Category: Awareness


Trey Anthony 
Trey Anthony identifies as an open and gay Black womyn. She is of Jamaican descent and was raised in Canada. She is an award-winning playwright, performer, and producer best known for her television series and play Da Kink in My Hair. She is the first Black woman in Canada to create and produce a tv program for a major network in prime time. 

Dr. OmiSoore Dryden 
Dr. OmiSoore Dryden, PhD is the fourth James R. Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies and the first queer person to occupy the position. Dr. Dryden is a staunch advocate and the creator of the research project #GotBlood2Give, which aims to identify the challenges that Black homosexual, bisexual, and trans males face while trying to donate blood in the Canadian blood system. 

Nalo Hopkinson 
Canadian novelist Nalo Hopkinson, who was born in Jamaica, is well-known for her science fiction and fantasy works. Nalo is the first author to win the Sunburst Award twice. Her work frequently draws on Caribbean language, history, and tradition. Nalo has won numerous awards and accolades, including the Prix Aurora Award (Canada’s reader-voted award for science fiction and fantasy) and the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. 

Walter Borden 
Actor, poet, and writer – Walter Borden has performed on stages all around Canada. One of the first plays in the annals of Black Canadian literature to openly address issues of male homosexuality was the autobiographical piece Tightrope Time: Ain’t Nuthin’ More Than Some Itty Bitty Madness Between Twilight and Dawn, which he wrote and performed. 

Douglas Stewart 
Douglas is a gay rights activist who has dedicated his life to fighting for gay awareness and rights in the Black community. He was a founding member of Zami, Toronto’s first GSRD group for people of colour, in 1984. In the 1980s, Zami was established to address problems brought on by “queer establishments.” He also served as the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention’s first Executive Director. In his capacity, he campaigned in the 1980s to raise HIV/AIDS awareness within the black queer community. 

Courtnay McFarlane 
Most of his poetry, which has appeared in various African Canadian and Queer anthologies, is what makes him a famous gay visual artist and poet. He participates actively in volunteer work for groups serving the Black and GSRD communities, including Inside Out and the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention. He shares Black GSRD tales via his craft in a profound yet sympathetic way. He is actively working to remove the obstacles that members of the underserved community must overcome in order to receive medical care. 

Cicely Belle Blain 
Blain is the CEO of Bakau Consulting Inc. and a non-binary writer. The business provides consultancy services on equity, inclusiveness, and anti-racism. They were also a founding member of Vancouver’s Black Lives Matter movement. They have been spreading awareness and promoting more inclusivity within Pride for the past few years. Their novel Burning Sugar is listed among the best GSRD books for Canadians to read. 

Jan 27 Post 1

At 3 PM, on January 27th, 1945, the Red Army arrived at the gates of Auschwitz concentration camp. Inside they encountered horrors on an unprecedented scale: thousands of prisoners covered in human excrement, starving to death; children who had been victimised in nefarious medical experiments; and piles of prisoners’ stolen belongings, including 7.7 tons of human hair.  

Six million Jews perished in the Holocaust between 1939 and 1945, many of them in the gas chambers at Auschwitz and other Nazi killing centres. In November 2005, to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz and the millions who died at the hands of the Nazis, the UN General Assembly officially recognised January 27th as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  

On Holocaust Remembrance Day we are reminded of the importance of learning about the Holocaust; to understand the extent of its atrocities and the prejudice, extremism, and hate that inspired them.  

We are also reminded, though, of the humanity, solidarity, and resistance of those who perished in the Holocaust and its aftermath. Here we share three of those stories.  
The Martyrdom of Saint Kolbe  

St. Maximilian KolbeSaint Maximilian Kolbe. 


Saint Maximilian Kolbe was a Catholic priest living in Poland during WWII. A member of the Niepokalanów monastery, he was a devout critic of the Nazis and helped to hide, feed, and clothe 3000 Polish refugees, 1500 of whom were Jews. Following the monastery’s release of an anti-Nazi publication in February 1941, Kolbe was arrested and sent to the work camp at Auschwitz, where he was forced to carry heavy blocks of stone used to build the crematoria. Despite the daily horrors he endured, Kolbe continued his work as a priest among his fellow inmates, often sharing his food rations and providing spiritual counsel.  

In July of that same year, several prisoners escaped from the camp; as punishment, the guards chose 10 prisoners to die by starvation in the camp’s notorious prison block, Block 11. One of the selected prisoners was Franciszek Gajowniczek, who, upon being selected, cried out, “My wife! My children!” Motivated by compassion, Kolbe volunteered to take his place.  

Kolbe, along with the 9 other men, spent the next two weeks without food or water in the underground prison cells of Block 11. It was reported that he led the men in prayer each day and regularly offered kind words of reassurance. By the end of the 2 weeks, only Kolbe and two others were alive; they were subsequently killed by lethal injection.  

