Pivot in Calgary (2024): Aesthetic Responses to 2S/LGBTQIA+ Health Priorities

On February 3, 2024, Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC) hosted an iteration of our popular community health leadership program “Pivot” in Calgary, Alberta. Pivot equips Two-Spirit, queer, and trans people with the social connections, health knowledge, and systems change skills they need to be health leaders in their communities. While previously focused on recruiting gay, bi, trans, Two-Spirit, and queer men (GBT2Q+), the program has recently been expanded to build the capacity of and centre all Two-Spirit, queer, and trans communities across Canada in the development and delivery of community-driven responses to the health challenges they face. The program was joined by 10 2S/LGBTQIA+ community members for a day-long conference that explored a variety of community health and well-being topics, including: 

  • defining systems change, 
  • a presentation from Freddie about HIV and STBBIs, 
  • an overview of CBRC’s HIV Self-Testing initiatives, 
  • creating and sharing health knowledge products, and 
  • practical approaches to promoting activist sustainability through self-care. 

The day began with an introduction to the frameworks of “dreaming” and “queering” in relation to systems change. Change within complex systems—like the healthcare system—can require envisioning fantastical and unexplored possibilities through “queering” the ways in which healthcare is offered and accessed. The dreaming framework served as the foundation for knowledge sharing and capacity-building throughout the day, and was reinforced by Freddie’s presentation on telemedicine. Freddie is addressing a widespread gap in access to HIV prevention tools like Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) through envisioning low-barrier options that put agency into the hands of 2S/LGBTQIA+ community members. Freddie has also recently collaborated on the Foria Clinic, a new offering to Albertans that addresses barriers for trans and gender-diverse people to access hormone replacement therapy. These examples of responding to community health priorities in unique ways reinforced the dreaming and queering frameworks, and how program participants can play a role in alleviating health disparities within their own communities.

The Pivot cohort then analyzed and critiqued the new “Parental Rights'' & Anti-Trans legislation recently introduced in Alberta by Premier Danielle Smith of the United Conservative Party on January 31, 2024. Upon review of the proposed legislation and the subsequent community backlash, the Pivot cohort contended that the new policies would blatantly infringe upon the rights and safety of trans and gender-diverse youth in Alberta. The group explored the legislation’s potential consequences on trans and gender-diverse youth, primarily by restricting access to evidence-based, gender-affirming care, preventing schools from functioning as safe spaces, and limiting participation in team sports based on binary sex characteristics. Outside of the obvious ramifications for trans and gender-diverse youth, the cohort discussed the social implications of the mere existence of such legislation. Its existence in the mainstream justifies fear-mongering and misinformation about trans and gender-diverse people, which can translate into internalized and interpersonal harm. (To read more about these proposed policy changes, their impacts on trans youth, and what else is at stake with this kind of precedent, click here.) 

The group also analyzed activist strategies, with the need for non-community members to take up the sharing of facts and evidence-based information, as the emotional component of activist labour can be taxing on our individual and communal health as 2S/LGBTQIA+ people. The legislation proposed by Danielle Smith’s government, if passed, would be the most anti-trans legislation in Canada, and would do irreversible harm to the mental and physical well-being of trans and gender-diverse youth. Studies have consistently proven that affirming one’s gender identity and facilitating access to gender-affirming healthcare greatly increases the well-being of trans and gender-diverse people, who already face heightened risks of suicidal ideation and attempts. This legislation could also be the beginning of a snowball effect, leading to more legislation attacking and silencing other marginalized groups. The cohort concluded that there needs to be an active refusal of this legislation, and efforts made to legitimately protect trans and gender-diverse youth in the province.

The leadership program concluded with a Zine creation session where program participants adopted a creative approach to sharing what they learned throughout the day. A snapshot of the zines can be seen here:

Pivot Collage 1

Pivot Collage 2

The Zine creation session gave program participants a chance to reflect and express what they learned about health topics that stood out to them. One participant, Luka, centred his zine on the proposed legislation restricting gender-affirming care for trans and gender-diverse youth in Alberta. Feeling energized by sharing space with fellow community members and having the opportunity for creative expression, Luka used Zine-making as a constructive means of grieving and dreaming up future possibilities to protect trans and gender-diverse youth. Another program participant named Dylan focused their zine on the topic of progress. In response to the overwhelming and precarious times we live in, Dylan decided to take a moment to look at the positive changes that the 2S/LGBTQIA+ community have championed over the last several decades. Their zine begins in black and white, with many anti-gay headlines found in old magazines, and ends with colourful photos expressing queer joy and happiness to represent progress made through determination and creativity.

Based on anonymous evaluation data gathered throughout the day from program participants, it was clear that participating in Pivot left a positive impact on many attendees. One participant reflected on their relationship with activism, sharing that “before Pivot, I always felt overwhelmed by the idea of causing or contributing to change because it felt so daunting / massive, but I feel confident [now] that any form of participation can be enough & incite personal or external change.” Another participant expressed the liberatory possibilities of gaining new health knowledge, explaining that it had been “very empowering to have information after moving from a rural community, and Pivot provided space for me to begin creating my own space in this new home!” In reference to the Zine creation session, one participant praised the opportunity to express themselves creatively, sharing that Pivot “provided tangible experience of community-building and knowledge product creation (as art), which [was] really helpful to me moving into this realm of work.” There was a palpable feeling of inspiration by the end of the program, cultivated in no small measure by participants’ meaningful engagement and collaboration. This is the essence of Pivot: a means for community members to gather and share stories, learn about their health, and dream of futures where 2S/LGBTQIA+ people are free to express themselves authentically and lead fulfilling lives.

To learn more about offering Pivot at your organization or joining as a community member, head over to our website: https://www.pivot4change.ca/about.


Disponible en français.


About CBRC

Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC) promotes the health of people of diverse sexualities and genders through research and intervention development.
Pivot in Calgary (2024): Aesthetic Responses to 2S/LGBTQIA+ Health Priorities
Pivot in Calgary (2024): Aesthetic Responses to 2S/LGBTQIA+ Health Priorities
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