The Gender Elephant

The Gender Elephant

We would like to formally introduce you to the newest member of the CCGSD family: The Gender Elephant!

Based largely on TSER’s Gender Unicorn graphic, The Gender Elephant is an educational tool that can used by anyone to help learn and teach the concepts of gender identity, gender expression, sex, physical attraction, and romantic attraction.

Over the past couple months, we’ve been working on raising awareness of intersex people.  In light of these efforts, we decided the much-loved gender unicorn was due for an update; rather than having three distinct (and socially constructed) categories (i.e. female, male, other/intersex), our new illustration shows sex assigned at birth as the spectrum that it really is.  

When it comes to biology, variation and diversity is the norm – not the exception.  I like to remind people that just like how all of our faces are unique, so is our biological makeup. Also, classifying those who do not neatly fit into the boxes of “male” or “female” as “other” implies that all intersex folks are the same – which is a huge overstatement.  Intersex is an umbrella term for anyone with a very wide range of characteristics and life experiences.

Learn more about intersex conditions here.

As always, feel free to contact us if you have any suggestions!

Intersex Awareness and Allyship

Intersex Awareness and Allyship

Goal of the Campaign

The goal of this campaign is to validate and celebrate the intersexed –   those people whose physical sex characteristics contain elements of both sexes, and who cannot be defined as exclusively either male or female. Our medical culture has shown a queasy discomfort with intersex conditions, but we believe it’s time our culture and our institutions acknowledged the intersexed, without erasure or shame.

We support the right of physically non-binary individuals not to have to choose between one of two categories – “M” or “F” –  if this flies in the face of their physical, lived experience. We acknowledge the rights of the sexually non-binary to be able to tell the truth about who they are, to be told the truth about who they are, and to be afforded basic human rights.  No child should be subjected to genital mutilation or unconsented sex reassignment surgeries, merely to ‘fit in’ to the cultural fiction that sex is necessarily binary. No one should have their most basic biological and medical information hidden from them.  No one should be forced to lie about who and what they are in order to have legal status or rights.

We stand behind the right of the intersexed not only to exist, free of shame and erasure, but to be able to express and honor their own bodily and sexual integrity and unique sexual identities. We stand behind the right of the intersexed to live with full authenticity, without pressure to conform to societal expectations and assume a false, binary identity, in order to be accepted into society.

The idea that males and females are separate and distinct categories, with no overlap is an oversimplification. Science has established that there is overlap, to the degree that the terms “male” and “female” are no longer considered mutually exclusive or strictly definable terms. Our culture has yet to acknowledge this fact, but still uses the oversimplified classification system that recognizes only two binary, or “opposite” sexes out of a wide spectrum of possibilities. Other cultures have recognized that there are more than two sexes. We believe the time has come for our culture to acknowledge this fact, too.  

We want to make it easier for health facilities, agencies, schools, and community organizations to acknowledge, accept and celebrate the existence of intersexed people and the spectrum of sex in their day to day reality.  To this end, we’ve included an online learning tool for individual learning. We also offer access to our speaker’s bureau, which is made up of intersex educators.

Who are Intersex People?

In our culture, there are two ways of looking at this question:

Way #1: Anyone could be intersex

(This statement is true in terms of current science.)

We used to think that sex is binary, a pole with “male” at one end, and “female” at the ‘opposite’ end. We used to believe that all the various ways of measuring sex would match up and be the same sex. We used to think that the way you told boys and girls apart was by looking in their pants. It turns out to be a lot more complicated than that. Science has replaced that binary with the idea of a spectrum of possibly overlapping male and female elements.  

There are actually a number of ways to determine a person’s sex. Gonads, genes, hormones, internal structures yield precise, measurable data. The appearance of the genitals (pants check) and phenotype (general body shape) can only be assessed in terms of culture. These different ways of determining sex don’t always have to agree with each other, and show the same sex.

Whenever someone’s markers of sex do not all show the same sex, or overlap male and female elements in some way, this is termed an “intersex condition.”  Some intersex conditions create health concerns that require medical intervention, but science has conceded that most intersex conditions are invisible and unsuspected.

In fact, so many intersex conditions have been discovered by accident that science accepts that humans are simply not reliably or 100% sexually binary, and that the terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ cannot be strictly defined anymore, because of this potential overlap in all people of male and female sex characteristics. Science also tells us there is absolutely no way of predicting or assessing who is intersex ‘by looking,’ or by virtue of a ‘pants check,’ which is considered the least scientific way of assessing sex, as the answer depends entirely on cultural expectations. Science concedes it’s not possible to categorically rule out an intersex condition in anyone, not even if you tested every single cell in their body, because the genes of human sex determination have even been shown to change their sex over time.

What this means is that anyone could be intersex, and not even know it. Even you.


Way #2: “Intersex people are rare and tragic individuals”

Intersex people are rare and tragic individuals in whom something has gone wrong, because no one can tell which sex they are supposed to be. Unless this mistake is fixed, they will never be able to fit in, find love or live a normal life.

(This statement is true, in terms of the preferred beliefs of our culture, but it would not be considered true for other cultures. Although this viewpoint is endorsed by medicine, it is not considered defensible in terms of biology or human rights.)

Our culture takes it for granted that males and females are separate and distinct classes of humans, easily told apart by looking at the shape of the genitals. This idea depends on a couple of shortcut assumptions, neither of which can be assumed to be true:

Assumption # 1: Genitals come in two basic shapes, “male” and “female.” 

Genitals do not come in two basic shapes. Although most people’s genitals do tend to look the way our culture expects, they don’t always, nor do they have to. Like other determinants of sex, they can overlap or combine male and female elements. There is no precise line between male and female genital forms, and genitals can range over the entire spectrum between stereotypical male to stereotypical female genital forms.  Even when they don’t look the way our culture would prefer, the underlying cause for ‘ambiguous’ genitalia can only ever be figured out 20% of the time. That doesn’t necessarily pose a problem, except in terms of our culture’s expectations for appearance and for social roles based on genital appearance.

Assumption # 2: a person’s genitals will match all their other markers of sex.

Nothing whatsoever can be assumed about a person’s other markers of sex from looking at their genitals.  There are a number of different ways to measure sex. Genes, gonads, hormones, internal reproductive structures give quantifiable measurements. But classifying genitals and phenotype by appearance is the territory of culture, not biology, in terms of yielding useful data. The different ways of measuring sex don’t all have to agree with each other and be the same sex. Most often, intersex conditions happen with no visible cues.


The pants check really only tells us how close or far an individual comes to our culture’s expectations for genital appearance, and nothing more. One can make no assumptions whatsoever about the other markers of sex based on a visual inspection of the genitals.

Most people’s genitals do tend to look like the far binary ends, where we find our culturally idealized forms. But not everyone’s genitals look like our culture’s idealized forms.

How is sex decided?

There are actually a number of ways to assess a person’s physical sex. Scientifically measurable ways are through assessments of the gonads, genes, hormones and internal reproductive structures, while the genitals and phenotype can only yield cultural assessments. If our system of sex were truly binary, these different ways to measure sex would all be the same sex – either unequivocally male, or unequivocally female. They would all match up.

This is the assumption our culture makes when we announce a baby’s sex at birth. We assume that sex is a binary system, that if a baby has a penis, all of the other ways of assessing sex will all match up and will also be male. If the baby has female-appearing genitalia, all of the other ways of assessing their sex will reveal themselves to be female, too.

Like this:sex as a binary

Our expectation is that all the different ways of assessing or measuring a person’s sex will be the same sex.

But that isn’t always the case.  

Possibilities beyond the binary.

It turns out the different ways of measuring sex (Genes, gonads, genitals, internal structures, hormones, phenotype) do not always have to agree with each other.  Sex determinants can be either male or female (for example,  having one ovary and one testicle), can be both male and female (for example, having both male and female chromosomes or cell lines, or being a typical male, but with a uterus), or can  combine male and female elements (for example, having mid-spectrum genitals or a combinatory ovotestis instead of pure ovaries or pure testicles).

These different ways to measure sex give different qualities of data.

Gonads, hormones and internal reproductive structures can give precise, measurable data.

Genetic testing also gives precise, measurable data as well, but it is notoriously tricky to undertake. To show that one has multiple cell lines (i.e.: is twins or triplets fused in utero), at least two different kinds of tissue samples are routinely taken and compared, including blood, saliva, nails and hair.  Because different cell lines can be distributed throughout the body in random and unpredictable ways, genetic testing can only be used to prove, but never to disprove an intersex condition. In genetic testing of this kind, absence of proof is not considered proof of absence because the evidence one is looking for may not be in the sample taken, even though it is present in the body. The genes of sex determination have been shown to change over time in humans over time, so even if one tested every single cell in the body, and did not find evidence of both male and female chromosomes, that could never prove sex-variant chromosomes were not present in the past. 

How people classify genitals and phenotype, however, depends on which culture they live in:  how their culture distinguishes between sexes, and how many sexes they perceive. There is no strict dividing line between male and female forms.