The story of Kolbe spread throughout Auschwitz, and he became a symbol of courageous dignity amidst the cruelties of the camp. Miraculously, Franciszek Gajowniczek survived Auschwitz, and later attended Kolbe’s canonisation in 1982. 

Witold Pilecki and the Polish Resistance 

Witold Pilecki.


Witold Pilecki was a member of the Polish resistance during the German occupation of Poland in WWII. On September 18th, 1940, he embarked on a dangerous mission: to become the first voluntary inmate of Auschwitz.  

The aim of this mission was to report on the conditions of the concentration camp, and to build Polish resistance from within the camp in the hopes of sparking an uprising. Pilecki spent 2 and a half years at Auschwitz, facing starvation, lice and Typhus outbreaks, and forced labour. By 1942, Pilecki’s underground resistance group numbered almost 1000, networking to steal extra food and clothing for fellow inmates, sabotage Nazi plans, and smuggle messages from the camp to the outside world. Many of Pilecki’s messages reached London, providing the historical record for the evolution of Auschwitz into the mass killing centre it later became.  

Realising he would not receive help from the Allies for any uprising, Pilecki escaped Auschwitz with two of his friends in April 1943 and rejoined the Polish resistance. He subsequently published a 100-page report on the conditions at Auschwitz, and fought in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. Unfortunately, once the War had ended, the Soviet Union occupied Poland and oppressed any civilian mobilisations for independence. Pilecki continued sending messages of Polish resistance to London, and was arrested on suspicion of being a spy by communist authorities in 1947. After being repeatedly tortured, he was executed as an enemy of the state the following year. In 1990, however, he was exonerated and is today recognised as a hero for his actions during WWII.   

Alberto Errera, Sonderkommando Photographer 

The Sonderkommandos, German for “special command units,” were groups of Jewish prisoners who were forced to perform duties in the gas chambers and crematoria of the Nazi killing centres. Among other tasks, they were responsible for herding victims into the gas chambers, cleaning the blood and excrement from the gas chambers, and burning the thousands of corpses either in the crematoria ovens. Since workers of the Sonderkommandos were direct witnesses to genocide, they were usually killed and replaced every few months.  

The Nazis’ engagement in genocide through gas was a closely guarded secret. Indeed, in the days leading up to their surrender, the Nazis were ordered to destroy the gas chambers and crematoria at Auschwitz, and even forced camp survivors into mass evacuations (“death marches”) to keep them from falling into Allied hands.  

There remain, however, four pieces of evidence documenting the gassing process: a series of blurry photographs, taken secretly in 1944 by a member of the Auschwitz Sonderkommando, and the only ones known to exist of the events around the gas chambers.  

The Sonderkommando photographs were taken in a span of 15 to 30 minutes by a Sonderkommando worker who, at the time, was known only as a Greek Jew called Alex. In the decades after the Holocaust, several sources identified him as Alberto Errera, a former Greek naval officer and member of the anti-Nazi resitance. With the help of Errera and fellow Sonderkommando members, the Polish underground successfully smuggled the Errera’s photographs out of Auschwitz in a toothpaste tube.  

Errera had been arrested in German-occupied Greece as a leftist, and deported to Auschwitz in April 1944. In addition to taking the Sonderkommando photographs, Errera was an active participant in the preparations for the Sonderkommando Uprising. Sadly, in August of 1944 after a failed escape attempt, Alberto Errera was tortured and killed by the SS. His heroism lives on, however, as in the 1980s he was awarded by the Greek government for his contribution to the Greek resistance during WWII.  

Photo #280: Bodies waiting to be burned, taken from the gas chamber.

Photo #281: Bodies waiting to be burned in an outdoor fire pit.

Photo #282: Women being taken to the gas chamber. 

Photo #283: Trees near the gas chamber. 

Screenshot 2023-12-08 081944

On this day in 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first ever document setting out a list of fundamental human rights to be universally protected.  

The UDHR was a milestone in international human rights law, as it marked an historic time in human history when countries from every region of the globe came together for a unified purpose. In 1950, the UN General Assembly designated December 10 as Human Rights Day to commemorate the legacy of the UDHR and to promote human rights for all peoples and nations. As 2023 marks the 75th anniversary of the UDHR, this year’s Human Rights Day theme is “Freedom, Equality and Justice for All.” 

Since the UDHR was so influential to our current international human rights system, we’ve chosen to celebrate this Human Rights Day by writing a brief coverage of international human rights law, and how it’s worked – and not worked – for us as a global community.

What is international human rights law? 

