Meet five LGBTQ+ People Making a Difference

In celebration of Pride Month in the GTA, the CBC Toronto Proud To Shine campaign highlights five LGBTQ+ individuals who deserve the spotlight.
2019 Proud To Shine Finalists Jenna Dufton, Arsham Parsi, Nick Boyce, Shakir Rahim and Leon Tsai (Melissa Haughton/CBC)

In honour of Pride Month, CBC Toronto invited people to submit nominations for individuals they believe deserve the spotlight for making a difference in the LGBTQ+ community in large and small ways. Out of many amazing entries, five finalists were selected. 

Meet all five finalists below.

Leon Tsai

Proud To Shine finalist Leon Tsai (Melissa Haughton/CBC)

Leon is involved in a number of initiatives at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus (UTSC) and around Toronto focused on equity. She volunteers with the Positive Space Committee, the LGBT Youth Line, has worked with Pride Toronto and the UTSC Women's & Trans Centre.

Why she deserves the spotlight, according to her nominator:

"Leon has consistently made intersectionality the focus in all of the work she does, using her lived experience as an immigrant Taiwanese trans woman to guide her through this.


She also seeks to support women like her who have experienced sexual violence or sexual harassment through her work at the Sexual Violence and Prevention Centre at UTSC. Sexual violence disproportionately affects Trans women of colour, and anti-racism initiatives often do not adequately address the issues trans women of colour like Leon face.

She strives to centre queer Black, Indigenous and Women of Colour in every space. As someone with many marginalized identities, I am indebted to Leon for her creation of safe spaces for learning and unlearning."

Listen to Leon's interview on Metro Morning, alongside activist Ron Rosenes, below.


Jenna Dufton

Proud To Shine finalist Jenna Dufton (Erin Quinn/CBC)

Jenna works behind the scenes as the programming manager for Inside Out, the largest LGBTQ+ film festival in Canada. In her role, she is the first point of contact for filmmakers and also watches hundreds of hours of content to shape the festival's programming.

Why she deserves the spotlight, according to her nominator:

"She is a tireless advocate for better representation of women, people of colour, and queer and trans people in front of and behind the camera, and uses her position within the organization to create improvements in programming standards.

She is incredibly passionate about supporting queer women and non-binary filmmakers in their early career stages, and oversees the disbursement of the festival's RE:Focus Fund which provides grants and bursaries directly to these filmmakers."


Nick Boyce

Proud To Shine finalist Nick Boyce (Melissa Haughton/CBC)

Nick actively works to ensure that people who use drugs have access to harm reduction support. He has taken leadership on this front in a number of areas, previously leading the harm reduction program at the AIDS Committee of Toronto, serving on the board of Addictions & Mental Health Ontario, contributing to the Toronto Drug Strategy and most recently being a founding member of Toronto Overdose Prevention Society.

Why he deserves the spotlight, according to his nominator:

Nick confronts the strongest obstacles with courage. In the face of government inaction, he and others set up a tent in Moss Park, which opened its doors to people who use drugs - providing a space where they could use drugs more safely, connect with peers and other supports and be treated with dignity.


Arsham Parsi

Proud To Shine finalist Arsham Parsi (Melissa Haughton/CBC)

Arsham came to Canada from Iran, by way of Turkey, after being pursued by police for his gay activism in the early 2000s. Wanting to help others from the Middle East escape violent homophobic and transphobic policies, he founded the International Railroad for Queer Refugees (IRQR).

Why he deserves the spotlight according to his nominator:

Through IRQRQ, Arsham advocates on behalf of asylum seekers to the UN Refugee Agency in Canada and communicates directly with the refugees on a daily basis.

"Having personally gone through this experience, he understands the plight of those that are living often with little financial means and no legal ability to work in a foreign country with a different language. I have worked with the IRQR for over five years and am constantly amazed at his dedication to helping these vulnerable individuals."

Shakir Rahim

Proud To Shine Finalist Shakir Rahim (Erin Quinn/CBC)

Shakir is a board member with the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP), and worked to establish a civilian review of missing persons cases. The formal review began in September 2018, led by The Honorable Gloria J. Epstein and members of the public, established in response to concerns from the LGBTQ+ community regarding the handling of missing persons cases.

Why he deserves the spotlight according to his nominator:

His extraordinary work with the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP) was critical to establishing the review.

On behalf of ASAAP, he negotiated directly with the mayor, police board, and others to establish the review. I know first-hand that Shakir was a driving force behind creating a community-led working group, on which he served, to draft the review's terms of reference. this is the first time the LGBTQ2+ community has played such a prominent role at the outset of a review or inquiry in Canada."

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