INSPIRE Awards are pleased to announce the recipients and nominees for the 2019 season.

Lifetime Achievement Awards

Jim Parrot

Jim Parrott grew up in small city in Saskatchewan in the 1950s, and knew who he was by the age of 5. He managed to escape with his sanity intact to Kingston in 1961, and thought that it must surely be the most sophisticated place in the entire country. In 1965 he moved to Toronto, and was a grad student and weekend hippie there. He worked as a professional librarian at the University of Waterloo from 1970-2007. He has been an activist in the LGBTQ2 community in Waterloo Region since 1971. He was involved with the UW group Glow for over 20 years, active in the local Pride Committee for the first five years of its existence (1996-2000), is the Editor of the Grand River Rainbow Historical Project (started 2011), and since 2012 has been active in the work of SPECTRUM – Waterloo Region’s Rainbow Community Space. For the past 20 years, Jim and his gay husband William Pensaert have enjoyed strolling about in Waterloo Region (and wherever else their travels take them) proudly holding hands, flaunting their “lifestyle” and otherwise providing cheap thrills for those who do not have ready access to their electronic appliances.

LeZlie Lee Kam

LeZlie came out as a DYKE in 1976 and started volunteering at LOOT (Lesbian Organization Of Toronto) on their phone line as a peer counselor. She was one of 4 lesbians/dykes of colour in the bar scene in the 70’s / 80’s … dancing at the Studio, the Cameo, Katrina’s and the Quest. 

LeZlie’s accomplishments over the years are too vast to count. Here is a look at short snippet of her history: Lezlie was a founding member of Lesbians of Colour and put dykes/lesbians of colour in the Toronto Pride parade for the very FIRST time. LeZlie was a founding member of the Proud And Visible Coalition, uniting dykes / lesbians and gay men of colour for the very FIRST time in the Toronto Pride parade. LeZlie Also hosted Island Spice at the Red Spot (with Carol Thames) on Church street, a monthly night for dykes/lesbians and gay men of colour to dance, celebrate and perform. In 2012, she became an advocate for queer seniors entering care facilities / also became co-chair of the Senior Pride Network / eventually became sole chair of the SPN. Between 2014 and 2017 she co-produced TIME AFTER TIME – an intergenerational seniors’ social event with Vanessa Dunn. In 2016 she made  a video which premiered at the Caribbean Tales International Film Festival.

LeZlie also sits on: the Patient Caregiver Advisory Table for the ministry of health and ltc, ministry of seniors affairs liaison committee, the Registered Nurses of Ontario Expert Panel on Best Practice Guidelines for 2SLGBTQI+ people, the Visiting Homemakers Association LGBTQ2S+ Working Group  and Client Carer Advisory Committee, Ageing Without Violence Advisory Committee of the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses and the ministry of community and social services, is a  member of the Senior Pride Network, and the  Community Co-chair of the National Seniors Advisory Council of EGALE. She volunteers at ImagineNATIVE, Luminato, InsideOUT, Hot Docs, Toronto Pride, ReelASIAN, Bridgepoint Active Healthcare and SOY (Supporting Our Youth) at the Sherbourne Health Centre, to name but a few. 

LeZlie has worked endlessly for the past 43 years to educate and improve the lives of queer youth and elders. In her spare time LeZlie enjoys a dancing, a doubles and a trini ‘lime’ anytime!

Jackie Shane (Honorary)

Jackie Shane (May 15, 1940 – February 21, 2019) was an American soul and rhythm and blues singer, who was most prominent in the local music scene of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in the 1960s. Considered to be a pioneer transgender performer, she was a contributor to the Toronto Sound and is best known for the single “Any Other Way”, which was a regional Top 10 hit in Toronto in 1962 and a modest national chart hit across Canada in 1967.

Originally Jackie hails from Nashville, Tennessee. She began performing back home in the 1950s wearing long hair, make-up, and jewellery. Vowing to escape the “Jim Crow South”, in the late 1950s, she joined a travelling carnival and arrived in Cornwall, Ontario, in 1959, where she said she felt free for the first time.