International law is the set of rules that govern relations among States. International human rights law (IHRL) is a specific branch of international law that uses international treaties and customary law to confer obligations onto States to respect, protect, and fulfil its people’s human rights. States are required to show their cooperation by ratifying those treaties and incorporating IHRL into their national legislation.  

The UN is the official mechanism that monitors relations between States and promotes respect for human rights through international cooperation. It was created in 1945 after the dissolution of the League of Nations, and in direct response to States’ proposals for a global human rights monitoring body following the horrors of WWII. The UDHR – together with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its two Optional Protocols, as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – forms the International Bill of Rights that the UN rely on to strengthen IHRL. Currently there are 192 member States to the UN that each get a vote in its parliament.  

Does the human rights framework work? 

The establishment of the UN – and the drafting of the UDHR – represented a huge shift in the international law system. Before 1945, nobody had the right to look within a state’s borders and judge its actions. But within the human rights framework of today, the global community agrees that we can, and should, regulate what happens within nations.  

Moreover, the human rights framework has helped us establish conventions, governing bodies, and mechanisms to hold states accountable for their human rights failures. For instance, in 1945 the UN established the International Court of Justice (A.K.A., the World Court) to settle legal disputes submitted by States and UN, often involving concerns related to human rights.  

The human rights framework has also been monumental for transitional justice, particularly by creating mechanisms (e.g., international tribunals) that allow victims of mass human rights violations to punish states’ actions via prosecution and reparation. These mechanisms have also inspired many states to include the language of IHRL into their own institutions which, before 1945, was almost unheard of.  

Ultimately, the human rights framework is evidence of a major shift in how the international community thinks about the world. We no longer see states as separate entities living inside a vacuum. Rather, we see them as part of an international community, where rights are afforded to all people, across borders, by simple virtue of being human. 

Of course, the human rights framework is not without its problems. One of the biggest problems of IHRL is that it’s oftentimes unenforceable. When a state commits a human rights violation, we can’t put them in handcuffs. We can’t put them in jail, and we also (generally) can’t strongarm them into compliance with the law like we would an individual. The UDHR itself, although part of customary law, is not even binding in itself.  

Instead, international law runs on a system of state consent and reciprocal obligation, where we say that states must ratify treaties and fulfill human rights – but, really, they only “need” to do so if they want to. Take the United States, for example: Despite signing and ratifying the Convention Against Torture decades ago, there are countless instances where the US has been found to use torture against civilians. Often, the US will even just opt out of ratifying treaties or submitting its compulsory human rights reviews to the UN.  

This leads into another problem with the human rights framework: It has frequently been called out for being highly political. That is, states that have a lot of political power, like the US, tend to “get away” with a lot more than less powerful states. Some critics – like those who support TWAIL – even go so far as to say that the international law framework is illegitimate, as it is less a system to regulate behaviour between equal states, and more a colonial tool used by the politically powerful to punish and control the non-powerful.  

When states are not outright violating human rights law, they are finding legal loopholes. Consider the issue of refugees: Article 41 of the UDHR guarantees a fundamental human right to seek asylum. According to IHRL, one of the most important obligations on states regarding asylum is the principle of non-return (non-refoulement) – a state cannot, under any circumstances, return someone to a place where their life or freedom is threatened. And yet, states find loopholes that allow them to violate this principle regularly. For instance, the right to asylum attaches to an individual as soon as they leave their home country; but the receiving state’s obligations to provide asylum do not attach until the asylum-seeker has entered that state’s territory. What we tend to see is that states who do not want refugees (e.g., Australia) will prevent asylum-seekers from reaching their territory altogether. The wording of some of the conventions offers wiggle room. 

The Role of NGOs  

The problems inherent to IHRL leave large gaps in human rights monitoring and enforcement; fortunately, non-governmental organisations fill these gaps.  

NGOs played a key role in determining what human rights look like today. Due to their independent nature, they are not bound to the same political pressures as the UN, and are therefore greatly reliable in highlighting state failures to abide by their human rights obligations. In a similar vein, they do not have the same need to “save face” by treading lightly on human rights matters; in fact, a large part of NGOs’ effectiveness is their ability to enforce states’ human rights compliance by “naming and shaming” their failures. Beyond this, NGOs regularly lobby with other states to exert multilateral pressure on the offending state.  

Importantly, NGOs methods rely on their ability to credibly demonstrate that abuses are occurring in a given state – so a big part of their mandate is to produce human rights reports. These reports require experts, journalists, on-the-ground volunteers, and many other resources to bring them to fruition. This is why donating to these organisations is so important; they protect your rights by holding your state internationally accountable.  

The human rights framework we have today is as young as it is complicated. Yet, despite its setbacks, we have seen more advancement in human rights in less than a century than was ever seen across the millennia prior. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is proof that we are able to envision a better world; and our efforts to achieve that vision grow more fruitful every December 10th.  

