INSPIRE Awards 2020/2021 Recipients & Nominees
INSPIRE Awards 10th Anniversary — May 14th, 2021
2020 marked 10 Years of INSPIRE Awards mission to celebrate the LGBTQ2S+ community and create an event where inspiring people, youth, organizations, and businesses are recognized for their wonderful work. Due to COVID-19, we postponed the 10th Anniversary to May 14th, 2021.
On behalf of INSPIRE Awards Board of Directors, Subcommittees, Community Partners, and Sponsors,
Congratulations to all the Recipients and Nominees!
El-Farouk is a Tanzanian-born Shia Canadian of Indian origin who is a refugee and immigration lawyer, and human rights activist on issues including gender equality, sexual orientation, and progressive Islam. He was the New Democratic Party’s candidate for the House of Commons in the riding of Toronto Centre in a March 17, 2008 by-election. Khaki came in second with 13.8% of the vote.
He was born in Tanzania, which his family fled in 1971 escaping political persecution. His parents arrived in Canada in 1974 and settled in Vancouver where Khaki grew up. He earned a law degree from the University of British Columbia before moving to Ottawa in 1988 and has lived and worked in Toronto since 1989. He worked as a political staffer at Queen’s Park until 1993 when he left to establish his legal practice. Khaki is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and has been in private practice since 1993. On June 26, 2014, he married his longtime partner Troy Jackson.
In 1993, Khaki founded Salaam, the first gay Muslim support group in Canada and second in the world. He organized the Salaam/Al-Fateha International Conference in 2003. He co-founded and served as Secretary-General of the Muslim Canadian Congress in August 2006, until the group split. Khaki and other members including much of the leadership of the MCC created a new organization, the Canadian Muslim Union (CMU). He also founded, with academic Laury Silvers, and his partner Troy Jackson the El-Tawhid Juma Circle/ Unity Mosque ETJC is a gender-equal, LGBTQ2S+ affirming space for Friday prayers.
He has served on the Toronto Mayor’s Committee on Community & Race Relations, on the board of The 519 Community Centre, and is now elected chair of Africans in Partnership Against AIDS.
His numerous awards include the Steinert and Ferreiro Award from the Lesbian and Gay Community Appeal Foundation, the 2006 Pride Award for Excellence in Spirituality, and the Canadian Bar Association’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Conference Hero Award. Khaki regularly speaks publicly at events and in news media on issues ranging from refugee protection, the global AIDS crisis, Canadian multiculturalism, racism, persecution of sexual minorities around the world, and religious and racial profiling in the war on terror.
Dr. Notisha Massaquoi is originally from Sierra Leone and has been an enthusiastic advocate for advancements in Black women’s healthcare globally for more than 30 years.
Her early career in social services helped establish several organizations and programs which served the emerging African Communities in Canada such as The African Resource and Communications Centre and Harambe Centres Canada. As the founding staff member of Africans in Partnership Against AIDS, she established the first counselling support programs for Queer Africans and Africans living with HIV in Canada, an issue she has been dedicated to for over 30 years.
She has served for 21 years as the Executive Director of Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Centre in Toronto Canada — the only Community Health Centre in North America, which provides specialized primary healthcare for racialized women and trans community members. Through the work of WHIWH-CHC, she has established the only community-based research program dedicated to the healthcare needs of Black women in Canada, the first and only HIV program for Black women in Canada among many other accomplishments.
Her research and numerous publications have focused on increasing access to primary healthcare for Black communities in Canada, and she is a well-known champion for the collection of race-based data for health equity and social change. This work has been influential internationally and has often been used as an advocacy tool to address issues of race and racism when looking at health disparities.
Most recently Notisha co-chaired the Toronto Police Service Board’s Anti-Racism Advisory Panel and led the process to develop and implement the first race-based data collection policy for any Police Service in Canada. The policy mandates the collection of race-based data by Toronto Police Services for the sole purpose of identifying and eliminating systemic bias and anti-Black racism.
She has also been a lecturer for the faculties of social work at Dalhousie University, York University and Ryerson University. Her personal passion to improve the conditions of QLGBT communities globally has allowed her to work with grassroots organizations throughout Africa and the Caribbean and for many years she has supported queer African refugees in Canada and mentored Black queer youth through programs such as Supporting Our Youth. She has also served on the boards of many Toronto-based non-profits including Sherbourne Health Centre, Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention and Family Service Toronto.