In 1960, Shane moved to Montreal, Quebec, where saxophonist “King” Herbert Whitaker invited her along to watch the popular band Frank Motley and his Motley Crew at the Esquire Show Bar. Shane showed up and sat down near the front. When Motley said, “Get that kid up here and let’s see what he can do,” pianist Curley Bridges invited Shane, then still presenting as a man, onstage for the next set, where she performed songs by Ray Charles and Bobby “Blue” Bland.

She was soon the band’s lead vocalist and relocated to Toronto with them in late 1961. She returned several times to the United States, on tour with the Motley Crew (to Boston, for example, where they recorded), to New York to record, to visit her family and old friends and perform on a TV show in Nashville, or to live and work in Los Angeles where she played drums in recording sessions.

Throughout her active musical career and for many years thereafter, Shane was written about by nearly all sources as a man who performed in ambiguous clothing that strongly suggested femininity, with some sources even directly labeling her as a drag queen. The few sources that actually sought out her own words on the matter of her own gender identification were more ambiguous, however; she identified herself as male in two early quotes to the Toronto Star, but more often appeared to simply dodge questions about her gender altogether. Her identity as a trans woman was not confirmed on the record by a media outlet until 2017.

International Icon Award

Schitts Creek

It has been written that ‘Schitt’s Creek’ is helping usher in the era of the gay rom-com. The show is a Canadian television sitcom created by Daniel Levy and his father Eugene Levy that premiered on CBC Television on January 13, 2015. The show stars the incomparable Catharine O’Hara, along with Eugene and Daniel Levy, and Annie Murphy in the title roles, along with many talented actors. The series has won various accolades, including an ACTRA Award and 11 Canadian Screen Awards. It is the first Canadian comedy series to be nominated for a Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Comedy Series.

But most importantly the show has not shied away from presenting positive and dynamic LGBTQ2S+ characters, storylines, and even promoting LGBTQ2S+ resources.

The Pop TV hit will end after next year’s sixth season, but the LGBTQ-friendly series’ legacy will undoubtedly live on.

LUX Award for the Arts – a partnership with 10 x 10 Photography Project

Will Munro

William Grant “Will” Munro was a Toronto artist, club promoter, and restaurateur known for his work as a community builder among marginalized Toronto groups. As a visual artist, he was known for fashioning artistic works out of underwear; as a club promoter, he was best known for his long-running Toronto queer club night, Vazaleen.

Born in Australia, Munro grew up mostly in Mississauga and moved to nearby Toronto to study at OCAD University, graduating in 2000. Influenced by such artists as General Idea and the queercore movement, he received critical attention for his work with men’s underwear, a medium he used eventually to create collages of colourful performers he admired such as Klaus Nomi and Leigh Bowery. He created silkscreen posters to advertise Vazaleen—his monthly nightclub party that was unusual for being a queer event where punk and other rock music was prominently played, and for being one of the first to exist beyond the confines of the gay ghetto. The party was known for attracting a diverse crowd, and at its peak brought in such performers as Nina Hagen; international “best-of” nightclub lists took notice.

Munro passed away of brain cancer in May 2010. Posthumous exhibits of his art work included a 2010 show at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and in 2011 he was the first male artist to be featured in the feminist Montreal art gallery La Centrale.

Charles Roy Award for Activism in HIV/AIDS

Dr. Sharon Walmsley

Sharon Walmsley, MD, is the Director of the Immunodeficiency Clinic and HIV Clinical Research at Toronto General Hospital, University Health Network and a Professor, University of Toronto Department of Medicine. She is a Senior Scientist at the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute and the Co-Chair of the CIHR – Canadian HIV Trials Network. She is actively involved in the design and conduct of many clinical trials, including trials in HIV therapy; prophylaxis and treatment of opportunistic infections, and management of the complications of treatment. Research interests involved the interaction between HIV and herpes virus co-infection. She also has a strong interest in HIV in women and is a co-investigator of the Canadian Women’s HIV Study group which is currently evaluating the HPV vaccine in HIV infected women and girls. Her current research is evaluating healthy aging within HIV. She holds numerous peer-reviewed publications and research awards related to clinical trials in HIV. She is the recipient of a Chair in HIV Clinical Management and Aging from the Ontario HIV Treatment Network. In June 2017, she has been appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada for her contributions in HIV Research.

