We’ve Been Here: Notable QBIPOC
In many cities and spaces, Queer BIPOC folks still face erasure from their cultural community as well as the mainstream Queer community. There are Queer BIPOC folks who have made significant contributions to our history whose very presence are erased from the recollections of history, and there are those that are making strides in their fields and living and loving who are never given the recognition they deserve.
In this intentional space however, we exist. We remember. We hold this space and honour individuals in our community. We remember the work that has been done and we are inspired to do the work that lies ahead. It is incredibly important that members of our community of all ages see themselves reflected, and to have hope that change is possible.
But most of all, we are reminded that we are not alone and we have always been here.
Notable Queer Folks
Dr. Myra Laramee is a member of the Fisher River Cree Nation. She brought the Two-Spirit name to a sharing circle at the 3rd Annual Gathering of Native American Gays and Lesbians. It was received through ceremony and adopted by the community afterwards.
Myra spent over 35 years in education as a teacher, counselor and administrator. Her research is in Indigenous Knowledge and Practices as they relate to teacher education. Her thesis explored the acquisition, utilization, research and writing of Indigenous Knowledge and was titled, Teaching and Learning as an Act of Love: An examination of the impact of seven traditional Indigenous teaching practices in a teacher education and on teacher's classroom practices.
Nik Redman is an artist, activist and community worker who was born in Montreal, Canada. Nik grew up in both Barbados and Canada.
He is a member of the GBQ Trans Men’s’ Working Group, part of Ontario Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance; the MaBwana Community Advisory Committee, the Prisoners Justice Action Committee (PJAC) and the Trans Fathers 2B Parenting Course Project Team. Nik was one of the online facilitators for the province-wide HIV/AIDS-themed Stigma campaign. Nik currently works as a Grievance Officer with the University of Toronto’s Local 1998 United Steelworkers Union. In addition, he works doing Anti-Harassment and Human Rights Training for the Union.
An active participant in several communities, Nik volunteers with the LGBT Youth Line, Community One and is part of the programming committee and the Board of the Inside Out Film and Video Festival. He also serves on the Board of Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP).
Ravyn Wngz identifies as a Queer, 2 Spirit, Transcendent Mohawk Tanzanian, Bermudian. The racism she continually experienced while being an artist in predominantly white spaces prompted her to create safe spaces for black people, including the Ill Nana DiverseCity Dance Company y- a queer and trans multiracial dance company that aims to change the landscape of dance and provide accessible affirming dance education to the 2SLGBTQ+ community which she co-founded.
Currently, Ravyn Wngz is the artistic director of the OVA (Outrageous Victorious Africans) collective, which presents the voices of 2SLGBTQ+ individuals of African descent through dance and theater. She was also involved in the creation of the Wildseed: Center for art and activism, a space designed to put black residents of Toronto first, which has hosted events for the black LGBTQ2S + community.
“I've been told a lot of times that you are either black or queer, be gay… And so I chose myself. ”
Wngz aims to challenge mainstream arts and dance spaces and aims to create opportunities, nuanced representations and platforms for marginalized LGBTTIQQ2S communities with a focus on Black, Indigenous, and people of colour.
Ravyn is a member of Black Live Matter Toronto Steering committee, A group who are committed to eradicating all forms of anti-Black racism, supporting Black healing and liberating Black communities.
In 2016, Ren Navarro was the only queer black woman working in the craft beer industry in Ontario. Since then, she has gone on to become the founder of Beer.Diversity., a business she started in 2018 with an aim to bring more diversity and inclusion to the craft beer business. With nearly a decade of experience in the alcohol industry, Ren uses education to address the lack of diversity in the Canadian beer industry and works to make the industry more inclusive for all. She also co-founded the Toronto-based Society of Beer-Drinking Ladies which is now the largest women-focused beer group in North America.
Original Photo Credit: Racheal McCaig
Richard Fung is a Trinidad born, Asian-Canadian gay filmaker, activist, teacher and community organizer.
Inspired by a community of Gay Asians, marching proudly with a banner proclaiming "We're Asian, Gay and Proud" at the 1979 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, Richard Fung returned to Toronto and formed the Gay Asians of Toronto (GAT) in 1980. This organization would be the first organization in Canada to advocate for LGBT2Q+ people of colour. Richard Fung would continue on to be a tireless outspoken activist for inclusion and ending racism in the Queer community.
Amongst his many accomplishments he gave voice to gay Asian people in his 1984 documentary Orientations. This groundbreaking documentary featured interviews with 14 queer Asian people and looked at their experiences with coming out and racism they experienced in the wider queer community. Orientations challenges the white gay community to reconsider their perceptions of Asian passivity, traditionalism and inserts homosexuality into an Asian context, disrupting the idea that to be gay is unmentionable, or worse, “Western.”
"As the predominant images of homosexuals were white, my agenda was to speak back to homophobia as well as to the orientalism that exoticized and excluded us within gay and lesbian communities. I wanted to encourage Lesbian and Gay Asians to feel less alone and to become involved with community," - Richard Fung
Fung became one of Canada’s most widely exhibited artists working in video, showing in festivals and curated programs in major museums and community centres, hosted by major institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, N.Y., and grassroots cultural organizations such as the Chinese Cultural Centre in Vancouver. As a writer, curator, lecturer and panelist, Fung is recognized for his contribution to contemporary film and video scholarship, particularly his examination of codes inherent to dominant forms of culture and for his clear presentations of strategic actions which challenge this dominance.
