Lori Jean Hodge
This award is dedicated to Lori Jean Hodge: Sept 4th 1961 – July 2016. Singer, sister, actor, activist, friend. Lori Jean dedicated her life to helping others and died as she lived, with compassion, love, spirit and kindness. Lori Jean Hodge arrived in the National Capital region from Winnipeg in the early 90’s and quickly became a vibrant part of Ottawa’s music scene. An accomplished singer and songwriter in her own right, she honed her vocal chops in the R&B band, ‘The Suicide Kings’. Her own uplifting and anthemic writing drew inspiration from her Buddhist beliefs and the stories of those she served in her career in social work. She worked for over a decade helping women in crisis at The Women’s Shelter, then as a front line mental health worker for The Canadian Mental Health Association. Adopted as a child, Lori Jean never blamed anyone but welcomed her birth mother back into her life as a friend. Lori’s kindness and compassion knew no bounds, an animal lover and support worker, she found personal joy in camping, hiking and was at home paddling a canoe as she was performing onstage. Lori was also an accomplished actress, and an activist championing women’s rights, mental health awareness, the Arts and the LGBT community. Lori Jean’s full and beautiful life was cut short by liver cancer in 2016. She fought sadness and pain with humour and love, right until the end. She was surrounded by song at her passing as her friends from the Buddhist Community chanted, watched with love by her wife of 12 years, Karen Benoit. Hundreds of people came to her celebration of life and told stories of how her love helped them to find sunshine on cloudy days. If the world held more people like Lori, we’d all live in a better place. She was just that kind of person. A proud lesbian, artist and friend, she was humble, kind, funny, talented and full of joy and love for her friends, family and her community.
Susan Gapka is a dedicated campaigner for social justice highlighting her record on affordable housing, homelessness, mental health, harm reduction & lesbian, gay, bisexual & trans issues since coming out as a community leader almost 20 years ago. As founder and chair of the Trans Lobby Group Susan helped lead a lengthy campaign to persuade the Minister of Health to fund Sex Reassignment Surgery for trans people in Ontario, helped change the Vital Statistics Act sex designation so that trans people’s legal documents more accurately reflect their lived identity, and amended the Ontario Human Rights Code to include ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression’. Susan has served on the Toronto Local Advisory Committee & as Toronto representative on the National Consumer Panel of the At Home/Chez Soi Research Demonstration Project, the Housing Component for the Mental Health Commission of Canada. She also served on the Board of Pride Toronto which hosted World Pride 2014 and is past Fierté Canada Pride’s Central Regional Director for Ontario. Susan has a degree in Political Science from York University & a diploma in Community Work from George Brown College.
Kelly Dear is a Bailey award-winning educator who spent her very out 25 year career creating gender and identity inclusive workshops, curriculum and classrooms. Ms. Dear has written materials on bullying and gender based violence with OSSTF and tours the Province in University lecture halls and pubs using her unique brand of humour to create dialogue with and for LGBT youth. She has hosted hundreds of events to raise money eyebrows and intentions, as Kelly believes everyone has value and that value is believing in yourself.
Shelley Taylor is the founder of Venus Envy and a Certified Sexual Health Educator. She started VE on a dime and a dream in Halifax in 1998 and in Ottawa in 2001. VE was created to address a serious lack of sexual health education in the population at large, but especially among those of us on the margins. Shelley came to sex ed through her own mishaps, and the desire to make things just a little bit easier for those who came after. She is dreaming of a world where shame doesn’t separate us and where we can all take proud selfies at the STI clinic.