George Hislop – Honorary
Canada’s leading gay rights activist, George was born in Swansea (now Toronto) on June 3, 1927. He studied theatre at the University of Toronto and spent his early years in the 1950s working on stage and in television in London and Toronto. He met his great love, Ronald Shearer, at Hanlan’s Point in 1958, and they were inseparable until Ronald’s untimely death in 1986 from complications following cardiac surgery.
George took an early interest in gay rights activism, in which he played a leadership role all his life. He was co-founder of the University of Toronto Homophile Association in 1969, and the Community Homophile Association of Toronto in 1971. He helped organize the first gay rights demonstration on Parliament Hill in 1971. Furthermore, he and Ronnie were the first openly gay couple in Canada and were featured on national television and in Maclean’s magazine.
George was the first openly gay candidate for public office in Canada, running for alderman in 1980 and for the provincial legislature in 1981. George was charged as a ‘keeper’ during the notorious bathhouse raids of 1981, and he was a leader in the successful resistance to that persecution. He also lobbied Parliament for the inclusion of gays and lesbians in the Charter of Rights, and fought for the inclusion of sexual orientation in Ontario’s Human Rights Code. George was also on the Board of the AIDS Committee of Toronto in the 1980s. He was the first President of the Hassle Free Clinic, a post he continued to hold at his death. In 2003, at the age of 76, he spearheaded a national class action for CPP same-sex survivor’s pensions which resulted in the largest class-action trial judgment in Canadian legal history, the first such award in the world for gays and lesbians.
George was the first openly gay person to be appointed to civic office in Canada. The City acknowledged his lifelong contribution by the creation of the George Hislop Park in the heart of Toronto’s lesbian and gay community. George was honoured with many awards from his city and his community, including the Karl Heinrich Ulrichs Award from the International Lesbian and Gay Law Association in recognition of his lifetime contribution to the worldwide movement for lesbian and gay equality.
Ruthann Tucker – Honorary
Ruthann Tucker dedicated her life to the HIV/AIDS communities, working at ACT, Fife House, Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN) and The Hamilton AIDS Network.
Under her leadership, Fife House’s housing outreach and community programs grew and flourished. Ruthann’s vision, drive, and passion led to Fife House’s largest expansion of housing and support services. She spearheaded the partnership with Wellesley Central Health Corporation and WoodGreen Community Services, to develop a new supportive housing project for people living with HIV/AIDS and seniors, at the site of the old Wellesley Hospital. The Tony Di Pede Residence / Wellesley Central Residence is the culmination of her incredible work and provides 112 units of supportive housing.
Ruthann fundamentally understood that housing is the largest determinant of health for people living with HIV/AIDS. In partnership with a network of community leaders in the HIV/AIDS sector and the Ontario HIV Treatment Network, Ruthann played a pivotal role in the development of the seminal piece of research — Positive Spaces Healthy Places — a province-wide community-based research initiative, the first of its kind in Canada. It examined housing and health in the context of HIV to assess the current and projected housing needs of people living with HIV in Ontario.
Ruthann was the recipient of an Ontario AIDS Network Honour Roll Award in 2005 for her contributions to the sector — years before her work was finished.
On February 16th, 2018 Ruthann Tucker passed away at home after 6 months of struggle with complications due to the stroke she had in the summer. She was with loved ones and was under the care of a palliative team. A plaque marking the Fife House rooftop as the Ruthann Tucker Memorial Garden has been erected in her honour.
k.d. lang has won four GRAMMY® awards, eight Juno Awards, a BRIT, an AMA, a VMA, and four awards from GLAAD. In 1996, she received Canada’s highest civilian honor, the Order of Canada. In 2013, she was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame at the Juno Awards, and last year, received the Alberta Order of Excellence Award.
She has appeared alongside such musical luminaries as Roy Orbison, Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, Loretta Lynn, and Tony Bennett. “She’s the best singer of her generation,” observed Bennett, who has frequently toured with lang since their 2002, Wonderful World duets album. lang has also contributed to numerous soundtracks, has appeared in many films, and in 2014 made her Broadway debut in the seven time Tony-award nominated musical “After Midnight”.
In 2016, she united with Neko Case and Laura Veirs to create case/lang/veirs, a collaborative record released that year. She celebrated the 25th anniversary of her platinum selling breakthrough album, Ingénue, with critically acclaimed tours in Australia, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom/Ireland. This May, she’s releasing ‘makeover,’ a new collection of classic dance remixes of some of her best-loved songs originally released between 1992-2000.
