Executive director Jennifer Breakspear to leave Qmunity for Options for Sexual Health

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      It's a time for change at Qmunity.

      The board of directors of Qmunity, B.C.'s queer resource centre based in the West End, announced that Jennifer Breakspear will be leaving her position as executive director of the organization. Breakspear will replace Greg Smith as executive director at Options for Sexual Health.

      Breakspear's last day at Qmunity will be April 5. On May 1, she'll start at Options for Sexual Health, a B.C.–based non-profit provider of Canadian sexual health services (formerly Planned Parenthood of B.C.).

      Breakspear told the Georgia Straight by phone that she's excited about new position but sad about leaving Qmunity. "It's an exciting time, it's a time of change…. I see great learnings ahead for myself…and also great things to come for Qmunity. I think it's important that leadership of an organization not get stale. I don't think I was, but I think it's important to go before I do."

      She described her past four years heading Qmunity as a "whirlwind", but she said one of the things she's most proud of is the rebranding of the organization, which changed its name and identity from the Centre to Qmunity in June 2009.

      "With that was not just a name change but a visual presence, an online presence with a new website, with high visibility through social media," she said. "We've moved into a full embracing of operating under a community-development model. What that meant was extensive discussions with our government funders about how we envision the work we do and making sure that we're all on the same page around the understanding of our mission, that Qmunity is about valuing, celebrating, and transforming the lives of queer people. It's through supporting individuals within the queer community to live full, out, proud lives, knowing that it's through individual growth that we build healthy, strong communities."

      Another source of pride (in many senses of the word) was the creation of the Vancouver Pride House, housed at Qmunity, for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

      "That was a huge undertaking that we did in a collaborative fashion with a number of individuals and organizations to stage one of the two first-ever LGBT pavilions in the Olympics. The other, of course, was Pride House Whistler. [It was a] huge undertaking for an organization such as Qmunity, and exciting. Literally, we threw our doors open to the world.... We had thousands of people visit. We did extensive media interviews with media from all over the world...Stephen Colbert came and filmed in the middle of Pride House."

      She added that Pride House offered "an opportunity to shine a light on the issues of homophobia in sport, which has largely been a taboo subject."

      When asked about challenges she faced, she said that the location of Qmunity on the second floor at 1170 Bute Street near Davie Street (where it has been situated for the past 20 years) has been one of the main ones. Breakspear said both the flight of stairs and the West End location has posed accessibility problems and concerns, although they have conducted their programs and services in locations throughout the Metro Vancouver.

      She noted that they have had and are still in discussions with the city about other possible spaces.

      "I sometimes have described myself as a gambler on the floor of a casino in Las Vegas and I'm playing games on many tables in that I'm involved in many discussions around location possibilities and I don't know which game is going to payout," she said. "We haven't hit blackjack on anything yet, but we're staying involved in the discussions."

      Breakspear is meeting with Qmunity's program manager and board of directors tonight about a posting for the executive director position and is working on a transition document for her successor. She emphasized that her priority prior to her departure is to ensure continuity.

      "I've been very conscious of working with our staff and our volunteers to maintain our programs and services as they are," she said. "A change in this office should not have to impact upon the programs and services we're providing. Ultimately, I want this to be as seamless a transition as is possible."

      She said she hopes Qmunity continues to be a "very inclusive organization" and says that the queer community is very "near and dear" to her. However, Options for Sexual Health does address some of the same issues which Qmunity does, such as sexual health and sexuality, and their overall intent is one that resonates well with her.

      "I see overlaps in the missions of the two organizations, and the missions of both organizations really come from my core beliefs. So I'm very excited that I get to go from work in an area about which I'm passionate to an area about which I'm passionate."

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at twitter.com/cinecraig. You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/StraightLGBT.