Science now acknowledges that human sex differentiation is best described as a spectrum of forms, in which male and female elements can overlap to any degree, most often without any visible cues or health concerns.Lunch menu (2)



Medicine vs the Intersexed

The cultural idea that there are two – and only two – sexes is deeply entrenched in the medical belief system. Medicine still defines binary sex as “normal,” and sees all intersex conditions as “disorders” or “abnormal.’ Science, on the other hand, tells us intersex conditions are at least as common as red hair or blue eyes, and that they are generally undiagnosed, unsuspected, and unproblematic – and that it is simply not possible to prove anyone is not intersexed

Science tells us it is not possible to know how many people are intersexed, because to do so you would need to biopsy every organ and test every cell in their body. Even if you did this, and found no evidence of intersexuality, that would not mean they were not intersexed in the past, because in humans, X and Y chromosomes have been observed to change over time.

Genes don’t necessarily determine genital appearance. Genitals are secondary, hormonally-based structures. There are seemingly 100% genetic “males” with normally appearing and functioning women’s bodies, and “normal males” who test as 100% genetically female. Science assumes that these people have more than one cell line, but that this has simply eluded detection, as multiple cell lines are notoriously tricky to track down.

There is a lot that is still unknown about human sex determination. When someone’s genitals don’t look the way our culture prefers, we are only able to figure out why this is so about 20% of the time.  Human sex determination turns out to be a lot more complicated – and a lot more interesting – than medical textbooks have led our doctors to believe.

Despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary, despite all the evidence of harm done, even now, the medical culture’s desire to maintain the fiction that sex is necessarily binary continues, including unconsented sex reassignment surgeries on infants and children, the deliberate withholding of medical information about a person’s intersex condition, and the erasure, shaming and stigmatization of intersex conditions.

The rationale for this has been “to prevent suicide,” apparently assuming that to have genitals that do not conform to social expectations is such a social catastrophe that no other course would ever be considered.

We suggest, instead, telling the truth – that binary sex is a cultural fiction to which not all bodies will subscribe. It should not be a matter of secrecy, stigma and shame to be born with genitals that don’t look the way our culture prefers.

Making the Cut

Science points out there is no particular reason why all genitals need to conform to our cultural preference for binary appearance, and no reason to force everyone’s parts to look the same, when it’s perfectly natural that they don’t.

In terms of biology, there is no dividing line between male and female genital forms, although medicine has chosen to create one, a danger zone for genitally non-conforming individuals that is 0.6 cm wide. This is demonstrated in the tongue-in-cheek “Phallometer,” which is based on real medical standards and expectations, with drastic, irreversible surgical consequences for infants born with culturally non-conforming genitals. 

“Normalizing” Surgeries

The medical world first experimented with “normalizing” genital surgeries on children in the 1950s. The rationale for doing these surgeries on infants and in secret, rather than respecting the bodily autonomy, sexual integrity and human rights of the child, is a long-disproven theory that gender is fluid until the age of two. The belief is that if one surgically changes the sex of a child, and then raises the child in a heteronormative environment, the child won’t know the difference, will develop a sexual attraction for the “opposite” sex to the one they were assigned, and will “know who they are supposed to marry.”

This has not worked out well for those whose bodies were altered in order to stay in line with cultural norms and expectations. The term the intersexed created and use for these surgeries is “intersex genital mutilation,” and the results have been catastrophic – physically and psychosexually.  

To surgically rearrange children’s genitals to suit the aesthetic preferences of someone else violates and interferes with the psychosexual development and bodily integrity of those children. Very often, parents of genitally non-conforming children report being pressured to accept this course of action, and that they were made to feel their children were monstrous, or freaks.

These crude attempts to reshape children’s genitals to meet cultural expectations typically tear themselves apart as the child grows, a risk that does not seem to be disclosed by doctors who perform such surgeries. This generally necessitates repeated attempts to fix the botched initial ‘repair’ for a medically non-problematic issue of having genitals that didn’t meet our culture’s rigid and unrealistic expectations for binary appearance.

Doctors typically assign a male sex and gender to a baby, if the baby’s penis looks like it will grow large enough for penetrative (and presumably heteronormative) sex. Otherwise, the standard medical approach is penile amputation, if the organ is culturally undersized. Intersex babies are generally “turned into” females, because, in medical lingo: “it’s easier to make a hole than to build a pole.”  

Parents are normally sworn to secrecy about these unconsented sex change operations, thus disrupting trust between parent and child. Or, they may be deliberately misinformed: for example told that a neonatal normalizing surgery is a “minor correction.” To be  lied to about one’s own medical information,  including being denied information about surgical alterations to one’s own gonads and genitals, obviously creates a lifelong exclusion from credible, informed, appropriate care.

Respectful Truth-telling

Surely, it is not necessary or desirable to surgically enforce genital conformation to societal norms on an entire population. The obvious alternative is respectful truth-telling. Our public health system exists to provide science-based information, choices and health care services, not to police baby’s genitals to make sure they measure up to discriminatory and unrealistic cultural preferences.

Medicine’s refusal to deal honestly or humanely with intersex conditions calls into question the basic credibility and competence of our public medical system. Since any one of us could have testicles, ovaries, a uterus or a prostate, or some combination of these – no matter what our genitals or phenotype look like – this affects us all.

Systemized, legalized discrimination

Doctors in Canada enjoy special legal protection to alter the genitals of other human beings without their consent, in order to create “normal sexual appearance.” This exclusion is made in order that doctors should not face consequences for what would in any other circumstance be recognized as aggravated assault.   

The problem with this is, of course, that “normal” is a purely subjective term, resting in the eyes of the beholder, based on the expectations and preferences of our culture. The reality is that the entire spectrum of genital forms is populated, from binary end to end. There is no “normal.”  There is only “preferred.” Thus, our doctors surgically enforce their medical culture’s preference for binary-looking genitals.

It’s not going too far to call this systematized, legalized discrimination – even persecution.  Medicine’s approach has been remarkably successful at erasing from our culture’s awareness even the fact that intersex people exist.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission has come right out and stated that intersex genital mutilation contravenes international agreements against torture, and that these surgeries constitute gross violations of one’s human rights and bodily autonomy. 

The fight for intersex rights within medicine is the fight to keep one’s perfectly healthy, if culturally non-normative looking genitals surgically unaltered, unless the person in question gives consent to such a change. The fight for intersex rights within medicine is the fight to know one’s own medical information. The fight for intersex rights within medicine is the fight for credible, inclusive care for us all, since any one of use could have mismatching sex characteristics, a fact that medicine presently is unwilling to acknowledge.  And it is the fight for the right to one’s own bodily integrity – to be able to claim and to live one’s own bodily truth, with dignity, and without secrecy or shame.

How Other Cultures See Sex

How we judge the appearance of the genitals is purely a matter of cultural agreement. Our culture sees two sexes out of a spectrum of forms, because we have chosen to see two sexes out of a spectrum of forms.

Although most people’s genitals do cluster towards the far binary ends in terms of appearance, not everyone’s genitals are going to look the way our culture idealizes and expects. This cultural insistence that human beings must be (or must appear to be) sexually binary has left no safe place in society for those who are not, and in fact, places those with a sexual difference at great risk for medical abuse and erasure.

Our culture’s attempt to categorize sex is similar to how different cultures divide up and name the spectrum of colour. The Polish language divides the color spectrum to include names for two shades each of both red and blue, which are seen as being significantly different from each other, whereas, we ignore this difference, and just call them both ”red” or “blue.”  Some cultures lump orange and red together. Some cultures do not have specific names for colors at all. Likewise, some cultures do not have words equivalent to “male” or “female” to categorize people by their anatomy.  Many cultures see more than two sexes.

Pretend for a moment that we lived in a culture that saw and named as significantly different the colors “blue” and “yellow,” but did not see “green,” except for greenish-yellow, or greenish-blue.  In this world, we might consider the area where “yellow” and “blue” overlapped to create pure “green” to be disordered, because “green” is neither wholly “blue” nor wholly “yellow.”  

Genitals, like colors, appear on a spectrum with no strict, objective-reality dividing line between them. In our culture, to be born with non-conforming genitals creates a social emergency, only because our culture insists that there must be two, and only two, sexes. Other cultures have been more realistic and inclusive.

In most cultures and time periods, sexually divergent, boundary-crossing individuals have been included, even given special status or revered. In our culture, however, intersex conditions have been hidden or erased, the individuals who have them made to feel wrong, broken, freakish – and ultimately, erased.

If other cultures have made room for, and respected the basic rights and humanity of those in the middle, we believe that our culture can, too.


Why Do We Need Inclusion?

For a very long time, our culture has afforded more rights to one group of people than to another group, based merely on the appearance of their genitals at birth. We’ve been working as a culture to change that.

But the intersexed – those whose genitals or other markers of sex are mixed – have been afforded no acceptance, rights, or protection at all.

To be granted citizenship, have a birth registered, get a health card, or even sign up to participate in any aspect of our culture, one is always asked whether one is “male” or “female” – whether this is a realistic choice, or not.

There is no acknowledgement of the fact that it isn’t that simple – that human sex characteristics overlap, and that there may not be a ‘pure male’ or ‘pure female’ alive on this Earth – at least not that we will ever be able to prove. There is no acknowledgement that the shape of one’s genitals is irrelevant to one’s basic humanity.

Our culture’s current model for defining human sex is a very damaging and discriminatory way of looking at a natural variation of form – because it simply does not allow or make room for the reality of intersex differences. Nor does it acknowledge that anyone could be intersex.

