October marks 2SLGBTQ+ month.
It’s a time to celebrate the community, reflect on the progress that has been made and look forward for areas of improvement and acceptance.
Scott Williams, executive director of SPECTRUM Waterloo, hopes the residents of Cambridge take time to do all three.
“LGBT History Month has been observed in October every year since 1994,” Williams said.
“It's important to take time and space to recognize the progress that has been made for 2SLGBTQIA+ rights, and celebrate the heroes of the liberation movement. It's equally important to recognize how far we still have to go.”
Williams agrees that progress has been made, but also points out there are areas where society is decades in the past.
“The biggest issues we are facing right now are around rights and acceptance for transgender and non-binary people,” he said.
“They are about 20 years behind where lesbian and gay people are.”
Part of the issue Williams has seen locally is the way in which education is approached and facilitated. He feels the division he's seen only causes harm and is hindering progress.
“Locally, we've seen battles happening at the school board about how and when it's appropriate to talk with students about these identities,” he said.
“The fact that people are questioning whether we should talk with students about trans and non-binary people is extremely problematic. It means that young trans and non-binary people are not being universally supported which is dangerous. It can contribute to mental health and wellness challenges up to, and including suicidality.”
Education is the first step to understanding the challenges that the community faces and it’s something SPECTRUM Waterloo has taken into their own hands.
The organization offers training in 2SLGBTQIA+ cultural competency. Their recent Rainbow Diversity Training workshops had over 450 participants in 2021-2022.
“We offer these workshops to organizations of all sizes and the feedback is overwhelmingly positive,” Williams said.
“People learn a lot from our facilitators who are willing to share their personal stories.”
To help celebrate the month and raise awareness, Spectrum Waterloo will be putting on numerous events around Cambridge in the coming weeks.
SPECTRUM’s Cambridge Transgender Peer Support Group meets at Idea Exchange Preston on Oct. 6 and Oct. 20. Also on Oct. 20, the Cambridge Art Galleries is hosting a virtual Queer Craft Circle on Zine making with artist Alyssa Pisciotto.
There is another significant event coming up later in the month that the 2SLGBTQIA+ and their allies need to be aware of, Williams says.
“Another solution is that 2SLGBTQIA+ people and our allies really need to vote in the upcoming municipal election,” he said.
“Municipal candidates are the people who have the greatest impact on our daily lives. SPECTRUM partnered with the OK2BME program at KW Counselling Services to create a questionnaire on 2SLGBTQ1A+ issues. This was sent to all of the municipal candidates and we have been sharing the responses on our website. Voting for candidates who will support 2SLGBTQIA+ people is an act of allyship.”
When the calendar flips to November, Williams hopes the community is more aware about 2SLGBTQIA+ issues and the work that needs to be done.
“I hope the community takes the opportunity to learn more about our history,” he said.
“Locally, one can start by looking at the Grand River Rainbow Historical Project, but there are all kinds of other great resources and articles online. I hope people realize that we have to be vigilant to protect the progress we have made. That includes voting.”
For more information on SPECTRUM Waterloo and their services visit ourspectrum.com.