Accenture Innovator of the Year Award

Albert Lam

Former President of Start Proud, scaling its reach to students in 5 cities across Canada and over 200 skills-based volunteers, co-founder of Venture Out, Canada’s first LGBT tech summit and co-founder of Gaingels Canada, an affinity angel investor group for the LGBT community, making its first investment in 2019.

Person of the Year – Nominees

Chanty Marostica

Chanty Marostica, known for their unique brand of high energy physical comedy, brings their jokes to life through a combination of storytelling, impressions, and spot on timing. Chanty has been featured in Just For Laughs, JFL42, ODDBLOCK, Kevin Hart’s “Laugh Out Loud” Network, The Halifax Comedy Festival, The Winnipeg Comedy Festival, CBC’s “Laugh Out Loud”, “Debaters” and “Workin’ Moms”. They are proudly the creator and producer of Canada’s Touring LGBTQ2S+ Comedy Showcase(s) “Queer and Present Danger”, the first EVER lgbtq weekly mic “QAPD Collective” and Toronto’s longest running lgbtq+ Showcase “Church Street Comedy”. Chanty is an Award-Winning Comic, and was nominated for “Best Stand Up Comic” at The 2015 Winnipeg Comedy Festival. Won “Patrons Pick” in both 2015/2016, they also received The Canadian Comedy Award for “Best Breakout Artist” 2018, were recently named Sirius XM’s “Top Comic 2018” and their Debut Album “The Chanty Show” was nominated for a 2019 Juno for “Comedy Album of the Year”.

David Soomarie – Recipient

David Soomarie has dedicated two decades of his life to advocating for those less fortunate in society, particularly young people, people living with HIV and members of the LGBTQ2S+ community. He was one of the founding members of a national coalition and openly advocated for the inclusion of sexual orientation in Trinidad and Tobago’s laws. In late 2009, he became a board member of Community Action Resource (CARe) an HIV Support organization which he credits for helping him cope with his HIV diagnosis. In May 2010, he became its Coordinator, Programmes & Services and was the first openly gay HIV positive man to lead the organization. Despite the homophobia he experienced, he ran the organization for six and a half years developing & implementing a number of community-based projects and support groups which looked at addressing sexual health, sexual diversity and creating a sex –positive culture in the LGBTQ2S+ community which have been recognized as best practice models in the Caribbean. He migrated to Canada in August 2016 and quickly established himself here. He is currently the MSM Outreach Coordinator at the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention, volunteers with Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP) and a member of CAAT (Committee for Accessible Aids Treatment). He strongly believes that he should use his privilege to benefit those in his home country and formed Toronto (To) Queers for T&T, a lobby group that advocates for human rights for members of the LGBQTI communities in T&T. He has also written for POZlite and is now a regular contributor to POZ Planet. From this place of safety and privilege, David has been vocal on a number of issues affecting the LGBTQ2S+ community in Trinidad & Tobago. Through the formation of the group ‘TO Queers for T&T’ he highlighted the concerning increase of hate crimes, one of which included a transgender sex worker, and the lack of justice for these crimes. He openly supported the legal challenge, launched by his close friend Jason Jones, by staging a ‘We stand with you’ protest with the Trinidad & Tobago diaspora here in Toronto and was able to get The Caribbean Equality Network in New York to do a similar action. After the legal challenge was won, he launched two fundraising activities for an emergency fund for LGBTQ2S+ persons who were now without shelter and/or lost their jobs as a result of now being targeted or bullied. He has spoken on several panels in Toronto including Pride Toronto ‘Pathways to Freedom: Struggle and Challenges for LGTBQ Refugees Globally’ panel in 2018. He is known for his engaging facilitation skills and conducts facilitating services for the AFFIRM project run by the University of Toronto, as well as LGBTQ2S+ newcomer groups at BlackCAP.

