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Caring queerly through community connection

Queer health symposium is creating space(s) for 2SLGBTQIA+ community in healthcare

October 16, 2023 — 

A public lunchtime drag show is set to be a highlight of an upcoming UM healthcare symposium.  

The drag show, which features local Indigenous drag troupe the Bannock Babes, is one of two free public events associated with “Caring Queerly: Queer health symposium” that takes place at Rady Faculty of Health Sciences on October 19 and 20. The other is a public lecture by Dr. Jake Pyne from York University, who will speak on the important topic of 2SLGBTQIA+ community healthcare. The conference also includes a student research roundtable and queer art show, along with a community consultation on research priorities. 


Oct. 19

Public lecture 10 to 11 A.M.

Dr. Jake Pyne (York University)

071 Apotex Centre, 750 McDermot

Lunch-hour drag show, 12 noon

featuring local Indigenous drag troupe the Bannock Babes

Brodie Atrium


Including a drag show in an academic conference might seem unusual, but it is emblematic of the vision of organizer Deborah McPhail for the two-day event. 

The symposium aims to make space for, and create connections within, the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in healthcare. 

“I wanted to create an all-encompassing symposium on queer health, as broadly defined,” says McPhail, who is an associate professor in the department of community health sciences, Max Rady College of Medicine. It was important to help to create “a space within the university to celebrate queer art and culture, which of course is part of health and well-being,” she adds. 


Connecting the dots 

The idea of creating space for queer community in healthcare has been on her mind for some time now.  

As a prof, McPhail saw healthcare students who identified as queer — as well as 2SLGBTQIA+ colleagues, including researchers — scattered all across UM campuses. Students were expressing a desire to do research in this area, she says, without necessarily knowing where to turn or even realizing that they were part of a cohort, or that there were mentors for them.   

Connecting those students with each other and with mentors is critical, she says, along with connecting 2SLGBTQIA+ colleagues across all campuses, and connecting it all to the wider 2SLGBTQIA+ community of healthcare experts, activists and researchers.  

It’s necessary for university researchers who identify as queer to understand their research as connected to the wider community, she notes. 

“The questions that arise, they don’t come to us in a vacuum,” she says. “They typically begin in [the 2SLGBTQIA+] community, and a lot of times community activists and researchers have been doing this work for many, many years.”  


Caring queerly 

The “Caring queerly” title arose from a research and knowledge translation project that foregrounded questions of how to care for others and found strong connections between the experiences of 2SLGBTQIA+ healthcare providers providing care for queer people and the experiences of those receiving care as queer people.  

Partly the idea was to dislodge notions of health and healthcare from normative understandings of heterosexuality and heterosexism, which often frame queer people’s experience of healthcare, she explains.  

She also applies those questions of care to the wider university community, and the urgency of ensuring a safe space for all. “How do we care in a way for our students and for up-and-coming scholars that is not just about the usual providing money and housing, which of course are also important — but also providing a community, a caring community?” she asks. 


Safety, support, social justice 

With the symposium, McPhail envisions the start of a “network of people to actually really care for and nurture, be[ing] grounded in that [2SLGBTQIA+] community, and supporting research that’s laying the groundwork for more social justice.” 

Finding that safety and support in community — along with a cohort and mentors — is especially important now, with heightened tensions and recent anti-trans and anti-2SLGBTQIA+ events.  

“To me, that’s really important to communicate [support] to students but also to [UM] faculty and staff who identify as queer or are doing this research or are showing up to the university every day — and, for students, going to lectures and classes,“ she says. 

Having support for “Caring queerly” has been encouraging as well, she notes.  

That support “sends a really important and significant message of allyship and support that I know we really appreciate,” she says, underlining that all are welcome at the two public events. 



Caring queerly: Queer health symposium 

Oct. 19-20 


Public events

Public lecture, Oct. 19, 10 to 11 A.M.

Dr. Jake Pyne (York University)

071 Apotex Centre, 750 McDermot


Lunch-hour drag show, Oct. 19, 12 to 1 P.M.

Brodie Atrium, featuring local Indigenous drag troupe the Bannock Babes


Plan to attend one or both of two free public events: A lecture by guest speaker Dr. Jake Pyne from York University, and an exciting lunch-hour drag show in the Brodie Atrium, featuring local Indigenous drag troupe the Bannock Babes.  

Jake Pyne is Assistant Professor in the York University School of Social Work and his research draws on transgender studies, critical disability studies, critical autism studies, fat studies, and queer of colour critique. Prior to entering academia, Jake worked in Toronto’s trans community for 20 years in a range of research and advocacy roles on projects aiming to build access for trans communities to: shelter and emergency services; health care; family law justice; and support for gender independent kids and trans youth. These days Jake is at work on a book project about the intersection of autistic and trans life, entitled “Building a Person.”

Caring queerly Queer Health Symposium is sponsored by: 

  • The Queer & Trans Health Sciences Graduate Student Group 
  • The University of Manitoba – Institute for the Humanities 
  • The University of Manitoba – Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion 
  • The University of Manitoba – Alan Klass Memorial Program in Health Equity 
  • UM Queer 
  • Research Manitoba 

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