QMUNITY: Addressing the Health Needs of LGBTQ Youth
While Canada has anecdotally become much more accepting of LGBTQ youth, statistics prove otherwise. The discrimination that they face in their homes, schools, activities and in their communities make them vulnerable to negative health outcomes. According to a review of data in Canada, sexual-minority youth are at a higher risk of having negative health outcomes such as bullying, rejection from family, suicidal ideation, substance abuse and risky sexual behaviour. They also identified the risk factors as well as the protective factors and found that sexual-minority youth are at a much higher risk of suicide when assessing these factors (Blais, Bergeron, Duford, Boislard, & Hébert, 2015). The BC Adolescent Survey was conducted by McCreary Centre Society and found information pertaining to youth all across BC – in rural areas as well as in cities. In this survey, participants reported that they faced much higher rates of discrimination, drug use and suicidal ideation than heterosexual youth of the same age (Aaewyc, Poon, Wang, Homma, Smith, & the McCreary Centre Society, 2007). Qmunity is helping to address these issues of well-being by working to improve queer, trans, and Two-Spirit lives. They are a non-profit organization based in Vancouver, BC that provides a safer space for LGBTQ/2S people and their allies to fully self-express while feeling welcome and included (QMUNITY, 2015).
History of Qmunity
Qmunity (officially QMUNITY, BC’s Queer, Trans, and Two-Spirit Resource Centre Society), was formerly known as The Centre (Wikipedia, 2018). Qmunity’s history displays growth in recognizing diversity: it originated as a grassroots collective, became a gay centre in 1979, then a gay and lesbian centre in the ’80s, and continually broadened to embrace bisexual, trans, and other queer groups and allies (Takeuchi, 2012). In 1981, the group incorporated under the B.C. Provincial Societies Act and was known
as the Vancouver Gay Community Centre. In 1984 the organization was named the Pacific Foundation for the Advancement of Minority Equality and operated as The Gay and Lesbian Centre (QMUNITY, 2015). Their youth program consists of drop-in services, a Bra, Binder and Breast Forms exchange program, personal support, referrals, events such as queer prom and support for parents of LGBTQ youth. They also run a free STI-testing clinic (QMUNITY, 2015).
In 1979 QMUNITY was founded by a group of local organizations and businesses that came together to build a gay community centre (QMUNITY, 2015). Many of the board members have prior involvement with the facility in the early days when it was still named the Centre. They have an incredibly diverse population of volunteers from the community who identify with the services of the centre but also many straight allies. Community members also volunteer for the Program Advisory Committee (QPAC) which helps guide the direction of the centre (QMUNITY, 2015). Prior to moving locations, with the help of the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue’s Civic Engagement program, a consultation process took place which saw feedback from community partners, distribution of a community-wide survey, scoping interviews with stakeholders, a one-day community dialogue, and eight small dialogue sessions with focused LGBTQ+ communities (Simon Fraser University, 2015).
The Structure of the Organization
Qmunity is run by both professionals and volunteers. There are close to 700 volunteers and 9 paid staff members and is mainly funded by the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Coastal Health. There is also a Board of Directors (Qmunity, 2018).
Volunteer opportunities are vast and include community outreach, practicum placement within The Youth and Seniors Programs and Communications and Engagement, program specialists who aid with program delivery, committee members for their Program Advisory Committee (QPAC), event planning events such as International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia Breakfast, Stack the Rack, PRIDE! as well as group facilitation (QMUNITY, 2015).
Staff members include an Executive Director, Manager of Finance and Administration, Manager of Programs & Community Engagement, Clinical Supervisor, Specialist, Seniors’ Programming, Queer Competency Training (QCT) Facilitator, Specialist, Education & Training, Special Events & Community Outreach Coordinator, Communications & Fund Development, Informational Referral Services Coordinator, and a Social Worker, Counselling & Youth Support Services (QMUNITY, 2015).
Role of the Community Worker
The Community Worker primarily works as the Education & Training Coordinator. He also develops and delivers workshops for health care professionals, educators, private businesses and service providers. He has also taken on the role of Manager of Programs and Community Development (QMUNITY, 2015). He participates in research and most recently was the Research user co-lead for
Community-Based Assessment Of LGBTQ/2S Education And Research In British Columbia
which brought together a wide range of community members, researchers and stakeholders involved in education and research activities relating to LGBTQ/2S issues ( Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, 2018).
Picking Their Issues
According to Qmunity’s website they “Help individuals, families, businesses, schools, and service providers to identify and avoid discriminatory behaviours and to explore the complexity, fluidity, and potential of sexual and gender diversity” (QMUNITY, Learn tab, 2018). They choose their programs, events, and initiatives to reduce barriers for LGBTQ people and raise awareness of challenges that members of their community face (QMUNITY, 2015).