The idea that people must be separated into two non-overlapping physical classes is a biological fiction, and a toxic cultural fixation. The right to exist, and to claim the truth of one’s reality should not be subject to purely cultural preferences and expectations.  To be shamed or mutilated out of existence is a heavy and severely limiting burden to bear. It’s also entirely unnecessary.

Imagine how it feels to be unable to simply state the truth of who you are, to be forced to lie about your sex, to be legally required to define yourself in a way that invalidates the truth of your physical reality, perhaps only acknowledging half of your being.

Intersex Rights are Human Rights

We say it’s time to include – and welcome – these variations of sexual form in our cultural awareness. We say it’s time to stop the systemic discrimination that comes with such a refusal to acknowledge that these differences exist, and that they are normal, if not culturally normative.

Intersex rights are human rights. It is the right of every human being to be treated and recognized as such, without having to conform to a legal, medical and cultural fiction that sex is binary. It is the right of every human being to be treated with dignity and respect, acknowledged and validated, with no coercion to conform to the cultural ideal, the fiction, of binary sex.

All of us have the right to be here. All of us have the right to be acknowledged as human beings. All of us have the right to feel safe in our own skins, to feel accepted as we are, without needing to be physically altered before we can be granted human status, our human dignity or our human rights. Even the intersexed.

How we can be Inclusive

How all of us can be inclusive

When we announce the shape of a baby’s genitals at birth, what we are really doing is announcing the child’s social sex, providing a template of expectations about how this child will engage with the world, and how this child should be treated in order to successfully master these expectations.

What if the child’s genitals are not stereotypically male or female? Then, we don’t have this shorthand cultural information.   How are we supposed to know how to raise a child, if we don’t know which category of human they belong to?

We say maybe it’s time we stopped working so hard on enculturating our children to believe that there are only two possible ways to walk through life, clearly lit up by the shape of the genitals, and that one must choose one or the other.  

The problem is that our stereotypes and expectations are not just descriptive. They are proscriptive, limiting some behaviours and exaggerating others.

We think such cultural designations are profoundly limiting in terms of the true possibilities of human experience – which might truly be experienced as both, or as neither, of these culturally-mandated social sexes.

We know that the idea that sex is strictly or always binary is a cultural construct, not supported by scientific observations of objective, physical reality. If the idea of binary sex is a culturally constructed, then our ideas about how the sexes are supposed to be different from each other are also culturally constructed, policed and reinforced.  

Really, the ideal of strict binary sex is a cultural inheritance from the Levantine religions that are at the core of our legal system, and which still form our culture’s predominant religions.  To continue to enforce these cultural and religious beliefs about human sex, which are at odds with established science, is not appropriate in a diverse, democratic and rational culture.

We say it’s time for our culture to acknowledge the fact that the intersexed exist, and that we have always existed.

We say it’s time to end our experiments with erasing the intersexed from existence and from human consciousness. We say it is time that the intersexed were welcomed back into the family of humanity.  

Let’s begin by acknowledging and embracing the fact that any of us – or maybe even all of us – could be intersexed. After all, we all start out in the womb as intersex, and branch out from there. All of us carry both male and female potentialities within us.

Abolish the tickbox

Every time we make an assumption about which gendered pronoun to use, or ask someone to list their sex as either “M” or “F” on a tickbox, we are participating in cultural programming to accept only these two choices, and invalidating all other possibilities.

Many intersex people do experience their own sex and gender as being binary – either male or female. But that is not the case for all. Why should any person be required to make a choice about which of the two culturally-endorsed sexes they are, if their reality is that they are both? We say no one should be forced or coached to believe that they must be binary, that they must make a choice between two legally endorsed, cultural fictions, of being either male or female.

The intersexed are continually reminded that, in this culture, their reality is invalid. abnormal and invisible – or at least, part of them is, and must remain so.  Many intersex people report this presumptive and limiting sex and gender assignation to be an ongoing source of trauma.

We want to see intersexed people simply be allowed to live with full integrity and authenticity, to have the courage to be true to themselves, and not feel the need to conform to a cultural story that does not include them.

But not only the intersexed.  All of us should be allowed to speak our truth about our own experience of living in our own bodies, of honouring our own sexual orientations.

Privates on parade

Many intersex people have internalized the shame and secrecy they grew up with about their condition, and are not willing to disclose their difference, irksome or injurious though it may be to be constantly invalidated by other people’s presumptions.

We think that maybe what a person’s genitals look like, or their gender(s) is really nobody else’s business, unless that information is offered or necessary.

The omnipresent tickbox, asking which binary camp one belongs to every time one tries to take part in society is an invasion of privacy. It seems to deliberately exclude the intersexed, the genderfluid and the transitioning, for whom such a question does not make sense.

If someone’s sex is non-binary, or if their general phenotype or assigned sex doesn’t match their gender, they are already being constantly invalidated, made to feel that a critical part of their own essential being, their very identity, is unacceptable or unthinkable, and must be suppressed, hidden or ignored – or be ready to fight about it every time they try to engage in their own culture.

Including the intersexed

So, how do we go about making room for the existence and the experience of the intersexed? The best way to do this is by intentionally working to undo the idea that only two sexes exist.

Watch yourself

A good place to start is by witnessing one’s own, and our culture’s assumptions about sex. Becoming aware of how and when we police and enforce our cultural beliefs about binary sex is the first step to changing them.

Reflect on the stereotypes and assumptions you hold, and notice how often you make automatic sex-based assumptions about someone based on their appearance or their name. Notice what happens when you are faced with a name that is not clearly male or female. Do you panic, not knowing how to address them, not having a ‘male’ or ‘female’ archetype to envision them as conforming to?

Keep in mind that you can’t necessarily tell what sexes or genders someone is ‘by looking,’ either at their general appearance, or at what’s in their pants. Remember that anyone could be intersex. Remember that the idea of dyadic sex is an oversimplified version of a diverse and complex reality. Remember that our binary ideas of social sex are a shortcut and a convenience, a way of quickly sorting people into categories based on cultural expectations or stereotypes.

Remember that these cultural categories and shortcuts may shortchange the person in front of you. Remember that some people experience ongoing trauma at being constantly invalidated by our assumptions that everyone is binary.  

Watch what you say

To be an ally to the intersexed, use inclusive language.

Make a game of avoiding binary descriptors.  Instead of using standard binary greetings like: “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls!”, use something like “Hello, everyone,” instead. Making people feel welcome and included means remembering they may be present, even if they are unannounced or closeted about their difference. It means not using social conventions that will exclude or invalidate people.  

Be a rebel for gender justice. Risk the wrath of the grammar police. We say “they” is a perfectly fine first-person pronoun for anyone. As anyone could have more than one genetic profile (i.e.: be twins or triplets fused early in the pregnancy), then anyone could be a grammatically unassailable “they.”

English is a very flexible language, one whose rules change based on usage. The more people who use “they” instead of “he” or “she,” the faster “they” will make it into the dictionary as officially acceptable to use as a first-person pronoun. That’s all it takes.

Not everything belongs to “boys” or “girls”

Our culture goes beyond classifying bodies and behaviours as being “male” or “female.” We assign binary sex alliances to qualities, as well, which tends to make them the exclusive property of one binary sex or the other. Being inclusive means being aware of how we’ve gotten into the habit of assigning gender to almost everything.

“Strength” and “toughness” are not masculine qualities. They are simply qualities, shared by and necessary for all human beings to survive.  But if we assume “strength” and “toughness” are qualities that belong to the cultural class known as “males,” then we are creating a social reality in which “females” are dissuaded from owning “strength” or “toughness.”  

Likewise, “gentleness” and “delicacy” are not feminine qualities. They are part of the fabric of being that makes up every one of us. We all need to learn how to be gentle and delicate, or we have shortchanged ourselves of our rightful human inheritance. It does not contaminate “maleness” to develop fine motor control or to be fully human.

Cultural cross-training

We suggest cultural cross-training to loosen up constrictive cultural conditioning. We advocate teaching to our culturally-noted and enabled weak spots as well as to our stereotypical and idealized binary strengths.

That means expecting and teaching “girls,” as well as “boys,” to dust themselves off when then fall, and say: “I’m alright,” and carry on. We should all be taught to be confident and assertive, to walk with a bit of a swagger.  We should all be taught  to state clearly why a situation or behaviour is not OK with us, instead of being socialized to expect others to figure out that something is wrong.  

Cultural cross-training means expecting and teaching “boys,” as well as “girls,” how to be empathetic and observant of others’ emotions. We should all be taught to honour and make room for our own, and others’ emotions. We should all be taught that tears are a powerful and necessary release, and that there is no shame in letting one’s heart overflow through one’s eyes, because that is what it means to be human and to have a heart that feels at all.

We see “girls” in our culture free to choose any colour in the spectrum to express themselves in clothing, leaving boys only a monochromatic, dullard’s palate of grey, black or brown. We see this as self-policing behaviour to conform to binary expectations. Perhaps we need to remind people that all colours belong to everyone who can see and experience them and enjoy their vibrations, and that creativity in self-expression is everyone’s domain.

If we consciously extract our binary sex labels from human qualities or things, we will go a long way toward undoing our cultural fetish for classifying people – and everything else – as being either “male” or “female.” Otherwise, we risk becoming, and possibly have become, a culture of self-policing self-caricatures, each doing our best impression of “maleness” or “femaleness,” but leaving half of our essential humanity behind.