She is renowned for her live shows, prompting the New York Times’ Stephen Holden to observe: “Few singers command such perfection of pitch. Her voice, at once beautiful and unadorned and softened with a veil of smoke, invariably hits the middle of a note and remains there.”
Trevor Stratton is a 55-year-old, two-spirit citizen of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation near Toronto, Canada with mixed English and Ojibwe heritage.
Diagnosed with HIV in 1990, he is now the Coordinator for the International Indigenous Working Group on HIV & AIDS (IIWGHA) for its host organization, the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN). Trevor is a board member of the Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP+), the President of the board of 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations in Toronto. He is also the Interim Executive Director of the International Indigenous HIV & AIDS Community (IIHAC).
Adam Zivo is the founder and director of LoveisLoveisLove, an LGBTQ2S+ advocacy campaign that has disseminated queer-positive content to over one million people to date.
LoveisLoveisLove runs a constellation of initiatives tied together by the campaign’s signature aesthetic: compassionate images featuring duos of queer individuals. The campaign is best known for its large-scale installations that blend art and education. This includes transforming civic spaces with massive banners and launching the world’s first “Big Gay Bus”, an innovative project wherein a Toronto commuter bus was transformed into a mobile educational resource. In 2019 LoveisLovesLove forayed beyond arts and culture to launch the Queering STEM Scholarship, supporting LGBTQ2S+ youth wishing to study in professions that have traditionally been less amenable to gender and sexual divergence.
As an activist, Adam champions broadening the social base of support for LGBTQ2S+ folks by engaging with people and communities who may not understand queer issues. He champions institutional engagement, incremental change, and inter-community diplomacy, driven by the belief that it is as important to raise the floor of minority rights as it is to raise its ceiling. Outside his activism, Adam is completing a Masters of Public Policy at the Munk School.
Returning in 2022
The LUX Award will return in 2022
Karim Ladak ⭐️ Recipient
“Karim, a Tanzanian born Canadian citizen, reflects a true global footprint, having lived in 10 countries: Tanzania, Kenya, Canada, Israel, France, UK, India, Japan, Russia, and Romania.
Since his childhood, Karim was taught about the value of “giving” by bis parents. Explains why he has been an active volunteer for the past forty years, a significant portion of it as an advocate and activist in the LGBTQ2S+ and South Asian communities.
Karim has co-founded several groups, and held a variety of leadership positions, including the Chair of the Aga Khan Social Welfare of Canada, where he was the first openly gay man appointed to that position in the Ismaili Muslim community.
Karim was recognized as of the top 150 philanthropists in Canada in 2017.
Karim ended a successful career as an executive with P&G and retired 7 years ago, He now dedicates his time to volunteering and helping people in need. He also travels the world to learn about culture and politics, now travelled to 180 countries. His book “The Cosmopolitan Nomad, A globetrotter’s Story“ details his observations about life’s struggles and immense beauty.”
Submitted by Haran Vijayanathan ED, ASAAP
Courtnay McFarlane – Nominee
Courtnay McFarlane is a Jamaican-born visual artist, curator, and poet whose literary work has been published in African-Canadian and Queer anthologies including: Fiery Spirits, and Voices: Writers of African-Canadian Descent, Word-up, and Plush.
A long-time activist in Black LGBTQ2S+ communities he was a founding member of 80s and 90s groups such as Zami, AYA Men, The Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention and Blackness Yes, the organizing committee for Blockorama at Pride. These organizations were forerunners in providing voice and visibility to Black LGBTQ2S+ issues, laying the foundation for events, organizations, and movements addressing those issues today.
In 2018, he created Legacies in Motion: Black Queer Archival Projects, curating its first exhibition “See We Yah!” in April 2019. The exhibition unearthed and celebrated the political and cultural activism of Black LGBTQ2S+ communities in Toronto. See We Yah! was exhibited at BAND Gallery as part of Myseum’s Intersections Festival and later remounted at the ArQuives.
His most recent curatorial project is TD’s Black History Month’s Exhibition Joints + Junctions: PRESENTing Hogan’s Alley, which commemorated the disappeared historical Black community in Vancouver, and featured documentary images of Toronto’s Black queer and trans dancehall scene. These works exploring a community’s precocity and resilience in the face of structural erasure and un-remembering.
