OUTSaskatoon And Saskatoon Sexual Health Are Empowering The Community In Saskatoon And Beyond
The partnership between the two non-profit organizations is changing lives…
Earlier this year, Saskatoon Sexual Health relocated to a larger space with OUTSaskatoon to meet growing demands. The move to a shared space expanded opportunities for collaboration and co-operation, and offer broader access to services for everyone. We sat down with memebers of the two non-profit organizations to learn more about their services and how their partnership will benefit the future of queer, trans and two-spirit sexual healthcare services in the community.
Tell us more about OUTSaskatoon and Saskatoon Sexual Health. Who are you?
OUTSaskatoon is a 2SLGBTQ community centre that provides support services, education, outreach and housing for 2SLGBTQ youth. Our vision is to support 2SLGBTQ people in a world where they are celebrated and able to enjoy full, free and open lives.
Saskatoon Sexual Health provides sexual, HIV and reproductive health and educational services to diverse communities in Saskatoon and beyond. We offer a safe, nonjudgmental, welcoming space. We advocate for change within our communities and emphasize inclusive, empowering education and clinical care.
Our partnership has been strengthened through co-hosting community events, mutual support for each other’s work, and a shared vision for a community that embraces 2SLGBTQ people in HIV and sexual health initiatives.
Why is it important for you to empower the community in Saskatoon and beyond? How do you embody Pride?
2SLGBTQ people continue to face heightened rates of social exclusion and discrimination, mental health disparities, and barriers to accessing needed health care, employment and housing. Centres such as OUTSaskatoon and Saskatoon Sexual Health not only provide needed services for the 2SLGBTQ community, but they make space for people to be themselves, to connect with others, and to be proud of who they are. The sense of belonging that comes from being part of a community is crucial to increasing feelings of safety, happiness and well-being.
A lot of your programming is developed in conjunction with Indigenous and two-spirit peoples. Why is this relationship important to you?
Centring the voices of the community is always our main priority; it’s essential that our programming and services reflect everyone they touch. That’s why our relationships with folks of diverse cultural backgrounds – and, in particular, Indigi-queer and Two Spirit – is the foundation for our intentional, cultural programs.
These programs include the Two Spirit Feast and Round Dance (part of our annual Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week), the Two Spirit Powwow during Pride, Queer Sweats (an annual intergenerational culture camp in northern Saskatchewan), weekly Two Spirit programming (which has been taking place for more than five years), and various Two Spirit performance and storytelling events.
We have been honoured to work with many two-spirit elders over the years and, in particular, our Two Spirit Elder Marjorie Beaucage, who has been a guiding force for OUTSaskatoon’s cultural work. These partnerships and the great work that come from them make us proud.
Can you tell us more about the “2 Spirit 2 Go” program and its impact in the community?
This program supports a youth advisory council in building their knowledge around sexual health as community leaders. As we engaged with ViiV Healthcare about potential collaborations, we saw the opportunity to build upon the existing relationship betweenOUTSaskatoon And Saskatoon Sexual Health to develop a platform for sexual health, HIV and treatment, and the essential role of knowledge transfer among members of the community. This program, led by Indigi-queer and Two Spirit people, serves to respond to the specific needs of this diverse community. ViiV’s support for the 2 Spirit 2 Go program enables us to reach rural, remote and on-reserve communities with critical information about treatment options that fit within the context of indigeneity.
This year has presented many obstacles and challenges to standard programming. How are you planning on celebrating Pride and engaging the community this summer?
With our new location, Saskatoon Sexual Health now has more clinical space to provide safe (and physically distanced) testing services, while OUTSaskatoon can continue to provide strong community supports and referrals despite our drop-in centre being temporarily closed.
As we get closer to Pride month, we’re hoping to move some of our regular events online and host a physically distant community barbecue with food to go! We’re also planning to launch some opportunities for our community to show their support through window displays, online storytelling and other activities.
In the absence of public gatherings, we still want to make sure that we provide opportunities for everyone to celebrate the 2SLGBTQ community and to be proud of the diverse, dynamic and vibrant people who make up Saskatoon.
What’s next? What are you hoping to see for the future of queer, trans and two-spirit sexual healthcare services in the community?
As the partnership between OUTSaskatoon and Saskatoon Sexual Health grows, we see opportunities to expand our collaborative healthcare services specifically for 2SLGBTQ people. This could include include working with doctors to provide a trans-specific health clinic, increasing sexual health programs, and increasing HIV adherence programs and other treatment options for the HIV community. We continue to work with local doctors, mental health practitioners, pharmacists and other healthcare practitioners to create clear referrals and pathways of care, and know that it is precisely these relationships that will enable us to develop and expand safe services for 2SLGBTQ people in the future.