Sweden’s social experiment

Sweden has embarked on a remarkable social experiment to facilitate this cultural shift, abolishing the use of gender in schools. We think any society that prides itself on being just, diverse and inclusive  – like ours –  should do the same.

To read more about the abolition of gender in Sweden, follow these links

Raised without Gender

How medicine can be inclusive

This basic, fundamental knowledge about human sex determination needs to be acknowledged by medicine:  there is no strict dividing line in nature between male and female genitals, nor is there any guarantee that they will be the same sex as any of the other markers of sex.  

Surgically enforcing culturally-endorsed sexes is discriminatory, as it does not make room for the reality that not all people are sexually binary, nor do they have to be. We want our public health care system to affirm the right of intersexed people to exist.

We want our public medical system to affirm the right of the intersexed to be able to access rational, respectful, informed medical care that acknowledges their existence and needs, and that does not do any harm to their bodies or their psyches.

To do this, medicine needs to let go of its scientifically untenable and inherently discriminatory belief that sex is necessarily binary.

A tickbox for every sex marker

The general, global assignations of “M” and ‘F” are medically obstructive and inaccurate,  and need to be abandoned for a more realistic model of cataloguing sex characteristics, which may or may not be just one sex.

Cultural expectations for genital appearance are not a credible scientific basis on which to deny or agree to investigate a person’s sexual health care needs, but that is the current standard. We want to see greater scientific rigour, and a realistic respect for uncertainty within medicine.

Medicine needs to acknowledge that in any practice, an unknown number of their clients will necessarily be intersexed, in ways that are not suspected by a casual glance at the genitals. Making room for this reality means abandoning the presumptive and obstructive model that categorizes everyone as being either “binary male” or “binary female,” based merely on their genitals’ appearance.  

We suggest classifying every determinant of sex individually (gonads, genitals, genes, hormones, internals sex organs, etc.) We suggest giving three alternatives for each and every determinant, which can then be checked off as  “male,” “female,” or a “combination of the two”.  These checkboxes for individual determinants of sex would necessarily be understood to be changeable, as more detailed information about the individual’s sex markers became available, or as the individual transitioned to a sex that matched their psychological sex.

Inclusive, respectful nomenclature

Medicine betrays its discriminatory assumptions about non-binary sexual conditions in its nomenclature.

The medical culture currently uses terms like “abnormal,”  “deformed,” or “disordered” to describe intersex conditions. We suggest the profession adopt instead the terms “stereotypical” vs. “atypical” or  “culturally normative” vs. “culturally non-normative” in order to more accurately and sensitively describe intersex conditions and individual sex differences.

In 2006, the profession renamed “intersex conditions,” calling them instead “Disorders of Sexual Development.” Intersex activists hotly contest this change, stating it broadly and inappropriately pathologizes what are mostly individual differences that cause no health problems at all.

It is difficult for the intersexed to access respectful medical care. The attempt can be traumatizing: the medical culture refuses to acknowledge the intersexed, actively tries to erase all evidence that the intersexed do exist, and does not acknowledge the profound, ongoing and historic psychosexual trauma that are the result of these practices. For the intersexed, getting medical care “down there” can feel like stepping deep into enemy territory. Medicine needs to acknowledge and address the ongoing trauma that its attitudes of disbelief, entitlement to alter, and revulsion engender in its intersex client base.

How our legal system can be inclusive

If our markers of sex do not have to be, and are not always just one sex, and if we cannot necessarily tell when this has happened, then binary sex is no longer scientifically or legally definable or defensible. Science concedes we don’t even know how to strictly define the terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ anymore – except by cultural agreement.

So, is it fair or realistic to expect that all people will, or must fit into this culturally significant, but scientifically fictive binary classification system?

No.  To automatically categorize humans by the shape of their genitals is dangerous, discriminatory, obsolete and irrelevant.

Include the Intersexed in Human Rights Legislation

We ask that our policy and law makers ensure that the human and legal rights of intersexed people be recognized and safeguarded, at last. Our legal system further needs to recognize and enshrine in law the right of the intersexed to exist as they are.  We need to make room in our society for the fact that a human being is a human being, regardless of the shape of their genitals.

At present, our laws regarding aggravated assault specifically exclude doctors to enable them to perform unconsented sex reassignment surgeries on minors who are born with culturally non-normative genitals, in order to create the appearance of one or the other “binary” sex. Such purely cosmetic genital “normalization” surgeries are done to bring everyone in our society’s genitals into line with our culture’s preferences for genital appearance. This is systematically done even if the baby or child’s culturally non-normative looking genitals are perfectly healthy, and pose no health risk at all.

We ask that section 3(c) of law C-268  (LINK: ) be stricken, as it is based on scientifically untenable and inherently discriminatory beliefs: that a person’s sex can be determined by looking at their genitals, and that sex is always or necessarily binary. We state the obvious:  performing unconsented sex reassignment surgeries on infants and children in order to bring them into conformity with cultural expectations and preferences violates the human rights of those children.

To read more about inclusion, recognition and human rights for the intersexed in other juridsdictions, follow these links:

European Union: The fundamental rights of intersex people  

UN Free and Equal Campaign Intersex Awareness Campaign

UN Free and Equal Campaign Intersex Fact Sheet

Make it legal to tell the truth

We need to make room in our society for the fact that a human being is a human being, regardless of the shape of their genitals. Our legal system needs to acknowledge that a human being can have both male and female sex characteristics simultaneously, whether these individual differences have been medically noted, or not.

The fact that some people will be required to lie in order to be granted legal status or take part in our society has been ignored altogether. Not everyone can truthfully make such a choice. Some people are clearly both sexes, and identify as both.

We inherited our cultural belief that sex is binary from the Levantine religious traditions. To medically and legally limit one’s basic biology and natural sexual state in order that it should conform to the beliefs and expectations of our predominant and foundational religious systems is clearly inappropriate in a rights-based society.

Make it illegal to lie

Parents are routinely sworn to secrecy by their doctors about their child’s sex change operation and binary sex assignment. Parents may not even be informed of the true nature of the operation being done in order to “correct” a minor intersex condition.  

We want it to be made explicit in law: under no circumstances are doctors allowed to defraud their clients or guardians of their own basic biological and medical information by deliberately withholding or misrepresenting this information.

“X” does not mean “I’m a target”

Offering a third option for sex (such as ‘X’) is one remedy for those whose psyches or bodies do not conform to our culture’s expectations for binary physical and social sexes. But this might lead to a new form of discrimination.

We would like to see the intersexed specifically acknowledged and protected as a distinct sexual minority that is at risk for human rights abuses and discrimination.

They’re called “privates” for a reason

Perhaps, legally, we should reassess whether it makes sense to denote sex at all in legal or personal documentation, unless such information is necessary or relevant, given that sex cannot scientifically be defined in strict binary terms with any certainty.

When is Sex Relevant?

Those people who bear children may or may not be completely female, in terms of their sex markers. One can never assume child-bearing individuals are physically or psychologically 100% female, as our culture expects. But protections for child-bearing humans are, and should remain, an important part of public policy.

Likewise, testosterone levels are considered relevant for car insurance providers, but it must be understood that an individual’s hormone levels and gonads might not always agree with a male sex assignation.


Perhaps, legally, we should acknowledge the right of individuals to their privacy, and reassess whether it makes sense to denote sex at all in legal or personal documentation, unless such information is necessary or relevant to the situation, given that sex cannot scientifically be defined in strict binary terms with any certainty.

We believe it is the right of every individual not to be forced to disclose any private information about the appearance of their genitals or their social sex(es), unless this information is necessary. Some people do not want to be identified as either. Intersex (as well as genderfluid or transitioning) people can find the ever-present, assumption-based tickbox invasive and triggering, a constant reminder that they do not fit in to this society, and that our culture is not willing to include them unless they are willing to change or lie. Nor do they necessarily welcome the opportunity to “out” themselves with respect to their difference.

We say: what difference does it make, and whose business is it what someone else’s genitals look like?

The Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) Prevention Program

The Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) Prevention Program

The Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) Prevention Program at the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity aims to increase capacity of LGBTQ2S+ agencies by providing them with tools, information on services, and training to support LGBTQ2S+ victims of domestic physical assault, sexual assault and emotional abuse and to increase their access to the criminal justice system. We work with LGBTQ2S+ agencies, law enforcement, and non-LGBTQ2S+ organizations to create best practices to address the gaps in victim services and increase access to justice for LGBTQ2S+ people. The IPV Prevention program delivers comprehensive training to LGBGQ2S+ agencies and criminal justice system players across the country on how to better support LGBTQ2S+ victims of crime.


We will work with any and all service providers across Canada who may come into contact with LGBTQ2S+ victims of intimate partner violence, including: sexual assault centres, community resource/health centres, legal services, victim services, police units, sexual health centres, pride centres, university/college programs, and many others.

The intimate partner violence prevention program offers:

  • Two free workshops (1-2 hours)
    • For LGBTQ2S+ Services: Geared toward informing LGBTQ2S+ service providers on the circumstances of IPV within the rainbow community
    • For Intimate Partner Violence Services: Geared toward informing IPV service providers of the specific LGBTQ2S+ circumstances associated with IPV

All our services are completely free of charge and we are able to travel to where you are to facilitate the workshops.

