Happy Pride. Before all else, we wish everyone who is or will be celebrating in the days and weeks ahead a happy, safe, joyful, inspiring and mindful Pride. To all the 2SLGBTQ+ communities who are gathering, demonstrating, marching, parading and partying together, we stand and celebrate with you. With all Alliance members who continue to help lead the way creating safe spaces and health and social services for 2SLGBTQ+ people of all ages, we stand in solidarity with you -- against violence, against oppression, against exclusion, against hate and discrimination in all its forms.

Last year at this time, we noted in our Pride statement that concern was rising among 2SLGBTQ+ communities and allies about violence and the increased risks people face, even in spaces that had been considered safe from homophobia and transphobia. This year, we join others, including the Green Party Leader Amita Kuttner, who is Canada's first transgender federal party leader, in demanding action to protect 2SLGBTQ+ people, and in particular, to create protections for transgender folks. The changes we need must be, as the Mental Health Commission of Canada says, about a “right to dignity” and inclusion, as much as protections from violence.

Transphobia and trans hate continues to get a place in media coverage as a “side of the issue”; transphobia continues to be acceptable fodder for celebrity comedians’ attention-starved rants, continues to dominate decisions on policies of exclusion and discrimination, and continues to make trans people feel unsafe throughout our societies, including in spaces of education and health and wellbeing. This is unacceptable.

To foster more understanding, both of transgender, Indigenous and intersectional experiences, as well as the supports that matter the most, especially for youth, we invited Teddy Syrette to speak at our conference.

Teddy Syrette (Ozhawa Anung Kwe/Yellow Star Woman) is a 2-Spirit Anishnabe from Rankin Reserve of Batchewana First Nation of the Anishnabek. Teddy has a background in social justice for First Nation and 2Spirit and LGBTQ+ people and communities. Their background also includes community theatre and bingo. Teddy has a diploma in Social Service Work – Indigenous Specialization from Sault College, and Teddy uses they/them as their pronouns. As a brown, First Nation queer person, there were many barriers and challenges that Teddy faced growing up on Rankin Reserve and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. These acts of discrimination and bullying led Teddy to a path of self-destruction and isolation. However, they did manage to find support in a high school guidance counsellor, an LGBT+ youth group of Algoma and affirming family and friends.

In their talk, Teddy talks about the need for more helpers, and more safe spaces, and more opportunities for young 2SLGBTQ+ people to connect, particularly for those also facing marginalization and exclusion due to racism, geographic isolation, family abuse and violence, homelessness and low incomes. You can follow Teddy via Instagram.

The Alliance and our members, Ontario and Canada need to do better. It’s why in 2021-22, the Alliance and its staff committed to full completion of the Rainbow Health Ontario LGBT2SQ Foundations Training. It’s why the Alliance and its members are committed to the Indigenous Primary Health Care Council’s Indigenous Cultural Safety Training as well, in addition to advocating for the training for all of Ontario’s public service. It’s only with collective action that we can achieve solidarity for health equity.

What’s possible when community health organizations work together for action on health equity for trans and other 2SLGBTQ+ communities? Quite simply a transformed health system based on principles of inclusion, safety, respect and trust that can truly support the needs of 2SLGBTQ+ people.

Here’s an example from the 2022 Transformative Change Award recipients that the Alliance and our sector are particularly proud of this year, the Southwestern Ontario Youth Gender Diversity Clinic delivered via Chatham-Kent Community Health Centres and Windsor-Essex Community Health Centre in partnership with local pediatrician Dr. Ian Johnston.

Congratulations and Happy Pride to everyone who’s working every day to improve and expand access to safe, inclusive health and social services for 2SLGBTQ+ communities. You are literally saving lives and helping people thrive with every encounter!