We need to do better at ensuring that our collective adequately reflects the true diversity that exists within our community and in order to do that, we need to give people the opportunity to help shape our spaces and our work so that it adequately represents their experience and serves to improve their health and well-being.
Back when the EMHC was nothing but a dream in the collective consciousness of a few people sitting around a living room, we had several lengthy discussions of who the EMHC would serve and, since it was to be a community-led collective, who would lead it.
For years, many initiatives which have focused on serving “men” on the LGBTQ spectrum have presented themselves as “gay men’s health” initiatives. In some cases this was for brevity. In other cases it was because they really were only serving gay, cisgender men. And in other cases, it might have just been an oversight due to a lack of involvement by individuals who identify along different points of the spectrum.
However, we arrived at a consensus that we would endeavour to be as inclusive as possible while ensuring that our focus was feasible and that we were not occupying space in the community that belonged to others. So, we decided that we would aim to serve and be led by gay, bisexual, queer, and trans men.
Our thoughts around representation can be summed up within the following two of our six values:
We recognize the rich diversity and capacity that exists within our community. We acknowledge the roles that power and privilege play in each of our lives and recognize how they are influenced by one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, race, and various other aspects of a person’s life. In order to truly understand the experiences and needs of GBQT men within our community, it is essential that the EMHC is reflective of the people it serves. In situations where we are not meeting this standard we will make every tangible effort to do so.
Focused but No Blind:
We believe that GBQT men experience a unique set of health outcomes that are driven by factors distinctive to their sexual, gender, and cultural identity and expression. Therefore, in order to effectively address the health determinants and needs of GBQT men, we believe it is important that our primary focus be serving this community. We are not blind, however, to the health disparities faced by other members and communities across the LGBTQ spectrum. Therefore, we will actively support the development of similar community-led grassroots movements and, where there is opportunity for our work to benefit other groups within the broader LGBTQ community, we will seek to collaborate with relevant stakeholders.
However, as our understanding of sexual, gender, and ethnocultural identities continues to develop, we recognize that a) We need to do better at ensuring that our collective adequately reflects the true diversity that exists within our community and b) In order to do that, we need to give people the opportunity to help shape our spaces and our work so that it adequately represents their experience and serves to improve their health and wellbeing.
To do this, we are establishing a new team, called “Voices,” led by and for people who often feel excluded from or under-represented in traditional queer-masc spaces. We specifically aim to engage members of the community who identify as trans, non-binary, two-spirited, and/or as persons of colour.
Recognizing the additional barriers that might face some individuals belonging to these communities – barriers which might make it more difficult to find the time, resources, or access necessary to contribute to community initiatives such as this – we will be providing food and honorariums at these meetings.
Additionally, recognizing potential concerns around tokenism, we commit to ensuring this group maintains a great deal of autonomy, similar to other groups within the EMHC given our grassroots, community-led model. The group will have significant authority in determining how to invest its time, financial, and human resources and it will also have a representative on our Lead Team to ensure open, timely, and meaningful communication.
What we are not trying to do is offer redundant programming or services. Neither are we attempting to occupy spaces led by other members and groups within our community. We value our partners and believe we are all better off when we support each other’s initiatives instead of competing with one another. Through this group, then, we will focus on internal growth as a community-led collective, supporting existing community initiatives, and addressing existing gaps in the community that are not currently being addressed by others.
If you are interested in joining this team or have any questions, please e-mail Rafiki at firstname.lastname@example.org.