Click on the Above Image to Take Our Survey and to Download the Poster

Also, as this is an area that is not well documented, a comprehensive research study is planned for the future. In the meantime, we have put together a short (15 minute) LGBTQ2S+ Victim Experience Survey to get a feel of where exactly the gaps in service delivery are and to help give a voice to victims across Canada.

For inquiries, to book a workshop, or to receive tools and information, please contact Shannon at or call the centre at (613) 400-1875

Proud City

Proud City

The Centre for Gender & Sexual Diveristy is excited to launch: Proud City!

Proud City is an invitation to businesses, community organizations and spaces to identify as positive spaces for LGBTTQ+ persons. Positive spaces are spaces that seek to create inclusion and respect for LGBTTQ+ people.

This campaign is organized by the CCGSD.  The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (CCGSD) intersectionally promotes diversity in gender identity, gender expression, and romantic and/or sexual orientation in all its forms on a national level through services in the areas of education, health, and advocacy. Our resources and programming can be used to uplift gender and sexual minorities, as well as give the tools to wider populations in building allyship.

As a leader in anti-discrimination work, CCGSD runs programming all over Canada and the United States. Because of our hundreds of volunteers, we are able to reach over 250,000 people annually. We are also a proud leader in the International Day of Pink (, engaging millions of people in wearing pink and to run programs that stand up to bullying. We encourage you to find out more about CCGSD & the International Day of Pink, and get involved in making your community a safer and more diverse place.

Current Proud City members are:

  • Advantage Tutoring Services (711-415 Gilmour Street) General tutoring, English courses, high school preparation courses, and more!
  • AMH Style  (1440 Wellington Street West) High-end consignment store in the heart of the city
  • Anouk by Outpost Original (281 A Richmond Rd.) Anouk by Outpost Original celebrates the beauty of handmade traditional and contemporary art pieces from various communities around the world
  • Ashton Tax (546 Broadhead Avenue) Tax Preparation and Accounting Services
  • Bar Robo (692 Somerset St West) Coffee, cocktails, snacks, and shows! 
  • Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co (10 Terry Fox Drive, Vankleek Hill) A local Ottawa brewing company
  • Beckta Dining & Wine Bar Fine wine and good food
  • Bellwethers Vintage (9 Florence St.) An ultra modern collection of vintage clothing
  • BMO – The Glebe Branch Good for all of your banking needs.
  • Bob Monette, Deputy Mayor & City Councillor  (110 Laurier Ave West)
  • Bonnie Nova Ottawa based online and popup clothing store. Products organized by type rather than gender. Inclusive sizing, most styles are available in XS – 4X. Accurate product-specific size charts.
  • Bridgehead (All 20 locations!) A fair trade coffeehouse chain with organic teas, soups, salads, sandwiches and snacks made in its own kitchen.
  • Caffeine 1UP (362 Rideau St) All ages & all welcoming independent cafe with video games in downtown Ottawa!
  • Canopy (358 Richmond Rd) Unique and fashionable clothing, made ethically in the USA
  • Caress Electrolysis (35 Larkin Dr. at Greenbank Rd.)
  • Carleton Student Engineering Society (CSES) Carleton’s Engineering student government
  • Carleton University EngiQueering Club (CUEC) Carleton’s Engineering LGBTQ+ committee
  • Catherine McKenna, member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre (107 Catherine St.) 
  • Cathrine McKenny, Councillor for Somerset Ward (110 Laurier Avenue West)
  • Cats R Us (836 Bank St.) Come see Monkey, the store’s cat!
  • C’est Bon Cooking (208 Dalhousie St.) Cooking tours cover 6 neighbourhoods, and cooking classes that are hands on!
  • Chez Anh (435 Sunnyside) Authentic vietnamese food and amazing staff! Try the banh mi, gỏi cuốn, and pho.
  • Ciel (285 Richmond Rd) Ethically made and fashionable apparel
  • Courtyard Restaurant (21 George St., Byward Market) One of the most romantic, fine dining restaurants here in Ottawa
  • Dance Fusion Studios (279 McArthur Ave) We teach ballet, jazz, highland, modern, and tap, for all ages, sizes, and genders.
  • Diane Deans Ottawa City councillor for Gloucester-Southgate Ward and Diane is also the Chair of the Community and Protective Services Committee
  • Dovercourt (411 Dovercourt Ave) Dovercourt Recreation Association (DRA) is a not for profit charitable organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in our community through recreation programs.
  • Dr. Jill Taylor Dentistry (479 Bank St.
  • DS Plumbing (102-14 Bexley Place) A very LGBTQ+ friendly plumbing service. 
  • Eggspectation Ottawa (171 Bank st.) Eggs, brunch, and more!
  • Escape manor downtown (201 Queen St. 4th Floor) Escape manor is a fun experience for anyone who wants to get locked up, and likes a mystery!
  • Escape manor Hintonburg (982 Wellington St. W) Escape manor is a fun experience for anyone who wants to get locked up, and likes a mystery!
  • Fabrications Ottawa (1018 Wellington St. W) A place to get great quality fabric
  • Feline Cafe (1076 Wellington St W) The only vegan & cat cafe in the city, with adoptable cats!
  • Flock boutique (1275 Wellington St. W.We are local, home grown & crafty. We carry clothing, accessories & jewellery made by over 120 Canadian designers, 98% of whom are women! Come check us out!
  • Great Canadian Theatre Company (1233 Wellington St W) Talented actors and exciting performances
  • Great Escape Outfitters (369 Richmond RdWe consider ourselves to be an inclusive and safe space 
  • Green Spirit (5558 Mmanotick main st.Crystals; incense; crystal jewellery; spiritual books + CDs; oracle + tarot cards.
  • Habitat for Humanity Greater Ottawa (768 Belfast Rd) An organization dedicated towards building and providing houses to people in need.
  • Healthy Pets HQ (420 Bank St.) Healthy Pets HQ is the talk of the town as a safe, inclusive shopping and working experience for all members of our community.
  • Heart and Crown-ByWard  (67 Clarence St.Where good friends meet for genuine Irish Hospitality. 
  • Irving Rivers (24 Byward Market Sq.) Pride, Trans, Bear flags, and so much more!
  • Kulu Trading (1299 Wellington St W) Gemstones galore! For two other locations see website.
  • Magpie Jewellery (Three locations in Ottawa) Beautifully designed jewellery.
  • National Arts Centre (1 Elgin st.) 1,300 performances and events annually featuring some of Canada and the world’s best artists in music, dance and theatre, in both english and french.
  • La Grange de la Gatineau (80 Chemin Summer, Cantley QC) We offer weddings for LGBTQ or straight couples in a rustic, natural riverside setting.
  • Lisa MacLeod, MPP (3500 Fallowfield Rd Unit 10)
  • Little Lighthouse Daycare (2210 Loyola Avenue) A home daycare run by a Registered Early Childhood Educator (R.ECE) with more than 10 years experience in the field
  • Living Colour Tattoo Studio (412 Dalhousie St) Beautifully designed tattoos, piercings, and more!
  • Magpie Jewellery (50 Rideau St. see website for other locationsBeautifully designed jewellery 
  • Maker House Co. (987 Wellington St. W) Beautiful Canadian made products.
  • Mann Lawyers (1600 Scott St, Suite 710) A full-service law firm providing a broad range of legal services to a diverse clientele, both individuals and businesses.
  • Waller Street Brewing (14 Waller St) We are a prohibition inspired brewery. We have Flights for Hope where we donate a portion of the cost of our flights of beer to a charity of our choice each month.
  • Mona Fortier, MP Ottawa-Vanier  (Justice Building, Room 809)
  • Nice one Nails (300 Earl Grey dr. 16) Spa pedicure – Manicure – Acrylic nails – Solar nails – Waxing
