This story originally appeared on United Way East Ontario’s website. As your connection to the work of United Way in our region, GenNext East Ontario is committed to bringing you stories like this to demonstrate the impact your support makes.
The feeling of excitement ahead of this year’s Capital Pride festival is palpable as we are bringing our communities “All Together Now” after more than two years physically distant. We finally get to spend time together to both address challenges that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and advocate for continued positive change across our region.
Mental health issues and feelings of isolation are already common among those in our 2SLGBTQ+ communities, before factoring in the effects of a global health crisis. According to Rainbow Health Ontario, studies have found high rates of depression, anxiety, obsessive–compulsive and phobic disorders, suicidal thoughts and acts, self-harm, and alcohol and drug dependence among 2SLGBTQ+ folks.
During the last couple of years, the lack of in-person connection has negatively affected 2SLGBTQ+ individuals of all ages, but especially queer youth. Being able to host recent events like Capital Pride’s Pride Prom and plan other youth-focused events as part of this year’s festival helps us affirm the experiences of queer youth and provide them a sense of community that supports them.
We know that something as simple as being able to have a face-to-face conversation with someone who understands what you’ve been through can be monumental for a young person. We hope this festival can be a beacon for 2SLGBTQ+ folks of all ages looking to connect, find support, heal and celebrate.
Collaboration key to improving circumstances
Of course, the Capital Pride festival is just one piece of the puzzle. We, alongside United Way East Ontario, support many organizations across the National Capital Region that uplift 2SLGBTQ+ communities in several ways, including the intersections of these communities with Indigenous Peoples, African, Caribbean and Black as well as other racialized communities. It is important that Capital Pride and United Way continue to foster partnerships with these community organizations so they can be there to provide support, ensure proper health care, offer mentorship, safe spaces and more to the people they serve.
Many organizations that we support are also advocating and lobbying government officials for long-term infrastructural change, which will benefit 2SLGBTQ+ communities. For example, Wisdom 2 Action spear-headed the Queer Vote Ontario campaign this past year. The group pushed for more concrete action for 2SLGBTQ+ communities through a clear action plan, more comprehensive healthcare programming, and additional funding for 2SLGBTQ+ organizations.
At this year’s Capital Pride Street Fair, many of the 2SLGBTQ+ organizations that are doing advocacy work will be set up to share information and connect with community members who need support.
Every triumph matters
And while much work remains to create necessary change, this past year has seen a few victories.
By September 30, 2022, there will no longer be blood donation eligibility criteria specific to men who have sex with men. This year also marks the ban of so-called “conversion therapy” in Canada, which stops individuals or organizations from trying to force 2SLGBTQ+ folks to change their sexuality and/or gender-identity.
These policy changes serve as reminders of all that can be achieved when groups work together to affirm the experiences of 2SLGBTQ+ individuals, as well as seek to achieve stronger community support and bolster individual rights, to maintain safety and prosperity for all.
All Together Now
This Capital Pride, we are All Together Now to celebrate how far we have come, the strength of our communities, and to advocate for the experiences of all 2SLGBTQ+ communities locally and internationally.
Happy Pride to all.