Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC) celebrated its 20th birthday on June 22nd. As CBRC moves into our third decade, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on how our work has evolved over the past 20 years, and highlight some of our lesser known history.
CBRC was started by a small group of dedicated gay men in 1999 as a response to rising HIV rates in BC. Despite limited funding, we worked with guys in the community to use research as a tool for generating evidence and community involvement in addressing the epidemic that was hitting gay men the hardest. Within a few years, the Sex Now Survey was launched, engaging communities at Pride festivals across the province and mobilizing a grassroots network of gay men on the priorities affecting our communities.
|From left to right: Terry Trussler, Bill Coleman, Andrew Johnson (deceased), Paul Perchal, Andrew Barker, Carl Bognar, and Rick Marchand
Our focus on research by and for communities informed the development of interventions to give queer men a stronger voice in health promotion and HIV prevention. In 2005, we launched a pilot project in Vancouver called Totally Outright, a sexual health leadership course for young gay and bisexual men to foster greater youth engagement and support. Later in 2005, we organized our first Summit, bringing together service providers, researchers, and community stakeholders for BC’s first conference dedicated to gay men’s health.
CBRC continued to build and nurture these initiatives over the next decade, but funding remained limited and insecure (it wasn’t until 2017 that CBRC was actually able to hire full-time employees). Yet, the work not only continued, but thrived under the leadership and perseverance of Rick Marchand and Terry Trussler, CBRC’s Managing and Research Directors, and two of CBRC’s founding members. While money was often tight, we were supported by allies and guys in our communities who stepped up and contributed in so many ways to make our programming aspirations a reality.
In this period, the Investigaytors was launched to expand research training and opportunities for Totally Outright graduates and other queer youth keen on extending their passion for community and research. Sex Now moved online in 2007, then national in 2010, and despite little funding to promote the survey nationally, we received an overwhelming response from almost 8000 men that year. Summits were held each year, providing a key opportunity to organize around emerging evidence and ideas such as minority stress and intersectionality, syndemics and mental health, and new prevention approaches such as PrEP or treatment as prevention.
CBRC has undergone a radical transformation in the past few years, to say the least. We’re still growing into our new national role, which comes with added challenges but many more opportunities to collaborate with local communities and stakeholders. We’re diversifying through intentional efforts to be more inclusive of all sexual and gender minority men including trans, Two-Spirit and non-binary folks. We’re privileged to continue developing collaborative networks with our partners in BC's The Network, but also with leaders outside BC, through partnerships such as the Advance Community Alliance.
Our 20thyear is shaping up to be one of our most exciting, including our 15thannual Summit on October 31-November 1, and Sex Now 2019 launching online later this summer. New programming is in the mix to strengthen community leadership and cultural competency interventions. And our increased focus on structural change has opened new opportunities to inform policy, including the ground-breaking Parliamentary report and recommendations on LGBTQIA2 health in Canada.
As we look ahead with excitement, there is a feeling that our work has just begun. After losing a generation of queer men, we are once again living long enough to assume leadership roles in society, and we’re doing it out and proud. We’re living long enough to use the privilege of growing old to put our money and time towards affecting the change that we know must happen.
Thank you to our partners and allies, who came through when we needed them the most. Thank you to our elders who died fighting and to those who survived to fight another day. As we toast our 20thyear, we want you to know that we’re just getting started.
By Jody Jollimore, Executive Director