Heath V. Salazar

Heath V. Salazar (they/them) is a Latinx drag activist, writer and performer. As an artist, they work with a focus on projects that celebrate survival and resilience within marginalized communities. In drag, they perform as Gay Jesus and are best known for their multidisciplinary protest pieces decked out in draglesque. They also perform as Papi in Boiband the Boyband, your Latinx boiband experience. Once a month, they co-run Embrace, a queer and trans positive open mic, alongside East King Productions, Adam Bagatavicius and guest host Qaptain at Glad Day Bookshop. As a writer, they mix language and artistic disciplines within their creations as a means of challenging the limitations of language and dismantling standards established by a society founded on genocide and white supremacy. They’ve completed a residency in Spoken Word at the Banff Centre of the Arts as well as the Emerging Creators Unit at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre, where they’re currently an Artist in Residence. As a Dora Award-winning performer, Heath performs as male, female, and gender variant in both theatre and film. Select credits include Designated Survivor (Netflix), The Wolves (Howland Company/Crow’s Theatre), Territorial Tales (Canadian Stage) & Chasse-Galerie (Storefront Theatre).

Vonny Sweetland

Vonny Sweetland is a Radio/TV Personality, and Community Advocate. His on-air conversation and knowledge have garnered him many opportunities in both the private and non-profit sectors. He’s been fortunate enough to appear on several networks and stations including ABC, CBS, NBC, Rogers, Bell, Sirius XM, Huffington Post, and more. As a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community, he’s used his voice to champion projects like, Bullyfighter’s, Out In The Cold, and more. Bullyfighter has seen him work with the Toronto Police Force and more to combat online and cyber bullying amongst vulnerable youth populations including the LGBTQ2S+ community who are affected by the issue in astonishingly large numbers. Out In The Cold was his emotional directorial debut where he directed and produced a non-fictional film, which examined the lives and issues of LGBTQ2S+ youth who experienced homelessness as a result of their coming out to family here in Toronto. The film was broadcast on the Rogers TV Network. It was the most emotional project he’s worked on to date. He had to leave the set several times during filming to compose himself. That aside – he is so proud to have been able to shine light on something of such importance. The film has sparked conversation and action in many different ways. The most notable being through a partnership he has with Covenant House Canada. He has also worked with the YMCA, 360 KIDS, Youth Action Network, and more since 2012 to create opportunities for youth in vulnerable sectors, more specifically LGBTQ2S+ youth. He chaired the board at YAN for two years, and helped put the spotlight on Ontario’s first ever mobile health clinics for youth. He can’t tell you how much difference that project made in the LGBTQ2S+ community for individuals who were marginalized and didn’t have access to the same health care opportunities as most.
Since 2017, he has been an ambassador for Covenant House Canada where he’s mentored LGBTQ2S+ youth from different backgrounds, and uses his time and resources to fund job opportunities for the at-risk youth who reside there. Very recently, he was able to help secure employment for a group of youth looking for work in the food industry by way of a relationship with a popular downtown restaurant. He’s very involved in politics, which have helped him a great deal in the non-profit world where he seeks to create bridges and opportunities through not just communities, but government. He’s worked with Federal MP Yasmin Ratansi and sat on her executive board, and has held discussions with several key leaders like Hillary Clinton and more about issues that affect the LGBTQ2S+ community. He would probably say that the thing that he wants the community and the Inspire awards to know is that he hasn’t been working on these efforts for the last year or 6 months. He’s always had these issues and subjects as a large piece of his brand. He’s been doing these things for several years now, roughly ten to be exact.

