L to R: Leonard Benoit (he/him), Indigenous patient navigator; Kelsey Vickers (she/her), workshop co-creator within the Centre for Advancing Collaborative Healthcare & Education (CACHE) and physiotherapy student at the University of Toronto; Dr. Christian Schulz-Quach (he/him), staff psychiatrist, Department of Supportive Care, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Centre for Mental Health; Nicole Sandison (she/her), interim program manager, UHN Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation Program; Kirsten Engelbrecht (she/her), registered vascular technologist and co-chair, UHN 2SLGBTQIA+ Steering Committee
Following the first part in a series, five members of TeamUHN’s 2SLGBTQIA+ community share their thoughts on Pride.
What does Pride mean to you?
LB: Pride to me means that I have equal rights. I am free to love whom I chose to love, and it means my marriage is recognized. I have rights that protect me from homophobia. I don’t have to worry about job discrimination because that is protected, too. It gives me a chance to celebrate the folks before me who fought for those rights and whose shoulders I proudly stand upon. It is a time to reflect on what it means to me to be an openly gay person and how I make sure I keep working for those who will come after me.
KE: Pride for me is an opportunity to celebrate authentically, knowing that for some folks this is the only time of year they can do that, free of shame or judgement.
NS: For me, Pride is an opportunity to listen to and learn from our community so that I can take action in the workplace to make it more inclusive. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and love people for who they are.
CSQ: Pride is a celebration of social change, a reminder of our history and the many difficult chapters which preceded the joy, liberation and freedom we experience today. It is a reminder that nothing lasts unless we invest, engage and courageously commit ourselves over and over again. Pride is therefore also a performative embracing of grief and loss. Pride is an invitation to go one step further in challenging myself to reflect on my own unconscious biases, the location of self I inhabit and the privileges with which I go through life. Pride is a reminder that there are many folks out there who remain scared, bullied, threatened and worse. Pride is an existential invitation to embrace the courage to be, to live and to not just exist. Pride is an invitation to keep searching for and believing in the possibility of finding the safe and collaborative community we all need.
KV: To me, Pride Month is a time for 2SLGBTQIA+ people and allies to celebrate the love, acceptance, freedom and empowerment that is the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. During Pride, I reflect on the origins of Pride marches in Stonewall and other riots. Pride is a time for us to build on the accomplishments of our predecessors and continue to advocate for meaningful change.
How do you celebrate Pride at work?
LB: I have not celebrated Pride at UHN as COVID-19 robbed me of that experience, but as things move along I am excited to see how Pride is celebrated here.
KE: I keep the team I work with up to date on all things Pride and how they can participate and be advocates.
NS: We just started celebrating Pride at Cardiac Rehab over the past few years. Prior to COVID-19, we co-hosted a Pride celebration with Spiritual Care at the Lyndhurst Centre. Last year with COVID-19 restrictions, we had a smaller celebration with our team at Rumsey Cardiac Rehab.
CSQ: Together with my amazing colleague Margo Kennedy, I am co-leading the Sexual and Gender Diversity in Cancer Care (SGDc) Program at the Princess Margaret (PM). We have a full calendar of events, website updates and social media discourse projects planned. We also work together with the Patient Education team at PM and will have Pride-specific SGDc content displayed on all digital screens across the hospital throughout June. The SGDc team has registered for the Pride March and we are so excited that this will be our first opportunity to demonstrate our support, our belonging and our joy in supporting community folks and chosen families since our program was launched.
KV: I celebrate Pride not only by living authentically as a queer physiotherapy student, but by celebrating the many accomplishments of other 2SLGBTQIA+ colleagues at UHN. I also support the 2SLGBTQIA+ community by educating future healthcare professionals on ways to deliver equitable health care for 2SLGBTQIA+ patients. Although I am a leader in this work, I am continuously growing and learning how to create a more equitable practice.
How important is it to you that your workplace acknowledges Pride?
LB: It is extremely important that my workplace acknowledges Pride. In the short time I have been with the organization, I get a sense of inclusivity and a sense of being as a Two-Spirit man.
KE: In my opinion, it is extremely important. It’s hard to put into words how I feel when I see the Pride flag flying in front of our hospital. It’s so important for patients and staff alike to know they are seen and supported for who they are. For me, it also represents UHN’s willingness to do the hard work year-round to make sure that happens.
NS: It’s crucial for all staff to be safe in the workplace. Acknowledging Pride is one action we can take to demonstrate inclusivity. Perhaps more importantly is how we stand beside our colleagues each day.
CSQ: This recognition is the basis and a requirement for my ability to work at UHN.
KV: Workplace celebrations of Pride Month are a wonderful step to creating a supportive and accepting environment for 2SLGBTQIA+ staff, patients and families. It is equally important that workplaces continue to work to create spaces that are welcoming and inclusive of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community during every other month of the year.
What is your favourite memory of celebrating Pride at UHN?
KE: One of the first Pride celebrations we had included a performance by the East End United Church choir. The emotion and energy was palpable! It was a really special flag raising. Hopefully we can have that again soon!
NS: At Rumsey Cardiac Rehab last year, we gathered outside, physically distanced, and talked about the new Pride flag while enjoying individually-wrapped ice cream. It was very emotional to watch our team members express genuine kindness, curiosity and a willingness to stand in solidarity. At the event, we handed out UHN 2SLGBTQIA+ lanyards and talked about the importance of using pronouns. Over the past year, I’ve noticed many of our team members wearing our lanyards and adding pronouns to their email signatures. We are starting to gain momentum and I feel we are on our way to a more inclusive, psychologically-safe work environment.
CSQ: I only arrived three years ago and never had a true full-fledged Pride experience here in Toronto. However, the moment an oversized Pride flag was raised at the main entrance of PM during Pride Month 2021 was very special to me, my team and all those who were worried that change might not be possible. We are enormously grateful for the support by UHN and PM leadership, and we are proud of what we achieve together for our patients and chosen families.
Check out the last part in our Pride Month series.