By Julie Schultz, December 6th, 2016 in
More than 250 people were in attendance last month at the Community- Based Research Centre for Gay Men’s Health’s 12th annual Gay Men’s Health Summit in Vancouver, B.C.. A few lucky PHAN staffers were among the attendees, and Gavin Bejaimal was one of them. Read on for his account of the experience.
“On the week of November 5th, David (Absolom) and I had the incredible opportunity to travel to the west end of Canada to attend the Resist Stigma Gay Men’s Health Summit. As it was my first time in Vancouver, I was surprised and impressed by the natural beauty and calmness of the city, compared to the GTA. Vancouver seemed like the perfect opportunity for myself and other gay men to reflect on their own resilience in spite of a history of stigma against being queer within today’s world – especially within the new and scary global political contexts that have been emerging throughout the world.
The conference opened up with an evening mixer, where David and I were able to meet up with other gay men working in men’s health across Canada, from Toronto to Edmonton. Simultaneously, the final moments of the election was being broadcast in a room nearby. It was a strange juxtaposition – a group of young men united by their drive to promote the sexual wellness and health of other men, and the incoming onslaught of fear due to the election. There was a dizzy anxiety, nervous laughter, and sheer disbelief that night. That same feeling reverberated throughout the opening of the conference – how were we going to unite in a global climate that asked us to be stronger and more resilient than ever? How were we going to come together in our vision so that we could support each other, and further the health of queer folk all across Canada?
Over the next few days, any uncertainty about the power of community and the resilience of gay men in the face of adversity was vanquished. Over the course of the conference we came together to discuss minority stress, the complex identities of queer people of colour, and the need for QPOC spaces. We had raw and intimate conversations on privilege and stigma, we discussed knowledge translation and ways in which we can expand social justice avenues and organization networks in order to improve the sustainability of networks. We discussed Two-Spirit people, and the devastating impacts of colonization on all indigenous people, as well as the ways in which we can all work together to liberate ourselves by focusing on indigenous sovereignty and decolonization.
The conference ended with an art gallery exposition called “Still Here”, a photo exposition displaying stories of queer men who experienced depression and suicidal thoughts. It was a reminder that the broader contexts that we often discuss are all specific to the actual lived and personal experiences of queer men. It was a reminder of the heartbreak many of us carry throughout our lives, and a reminder of the resilience all queer men have in embracing their pain and coming out triumphant.
Email me at Gavinb@phan.ca for any questions, suggestions, or if you want to get involved!”
-Gavin Bejaimal, Men’s Health Promotion Coordinator.