This May 17th, LGBTQ2+ people need your support more than ever. LGBTQ2+ people have disproportionately suffered the economic and health impacts of COVID 19, and are doing their best to get by during a cultural moment in which it’s seen as acceptable to debate their very existence. So please ask yourself: what direct action can I take to support LGBTQ2+ people in my community, and what might that look like?

Whatever you decide, remember that silence is not an option if you truly care about the safety and well-being of LGBTQ2+ people in your community.

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