Around the Region

OK2BME2 min read

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Around the Region shares the work of community partners. For June 2022, learn how OK2BME is helping to create a more inclusive community.

Written by: Jacki Yovanoff (she/they), KW Counselling Services Inc.

OK2BME is operated by KW Counselling Services and began in 2005 as a set of confidential services for kids and teens in Waterloo Region wondering about their sexuality or gender identity and has expanded to support adults, as well.

Along with our confidential counselling services, our weekly youth groups for 2SLGBTQIA+ teens help build connection and foster belonging. We also provide public education and consultations on 2SLGBTQIA+ issues, including supports to our local schools. One of the ways in which we support students and schools is hosting an annual GSA Conference. This is attended by as many as 300 students and educators who are involved in their school’s GSA clubs (Gay-Straight Alliance or Gender and Sexualities Alliance). The days are filled with workshops and activities designed to help 2SLGBTQIA+ youth learn and gain a sense of belonging.

Another of our major events is coming up June 10 and that is our annual OK2BME Youth Pride Prom. This year’s theme is Queer Euphoria and we are going to celebrate queer joy and connection! We are so excited that we are able to hold this year’s prom in-person once again.

We are also involved with advocacy, both locally and nationally. We helped the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo install rainbow crosswalks; we support representation in our school libraries and curriculum, and the raising of Pride flags at local schools and businesses; and we share our learnings. For example, in 2019 we testified to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health for their 2SLGBTQIA+ Health in Canada project.

A three-year program evaluation with Wilfrid Laurier University found that the OK2BME program is effective in reducing social isolation and increasing sense of belonging and well-being for 2SLGBTQIA+ people in Waterloo Region; that OK2BME’s public education programming makes a difference in changing attitudes toward 2SLGBTQIA+ people; that service users from across all service areas indicate they have overwhelmingly positive experiences with OK2BME.

Though the landscape has changed for 2SLGBTQIA+ people since 2005 when OK2BME began, there’s still much work to do to fight homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia and to ensure that the rights of 2SLGBTQIA+ people are being respected and safeguarded, and so we celebrate, we educate, and we advocate.

Learn more about OK2BME.