In his other life, Courtnay works in the community health sector where he is currently Manager of Children, Youth and Adult Services at Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre.
Chris Staruch – Nominee
Originally from Toronto, Chris spent his formative years in Newmarket and continues to be a weekend resident of the northern community of Fenelon Falls. He is an active naturist, builder, and beekeeper with an active interest in local history, geography, and geology. His weekdays are spent as an elevator mechanic in Toronto.
Early volunteer participation included work with PRIDE Toronto and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. He also spent time as a Big Brother volunteer. This past year, after shouldering several committee leadership terms over the past five years with ever-increasing responsibilities, Chris took the leap to Co-Chair of one of the largest charity events for Toronto’s LGBTQ2S+ community, the Friends For Life Bike Rally where participants ride for charity dollars from Toronto to Montreal over six days. The logistics, which are daunting and complex, threaten to overwhelm the most seasoned of those who take on the role.
Chris has risen to the enormous challenge with strength and grace, reaching out with a boundless inclusivity that inspires everyone under the umbrella of his leadership. He brings a fresh energy and excitement to a role that has touched hundreds, and he leaves everyone stirred by his devotion, dedication, and inclusiveness. He has brought a humble background into a role that he has embraced whole-heartedly and helped create the engine of an event that moves as a family, embracing, encouraging, steering and inspiring all those who participate in this life-changing event.
Chris has grown from a low profile to a much loved leader among his peers. He takes fundraising seriously and leads by example. He has personally raised thousands of dollars for the Toronto People With Aids Foundation performing in his drag persona known as Dixie Normus, a much-anticipated fundraiser at Woody’s bar in the Village. The sight of this elevator mechanic throwing caution to the wind and donning costumes and makeup inspires people to come out in numbers and which constitutes a serious financial contribution for the foundation. In everything he is doing for this community, Chris exudes confidence, kindness and selfless dedication.
Yasmeen Persad – Nominee
Yasmeen Persad is the trans program coordinator for TPOC, the trans people of colour project at the 519. She has been providing education and training around LGBTQ2+ related issues for over 15 years.
Her experience ranges from working with Trans Youth, HIV Positive Women, Sex Workers and many diverse populations. She provides training to service providers around trans community inclusion and support in and out of the workplace. Yasmeen has presented at many Conferences across North America on various topics about access for trans people.
She is currently a Research Coordinator at Women’s College Hospital, working with the Trans Women and HIV Research Initiative. She has been part of ground-breaking recognition of trans women as women in the Violence Against Women sector.
Moka Dawkins – Nominee
Moka is a Black Trans Freedom Fighter who was racially and discriminatively victimized by the Toronto police and Ontario’s provincial and federal judicial systems in 2015. After nearly five years of incarcerated activism, Moka, with her regained freedom, continues to fight against tragic realities of injustices faced by Black Trans/Queer/Non-Binary communities.
With current societal issues of BIPOC Trans/LGBTQ2S+ violence on the rise, Moka’s mission is to bring recognition and awareness to the reality of black discrimination and racial prejudice, along with causing associated progression of Black Genetic Generational Trauma.
Moka’s accomplishments in her advocacy for Trans prison reforms led her into a life of humanitarian community activism. Moka currently works for the University of Toronto and Ryerson University as a Research and Development Specialist. She is starting her own not-for-profit “T-Time Tips Productions,” which redistributes financial means back into BIPOC trans/queer/non-binary pockets. You can also watch Moka’s documentary “Surviving The Block” on OUT T.V. Moka is available for panel bookings, guest lectures, and protest speech bookings by email at mokadawkins (at) gmail.com.
Julie Berman – Honorary Mention In Memoriam
Julie Berman (1968-2019) was a hairdresser, prominent for trans-activism within the Toronto LGBTQ2S+ community.
She had volunteered with The 519 for three decades. Berman fought to raise awareness of anti-trans violence in Toronto and was involved with running Toronto’s “Trans Day of Remembrance”, at which she had also spoken. Upon her death, Berman was hailed as a champion for trans rights. Toronto mayor John Tory and Pride Toronto released statements mourning her death, and a vigil was held for her in February 2020.
Daej Hamilton ⭐️ Recipient
Daej found her love for woodworking when she was only 11-years old. It didn’t take her long to realize that women, especially women who are Black and queer, don’t typically venture out into fields like these. For that reason, she knew she had to keep going and become the representation she wished she’d had when she was younger. Says Daej, “I honestly can’t stress enough how vital representation is. To see someone who looks like you in a field you didn’t even know existed can spark something phenomenal in people.”