Jill Dilts

Dr. Jill Dilts is a research analyst with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. She was raised in Waterloo, Ontario and earned a B.Math in Computer Science from the University of Waterloo and a Ph.D. In Linguistics from the University of Alberta, all while pretending to be a boy. She came out as a woman in 2017, and has become an active member of the Ontario Public Service Pride Network and a director on the founding board of It Gets Better Canada. She has been sharing her story on social media to fight the pervasive and dangerous ignorance surrounding transgender identities, and to provide the kind of example that she didn’t have while growing up. Since the start of her transition, Jill has had enough energy to get out of bed several times a week.

Youth of the Year – Nominees

Adam Lake

He is a courageous African Canadian male, who is currently still at a disadvantage due to his Blackness and sexual orientation. He is not only receiving an education for himself, but for the future generation of racialized, LGBTQ2 children, youth, and young adults. Regarding his volunteer experience, he wanted to contribute towards an affirmative observation of the African Canadian community. Co-founding “Books Breaking Barriers” has allowed him to cater to the African Canadian and LGBTQ2 within lower socioeconomic areas, through instilling education within juvenile correctional facilities. This has caused him to work as an Advisory member within the Peel Regional Police force’s LGBTQ2 and Black committee, utilizing his voice and becoming positive influence upon African Canadian and LGBTQ2 identified youth. He wants to educate LGBTQ2 and African Canadian youth with themes surrounding progression and exaltation. Rather than being a victim, he has made the decision to use his voice as power. He strives to bring together the African Canadian and LGBTQ2 community together as allies in a world that is against indifference. His aspirations may be strenuous to accomplish, but things that are of signif¬icance are often not effortless.

Leon Tsai

In Leon’s words “it is an honour to be nominated in her last year as a youth”… she is a transgender woman of 19 years old, praying to survive 2019. She never thought that she would be alive enough to witness herself turning 20, to witness herself bloom into the woman that she is… And she is so thankful, with her heart full knowing that she would not be here, without the communities’ support. However, she’s not here to “INSPIRE”, she’s here to “ASPIRE”. May she continue to work towards learning and unlearning and let us aspire to inspire ourselves… to live, to love, and to fight as a community. In her last 3 years of public speaking/storytelling, she has visited over 3 public schools, 5 high schools, and 5 university campuses, mostly within Ontario and yet she was honoured to have presented and spoke at the University of Lisbon, Portugal in October 2018. Moving forward, she is excited to be involved with a LGBTQ2S+ YouthLine Provincial project starting in May to be a LGBTQ2S+ Youth Ambassador of the Greater Toronto Area. It is only her duty, to remind herself that the time to act, is always too late… And she’s certainly not perfect, as she is only doing her best, to practice what she teaches, to survive.

Rayne Fisher-Quann – Recipient

Rayne Fisher-Quann is an activist, public speaker, and high-school student. In the summer of 2018, she founded an organization called March for Our Education to protest the changes to the sexual education curriculum and to advocate for the voices of young people in politics and policy. After the Ford government refused to consult young people in his homophobic policy decisions, she decided to rally young people like never before. She led the We The Students Do Not Consent walkout, which became the largest high school student protest in Canada’s history. She has been named one of Chatelaine Magazine’s Women of the Year, as well as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women. She currently continues to advocate for LGBTQ2S+ and gender equality issues by speaking at universities and conferences across the province. She is also a global ambassador for the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative. Recently, she was overjoyed to find out that her monumental efforts had been rewarded by the Conservative government rescinding their changes to the sexual education curriculum and continuing to educate young people about LGBTQ2S+ identities. This represents not only a life-changing win for the young LGBTQ2S+ community but a testament to the power of a student voice.