Written by: Serena Celeste Romanelli

01072023 – Copy

According to the United Nations, approximately 1 in 3 women globally has been subjected to violence at least once in their lifetime. Despite the fact that violence against women and girls (VAWG) remains one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world, only 5% of government aid is devoted to tackling it, and less than 0.2% is directed to its prevention.  

In an effort to improve these statistics, the 25th of November is annually recognised as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This day marks the start of the yearly UNiTE campaign, a 16-day initiative of activism that concludes on December 10th in commemoration of International Human Rights Day.   

This year’s UNiTE campaign is “Invest to Prevent Violence against Women & Girls,” and calls on governments across the globe to show how they are investing in programmes, services, and policies to end VAWG. The 2023 campaign’s #NoExcuse slogan also calls upon us regular citizens to do our part in the fight against VAWG.  

Defining VAWG 

The UN’S 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women defines VAWG as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women.” This includes intimate partner violence (e.g., battering), sexual violence (e.g., rape, street harassment), human trafficking, female genital mutilation, and child marriage

Although nearly 30% of all women and girls experience VAWG, those who have disabilities or are living through humanitarian crises, as well as those who identify as lesbian, bisexual, transgender, migrants, and ethnic minorities, are more vulnerable to violence. The effects of such violence on women and girls remain present at all stages of life, from experiencing educational disadvantages in childhood, to losing their homes and jobs, or facing mental health issues and substance abuse later in life. 

The Start of the UNiTe Campaign 

On November 25th of 1960, three sisters from the Dominican Republic – known as the Mirabal sisters – were violently assassinated by the Rafaelo Trujillo dictatorship for their role in the country’s resistance movement. Their deaths were commemorated in July of 1981, when a group of Latin American and Caribbean feminist activists united at the Feminist Encuentro conference in Bogota, Colombia, and chose November 25th as the day for no violence against women. Their proposal was taken to the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 and subsequently adopted by the UN in 1999.  

In 2008, the UN Secretary-General extended the day into a 16-day campaign – the first UNiTE initiative – in the hopes of bringing the UN, women’s organisations, media, and international citizens together to end VAWG. During this time in Canada we also observe the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, to remember the women who were murdered at the Polytechnique Montréal mass shooting on December 6th, 1989.  

Explicit and Implicit VAWG 

VAWG is a direct result of the social inequality, sexism, and misogyny that pervade all levels of society. That is, the attitudes and beliefs we have about women, their roles, and their position in the social hierarchy directly influence people’s infliction of violence on women and girls. For instance, a 2020 research brief by UN Women shows that among women in Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago, women who were in relationships with men who held sexist attitudes and behaviours were more likely to have experienced intimate partner violence. Ultimately, when people hold sexist beliefs of women’s inferiority, they often feel licensed to maintain and exert power over them in often violent ways.  

It is, however, important to keep in mind that social inequality and sexism do not only contribute to explicit acts of VAWG – they also contribute to more implicit acts that we see every day and have, sadly, normalised. An explicit act of VAWG would be rape, online stalking, or the use of misogynistic slurs. An implicit act, however, could be as subtle as promoting double-standards (e.g., saying that men are “allowed” to be promiscuous whilst women are not), endorsing catch-22s (e.g., shaming women for wearing revealing clothing, but also shaming them for dressing like “prudes”), and engaging in covert sexual objectification (e.g., dressing a female toddler in “sexy” clothing). Although these implicit instances of VAWG are often viewed as more “mundane,” they are underscored by the same sexism that inspires explicit, extreme acts of VAWG. Thus, to end VAWG we must address both forms equally.  

Intersectional Violence: Trans Women and VAWG 

In addition to raising awareness on VAWG, November is also Transgender Awareness Month in Canada. Throughout the month, Canadians are invited to help foster understanding and tolerance of gender non-conforming individuals, as well as raise awareness of the specific human rights issues they face.  

One such issue is directly related to the UN’s goal for the elimination of VAWG. Trans women – including those trans and gender non-conforming folks who present or identify as feminine – face a particular type of oppression called transmisogyny. As Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) describes it, “transmisogyny is all about the hatred of the feminine”; it is essentially the overlapping of transphobia and sexism, a dangerous combination that puts trans women at significantly higher risk of violence than both cis-gender women and other GSRD groups. For example, BWSS reports that the majority of anti-GSRD homicides were perpetrated against trans women, due both to their being trans and their being women. In light of such findings, it is crucial that our efforts to end VAWG also include trans women. 

What We Can Do 

There are many important players in the global fight against VAWG. Some of the most important are government bodies, which this year’s UNiTE campaign has called upon to improve anti-VAWG policies, as well as increase investments in institutions aimed at protecting women and girls.  

