Placemaking as a QTBIPOC

by Kenzie Wass

We have to acknowledge the ways in which the queer community was shaped. Historically in Canada queer spaces prioritized white middle class gay men. In the 50’s and 60’s that was the demographic of most spaces, not just queer ones. Come the 70’s lesbians made more headway and women’s rights were flourishing, gay and lesbian rights joint forces. While the 70’s brought a lot of racial protest in North America, there was a huge gap in rights afforded to people of colour, especially queer people of colour. During the 80’s queer organizing tried to respond to racism in the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis. It was at this time organizations like Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS) and Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP) were born. It was finally being recognized that there was a larger context of explicitly linked issues of race and sexuality in relation to belonging, identity, citizenship and power. The association of the gay identity with white middle class ideals was a deeply held root of the community, this normalized whiteness in community spaces. In the 90’s cuts to public funds wiped out a lot of community resources. It was in this time that the Sherbourne Health Centre rose and provided a lot of care for youth, especially BIPOC youth. While these services have been putting in work for decades, but there is still a lack of safe spaces for queer people of colour. What little does exist generally exists in city centres. As someone who grew up in a small town in Ontario my heart aches for QTBIPOC youth in my hometown. In this modern context, the pandemic has made it so more people are stuck in homes that are unsafe. Many queer people face challenges with expression in their homes and they are cut off from physical spaces they are used to occupying. There is already a limited amount of queer BIPOC space and without access to these spaces people must limit their expressions due to pressure from peers and/or religious and cultural communities. 


My peers heard that their work is valuable and should be visible; that they deserve to be heard and do what they love. I had to be comfortable with the cards I was given, I was to take a back seat and listen, stay respectful and presentable. Any wavering from that line could lead to me without a job, housing, or my life. How am I meant to lead, to make change, to be given opportunity, when this is my foundation? All I wanted someone to look at me as see me. I wanted someone to tell me that I have worth and that when I speak people will listen, that I deserve to be heard. That’s why safe (r) spaces are necessary. Having informed young people who value themselves and others is powerful. While I believe that shared experience is not everything, having community care, sharing in things with people who respect and value you is so important. Somewhere you don’t have to justify or explain, you can just be. As my identity and language has shifted over time there were limitations in my community whether that was a lack of understanding of trans-ness or racism. There is no allyship we need to challenge this idea because everyone has stuff to unlearn, no one is free from this work.  No one can be well versed in all things, but we must try our best to hold space for different experiences and walks of life, that’s community care.

This work is hard, but it’s necessary and it’s doable. I recognize the labour that this work entails. When discussing burn out we must provide care for folks and not judge the limitations in their work. Not for lack of wanting to do the work, but for physical and emotional stressors.

This way we can create more resilience in folks’ emotional capacity. It is not easy to be well versed in social issues, it is exhausting and sometimes depressing. That is hard on anyone, not just minorities, but especially so. Self care is often prescribed as the solution to burn out, but this is individualistic in nature, we must focus on collective community care. We all find our moments of slippage, again, because we all make mistakes, we all have things to learn. It is in those moments we must focus on providing support because we have all been there. Not critiquing or allowing folks to slip into isolation, that downward spiral hurts everyone. I believe that all people can embody someone who cares, someone who tries their best to grow and change, that’s what makes communities safe. Safe communities create beautiful beings who know who they are because they are told that who they are is unique and valuable.

QTBIPOC Specific Resources in Canada

Alliance for South Asian Aids Prevention (ASAAP)
  • Safe program programming for South Asian and Middle Eastern 2SLGBTQ+ people
  • Toronto Based

Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS)
  • Youth program 16-29 (QAY)
  • Men’s program (SLAM)
  • Women’s Education and Outreach Program (SHIMMER)
  • Asian PHA resilience dialogues for POC’s living with HIV/AIDS
  • Toronto based

Atlohsa Family Healing Services
  • Indigenous led programming for holistic healing and education
  • Shelter support
  • London based

Anansi House
  • Promotes events and spaces for QTBIPOC folks
  • London based

Access Alliance
  • Queer Newcomer weekly drop in
  • Newcomer cooking programming
  • Toronto based

Across Boundaries
  • Holistic mental health support for QTBIPOC
  • Case management, counselling, addictions programming
  • Support groups and events
  • Provide service in Caribbean dialects, 9 African languages, 3 central Asian languages, 4 south Asian languages and mandarin
  • GTA based

Black Gay Men’s Network of Ontario (BGMN)
  • Mentorship
  • Cultural knowledge production
  • Sexual health support and resources
  • Substance use support and resources
  • Toronto based