Daej’s goal is to empower people through her passion and show them that it’s absolutely possible to go into a field that may not look like it’s meant for them and prosper. She hopes to do more of that with community outreach. Being a Black Queer Youth Collective board member has helped her get more insight into what the community needs. Her nomination for this award is proof that she is breaking barriers for other Black queer youth and women.
Ryan Tran – Nominee
Since the age of 16, Ryan volunteered with Queer Asian Youth (QAY) by contributing to events, outreach, and peer support.
Inspired by QAY, he restarted his high school’s then defunct Gay-Straight Alliance in his last two years there. After 8 years of volunteering, he continued contributing to the community as part of the ACAS Men’s Program providing sexual health outreach, education, and one-on-one support to gay, bi, queer Asian men. Highlights include producing sexual health online videos, starting a harm reduction support group, and coordinating the annual SLAM forum. He also helped in launching an inclusive Asian men’s calendar promoting positive body image, a gay Asian speed dating event, and PinkDotTO.
He spent six months in Thailand working with local NGO’s to support their work with HIV prevention and education. Outside his work, he uses his creative skills to promote LGBTQ2S+ Asian representation through his dance group DestinAsian, acting in community-based theatre and video projects by Rice Roll Productions, and graphic design work for projects like Invisible Footprints.
Mina Gerges – Nominee
Mina Gerges is a model and actor on a mission to create the representation he needed to see growing up.
He grew up in the Middle East, where the LGBT community faces systemic violence, persecution, and human rights violations. When he was 14 years old and coming to terms with his sexuality, he would Google, “Can I be gay and Arab?” only to find countless stories of death and conversion therapy. He looked for anyone to talk to or to feel safe but never found anyone – and it made him determined to grow up and create the stories of resilience and hope that he needed to see.
After being shamed for having an eating disorder and being told that “men don’t experience eating disorders,” Mina took to Instagram. He shared his journey with his body image, hoping that other queer people don’t experience the loneliness he felt during his struggle. After raising awareness through interviews with Teen Vogue, CBC, and PAPER Magazine, he fiercely advocates for body image in the LGBT community and aims to redefine stereotypes about male eating disorders.
He’s worked with brands like Calvin Klein and Sephora to advocate for change and promote unapologetic self-expression.
Leon Tsai – Nominee
Leon Tsai (she/her) is a proud Taiwanese transgender woman, a settler-immigrant (un)learning in Tkaronto, Turtle Island: a blooming flower giving birth to herself, and a femme/student/artist/poet/storyteller searching for softness.
A woman before and beyond her times, navigating through interpersonal politics as well as manifesting salvation through the collective pains of humanitarian survivals; she meditates on healing and striving on the compassionate and community-centred approaches towards transformative justice. Leon dares to dream and fight for creating safer spaces of liberation/decolonization for she would not blossom without the 2-Spirit, Black, Indigenous, and queer/trans elders that have come before.
Twenty years old while surviving 2020, envisioning and imagining the notions of thriving, she is still here. Leon is home where water flows and still breathing for the light beyond and to the glory of those after her. She asks the world to join her on this story: a soul of feelings planning, organizing, and preparing for the softest revolution yet.
Max Cameron Fearon – Nominee
Max Cameron Fearon (they/them) is a queer, non-binary, Mad, and disabled theatre artist and arts facilitator living in Toronto.
Their work centres on amplifying and celebrating queer, trans, and disabled lives, stories, and artists onstage. Since 2014, Max has acted in, directed, administered, and taught creative arts programming for children, youth, and community groups — addressing issues including gentrification, mental health, gun violence in schools, homophobia, transphobia, and sexual violence.
While in their undergrad at the University of Toronto, Max programmed and promoted LGBTQ2S+ workshops, socials, and resource-sharing events for Victoria College’s LGBTQQIP2SAA+ students’ association, VicPride!.
Since graduation, Max coordinated equity and accessibility programming for the Toronto Dance Community Love-In, and co-founded Low Hanging Fruit Productions, a new theatre collective dedicated to supporting marginalized artists.