Another important set of players are women’s organisations, who conduct research on VAWG and provide services to victims, like offering counselling, legal aid, and shelter. The impact of these services is monumental; in fact, the 2021-2022 Human Development Report has shown that countries with a higher presence of women’s organisations demonstrate stronger support for gender equality and have more comprehensive policies against VAWG.  

In terms of what we, as citizens, can do for the campaign against VAWG, the options are many. One of the simplest options is to donate to women’s organisations so they can continue improving the lives of women and girls everywhere. There are also countless opportunities to volunteer at women’s shelters and women’s help lines.  

But truly one of the best ways to reduce VAWG is to call it out. Although it can sometimes feel uncomfortable to do so (as going against the status quo often does), calling out sexist attitudes and behaviours towards women and girls helps to alter the social norms that give way to various forms of VAWG. And this can have a huge impact on reducing the violence we see around us.  

If we want to win the fight against VAWG, everyone must do their part. This November 25th, how will you do yours? 

CTA Spirit Day

Brittany McMillan was just a young Canadian high school student when she founded Spirit Day back in 2010.  

The beginnings of Spirit Day were humble, consisting initially of a Tumblr post by Brittany asking fellow students to wear purple in response to the recent bullying-related suicides of several young GSRD individuals. Her post quickly picked up traction, though, and captured the attention of the non-profit GSRD advocacy group, GLAAD 

Together Brittany and GLAAD hosted the first Spirit Day on October 20th, 2010. Since then, Spirit Day has been officially recognised as a GSRD holiday, and is celebrated on the third Thursday of October every year. Participants wear the colour purple – one of the colours of the Pride flag – to signify their stance against bullying and their support of GSRD youth. 

Spirit Day reflects McMillan’s initial hope for GSRD youth to “find the spirit” to persevere through tough times. This year’s Spirit Day on October 19th, millions of people across the globe will echo that hope by “going purple.” 

How You Can “Go Purple” 

The easiest way to celebrate Spirit Day is to wear something purple. Whether at work, at school, or at home, get your purple on and showcase your support for GSRD youth by wearing a purple item – or even an entire purple outfit!  

Going one step above this, you can Go Purple by using the power of social media. The advancement of technology has allowed bullying to take on new forms, including through the internet. According to a 2019 study by Statistics Canada, 25% of youth had reported being cyberbullied the previous year. Crucially, the rate of cyberbullying victimisation was found to be increased among GSRD youths, with 52% of non-binary youths, and 33% of same-gender attracted youths, experiencing cyberbullying. This Spirit Day, you can help flip cyberbullying on its head by flooding social media with pictures of you in a snazzy purple number. Just check out how much fun “Mean Girls” star and gay icon Daniel Franzese had with it!  

If you don’t own anything purple, fret not. GLAAD has an app that allows you to turn your Facebook or Twitter profile picture purple instead. And if you want to do even more, go over to GLAAD’s website and Take the Pledge against bullying by adding your signature to their pledge list. 

Whatever you end up doing this Spirit Day, we hope you find the spirit to persevere today and every day after it.  

Screenshot 2023-10-09 193650

Just this morning alone, hundreds of millions of people across the globe will struggle to get out of bed.  

Millions more will experience severe headaches, fatigue, and digestive problems that make it difficult – or even impossible – to function normally. And still millions of others will experience a misery so unimaginable that they will commit suicide.  

The millions mentioned above are part of the 1 in 8 people globally who suffer from mental health issues. Whether it is depression or anxiety, borderline personality disorder or schizophrenia, or one of the other 200 mental disorders that exist, mental health issues affect more people worldwide than cancer, diabetes, or heart disease.  

Due to the significant global impact of mental health issues – exacerbated by the mental health crisis following COVID-19, where the prevalence of anxiety and depression alone skyrocketed by a whopping 25% – massive campaigns for increased mental health services have become more important than ever. One such campaign that has existed since 1992 is World Mental Health Day, created by the World Federation for Mental Health and celebrated every year on October 10th to promote mental health advocacy and to educate the public.  

Since 1994, World Mental Health Day has been celebrated with a theme. This year’s theme is “Mental Health is a Universal Human Right.” 

How is mental health a human right? 

In 1948, member-states of the United Nations signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), an international document outlining a list of rights agreed to be inherent to all human beings. Included in this list is Article 25, stating that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family.” This includes adequate food, clothing, housing, medical care, security, and social services. Under international human rights law, all 192 signatories to the UDHR are obligated to respect these fundamental human rights, and to impose remedies when they are violated.  

