First Island LGBTQ health event on this week

MANITOULIN—Noojmowin Teg is hosting a LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered or Queer/Questioning) Two Spirit Health Awareness Conference in Aundeck Omni Kaning tomorrow, Thursday, May 19 and Friday, May 20.

“I had been getting a lot of calls from other service providers about the trans community and there seemed to be a need for a conference like this,” explained conference organizer, Noojmowin Teg Child and Youth Mental Health and Addiction Worker Sarah Seabrook.  “As well, I was asked to be the chair of the Youth Providers Network and it had been on their agenda for some time and when Noojmowin Teg received funding for an event like this, everything seemed to come into place.”

Through Noojmowin Teg, Ms. Seabrook attended the Rainbow Health Ontario Conference with a co-worker to help plan a similar Manitoulin event and Rainbow Health Ontario signed on to be a part of the conference.

Rainbow Health Ontario is an organization that provides LGBTQ health awareness to service providers and agencies looking to make safer spaces.

Ms. Seabrook also brought in two spirited elder Laureen Blu Waters from Toronto as the second key speaker at the event. Ms. Waters will be presenting on Reclaiming the Two Spirit, an introduction to two spirited people and the cultural aspects of LGBTQ health and education.

“Day one of the conference will be for service providers and focus on how to make Island agencies more safe for the LGBTQ community,” said Ms. Seabrook. “Day two will be open to youth, service providers and the community and will include a panel of individuals.”

The panel will include members of Youth Equality (a group that Ms. Seabrook started), a representative from EGALE (Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere) and Island members of the LGBTQ community.

“I know in my personal health I have had struggles and I know the difficulty,” shared Ms. Seabrook of dealing with agencies who were untrained in supporting LGBTQ individuals.

“It is still very much a grand assumption everywhere that people are straight,” she added. “We need to change the way people speak and get service providers more comfortable with supporting everyone.”

Ms. Seabrook told The Expositor that the support for the conference has been overwhelming so far, with over 100 service providers registered as of press time on Monday.

“This is a great first step, that people are seeing that there is a need for this type of dialogue and training,” said Ms. Seabrook. “My hope for this conference is that more people on Manitoulin become better equipped to serve the LGBTQ community.”

For more information or to register, contact Sarah Seabrook at 705-348-1964 or sarah.seabrook@noojmowin-teg.ca.