  • My Toy Shop (1136 Tighe St) A fabulous toys such as a giant stuffed giraffe, costumes, lego, wooden toys, and more!
  • Mystery Motel (41 York St. 3rd floor) Mystery Motel is a fun experience for anyone who wants to get locked up, and likes a mystery!
  • Optimixx (384 Dalhousie St.) Large variety of sports supplements
  • Ottawa Geek Market  The Ottawa Geek Market is a registered not-for-profit and volunteer run organization that hosts numerous events throughout the year including Ottawa Geek Market events and Geek and Gaming Garage Sales. There’s bound to be something for every geek in your life when you attend a Geek Market event!
  • Ottawa Public Health, Healthy Sexuality and Risk Reduction Program (179 Clarence Street) The Sexual Health Centre provides free and confidential STI (sexually transmitted infections) testing and treatment, and low cost birth control to Ontario residents. 
  • Ottawa Osteopathy & Sports Therapy (601-2197 Riverside Drive) We are a multidisciplinary clinic offering osteopathy, physiotherapy, athletic therapy, massage therapy and kinesiology. We emphasize one-on-one time with practitioners, and focus on manual therapy, patient education, and tailored home exercise programs, all within a private clinic setting.
  • Peppermint Organic Spa (1131 Mill Street, Manotick) An organic spa whose goal is to create wellness throughout the body.
  • Pet Valu Barrhaven (1581 Greenbank Rd) We carry all your pet’s needs
  • Pita Pit (Multiple locations) A great place to get pitas! Try the rainbow garden pita.
  • Pot & Pantry (244 Elgin St.) Our shop is filled with fun and functional kitchen tools, plus lots of pretty home accessories, and delicious gourmet food. Including a great variety of Canadian artisan goods
  • Pressed (750 Gladstone Ave) A gourmet sandwich bar and coffeehouse devoted to using high quality, local ingredients and serving organic and fair trade coffee.   
  • Pure Kitchen (357 Richmond Rd and 340 Elgin St) Vegetarian food and juice bar
  • Pure Yoga Ottawa (279 A Richmond RdA studio that offers various styles of yoga and is LGBTTQ+ friendly
  • Quesada, Burritos & Tacos (900 Exhibition Way-Unit 102) Spicy Chicken Burritos and more!
  • Rama Lotus Yoga Centre (342 Gladstone Ave) Yoga and Meditation classes
  • Rebal Petal (5532 Manotick Main St) Is a family run business with team members who have a combined total of 90 years in the floral design industry.
  • Riverside United Church (3191 Riverside Drive) As a faith community, Riverside United Church encourages exploration of your own spirituality through questioning, debate and choice; respects your personal views, wisdom, challenges and choices.
  • Running Room (Westboro location, 418 Richmond Road) Fitness and apparel
  • Saje Natural Wellness (350 Richmond Rd, Westboro Village) Natural healing and skin care products.
  • Scrim’s (262 Elgin Street) Ottawa’s oldest and finest florist
  • Social (537 Sussex) Fine cuisine and a fabulous location
  • Sogge & Associates (9 Lewis Street) A patient-centered psychological services guided by the following principles: professionalism, respect for diversity, collaboration, empowerment, mindfulness & compassion.
  • Sports 4 (149 Bank St.) Ottawa’s dedicated fit specialists for over 30 years.
  • St. Albans Church (454 King Edward Ave) An LGBTQ+ friendly Anglican Church
  • Stomping Ground (728 Bank Street) We sell multiple gender-neutral brands such as Muttonhead, Elka, and Nudie Jeans. Fabric doesn’t have a gender, our shop is a lifestyle boutique for everyone.
  • Stonewall Wilde’s (370 Bank St.) Pride merchandise and other fabulous art pieces created by Canadian artists
  • Suzie Blue Studio (1226 Wellington St West) We are a small boutique off the beaten path. We offer private evening shopping events to groups of friends ~we supply the jewelry and wine, you just shop and enjoy!
  • Sweet Escape Candy Emporium (875-8555 Campeau Dr, Tanger Outlets) Candies of the 2000’s, candy dating back to the 1920’s, 72 sweet and sour bulk candies, 32 Jelly Belly flavours, and more!
  • Ten Thousand Villages (371 Richmond Road) We are a non-profit organization, driven by volunteers and everything we sell is fair trade and hand made.
  • The Comic Book Shoppe (228 Bank St.) A wide selection of LGBTTQ+ comics and more!
  • The Extraordinary Baby Shoppe (1131 Wellington St. W) Wonderful products for both babies and parents
  • The Haunted Walk of Ottawa (46 Sparks St.) Tours of Ottawa’s most haunted places and creepy cool store merchandise.
  • The Herb and Spice Shop (375 & 380 Bank St ) The shop has increased its selection to carry a wide range of gluten-free and raw foods, ready-made lunch and dinner options, as well as many locally-produced foodstuffs we can find!
  • The Hintonburg Public House (1020 Wellington St. W) Art shows, live music, colouring nights, trivia, art classes, craft workshops, team building, cocktail parties, and more!
  • The Mud Oven (1065 Bank St.) The Mud Oven is a Paint-It-Yourself Ceramics Studio, that strives to create a unique experience for painters of all ages and level of experience.
  • The Pomeroy House (749 Bank St.) The Pomeroy House offer modern cuisine with a sense of nostalgia. A seasonally influenced and approachable menu in a casual setting.
  • The Walk-in Counselling Clinic (Multiple locations) No referral is required for the Walk-In Counselling Clinic. You will be assisted, with no appointment, on a first-come, first-serve basis during our Walk-In Counselling Clinic hours.
  • The Watch Clinic (1020 Wellington St. W) Various variety of high-quality watches
  • Third Avenue Spa (784 Bank Street) An Aveda concept spa that pampers you with pure plant and flower essences and all organic materials. 
  • Todric’s (10 McArthur Avenue) Fantastic brunch, lunch, dinner, and catering!
  • Trinity United Church (1099 Maitland Avenue) Trinity is an Affirming Congregation – a safe community for LGBTQ+ people, as well as those with differing abilities or mental health challenges.
  • Troubadour Books & Records (508 Bank St Drop by, browse to your heart’s content, soak up the atmosphere and see what catches your eye.
  • Trudel Home Hardware (140 George St.) All your hardware needs, and super friendly too!
  • United Way Ottawa (363 Coventry Rd.We are a non-profit organization that works to change lives right here in our city. We’re celebrating our city’s vibrant LGBTQ+ community and encouraging people to share their #PathtoPride. 
  • Venus Envy (226 Bank Street) An education orientated sex shop with a variety of books, sex toys, pride items, gender expression items, and more!
  • Victoire Boutique (1282B Welligton St. W) Canadian designed and made items
  • White Cross Dispensary (264 Elgin St.) An Elgin St Pharmacy
  • Whole Foods Market – Landsdown (951 Bank Street) At Whole Foods Market, “healthy” means a whole lot more. It goes beyond good for you, to also encompass the greater good. Whether you’re hungry for better, or simply food-curious, we offer a place for you to shop where value is inseparable from values.
  • Wicked Wanda’s Adult Emporium (327 Bank St.) Sex toys, kinky items, pride items, and more!
  • Wild Willy’s Plants and Flowers (1252 Wellington St. W) Amazing flowering airplants and more cool plants!
  • Winners Lansdowne (225 Marche way)
  • Workshop Boutique (1226 Wellington St. WWe are local, home grown & crafty. We carry clothing, accessories & jewellery made by over 120 Canadian designers, 98% of whom are women! Come check us out!
  • Yuk Yuk’s Ottawa (390 Rideau St.) Who doesn’t like LGBT+ friendly stand up comedy!
  • Zeta Theta Xi Sisterhood (uOttawa, Carleton University, ) We wish to abolish the stereotypes and misconceptions typically connected to sororities from popular media. We give strong, independent and intelligent young women a chance to dedicate their time to various philanthropic causes, with the intent of teaching them to spread goodwill and help others in any way that they are able to.