Unfortunately, we continue to find that people with mental health issues do not enjoy the same protection of their human rights as people without mental health issues. Specifically in the context of the right to health and well-being, the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner reports that people with mental health issues experience disproportionately poorer physical health and reduced life expectancy. They lack proper access to social services, are more likely to be homeless, and are at higher risk of being victims of violent crime – all of which can be largely explained by stigma.  

Simply put, people with mental health issues are often stereotyped as scary, crazy, or dangerous. As a result, others may not want to interact with them or take their needs seriously; they may be shunned or rejected from public spaces, thus receiving inadequate care. People suffering from mental health issues can also be mischaracterised as weak or cowardly, and may therefore feel dissuaded from seeking out help even when it is there, for fear of being mislabelled or mocked. 

In a nutshell, the stigma associated to mental health issues can enable mechanisms that directly violate people’s human right to health and well-being. This is why mental health itself – and establishing mandated services to protect it – falls within the human rights framework.  

What can you do this year to celebrate World Mental Health Day? 

For this year’s World Mental Health Day, you can support the human rights of those suffering from mental health issues in a number of ways: 

Share a post on awareness. To spread the message of World Mental Health Day, you can download a mental health awareness poster and share it online with your family and friends. Who knows – it may reach someone who needs it!  

Donate. Mental health organisations and NGOs are often non-profit and require additional donations to pay their workers and maintain the integrity of their services. Consider offering a one-time donation, or even monthly donations, to organisations offering mental health services like Place2Be. 

Sign a petition. Visit sites like Change.org or Amnesty International and have a look at what mental health-related petitions you can sign your name on. Here’s one about improving mental health services in Canada: https://www.change.org/p/premier-doug-ford-improve-the-canadian-mental-health-system 

Volunteer. There are several mental health organisations that benefit greatly from potential volunteers like you. You can volunteer for a national crisis line, like Trans Lifeline or Kids Help Phone, or even an international emotional support service like 7 Cups. 

Be kind to yourself. Sometimes, the person that can benefit most from our kindness is ourselves. If you are suffering from a mental health issue, you can practise self-compassion by taking a mental health day, having a long bath, or writing in a journal. Also consider talking to a trusted friend or family member, or even a mental health professional if you have access to one. Your mental health is a human right, and you deserve to exercise that right in whatever way is meaningful to you.  


Written by: Serena Celeste Romanelli



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In the vibrant history of gender, sexual, and relationship Diverse (GSRD) activism and women’s activism, Dyke Marches in Canada have carved out their own unique space, where intersectional voices can be centred. This distinct avenue of advocacy began in the early 1980s, driven by the conviction that lesbian experiences and struggles, particularly those of lesbians of colour, deserved a dedicated platform. They felt strongly that their needs were not being recognized or prioritized within the broader gay rights movement.  

Early Days 

In May of 1981, the movement saw its first significant strides as Vancouver hosted its inaugural Dyke March. This was not an intricately pre-planned event, but rather an impromptu march of approximately 200 lesbians who were attending the Bi-National Lesbian Conference. They marched through the downtown streets of Vancouver shouting, “Look over here, look over there, lesbians are everywhere!” – Talk about visibility! [See our Lesson Plan on the first Dyke March in Canada] 

Retrieved from: https://riseupfeministarchive.ca/wp-content/uploads/lesbianconference-1981-finalreport-organizingfor80s.pdf

The event resonated in other parts of Canada and Toronto followed suit later that year with their “Dykes in the Streets” march organized by Lesbians Against the Right. Their second similar event was not held until 15 years later in 1996.  

Retrieved from: https://www.queerevents.ca/queer-corner/blog/history/history-dyke-march


Since those early days, Canada has seen numerous Dyke Marches and events taking place throughout the country. These events serve as important platforms for raising awareness about lesbian-specific issues, advocating for equality, and fostering a sense of community among GSRD women. Many events have more recently expanded to include trans women, being renamed to Dyke and Trans Marches. They have become crucial forums for discussing topics ranging from healthcare disparities to representation in media and politics. 

Winnipeg’s First Dyke March, 2010 Retrieved from: https://twitter.com/WpgDykeMarch/status/461954293944160256
Halifax Dyke and Trans March, 2011 Retrieved from: http://halifax.mediacoop.ca/photo/march-not-parade/7830
Montreal Dyke March, 2012 Retrieved from: https://www.facebook.com/marchedykemontreal/
Calgary Dyke March, 2012 Retrieved from CBC.ca
Calgary Dyke and Trans March, 2023 Retrieved from: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/trans-lgbtq-pride-calgary-alberta-1.6955854


The impact of Dyke Marches in Canada extends far beyond national borders. These events have been instrumental in elevating lesbian visibility on a global scale. By challenging stereotypes, addressing discrimination head-on, and promoting acceptance of lesbian individuals and relationships, they have contributed significantly to broader societal changes. The ripple effect of this visibility has led to greater understanding and inclusion, not only within the GSRD community but also in society at large. 