Julian Morello

Julian Morello works extensively in the community to create a better environment for queer youth and people living with HIV. Julian helps people with HIV build their capacity by sharing his lived experience of overcoming oppression and strategies to counter marginalisation. Recently, he has taken part in community forums such as Toronto to Zero and the OHTN HIV Endgame conference; partaking in radical activism by pushing the difficult and awkward questions that challenge the entrenched orthodoxy. Currently, he is helping plan the second HYPE Youth Summit – a conference to empower poz youth – and regularly volunteers at ACT. As a queer racialized voice, he is working to revitalize the Toronto Youth and HIV Committee in hopes uniting youth to create projects that educate while breaking the stigma still associated with sexual health. Melding his love of cosmetics and art, Julian graduated from CMU in July of 2018 and recently saw his work published in PhotoEd magazine. His goal for 2019 is to focus on breaking into the film and television industry as a professional makeup artist while continuing to break down barriers for poz youth.

Amir Bachari

Amir is a 23-year-old Persian-Canadian cis-gay man. He pursued an Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences degree from Western University, where his interest in HIV started. However, he learned early on that there was an erasure of LGBT2Q+ persons from academia when discussing HIV and its impact. Therefore, he decided to pursue a more community-based method of learning. He became involved with MedsEXPERT LGBTQ2S+ Pharmacy as a Community Outreach Coordinator where he provided PrEP and PEP counselling as well as planned and executed initiatives to increase healthcare provider knowledge on LGBTQ2S+ topics. Following that, he took on the role of Research Assistant at ACT where he worked with a great network of organizations and people to produce a platform of GBQ+ friendly directory of primary care providers (family physicians and nurse practitioners). He is currently working at the Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC) as the Advance National Project Coordinator to increase healthcare access for cis and trans GBQ+ guys who are into guys and increase their knowledge on combination prevention services. He hopes to be able to continue his career in the sector where we get the unique experience of living our authentic lives while contributing to our own minority community.

Positive Business of the Year – Nominees

Challenge Accepted Learning Collective

 Challenged Accepted is a collective of 2SLGBTQ2S+ people who are learning experts and are passionate about diversity and inclusion, particularly on 2SLGBTQ2S+ in educational institutions and the workplace. They provide innovative learning solutions and consultation to help create and foster more inclusive environments for all 2SLGBTQ2S+ folks through the lens of intersectionality and anti-racism/anti-oppression frameworks. The suite of services they provide are informed by evidence-based data, adult learning principals, and are experiential for the learners; all of which result in a transformative experience that ensures to empower 2SLGBTQ2S+ voices by narrative sharing as well as for people to learn how to best act in allyship. Their services also extend to providing support for 2SLGBTQ2S+ people and youth through the work of each of their team members, whether it is in health and wellness through personal training, therapy, and/or career coaching. Not only do they assist in building capacity on inclusion initiatives in the workplace and for educators to create safer spaces for 2SLGBTQ2S+ staff and youth, they also model best practices on how a workplace can be as inclusive as possible through fostering a culture and community of learning and care. They practice equitable decision-making and centre the voices of QTBIPOC in the work that they do so that their people are cared for in the ways that they need.

Continental Dance Club

“The mission and vision of The Continental Dance Club since 2016, a UNESCO CID (Conseil International de la danse) Institutional Member and its director Brian Torner is to sustain & nourish an appetite for dance in all genres and sensibilities and to provide a membership free, inclusive, fully accessible engaging space for creativity, events, art exhibitions, fundraisers, parties, anniversaries, lessons, practice & innovative cross-training options for all levels of dancers, photographers, authors and visual artists, from beginner to mentor. The interactive website affords instructors and valued team community partners a unique forum to add original content, whilst bringing together friends of dance, music, art, sport, leisure, fitness and theatre through a variety of innovative programs and special events, including six years promoting existing and new communities of unity through UNESCO International Dance Day Open House showcase & workshop days. and cross-connection to various events in the GTA such as CONTACT Photography Festival, World AIDS Day and more…”