He has received multiple awards and fellowships including the Bulloch Award for best Canadian work in the Inside Out Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival, Toronto (1996), the Bell Canada Award for Lifetime Achievement in Video Art (2000) and the Toronto Arts Award for Media Arts (2001).
Diverlus is a Haitian-Canadian transdisciplinary artivist (artist/activist), dancer and choreographer whose work "incorporates contemporary and Afrikanic movement and dance practices, physical theatre and public arts-based interventions" and has been presented at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Canadian Opera Company and the Stratford Festival.
He is one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter – Canada/Toronto, as well as co-author of the bestselling book Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter in Canada. He’s currently the co-creator at the Wildseed Centre for Art & Activism, "a vessel that seeks to nurture Black radical creation in Toronto and beyond."
Syrus Marcus Ware is a visual artist, community activist, researcher, youth-advocate and educator. He is currently a facilitator/designer for the Cultural Leaders Lab (Toronto Arts Council & The Banff Centre).
As a visual artist, Syrus works within the mediums of painting, installation and performance to challenge systemic oppression. Syrus’ work explores the spaces between and around identities; acting as provocations to our understandings of gender, sexuality and race. Syrus is part of the Black Triangle Arts Collective (BTAC), a visual arts collective dedicated to exploring disability, racial and economic justice.
Syrus has co-edited a book chapter (with Zack Marshall) about disability, Deaf culture and trans identities in Trans Bodies, Trans Selves(2013) and co-authored "It Cannot be Fixed Because It Isn’t Broken" in Disability Incarcerated (2014), a chapter about the experiences of disability, racism and the Prison Industrial Complex. He is the author of Love is in the Hair, part of Flamingo Rampant’s 2015 book series.
Syrus is a core-team member of Black Lives Matter-Toronto. For 14 years, Syrus has worked with Blackness Yes! to produce Blockorama (the black queer and trans stage at Pride), and other related events throughout the year. Syrus is also a founding member of the Prison Justice Action Committee of Toronto and a founding member of the Transparent-cy Working Group at The 519 Community Centre. He helped to initiate the Trans-Fathers 2B course- the first course for trans men considering parenting in North America. Syrus is also a member of the Gay/Bi Trans Men’s HIV Prevention Working Group for the Ontario AIDS Bureau and one of the creators of “Primed: A Back Pocket Guide for Trans Guys and the Guys Who Dig ‘Em”.
Sze-Yang Ade-Lam is a queer asian non-binary storyteller & community developer via dance, kung fu, words, drawings, film, and photo. They are a co-founder of Bricks and Glitter, a grassroots, community arts festival and one of the co-founders of the ILL NANA/DiverseCity Dance Company, a queer positive multiracial dance company that embraces difference as strength. Since 2011 Sze-Yang has created more accessible affirming dance education and performance opportunities for QTBIPOC’s and their adjacent communities, as well as advocated for change in the arts.
There is an illusion of safety when people think of Canada in regards to LGBQT rights. But it is not safe up here, especially for trans, nonbinary, nonconforming, B,I, POC youth/people and even queer men of colour – they face disproportionate amounts of violence. - Sze-Yang Ade-Lam (interview for Where Love Is Illegal)
They are the driving force behind the shift in the Dora Awards towards gender neutral awards (The Dora Moavor Moore Aware is presented annually by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts which honours theatre, dance and opera productions in Toronto). In 2016, they registered for both the male & female category of dance performance for the Dora Awards, because there was no check box for nonbinary people. They were told that they had to choose only one category or they would be disqualified from registration – or they could pull the registration. They refused to comply and promised to fight back if they were disqualified. Sze-Yang Ade-Lam was granted a one time exception to register in both categories and continued to work with the Dora team to advocate for change so that trans & nonbinary artists could register. In 2019 the awards became gender neutral and the organizing team committed to provide anti-bias training to the volunteer jurors.
I thought of all the trans & nonbinary artists past and present that could not register. In 2019 the awards became gender neutral. I was not properly credited for my work in this shift & again had to fight to be recognized for my work/labour in these shifts as well as the many Q,T, B, I,POC folks involved. - Sze-Yang Ade-Lam
Trey Anthony, who was raised in Canada and is of Jamaican heritage, identifies as an out and queer Black womyn. She is a playwright, actor, and producer, best known for her award-winning play and television series Da Kink in My Hair. She is the first Black Canadian woman to write and produce a television show on a major prime time Canadian network.
She has also created her own lifestyle brand, which includes workshops, retreats and a planner for professional Black women, and is the author of Black Girl in Love (With Herself): A Guide to Self-Love, Healing, and Creating the Life You Truly Deserve.
Tuma T. W. Young was born into the Atu’tuej clan for the Apli’kmuj clan and is a member of the Eskasoni First Nation. He is one of the co-founders of the Wabanaki Two Spirit Alliance (W2SA) in 2011 alongside John Sylliboy. He is the first Mi’kmaq speaking lawyer in Nova Scotia and also teaches at Cape Breton University as well as running his own private legal practice. He is also on the Executive of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society (NSBS).
Tuma has been working to make our L’nuk communities welcoming and to celebrate 2-Spirited people in our communities for many years.
QE Blogs & Posts tagged with QBIPOC
Food for Queers
Stay Safe. Not Hungry
Providing support for 2SLGBTQ+ folks experiencing food insecurities within the city of London