Most recently, Max performed in Out at School (a verbatim play about LGBT families and educators in the Ontario school system); facilitated a participatory theatre performance for the TDSB’s EnVision Conference (about students’ experiences with allyship and institutional homo/transphobia); and directed now & them at the Assembly Theatre (about queer relationships in the era of climate catastrophe). Max believes projects like these are essential for increasing visibility, celebrating resilience, and fostering care within our community.
East King Productions ⭐️ Recipient
East King Productions is a Trans and Queer owned and operated production company that was created to provide a safer inclusive space for Drag Kings and Gender Performers.
East King Productions has adapted to creating many types of performance spaces including EMBRACE, a Trans, and Queer all ages open mic night! We started out as a small Drag King and Gender Performer productions company that has turned into a community-based company that is very well known for its safer inclusive spaces.
This is our third year in a row being nominated for the LGBTQ2S+ Positive Business of The Year Award by our community. We cannot express the gratitude and overwhelming love we are feeling for this wonderful nomination. East King Productions has also been curating Pride Toronto’s Drag King stages for the past four years including 2020!
Soulo Theatre – Nominee
Storyteller, performer, and creator of the award-winning 20 Years Young, SOULO Theatre, Tracey Erin Smith knows everyone has a story to tell.
Based in Toronto, but offering workshops far and wide, Tracey has been working with humans from many walks of life. Her work combines the rigour of a Rabbi, the showmanship of a stripper and the heart of a puppy, all in the service of bringing stories to life.
In Smith’s breakout solo sensation, The Burning Bush, she portrayed a Stripping Rabbi on a mission to heal herself and others. In recent years, Tracey starred in a string of hit solo shows. Her last outing, The Big House played to sold-out houses at The Factory Theatre in Toronto. She has twice won “Best Theatre Instructor- The Toronto Star, Readers Choice Award, and Best Small Theatre in NOW Magazine.
Smith created the acclaimed documentary TV series; DRAG HEALS, and She’s The Man. Since the arrival of COVID-19, Tracey has taken her teaching online. She has worked with queer and non-binary youth in Los Angeles and British Columbia and with adults from San Francisco to Paris and back. Since December 2020, you can find her every Friday morning with The Friday Soulo.
Single and Eligible – Nominee
Ashley Magalas is the CEO & Founder of Single and Eligible. When she began her company 7 years ago, she wanted to make events that were inclusive for everyone regardless of gender preference.
As a business owner, it’s important for Ashely to stand behind a cause she not only supports but believes in. She attends the majority of her events to meet her clients face to face, thank them for coming, and hear their comments, feedback and suggestions. She feels blessed to have a business where she’s met many wonderful people, including some who have become good friends and feel like family.
Growing up in a small town, she was lucky to have a family that was LGBT-supportive and to have a gay brother. When it came to dating, she saw the hardships he experienced. He could not express himself and had to go to another city at times to go on a date. Clients who attend her events have thanked her for providing a service where they can be themselves, feel safe, and not judged for their sexual orientation.
She’s excited about what the future holds for her company and what she can do for the LGBT community, not only in Toronto but eventually globally.
While she still organizes events in the village, she has expanded to other parts of the city. She wanted to make the point that being gay does not mean dating and expressing affection is something that can only be seen in the village. What she has learned, and what the public has learned by seeing these events, is that we’re all human beings.
She is working on a new project associated with Women’s College Hospital — details to come.
Come As You Are — Nominee
Founded in 1997 as a worker-owned co-operative, Come As You Are has been queer and trans-owned and operated throughout its 24-year history.
Featuring a wide array of sex-positive and gender-affirming products. With a focus on accessible, ethical, and high-quality products, CAYA has a fundamentally anti-capitalist and feminist approach to sexual pleasure, health, and education. Located in Toronto’s Kensington Market and online at comeasyouare.com and gendergear.ca, CAYA has been voted “best sex shop” and “happiest place to buy a dildo” in Toronto.
Dorothy’s Place ⭐️ Recipient
Dorothy’s Place fosters community and connection with and for 2SLGBTQ2S+ seniors in and around our community.
Our principal mission is to invite them to explore connection and healing and to improve the overall quality of life. We offer 2SLGBTQ2S+ seniors and their caregivers two weekly social programs. A Monday lunch from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM where, in addition to a meal, a variety of activities, information, and resources are offered, and a Friday afternoon social program (Rainbow Tea Time) with a focus on art, music, and wellness.