MedsExpert Pharmacy – Recipient

At medsEXPERT Pharmacy, their mission is to provide a space in the heart of Toronto’s Gay Village where LGBTQ2S+ clients can feel comfortable talking about their health, medical history, sexual history, orientation and gender expression. They are committed to creating an all inclusive, judgement-free, and sex-positive environment where everyone feels included regardless of their walk of life. By improving access to healthcare for the LGBTQ2S+ community through specialty services, medications, free information, testing, and private consultations, they aim to transform the local healthcare landscape. Not only a place to get expert advice, at medsEXPERT Pharmacy, you’ll feel safe being who you are without fear of judgement. They are proud to be the only true LGBTQ2S+ Canadian pharmacy as they are gay-owned as well as operated by an entirely queer staff that specializes in serving and providing support to their community. ABOUT OWNER: Dr. Michael Fanous, PharmD, RPh, Community Activist and HIV Educator. Dr. Michael Fanous is both an activist for LGBTQ2S+ rights including HIV/AIDS healthcare access and a pharmacist specializing in HIV treatment and prevention. He began working in Canada’s largest HIV clinic, Maple Leaf Medical, over 15 years ago. He earned his Doctor of Pharmacy degree in 2008 from Union University in NY before returning home to Toronto to continue serving his community in Toronto’s Gay Village. He is driven by experiences that he and many of his friends have had to overcome accessing gay-friendly and knowledgeable providers – which is why he volunteers regularly as a counsellor and advisor to many community groups, AIDS Service Organizations, universities, and more. As an activist, Michael continues in the fight against HIV/AIDS with improving HIV awareness, research projects, and opposing HIV-stigma. As a HIV pharmacist, Dr. Fanous advocates for access to PrEP, PEP, HIV Treatment, Hepatitis C and other LGBTQ2S+ related health concerns.

East King Productions

East King Productions is a community-based Trans and Queer run performance company. Formerly known as Pretty Munny Productions, East King was founded by Pretty Riikkii two and a half years ago to provide safe and inclusive performance space for drag kings and gender performers. Kings and Classics, a monthly showcase at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, gives aspiring and seasoned kings, gender performers and guest artists the opportunity to be a part of a professionally produced performance with an enthusiastic audience. Mentorship is offered to performers by the company’s community of diverse artists. EMBRACE: A Trans and Queer Positive All Ages monthly open mic event at Glad Day Bookshop provides a supportive environment for varied artists to express themselves. East King produces mainstage shows at Pride Toronto. The company has also toured to Barrie and Oshawa. East King facilitates a free chest binder exchange program for any community member who identifies a need. This summer, the company will offer a drag and gender performance workshop that will cover topics like building an act, safe binding, body positivity, cultural appropriation and drag history. East King Productions has nurtured a beautiful, growing community with a culture of inclusivity, self-expression, love and celebration.

Club 120/120 Diner

Club120 opened in 2006 as Goodhandy’s Nightclub by entertainer and comedian Mandy Goodhandy and writer/multimedia artist Todd Klinck. The original vision was to provide a sex-positive space for trans girls and allies. The project organically evolved to become an event space when the first promoter asked if she could do a trans guy/burlesque/variety show. This led to Northbound Fetish night making the club their home, which opened the door to events catering to a variety of LGBTQ2S+ niche communities, including:
• The queer urban community (DJ Blackcat events) and the pioneers of the Canadian ballroom scene, the House of Monroe – LGBTQ
• South Asians ( Rangeela) – LGBTQ
• Arabian (Arabian Nights) – LGBTQ
• Asian (Asian Xpress)
• TNT!MEN Nudist dances
In addition to the above, the club has hosted book launches, numerous fundraisers, a successful women’s dance party (Cream) and live music events. It also features cutting edge late night local and international electronic music DJs weekly. And much more. In 2010, Goodhandy and Klinck were the Grand Marshall’s of Toronto’s Pride parade, where they invited 200 of their friends, performers, promoters and allies of all genders and orientations to join them. Klinck and Goodhandy chose to march under a banner that said DECRIMINALIZE SEX WORK NOW. In 2012 the club rebranded as Club120 to accommodate even more events (including straight events) and in 2014 it expanded to the ground floor by opening 120 Diner, which has now become a hub in the comedy and live music scenes. Klinck and Goodhandy are organic business people, and 120 continues to evolve. The mandate has become clear: be inclusive, work with leaders in their respective communities, work with promising up and comers and always be open to trying new things.

