Reprinted from "LGBT" issue of Visions Journal, 2009, 6 (2), pp. 30-31
Qmunity* has been serving lesbian-gay-bisexual-trans (LGBT)—or queer—folk and our allies for more than 30 years. Our programs and services help to enrich queer and other communities, advance the health and well-being of queer communities, and build capacity (that is, help individuals develop their personal gifts and abilities to benefit the community). We also advocate for justice, challenge stereotypes and affirm the worth of all people.
The majority of our programs are focused on the Lower Mainland, since we are largely funded by the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Coastal Health. Requests, however, come from all over BC and Canada due to a growing need for queer resources. We do operate a province-wide peer support, information and referral phone line.
Our age-specific programs
Gab Youth provides a safe, drug-free environment for queer and questioning youth, 16 to 25 years of age. Gab programs are facilitated by professional staff, though youth participate in program development.
Gab Youth provides information and referral services, one-to-one peer support, weekly drop-ins and leadership training. Volunteer opportunities for young people include providing peer support, joining the youth advisory committee and doing educational outreach through PrideSpeak workshops. PrideSpeaks are interactive anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia workshops for youth, usually given in school settings.
Fun social events include Frisbee on the Beach, arts and crafts sessions, movie nights, the annual Queer Prom and a host of other youth-suggested and staff-supervised events.
Qmunity’s Generations initiated Moving Images to preserve the stories of older queers so they will be available for research, education and other purposes. Videos of older queers telling their stories are being archived and will be accessible online. Older queer volunteers, as well as some younger queer volunteers, have been trained to do the interviewing and videotaping.
Moving Images is being done in partnership with the Queer History Project of Out On Screen. Out On Screen is a non-profit organization that presents the Vancouver Queer Film Festival and the province-wide Out in Schools educational program (www.outonscreen.com//index.php). The Queer History Project explores Vancouver’s queer history online through text, photos, video, audio and other media.
Moving Images and the Queer History Project are important efforts to preserve the queer dimensions of Vancouver’s history. As these LGBT people age and die, our city and region could be deprived of a rich source of understanding who we are and the challenges our queer community has faced.
For more information contact Myer Leach at Qmunity, 604-684-8449 or email@example.com.
Generations is one of only two programs in Canada (the other is in Toronto) dedicated to serving older and aging queers and to bringing generations together. “Older” is roughly 45 years, but the determining factor has less to do with years of age than with personal issues such as changing perceptions of body image and employability. For example, gay men and transgender people may begin to grapple with these issues in their late 30s or early 40s, while lesbian women may begin facing similar questions around 55.
Support and discussion groups focus on, for example, life transitions, smoking cessation (Catching Our Breath) and chronic illness (Chronically Queer). Educational workshops cover topics such as memory and aging, representation agreements, sexuality and aging, and relationships and aging.
In partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health, Generations runs a weekly group for older queers who are dealing with substance abuse. This is not a 12-step program. These “Golden Oldies” meet with a trained therapist every Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. for mutual support. (For more information or to register, call 604-714-3480.)
Social events include a queer-themed movie night for older queers (Fruity Flicks), a community kitchen for older queers, bi-monthly card games for queers “of a certain age,” an annual Honouring Our Elders Tea, a discussion group for gay men between the ages of 40 and 59 (Club 4050), a monthly excursion to a fine arts event in the city—and the list goes on!
]Intergenerational activities are organized with Gab Youth and other departments within Qmunity. These include activities such as bowling, Queer Jeopardy, a monthly social for queer women of all ages, and National Coming Out Day events.
]Generations also offers workshops and lectures in colleges , universities and care facilities. Students, staff members and managers are trained in developing queer-friendly human resources and guidelines that affirm the human rights of all clients. Home support workers, social workers, medical personnel and other service providers are given tools to help make queers feel safe in these care environments.
We’ve also begun an exciting new project—Moving Images—to archive videotaped stories told by older queers (see text box). Moving Images promises to be a valuable resource for researchers and the community at large.
Support, referral and counselling services
Qmunity offers a free counselling service for people in our queer communities who otherwise might not have access to a therapeutic relationship, or who prefer to access these services in a queer setting. Therapists are master’s- or doctoral-level students under clinical supervision, who have special sensitivity to, and knowledge of, the queer community. (For intake, call 604-684-5307, extension 100, and say you’d like to see a counsellor.)
A number of 12-step addictions programs and other support groups for LGBT people also regularly meet at Qmunity.
PRIDELINE provides telephone support to queers of all ages throughout BC. Trained volunteers listen with a welcoming, non-judgmental, affirming ear. They also give information and referrals to other queer, mental health and substance abuse resources. PRIDELINE is not a crisis line, but volunteers will give callers information about crisis resources if needed. Call 604-684-6869, or 1-800-566-1170 from anywhere in BC outside Metro Vancouver, between 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm Monday through Friday.
Qmunity is located at Bute Street and Davie Street in Vancouver’s West End. For general information, call the reception desk at 604-684-5307. Visit online at www.qmunity.ca to find out more about our programs. You can also become a fan of Qmunity on Facebook or follow Qmunity on Twitter.
* Prior to June 2009, Qmunity was known as The Centre.
About the author
Myer is the part-time Program Facilitator for Qmunity’s Generations, which provides services for older and aging queers. An older queer himself, Myer has a background in social work and education.