Vancouver LGBT health: New resource for men who aren't out, queer male health summit, virtual elder social group

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      Here’s a roundup of LGBT health initiatives from Vancouver, including a new outreach resource and awareness campaign for men who have sex with men (MSM) who may not be out, this year’s queer male health conference in Vancouver, and an online peer-connection group for LGBT elders.

      Reaching out for health

      One of the challenges that queer health organizations face is connecting with MSM who may not necessarily identify with terms such as gay, queer, bisexual, two-spirit, or trans, or may identify as straight. 

      In an effort to bridge the gap, Vancouver-based nonprofit organization for B.C. queer male wellness Health Initiative for Men (HIM) launched the website OutsideIN to provide information and resources to MSM or men who may have different degrees of being out to others.

      In addition to helping improve MSM access, the site is being launched along with an awareness campaign to develop understanding and empathy among LGBT communities about MSM who may be at a different level of being out than they are, but may still seek access to resources for their sexual health.

      HIM health promotion program manager Simon Rayek explained that while coming out may not be a solution for everyone, individuals in these situations may be experiencing unique stressors.

      “Between 10 and 25 percent of men who have sex with men in Canada say they have never ‘come out’ to anyone, including their doctors,” Rayek stated in a news release. “These men experience a number of health inequities compared to their more ‘out’ counterparts; they have lower sexual health literacy, lower testing rates for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, weaker social networks, higher rates of social isolation, and increased stress levels."

      Rayek added that many health organizations may not recognize or address these inequities.

      The website provides not only information about outness, but also resources for sexual health, including testing, confidentiality concerns, and clinic locations; mental health; and social health, including workshops and community dialogues; and stories from various men.

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      Queer male health Summit

      Like most other events this year, the 2020 edition of the annual Summit, a yearly conference about queer male health held by Vancouver’s Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC), will be presented virtually from November 4 to 6.

      In response to current issues—including COVID-19, police violence, and racism—this year’s summit will tackle issues of resistance and responsibility.

      CBRC has issued a call for submissions to participate in this year’s event, including for short oral presentations, panels, workshops, and discussions, as well as community consultations from community workers, health-care providers, practitioners, counsellors, researchers, elders, teachers, advocates, and others who want to contribute.

      Submissions can be based on research, programming, policy initiatives, advocacy, activism, grassroots responses, or community-based actions involving MSM in Canada or abroad.

      Two areas that CBRC will be looking to address are persistent disparities experienced by and within queer male communities and what responsibilities health-care providers, organizations, and researchers have to improve equity.

      More information and a list of topics, themes, and issues are available at the CBRC website.

      The submission deadline is August 7.

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      Rainbow reaches elders

      While social isolation can protect seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic, the negative impact of social deprivation remains a concern, and can particularly be one affecting queer elders, who may feel as if they're going back in the closet or may not have anyone in their immediate social bubble who is LGBT.

      Like most other social groups, Rainbow Roundtable, which launched in 2018 to help queer people aged 55 years and older connect with peers, has gone virtual by holding discussions, presentations, learning opportunities, and other sessions on Zoom.

      For more information, visit their Facebook, Instagram, or Youtube webpages, or call their information line at 604-677-4747. 

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook. You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at @StraightLGBT or on Facebook.