Who is Involved in Determining their Strategies and Tactics
Osmel B. Guerra Maynes is theExecutive Director of QMUNITY and he provides overall leadership in advancing the strategic direction, and maintaining the relationships with stakeholders and donors. He is their advocate and spokesperson when dealing with stakeholders, government and the media to advance their mission and priorities. He also reports to the Board of Directors and is responsible for strategy and management of the centre (QMUNITY, 2015).
A Challenge Facing the Operations of Qmunity
There was concern in regards to their former facility. They felt that the organization had grown beyond its capacity, and that the building they were in was falling into a state of disrepair. It was also difficult to access by community members with physical challenges. The former space was designed to be for housing and did not suit their needs as a community centre with a layout that was not conducive to facilitate their services (Takeuchi, 2017).
A Recent Success
In 2013, The City of Vancouver granted Qmunity the opportunity to move spaces and budgeted $10 million to build a brand new facility. After searching for 20 years for a new location and discussing many options such as the old site of St. Paul’s hospital and the Davie community gardens, they settled on the corner of Davie and Burrard. In 2015, the consultation process began and saw many dialogues taking place as well as surveys and a final report of the entire process (Takeuchi, 2015).
Why I Chose This Organization
I have been a long time ally of the LGBTQ community. I have personal friends in this community and have come to know firsthand the challenges they faced in their youth. I appreciate how Qmunity addresses the unique and specific needs of this vibrant and beautiful population. I think that they are very important to giving our LGBTQ a space to feel welcome, to visit for appropriate services and resources and most importantly to advocate and educate to achieve social justice.
Rothman’s Three Models of Community Development
In planning for their new facility, Qmunity used Rothman’s model of Locality Development which is defined as: “community practice is based on the belief that in order to effect change, a wide variety of community people should be involved in planning, implementation, and evaluation. Key themes include the use of democratic procedures, voluntary cooperation, self-help, the development of local leadership, and educational objectives” (The City of Calgary, 2015).
As Qmunity wanted their services to reflect the needs of their stakeholders, they commissioned SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue’s Civic Engagement program to help with the consultation process. The process was designed to get feedback for Qmunity in order to acknowledge and define their direction for their organization to take over the new space. It was going to be an expanded space of 10,000 sq. ft and Qmunity seemed to want to get it right. In determining the best way to seek consultation they decided that a multi-leveled engagement strategy, community-wide survey, stakeholder interviews, community partner feedback and eight dialogue sessions would provide them with the information that they needed. The dialogue sessions would engage with the LGBTQ community and the Indigenous/Two-spirit community as well as seniors, youth and immigrants.
The questions that were asked in the process were:
What does QMUNITY do well?
- Where is there room for improvement?
- What are the critical issues facing LGBTQ+ communities in BC?
- What would QMUNITY stakeholders like to see the organization deliver in the years to come?
- What are the other organizations and services that are also essential to LGBTQ+ communities? (Simon Fraser University, 2015)
The process took 8 months and since the publication of the report, Qmunity has been working with the City of Vancouver as well as Councillor Tim Stevenson. The report is extremely comprehensive at 55 pages and discusses many topics in order to make Qmunity a holistic service provider and to be inclusive of all of the people looking for services at their facility. I would evaluate their achievements by looking at the lengthy list of who was involved in the discussion and by their thorough list of recommendations. I also feel that they were effective in that they engaged appropriate people such as SFU’s Centre for Dialogue and also had representation from many minorities in the community. If I was to make any recommendations to improve their effectiveness it would be more extensive media coverage of the dialogue and report. I feel that there wasn’t much publicity in regards to the consultation and the project in general.
As Qmunity operates with all of their clients in mind, they are able to achieve success through focusing their efforts on the specific needs of their community and educating organizations outside of their community. By having access to free programs that address health, well-being, and physical needs, LGBTQ youth in Vancouver can feel supported and can celebrate their identities with pride.
Aaewyc, E., Poon, C., Wang, N., Homma, Y., Smith, A. & the McCreary Centre Society. (2007).
Not Yet Equal: The Health of Lesbian, Gay & Bisexual Youth in BC.
Blais, M., Bergeron, F. A., Duford, J., Boislard, M. A., & Hébert, M. (2015). Health Outcomes of Sexual-Minority Youth in Canada: An Overview.
Adolescencia & saude
Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, (2018).
Community-Based Assessment Of LGBTQ/2S Education And Research In British Columbia.
Simon Fraser University, Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue. (2015).
Takeuchi, C. (2012, August 1). Qmunity Queer Resource Centre Creates Connections.
The Georgia Straight
, n.p. Retrieved from
Takeuchi, C. (2017, May 19). B.C. LGBT resource centre Qmunity finally ends decades-long search for new Vancouver location.
The Georgia Straight. N.p.
The City of Calgary. (2018). Rothman’s Three Models of Community Organizing. Retrieved from
Wikipedia contributors. (2018, June 5). Qmunity. In
Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia
. Retrieved November 18, 2018, from
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