KW’s LGBTQ2I+ Groups Struggle to Find Funding

With a recent rise in public homophobia and transphobia, many have asked how they can help the local LGBTQ2I+ community. As an organizer of the local Rainbow Reels Queer and Trans Film Festival myself, I reached out to my colleagues at Kitchener Waterloo advocacy groups about our collective challenges.

Plan B is a grassroots organization that provides resources, safer spaces, and events especially for trans people, non-binary and gender variant people. This includes providing chest binders at a subsidized cost and clothing swaps, as well as workshops and socials for crafting, life organizing and board games in a safer space.

Plan B is located within Treehaus collaborative workspace.

“With rising rent prices and limited spaces that meet our accessibility standards, we are currently in a co-working space that meets our needs at the moment, but is not suited for our goals for growth,” organizer Sam Estoesta said.

Plan B has modest needs for sustainability: rent money, bus tickets and snacks for events. Yet fellow organizer Mary Ferguson said even these resources are hard to come by, for an organization that serves a predominantly under-waged community, asking for donations is difficult.

“Grant applications are rarely successful and our board members often pay out of pocket to pay our rent at the office,” Ferguson said.

The best way to support Plan B is to share their events, donate cash or GRT bus tickets.

SPECTRUM is a rainbow community space providing education and training, as well as hosting groups such as Aging with Pride, Parents Family and Friends Support and Multicultural Connect. The space is located in the Boehmer Box building at 283 Duke Street West, Kitchener.

Long-time advocate and community organizer Jim Parrott spoke of the disparity between policy and culture.

“Some folks in our community believe that our main battles have been fought and won – we have numerous pieces of legislation in place that are the envy of most other countries in the world.  And yet, the vast majority of same-sex couples are not comfortable walking hand-in-hand in town,” Parrott said. “Many queer-identified people do not feel safe being out to coworkers. And residents of retirement homes and long-term-care facilities are largely terrified of being transparent about their sexuality or gender identity.”

SPECTRUM is still reeling financially from an unsuccessful fundraiser in October of last year because of low turnout. Parrott said that donors will be given charitable tax receipts and that the community can support by buying ads in SPECTRUM publications and by simply attending their fundraisers.

Making A Scene is a filmmaking program for LGBTQ2I+ youth directed by local filmmaker Becca Redden.

Redden said she is driven by the excitement of the youth, but resources to pay project leaders are limited.

“We see the impacts our program makes. But it feels so out of reach when you make a solid case for why you need compensation and you get a quarter of what you asked for,” Redden said.

The program used to run for six months, but with a lack of other funding resources, it has been scaled down to one week.

“There are kids that rely on this program. How do you explain to them that the funding system is messed up, that we have to scale back, that the city doesn’t support them?” Redden said.

Redden sees this as part of an ongoing trend.

“The marginalized folks who bring culture to this community are quitting because the resources to pull off big and incredible programming just aren’t being given out. They are there, but they aren’t being given to us.”

She would like to see the wider community take a moment to think about what makes their community great. “Is it the festivals? Is it the youth groups? Is it the shelters? Is it the markets?” she asked.

“Even if they aren’t going to go, or if they don’t relate to it — to stand up for groups when their groups are being shut down. Or just hand us money so we can do great things with it. I just wish the community at large would be better allies to folks who, piece by piece, are making the community better.”