Also, check out these cool community organizations:

  • AIDS Committee of Ottawa Provide support, prevention, education and outreach services
  • The Algonquin College Pride Centre Is a drop in space that provides a safe and welcoming environment and offers peer support, resources, events, education, and more for students.
  • Bruce House Is a community-based organization providing housing, compassionate care and support in Ottawa for people living with HIV and AIDS
  • Carleton Gender and Sexuality Resource Centre (GSRC) Aims to be a safe(r) space for Carleton students of all gender identities and sexual orientations through education, advocacy, and support.
  • Family Services Ottawa Offers a range of social services (counseling and support services) in English and French to all residents of Ottawa.
  • The Gay Ottawa Volleyball (GOV) league is a volunteer, non-profit volleyball league catering to the LGBTQ community and allies
  • Gender Mosaic Provides varied forums and resources to assist in the personal development, growth, and contact of its members with the transgender community.
  • Kind Space Offers peer-run discussion groups, counseling services, and educational programs in a diverse and sex-positive environment.
  • Manajiwin (LGBTTQ+ Fitness) Offers LGBTTQ communities a workout/fitness space where the emphasis is you doing the exercise/weight training you want to do in a pressure-free environment.
  • Max Ottawa An organization where you can find events, articles, campaigns, community resources and links to health information for guys into guys in Ottawa.
  • Minwaashin Lodge An Aboriginal Women’s Support Centre that provides a range of programs and services to First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and children (regardless of status)
  • Ottawa Bears A social group for hairy men and their admirers. Bar nights and monthly brunches and other social activities, such as games or movie nights.
  • Ottawa Date Squares (square dancing) Is a gay and lesbian friendly modern square dancing club.
  • Ottawa Frontrunners Is a running and walking club for members of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered (GLBT) community and friends.
  • Ottawa Gay Men’s Chorus Choeur gai d’Ottawa Gay Men’s Chorus is a local, independent, charitable organization the mission of which is to perform quality choral music and to contribute to the gay community.
  • Ottawa Knights Is a Brotherhood which strives to preserve the Leather culture through leadership, camaraderie, education, and Community service.
  • Ottawa Senior Pride Network Their goal is to encourage/advocate for LGBT-positive spaces and cultural competence within senior serving agencies and facilities.
  • Ottawa Time Out Hiking Club Is a hiking club for members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans community
  • Ottawa Wolves Rugby Football Club Their mission is to promote and encourage participation in rugby among those who have traditionally been under-represented in the game.
  • Ottawa-Gatineau Capitals Hockey Club The OGGHA offers competitive and recreational levels of play and is committed to fostering and developing its members’ passion for hockey.
  • PFLAG Supporting families, Educating the public, Advocating for equality.
  • POWER (Prostitutes of Ottawa-Gatineau Work Educate & Resist) An organization that envision a society in which sex workers are able to practice their professions free of legal and social discrimination, victimization, harassment and violence and in which sex work is valued as legitimate and fulfilling work making an important contribution to society.
  • Public Servants Pride Network The Public Service Pride Network (PSP) unites LGBTTQ+ employees of the Government of Canada across the country.
  • OQSL (Ontario’s LGBTQ+ Softball League) OQSL is an inclusive recreational softball league for LGBTTQ+ persons and supporters that aims to refine your softball skills in a fun, safe and social environment.
  • QTPOC++ This is a social networking forum where you can shout out for someone to join you for tea or a walk, or at a community event, etc, in the Ottawa-Gatineau area.
  • QYT (Queer Trans Youth at Kind) Queer Trans Youth is a peer-led discussion and support group for LGBTTQ+ youth, ages 25 and under, in Ottawa. It’s a safe space for young people to come for discussions, understanding, support, and most importantly, fun.
  • Queer Mafia An Ottawa-based network of queer identified individuals who are committed to supporting our community by throwing awesome parties and community events.
  • Queering613 A volunteer-run community project committed to connecting LGBTTQ+ folks to Ottawa’s queer and trans cultures, organizations and issues.
  • Queerios (Kanata) A social group for LGBTTQ+ youth (ages 12-18) where you can hangout and make friends in the community.
  • Rainbow Rockers Curling League Ottawa’s LGBTQ+ Curling League, membership is open to the Ottawa community with any level of curling ability. Individuals are welcome to join as a full member or as a spare.
  • Rideau Speedeaus The Ottawa Rideau Speedeaus d’Ottawa is a swim team with a difference: it is primarily a gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans swim team, but welcomes members from the straight community too.
  • SCS (200 – 150 ch Montréal Road) the initial contact for individuals who have a developmental disability or autism in the Ottawa region.
  • SHAG (Sexual Health Advisory Group at YSB) The Sexual Health Youth Advisory encourages discussion and openness around the topic of youth sexuality. It focuses primarily on sex and sexuality and on related issues, such as healthy relationships and safe sex practices.
  • Spectrum (YSB) Spectrum is a by-youth for-youth space offering a variety of programming including educational workshops, group discussions, art collaborations, counselling, and peer mentoring.
  • Ten Oaks Project The Ten Oaks Project is a charitable, volunteer-driven organization that engages and connects children and youth from LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, two-spirit, queer) communities.
  • The Sex You Want Getting from here to there looks different for everyone. The site has lots of information to help you figure out how to have the sex you want, and to help you and your partners think through the decisions that can impact your health.
  • Tone Cluster (Queer Choir) The mission and purpose of the organization is to strive for excellence in music.
  • Trans Health Information Ottawa (THIO) The aim of this website is to provide a platform for trans, Two Spirit, non-binary and gender nonconforming people around Ottawa to discuss and advocate for our health care needs.
  • uOttawa Pride Centre The Pride Centre of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa is student-run service that strives to promote, advocate for, and support gender, sex, and sexual diversity.
  • Youth Service Bureau The Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa serves youth aged 12 and older. We focus on youth with difficulties affecting their physical and/or emotional well-being and development. We support youth in making positive health and lifestyle decisions.

To join Proud City consider:

  • SHOW YOUR SUPPORT: It seems simple, but putting up a PROUD CITY sticker, poster or window decal really help LGBTQ+ people know that your space is one that will respect their identity.
  • SUPPORT THE CAUSE: Please consider putting up one of our donation boxes, or selecting an item as a ‘Pride item,’ where proceeds support LGBTQ+ communities through our work.
    FYI: For every $15 you donate to us, we are able to run a workshop that stops bullying & discrimination! And every $1000 supports a youth attending GSA Forum (
  • GET TRAINED: Every Monday from 2-4pm we will be offering FREE training at our office. This training will help you and your team understand the LGBTQ+ community, learn about respectful language, and gain new ways to be more inclusive.
    RSVP by emailing: or request an alternative time for groups of 5 or more.
  • SHOW YOUR PRIDE: Put up Pride Posters for our events and others in the community. Also, consider theming your front window or a section of your organisation with rainbows. Pride week is Aug 21-27.

Sign up right now by completing this completing this PDF and email it with your logo to:

Pink Agenda

Pink Agenda

Today we call on all those across Turtle Island fighting for equality and justice to expand and protect the rights, needs, and liberation of gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, intersex, asexual, two-spirit, and gender nonconforming people everywhere to engage with us to promote this agenda.

Read The Pink Agenda here.

As we celebrate 12 years of action in federal, provincial, municipal and local politics, we recognize that our privileged position in Ottawa has allowed us to have successful conversations with politicians from across the country. We have been fortunate through our engagement with communities across the country as well; listening to community members and understanding their needs.

We take a moment also to recognize that our work not been without faults and may have caused harm to minorities within our own space. This realization comes with a recommitment to the values in this agenda, and a new commitment to build upon and change them to respond to the lived realities of those who have experienced exclusion.

We also know that human rights, justice and human dignity are not limited only to Canadians. LGBTQ2S people still face state persecution, criminalization, and police brutality in far more countries than, in which they are free. Defending the human rights of LGBTQ2S people has become increasingly urgent as religious and political extremism resurges around the world. Canada has clear legal and ethical obligations to engage in these issues and protect the most vulnerable at home and abroad.

The fight for equality and rights for LGBTQ2S Canadians – including refugees, migrants, and those without status – is an intersectional fight. Homophobia and transphobia do not exist in a vacuum. They are almost always twisted up with racism, sexism, Islamophobia, ethnophobia and/or classism. LGBTQ2S people are everyone. We have multiple intersecting identities, privileges and oppressions.

This document takes stock of what we have accomplished, and points us toward a future of justice and equality. Canada and Canadians must take an active role in resisting oppression internationally, nationally and within our own communities. We stand together to create an equitable, fair and just world that celebrates our differences and protests our oppressions.

This document is currently in draft status. We want to share our direction with you on this historic occasion of bringing LGBTQ2S Service Providers together from across the country to discuss, receive feedback and ensure that this document responds to the intersectionality and diversity of our national community.

As we move forward, we will formalize our relationship with elected officials, demonstrate a higher level of accountability to the community and work collaboratively with community members and organizations across the country, and around the world.

Canadian society is unique around the world. We enjoy democratic freedoms and rights are generally respective; however, we can do more at home as well as in the international arena. In fact, Canada must do more to integrate the human rights of LGBTQ2S people into domestic policy, foreign policy, and refugee policy. Likewise, it is our ethical imperative to dismantle gender and racial inequities within the criminal justice system.

The rights of LGBTQ2S people are always intersectional. Individuals may experience multiple forms of marginalization or disadvantage at the same time, while also experiencing privileges of different kinds. Any discussion of homophobia, transphobia and LGBTQ2S in Canada rights must include the practical application of ideas through policy regarding housing, healthcare, education, suicide prevention, underemployment, unemployment, and poverty reduction.

Trans rights are gender justice. All Canadians deserve the power to control and make decisions about their own bodies and be free from imposed gender norms, expectations, shame, violence, and stereotypes.

As a nation, we must acknowledge past and present discrimination and brutality against LGBTQ2S people and, whenever possible, offer apologies and reparations. Legacies of colonialism and systemic inequalities are directly linked to intergenerational trauma, poverty, and criminalization. It is critical that all Canadians understand the historical context for laws passed and actions taken in countries that further marginalize, oppress or even put to death LGBTQ2S people.

Colonialism has played a critical role in spreading intolerance against LGBTQ2S people. Many of the world’s laws criminalizing “sodomy” or “buggery”, including those in Canada, were imposed by British settlers and enforced through a legal system informed by religion. Even today, facets of Canada’s original buggery law remain in the Criminal Code, setting out a different age of consent and a ban on anal sex involving more than two partners.

In close to 80 countries, sodomy laws remain on the books and are enforced by the state. Most penalties carry a life sentence, but in 13 countries, sex between two people assigned male at birth is punishable by death. Even in those countries where such a sex act does not carry a capital sentence, LGBTQ2S people live in constant fear of media outings and “mob justice” that almost always results in death. In most of the world, queer and trans people live double lives, constantly at risk of being outed to family, church, religious institutions, and community.

Canada must declare that the criminalization and persecution of LGBTQ2S people around the world is a crime against humanity. This conversation is about respect for human dignity, justice and human rights.

How this document will be used:

In our relations with political and institutional systems, we will be using this document to explore best practices for those in positions of leadership .

We will be posting updates of how how encounters go and mark changes as they occur.

Living document:

This document marks were the CCGSD today.

Like all social justice movements we recognize that this position will change and evolve with time, and in relations to the changing needs of communities.

This is a living document, which means we invite your ideas, feedback and suggestions. They will be reviewed every 6 months to edit the document and produce a new version. Please send your comments to:

Join the LGBTQ2+ Service Providers Network

Join the LGBTQ2+ Service Providers Network

The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity is excited to extend you an invitation to join the LGBTQ2+ Service Providers Network.

Sign up here:

As a member of the LGBTQ2+ Service Providers Network, you will receive a monthly update with resources from other service providers, grant and funding opportunities, and LGBTQ2+ news.  You will also be able to share personal stories, achievements, and resources to be shared with your fellow members.

The LGBTQ2 + Service Providers Network stemmed out of the Centre’s LGBTQ2+ Service Providers’ Summit’s goal to create a network of professional supports to strengthen our collective capacity, presence, and bond as community members, allies and service providers.