Black Queer Network (BQN LDN)
  • Holding space for Black stories and experiences
  • Calls to action
  • London based

Black CAP
  • Ava project distributes culturally specific food aid to low income Black people
  • Refugee settlement program for those living with HIV/AIDS (African or Caribbean countries)
  • Kazi Employment program for those living with HIV/AIDS
  • Toronto based

Black Queer Youth Collective
  • Black youth support
  • Programming and events
  • Toronto based

Capital Rainbow Refuge
  • Refugee sponsership and resettlement program
  • Ottawa based

Enby Magazine
  • Celebrating QTBIPOC stories and authors
  • Toronto Based

Elevate Equity
  • QTPIBOC Employment Equity
  • Programming for youth
  • Instagram page
  • Ontario (mostly Toronto) Based

  • Services for francophone new comers
  • Toronto based

Griffin Centre
  • Reach OUT prioritizes intersectional identities
  • Individual and family counselling for youth 12-18
  • Case management for youth 12-21
  • Workshops and drop in meetings
  • Arts and recreation programming
  • Toronto Based

LEGIT Toronto
  • Provides immigration help to same sex partners
  • Reuniting families in Canada
  • Toronto Based

Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto
  • Refugee claimants program
  • Private sponsorship and resettlement programming
  • Education program and support
  • Toronto based

  • Keeping it 100 – programming fro GBTQ masc focused support group
  • Focus on GBTQ newcomers
  • Sexual health support
  • Ottawa based

Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN)
  • 2S mental health peer support
  • Indigenizing harm reduction services
  • Toronto based

  • Monthly events with the goal of community building
  • Kitchener-Waterloo based

QTBIPOC Mississauga
  • Support group and events for QTBIPOC in Peel Region
  • Facebook Group
  • Peel Region Based

Rangeela T.O.
  • North america’s largest 2SLGBTQ+ Bollywood event
  • Toronto based

Salaam Canada
  • Creating Space for Muslim queer and trans folks
  • Monthly meetings and peer support
  • Toronto based

  • Rainbow Multicultural Connect support group
  • Services for newcomers
  • Waterloo Based

Sherbourne Health Centre
  • Youth programming 29 and under (SOY) and (BQY) weekly drop in
  • Toronto based

Strapped T.O.
  • Queer party collective prioritizing BIPOC women and femmes
  • Toronto based

Two-Spirited People of First Nations
  • Prevention, education, support for 2S people living with HIV/AIDS
  • Toronto based

2 Spirit in Motion Society
  • Safe social space for 2S folks
  • Toronto Based

The 519
  • Housing support for folks 16-29
  • TPOC zoom sessions regarding access to food security and health promotion
  • Toronto based
Two Spirit Michif  Local
  • 2S and LGBTQ+ Métis support and safe space
  • Winnipeg based

Two Spirited People of Manitoba Inc
  • 2S youth support group 16-21
  • Winnipeg based

Wabanaki 2S Alliance

  • Knowledge holders who want to provide knowledge exchange
  • Maritimes based

Two Spirited People of Manitoba Inc

  • 2S youth support group 16-21
  • Winnipeg based
City of Colours
  • Focus on a variety of linguistic and cultural communities
  • Vancouver based

  • 2SLGBTQ+ newcomer programming
  • Vancouver based

Four Feathers
  • 2S support groups and events including cultural activities such as sweat lodge
  • Vancouver Based

  • Accessible events for QTBIPOC
  • Facebook group
  • Vancouver based

Sher Vancouver
  • Eastern and Southern Asian support
  • Education work, peer support and youth leadership
  • Social Justice film production and screenings
  • Crisis counselling services
  • Vancouver based

  • 2S programming for youth 15-30
  • Training and workshop development
  • Resources (hormones, haircuts, housing, legal advocacy and events)
  • Vancouver Based
Edmonton 2S Society
  • Beading socials
  • International 2S gathering
  • 2S community education
  • Edmonton Based

Shades of Colour YEG
  • facebook group for events and meet ups for QTBIPOC
  • Edmonton based
Massimadi Foundation
  • Afro centred 2SLGBTQ+ film and arts festival
  • Montreal based

  • Full circle program drop in for QTBIPOC Youth 14-25
  • Ballroom event for QTBIPOC youth 14-25
  • Montreal based


Kenzie (they/them) is a Black nonbinary settler in tkaronto. They hold a masters of social justice and community engagement and focus their work on aiding the Black queer community.

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