Who is Erik?
Erik (he/him) is a trans man who is committed to diversity, inclusion, and building safe spaces for his fellow 2SLGBTQ+ family. He is also a member of the Diversity Cornwall Board. Erik was one of 2 scholarship recipients from MAX Ottawa that helped him attend the February 2019 Fierté Canada Pride Conference. The scholarships were provided to community members who work in smaller Pride organizations in the area. This helped ensure they could benefit from the engaging workshops and networking. He was kind enough to share some of the things he learned with us.
Read Erik’s blog piece below:
First and foremost, I would like to thank Max Ottawa for giving me the amazing opportunity to attend Fierté Canada Pride. It was one of the biggest learning experiences I’ve had. It also gave me the opportunity to meet and get know so many people who are part of the 2LGBTQ+ community in different ways.
What I learned during the conference
During my time there, I attended a trans and non-binary panel that talked about a wide range of realities we face. Though it was just a small part of a bigger conversation, we touched on the subject of bathrooms. Being a trans man, I’ve had my own struggles with feeling safe walking into a washroom. I’m extremely fortunate to have individual, non-gender specific washrooms at work. The discussion, however, allowed me to put myself in the shoes of my trans and non-binary friends who don’t have that option. Having access to a safe washroom shouldn’t be a privilege. It is a basic human right and needs to be made a priority everywhere and for everyone.
That’s just one of the reasons I’m proud to be part of Diversity Cornwall. A non-profit organization creating safe places for everyone in the 2LGBTQ+ community, including those who identify as Trans and Non-Binary. With events like the Trans/Non-Binary Swim (a swim day is for any gender creative, gender variant, agender, trans, non-binary, two-spirit and any gender diverse person of all ages) and the LGBTQ+ All Ages Yoga Event (a place to practice yoga skills in an LGBTQ+ affirming space), we are providing places for people to express themselves without the fear of judgement and rejection.
What I learned from MAX Ottawa
Max Ottawa presented a project they have been working on called Spill the Tea. A way for men who use substances and have intimate relationships to learn to do so safely. When I came out as a ‘lesbian’ at 16, I was already trying to find ways to make myself fit in that category. I couldn’t fathom for even a moment, that I was truly a man born in the wrong body. I felt safe and accepted around people in the community, but self-medicated to quiet the voices in my head and to help dull the feeling of rejection I had been experiencing with some of my family and friends.
The truth is, abstinence is not the answer for everyone. When you’re going through something, and I can only speak for myself, it can feel like the end of the world. Having access to something that can help you be safe when making your decisions could have helped me experience what I needed to without doing so much harm and damage to my body.
That’s why Max Ottawa’s Party and Play project really hit home for me. Everyone has different preferences when it comes to using substances. Their project allows those using to have access to information and sterile products to make sure they are safe and keeping those around them safe as well.
I am proud to be sober today, but that doesn’t change the fact that what I went through is real and it was very dangerous. Max Ottawa’s initiative will help so many people in the area.
It was truly an amazing experience attending Fierté Canada Pride. I hope to have the opportunity to attend again in the future. It was a truly enriching experience.
– Erik McKoy
*Fierté Canada Pride is the national association of Canadian Pride organizations whose mission is to “help build vibrant and strong Canadian Pride organizations through collaboration, offering support, networking, helping to develop a national identity of Pride, and by offering resources and advocacy for its members.”