We bring to our Monday lunches guest speakers on topics of interest to the seniors. Sessions conclude with a time of sharing, which has fostered the growth of friendships and a strong sense of community. On Friday, from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm we offer Rainbow Tea-Time. Hot drinks, sandwiches, and snacks are served and creativity is invited and shared.
We have had several facilitators in different areas and enjoyed a wide variety of arts and crafts such as soul card-making, seated yoga, sound therapy, Zumba, drumming, horticultural therapy, silk banner creation and painting and many other activities. While these activities (sometimes led by our participants) are taking place, interesting conversations happen.
Inside Out LGBT Film Festival – Nominee
Founded in 1991, Inside Out marks 30 years as Canada’s preeminent exhibitor of LGBTQ2S+ film in 2020.
Through its annual festivals in Toronto and Ottawa, as well as year-round programming with community-based co-presenting partners, Inside Out brings more than 200 films to audiences exceeding 50,000. In addition to its public screenings, Inside Out is a leader in developing training and support programs for LGBTQ2S+ filmmakers locally, nationally, and internationally.
Inside Out hosts the world’s only LGBTQ2S+ feature film financing forum, an event that connects independent filmmakers with financial support for their projects in development. It also facilitates two film funds: RE:Focus, which supports queer and trans women and non-binary filmmakers, and; a documentary financing fund in partnership with OUTtv.
In 2019, Inside Out signed a 4-year presenting partnership with Netflix, dedicated to building infrastructure to grow these necessary professional development initiatives for LGBTQ2S+ filmmakers.
Maggie’s – Nominee
Maggie’s Toronto Sex Worker’s Action Project is one of Canada’s oldest by and for sex worker support organizations and one of the first sex worker organizations globally to receive government funding. Founded in 1986, Maggie’s was established on the belief that sex work is real, legitimate and valuable work. We are not an exit organization, and we believe that whether sex workers choose to stay or leave their industries, we all deserve to live with safety, dignity, and respect. To improve our lives, sex workers must take the power to control our destinies. That is why Maggie’s exists as an organization run by and for sex workers, that is controlled by sex workers.
While many of our programs and services have evolved to meet the changing needs of sex workers in our communities, we continue to provide space for sex workers to connect, access harm reduction materials, street outreach and education for community organizations, political leaders and allies.
Maggie’s is also involved in local advocacy in Toronto’s downtown east. We participate in anti-poverty organizing, racial justice work challenging police violence, LGBTQ2S liberation work, Indigenous sovereignty and outreach efforts, harm reduction work and more.
A Rainbow Crosswalk for Bowmanville – Nominee
After many years of unsuccessful lobbying for a rainbow crosswalk anywhere in Durham Region, Clarington was the first to say YES!
Thanks to the rallying and social media success of three sisters, Jordan McCormack, Emily Allison and Alison Ridding, rhey were able to fundraise $4000 from the local residents and businesses to match the donation by the municipality of Clarington.
The crosswalk was installed in late May 2019, just in time for Pride Month. Unfortunately, within 12 hours of the installation, the crosswalk was vandalized. It saw two more instances of vandalism within the first week. Despite this disappointment, the dedication ceremony saw over 300 people attend — in the rain- to celebrate and show support for the local LGBTQ2S+ community. After Clarington approved the #Rainbowmanville crosswalk, half a dozen more popped up around Durham Region within a few months, in a trend of celebration and support.
Toronto Bi+ Network – Nominee
The Toronto Bi+ Network is a grassroots, volunteer-run organization that provides space and visibility for a diverse community of bisexual, pansexual, fluid, queer, questioning, and other non-monosexual people. We offer support, social events, advocacy, and community.
TBN was founded in 1989 to support and represent Bi+ people within the GTA, as there were no organizations that specifically met the distinct needs of non-monosexuals. Last year, we celebrated 30 years of Bi+ power!
Actively working against monosexism, bi-erasure, and biphobia, both within and outside the LGBTQIA2+ community, TBN creates space and visibility for Bi+ people in the larger context of the queer community, and by doing so, offers an alternative narrative for Bi+ folks to live their most authentic lives. Some of our amazing initiatives include monthly peer-support and discussion meetings, essential educational events, and social activities like our monthly bi+ brunch.
Our annual pride presence provides opportunities for Bi+ people to march in all parades under our banner and flags. The “Bi+ Hub” is a visible hub of activity within the pride footprint that offers programming, information, visibility paraphernalia, and a chance to connect with other Bi+ people.