Those who wish to register should be a part of an organization, formally or informally, who provides services to LGBTQ2+ individuals in their community. Multiple members of the same organization can register collectively.

As a member of the LGBTQ2+ Service Providers Network, you have the choice to be listed as a service provider on the Centre’s website. You also have the ability to attach a short bio/scope of the organization and any services you currently offer.

If you have any questions about the LGBTQ2+ Service Providers Network or you have any problems with registering, please contact Kevin at or by phone at 613-400-1875.

The first update will be Aug 2017 and include information on The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, which provides some legal protections for individuals who seek emergency help during an overdose.

Canada 2017 Rainbow Grants

Canada 2017 Rainbow Grants

Please note we have given away all of this year’s Rainbow Grants. Should the grant be open for 2018, we will inform you.

The Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity is proud to partner with HSBC to present the: Canada 2017 Rainbow Grants. Through 2017 we will be giving away 150 micro-grants of $150 to make Canada a Prouder place!

Any educational institution, community organization or grassroots initiative can apply for these micro-grants using the form here: Click for the Applicaiton Form Here.

The grants are designed to support initiatives and projects that promote diversity, and challenge discrimination in your community or school. This can include workshops, arts projects, campaigns, conferences, or something else. Be creative!

We look forward to reading your applicaiton and support your projects!

Some guidelines:

  • Grants will be distributed on a monthly basis for projects taking place in 2017.
  • Grants will be distributed on a rolling basis. This means that if you meet the criteria you will be approved. This process will continue till all 150 grants are distributed.
  • We are looking to support your initiatives (new or existing) to make Canada a proud(er) place.
  • Some examples of projects include: bringing in a speaker to talk about inclusion, new resources for a classroom, or supplies to organization a celebration (dance, poetry event, awards ceremony…). Please don’t be limited by theses examples, we hope to support innovative and creative projects.
  • Successful applicants will be required to submit a brief evaluation with pictures of their project.
  • If a acknowledgement is available, we will request you include the HSBC & CCGSD logos, and/or acknowledge the support of the Canada 2017 Rainbow Grants, presented by the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diveristy.
  • Priority will be given to projects that recognize issue of LGBTQ+ topics, intersectionality, colonization, and human rights. Priory will also be given to projects that mark import pieces of LGBTQ+ history; some key dates are below.
  • We are only able to support projects that celebrate diversity. Any projects that promote discrimination will not be selected.


A note about 2017:

We at the CCGSD are celebrating Canada 2017. We recognize that Canada’s history dates back before confederation (1867). Moreover, we recognize the impacts of colonization, genocide of Indigenous peoples, and the impacts of residential schools. We recognize our communities shared responsibility to take action to promote reconciliation ( As you apply for your grant, please keep these ideas in mind.


A timeline of LGBTQ+ History in Canada (1950’s till 1980’s):

by Prof Gary Kinsman
Please note: Language used in this document speaks to the real history and language used at time. The absence of the experiences of trans persons, QTIPOC persons and others, refers directly to the erasure of theses communities by the mainstream at the time. We hope your projects will acknowledge this and challenge our communities’ history of oppression towards one another in your projects.

Early 1960s:  Early Resistance and Organizing

  • The anti-homosexual national security campaign began officially in Canada in the late 1950s and lasted
    officially until the later 1980s and into the early 1990s in the military. These campaigns included the creation of a detection technology devised by Dr. F.R. Wake infamously known as the “Fruit Machine.” Many gay men and lesbians refused to co-operate with these purge campaigns which led to thousands of people losing their jobs. In spite of this state surveillance and policing, gay men and lesbians organized homophile groups such as the Vancouver-based Association for Social Knowledge (ASK), formed in 1964 that undertook early popular
    educational and law reform efforts.  The ASK Newsletter and magazines such as Two and Gay also played a critical role in keeping the emerging homosexual communities informed about social and political issues such as anti-queer policies and sexual policing.

Late 1960s:  Law Reform and its Limitations

  • In 1965, Everett George Klippert was charged with gross indecency for having consensual homosexual sex. At sentencing Crown appointed psychiatrists declared him to be a “dangerous sexual offender” (DSO) since he was likely to continue to engage in gay sex.  A 1967 Supreme Court appeal unholding his indefinite detention as a DSO sparked a debate leading up to the passage of the 1969 Criminal Code Reform. Partly based on the spaces opened up by early homophile organizing Pierre Elliot Trudeau (as Justice Minister and then as Prime Minister) and others argued that while homosexual acts between two consenting adults (21 and over) in “private” may be a form of mental illness it did not constitute a criminal act.  This was based on the form of public/private, adult/youth sexual regulation developed in the 1957 English Wolfenden Report. Despite this apparently “liberal” reform the sexual policing of gay men escalated after the 1969 reform.

1970s: Liberation Movements and Human Rights

  • The 1969 New York City Stonewall Riots against police repression provided the spark for liberationist organizing that moved beyond the more moderate approaches of homophile organizing. In this context on
    August 28, 1971, approximately 200 people marched on Parliament Hill and delivered a brief prepared by Toronto Gay Action known as “We Demand.” This protest led to the formation of The Body Politic, a prominent gay magazine and facilitated the emergence of gay liberation, lesbian feminist and gay rights movements.  Early alliances between gay liberation, feminist, and anti-racist activists were built signaling the connections between historically oppressed people. Movement organizing shifted from a liberationist approach to a human rights based approach focusing on sexual orientation protection in human rights legislation. As sexual policing in the later 1970s intensified the raid on Montreal’s Truxx Bar in October 1977 and the massive protests that followed led to the inclusion of sexual orientation in the Quebec Charter of Rights.

1970s: Lesbian Feminism

  • Lesbians experience oppression both as women and as lesbians and have been quite involved in both gay and feminist organizing. In the gay movement lesbians experienced sexism from gay men and in the feminist movement often heterosexism from heterosexual women. They therefore formed their own autonomous lesbian feminist movement to fight against sexism and heterosexism. Groups such as the Lesbian Organization of Ottawa Now (LOON), the Atlantic Provinces Political Lesbians for Equality (APPLE), the Lesbian Organization of Toronto (LOOT), and the Lesbian Caucus of the British Columbia Federation of Women created lesbian feminism as a political force. ThePedestal, Broadside, and Long Time Coming. Groups such as Wages Due Lesbians, the Lesbian Mothers Defense Fund, and the defence effort for The Brunswick Four, four lesbians who were evicted from a heterosexual tavern, were some of the organizing efforts that characterized the radical politics of lesbian feminism in Canada.

1970s: Queering Whiteness and Gender

  • Queers of colours, bisexuals, transgendered people  and transsexuals began to organize themselves within gay and lesbian communities since their specific needs were not being addressed. Many queers of colour continued to face racism within queer communities and the assumption that that “normal” gay person was white.  Caribbean-Canadian author, Makeda Silvera was central in establishing a foothold in queer communities as an out black lesbian feminist. A co-funder of Sister Vision: Black Women and Women of Colour Press in 1985, Silvera played a key role in making visible and radicalizing lesbians of colour.
  • Transsexual and transgendered people often found their needs not being addressed within queer movements and communities as they also had to resist the gender regulations coming from the medical management of transsexual experience and institutions like the Clarke Institute in Toronto. Trans organizing put in question the two-gender binary (man/woman) system.

1970s: Resisting Moral Conservatives

  • By the later 1970s a wave of moral conservatism (often referring to itself as the “Moral Majority”) swept
    across the USA and into Canada targeting queers, feminists, leftists, and anti-racist activists. In particular they focused on defending the heterosexual family. In 1977 and 1978, a rash of protests against Anita Bryant, the spokesperson of the “Save Our Children” campaign in the USA erupted in Canada galvanizing queer activists. Invited and funded by Renaissance International and other moral conservative groups Bryant’s visits to Canadian cities galvanized gay and lesbian organizing.  Groups formed included the Coalition to Stop Anita Bryant, Gay Liberation Against the Right Everywhere (GLARE) and Lesbians Against the Right (LAR). Moral
    conservative organizing against queers has continued but it was pushed back by mass mobilizations and alliance building in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Late 1970s to Early 1980s- Fighting Back

  • The “clean up” campaign prior to the 1976 Montreal Olympic summer games led initially to the closing down of lesbian and gay establishments in Montreal and Ottawa including Sauna Aquarius, Baby Face, Limelight Bar, Neptune Sauna, Club Baths, Jilly’s and the Club Baths. Demonstrations, however, turned this situation around. The Olympic “clean-up” campaign was part of a broader escalation of sexual policing that included the use of bawdy-house legislation against gay establishments as they became more publicly visible. In 1981 with the police code name of Operation Soap the Toronto bath raids took place when the police arrested close to 300 men and there was a mass response to this in the city streets. These mobilizations and defence efforts led to the acquittal of the vast majority of the men who had been charged forcing the police to back off other such large-scale raids as well as to the major expansion of gay community formation in Toronto. These mass mobilizations, the expansion of communities, and the progress of human rights struggles helped to lay the basis for the later use of the equality rights section of the Charter to advance gay and lesbian legal rights struggles.


As this is the first time we are running a project like this we invite your feedback! Should you have any questions, suggestion or ideas, please email:


Gilbert Baker Memorial Fund