Inspiring Community Organization of the Year – Nominees

Rainbows Pride in Scarborough RPIS

They are a community artist, activist, fighter, educator around disability, sex, gender, and HIV/AIDS educator and enjoy supporting others with mental health and depression who face struggles in their community towards transphobia, homophobia, racism, sexism that prevents suicides and they are a CPR first aid trainer and trained in opioid overdose. They believe in creating a space for the LGBTQ2S+ youth in the community to have a place to go and feel welcomed and valued and share and be open and access resources and etc. in the Scarborough community. And a place where the youth can be free of discrimination. As an activist, they support youth in the community to create their own tools to educate others in the community on topics that they face to decrease the struggles. They are the project director and founder of rainbows pride in Scarborough they work very hard to write grants for the project and for the youth to create a space in the community and give youth the skills and education to fight and be their own facilitators and educators and they gain self-esteem and addressed the importance of the project and how its needed and how it supports individual’s mental health.

Franco Queer

FrancoQueer is proud to gather a diverse community of LGBTQ2+ people coming from the entire French-speaking world. They are the only grassroots organization in Toronto serving that population. Their activities and services aim to provide them with a space where they can speak French, whether as a first language or not, and feel comfortable gathering at the intersection of their multiple identities. Their settlement and integration program support newcomers, asylum seekers and refugees in building a new life project in their new home city. They offer individual assistance and orientation, group information workshops and a support group twice a month. Their weekly “Café Bilingue” consists in building bridges between the Francophone and the Anglophone LGBTQ2+ communities by gathering and practicing both official languages in a relaxed environment. Every year, they also organize activities in French during Pride month in Toronto to celebrate their pride in French.

Women’s HIV and AIDS Initiative

WHAI is a network of amazing leaders across Ontario fostering a community-based response to HIV and AIDS amongst cis and trans women. They focus on social and structural factors that increase risk, and foster innovative, community driven solutions. In the past 3 years, they have worked with communities across Ontario to identify key areas of work that need to happen, and have created collaborative and collective strategies to address these areas of work. Each year, their network learns from their communities, and in particular: women with lived experience. They share Wise Practices with each other, collaborate on strategies, and collectively measure their progress towards creating meaningful and lasting social change.

The Teresa Group

The Teresa Groups advances the dignity of children and families affected by HIV & AIDS. Working from a lifecycle approach, they offer broad range of practical and emotional support programs, from the prenatal stage to 18 years. For many young people, being born with HIV or living in an HIV-affected family, can have a significant impact on the mental health. Children and youth living with or affected by HIV may endure ongoing stress related to worry about their own health, or that of a family member. They lack safe spaces where they can talk about the impact HIV has on their lives, without the fear of judgement and rejection. The Teresa Group has been and continues to be a safe place for children, youth and their parents. Here, there is hope, respect and compassion for everyone that comes through the door. For many, is the only place where they can talk openly about how HIV has impacted their lives.

EGALE Youth Outreach – Recipient

In 2014 in the wake of several high profile LGBTIQ2S suicides, recommendations from suicide summits and research focused on the needs of Queer and Trans youth Egale took the step to respond to the dramatic need for suicide and homelessness crisis services and counselling for LGBTIQ2S youth to move into frontline work and founded The Egale Youth OUTreach Counselling Centre (EYO). This step could not have happened without the generous support of a private donor. The Centre opened its doors to service in 2014 in downtown Toronto and is hoped to be a model to spread across the country. Homophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia, violence and harassment in our schools, in our families and in our communities combined with experiencing homelessness and other stressors take their toll on mental health and overall well-being. They have created Egale Youth OUTreach to help address these challenges by providing direct services to LGBTIQ2S youth.