A Lesson on Intersectionality 

In conclusion, the history and legacy of Dyke Marches in Canada underscore a fundamental principle of human and civil rights activism – intersectionality. Recognizing and addressing the diverse experiences and challenges faced by different groups within the GSRD community is essential for achieving true equality. Lesbian marches have been an inspiring example of how acknowledging and embracing this diversity can lead to a more inclusive and just world for all. They remind us that within the tapestry of human rights advocacy, every thread, no matter how unique, is essential to creating a brighter and more equitable future. 


We here at the CPHS get VERY excited when October comes around because it is a special month that combines two of our very favourite things – the gender, sexuality, and relationship diverse (GSRD) community and HISTORY. 

What is LGBT History Month?

Originating in the United States as Lesbian and Gay History Month in 1994, the month represents a month-long observance of the history of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights movement.  It represents an opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of the GSRD community to the overall civil rights movement and is celebrated in countries all over the world!

Why is it in October?

The month of October was originally chosen to coincide with National Coming Out Day on October 11th, but it just so happens that there a number of other days worth noting this month, such as: 

  • International Lesbian Day (8th)
  • International Pronouns Day (18th)
  • Spirit Day (19th)
  • Asexual Awareness Day (22nd)
  • Intersex Awareness Day (26th)

… just to name a few! Stay tuned to our website and our social media for more information on these days as the month goes on. 

How can I participate? 

  • Learn: 
    • Visit www.lgbthistorymonth.com daily in October to learn about the achievements of 31 GSRD icons
    • Check out our research materials to learn more about the history of the pride movement in your community
    • Revisit a few of our blog posts centring impactful GSRD Canadians throughout history [1], [2] 
  • Teach:
    • Check out our lesson plans and other education resources for ideas on key events that have impacted GSRD rights and the pride movement which can be included in your classes
    • Spread information and centre GSRD voices at the same time by resharing their content on social media
  • Support:
    • Look for ways to support your local pride community, such as by attending their events, donating to their causes, or even volunteering!

September 27th is annually recognised as National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NGMHAAD). This day brings attention to the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on men who identify as gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men (gbMSM), and highlights the importance of HIV education in the hopes of ending HIV-related stigma.  

In this blog post, we honour the goals of NGMHAAD by briefly covering a range of HIV-related topics, from its history to its treatment. 

How It Began 

Human immunodeficiency virus – or HIV – is an infection that attacks the body’s white blood cells, weakening the immune system and making it easier to get sick from severe diseases like tuberculosis and cancer. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the last stage of the HIV infection, when an individual’s white blood cell count is below a certain threshold or acquires an opportunistic disease.  

The HIV sub-type, HIV-1, first made its jump from chimpanzees to humans in Central Africa at the start of the 20th century.  It then made its way to the Americas in the 1960s, likely via Haitian workers returning from the Congo.  

The AIDS Crisis that is often referred to today initially began in the US, with the first US case of AIDS occurring in a young gay man from Los Angeles in 1981. The first case of AIDS in Canada was reported in 1982, and the disease spread rapidly to other parts of the world throughout the 1980s. By 2002, HIV had become the leading cause of death worldwide in people between 15 and 59 years old.  

Where We Are Now… 


Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, the WHO estimates that between 65 and 113 million people have been infected with HIV worldwide. 39 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2022. In every geographical region except sub-Saharan Africa, over 70% of the new HIV infections in that year occurred in young men and boys.  

…In Canada. 

Approximately 62,790 Canadians were living with HIV at the end of 2020 – gbMSM individuals accounted for 53.1% of this number. The total for 2020 showed a slight decrease from the estimate in 2018, as well as a decrease in the proportion of new infections among gbMSM individuals. This is undoubtedly a reflection of Canada’s adoption of the “90-90-90 Initiative,” a global initiative put forward in 2014 by the United Nations with 3 goals to accomplish by 2020: to have 90% of people with HIV knowing their diagnosis, 90% of those diagnosed on treatment, and 90% of those on treatment successfully achieving suppression of their HIV. Canada has been doing very well in this regard, as it has currently achieved the 1st and 3rd goals with a sequence of 90-87-95. 

HIV/AIDS and Stigma 

Before the infection was known as HIV/AIDS, it was known by another name.  

At the outset of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, the then-unidentified infection first emerged as a series of seemingly unconnected cases of extremely rare and deadly infections in young, healthy gay men across the US. Public health experts soon discovered that the cases were related via an immunodeficiency syndrome which, due to the high number of gay men suffering from it, was erroneously termed “Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (GRID).” This, unfortunately, led the public to believe that the later-termed AIDS was a disease linked directly to homosexuality, causing not only a lack of recognition of the scope of the epidemic, but also increasingly negative attitudes towards homosexuals for being purported spreaders of the disease.  

Despite scientific and social advancements in information surrounding HIV, many gbMSM individuals still face stigma associated with HIV today. This is largely because some people still hold beliefs that HIV is a “gay disease,” and that it can be spread through simply touching or being around a person with HIV. As a result, gbMSM individuals may be refused services or care, disparagingly referred to as “HIVers”, or socially isolated by others for fear of contamination. Such blatant acts of homophobic prejudice and discrimination often result in mental health issues, and feelings of shame and embarrassment. Some gbMSM individuals even develop such deeply negative feelings that they avoid getting tested for HIV or seeking treatment, for fear of being shunned. This is especially disheartening, as individuals with HIV can live long and healthy lives with proper antiretroviral treatment 

Treatment, Awareness, and Hope 

Living with HIV is not nearly what it was at the start of the AIDS Crisis. Now that we are armed with information about what HIV is and how it’s spread, it is a very preventable virus. Using clean needles for drug injection, condoms during sex, and taking PrEP are just some of the ways to prevent contraction of HIV.  

HIV is also treatable and has been for many years through antiretroviral therapy (ART). Taking this medication on a routine basis makes the HIV viral load undetectable, meaning that it can no longer be transmitted through sex and is much less likely to be transmitted via sharing needles, pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. 

With proper treatment, most people with HIV go on to live as long as people without HIV. And with proper education and awareness, we can greatly reduce the stigma associated to the virus, as well as prevent its spread.   


Written by: Serena Celeste Romanelli

Sept 17_Post – Copy

Bisexual Awareness Week – or BiWeek, for short – is celebrated internationally every year from September 16th to September 23rd. It’s a week devoted to recognising bisexual identity, honouring bisexual achievements, and bringing light to bisexual issues. 

What some people may not know is that BiWeek was originally a single day. And it was started by three bisexual Americans who wanted to have a party. 

How BiWeek Began

In 1999, American bisexual activists Wendy Curry, Michael Page, and Gigi Raven Wilbur attended the International Lesbian and Gay Association Conference in Johannesburg. As they had been for years, the activists were there to fight for recognition and inclusion of bisexual individuals in the GSRD community and beyond. But they were tired. Tired of asking for a seat at the table. Tired of trying to prove their existence to a world that didn’t want to hear about it.

Sat around at the conference, they vented to each other about wanting a day – just a day – where they could be surrounded, in celebration, by other bisexuals and not have to fight for themselves. Gigi said they should have a party 

And thus, Celebrate Bisexuality Day (also known as CBD) was born. The three decided on the date in September, to commemorate the great bisexual, Freddie Mercury. The exact day of celebration would be on Gigi’s birthday, September 23rd.  

From that year forward, Celebrate Bisexuality Day has been observed internationally to celebrate the bisexual community and decrease biphobia.  

In 2014, bisexual celebrations were extended to one week prior to CBD. We have continued in that fashion ever since.  

Why BiWeek is Important

Did you know that bisexuals constitute a “silent majority” in the GSRD community? They are the majority because studies find that most people in the GSRD community full under the umbrella term of bisexuality – that is, they are attracted to two or more genders. And they are silent because, despite their numbers, they have long been the targets of binegativity.   

Binegativity is a specific form of prejudice associated with individuals who identify as bisexual. It often manifests as beliefs that bisexuals are sexually promiscuous, or “confused” about their sexual orientation. The struggle of bisexual individuals is also twofold, as they face binegativity both from non-GSRD and GSRD communities alike.  

Binegativity from the GSRD community might sound strange at first, but its origins stretch back to the beginning of the GSRD rights movement. Whilst GSRD individuals struggled for recognition of their identities from a heteronormative society, many in the movement felt that bisexuals were being evasive, not wanting to take sides in the fight. Knowing this, it becomes easier to see where the stereotype of bisexuals being “confused” comes from. 

The effects of binegativity are not minor. Bisexual men often struggle with coming out due to the social constraints that masculinity places on their romantic/sexual relationships. Bisexuals also experience higher rates of sexual violence and adverse health outcomes than monosexual (i.e., attraction to only one gender) individuals, as well as increased discrimination in the workplace. Statistics like these make BiWeek a crucial part of the fight against binegativity and invisibility.  

But remember that BiWeek is also a time to celebrate. Celebrate your own bisexual identity, or that of others. Celebrate the achievements and joys and love of the bisexual community.  

But most of all, this BiWeek, we hope that you follow in the footsteps of Wendy, Michael, and Gigi, and have an absolute ball.  

Written by: Serena Celeste Romanelli

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