Celebrating people making a difference this Pride Month
Proud To Shine highlights LGBTQ+ people in the GTA making a difference nominated by others
The Proud To Shine campaign aims to highlight individuals making a difference in the LGBTQ+ community with nominations submitted by family, friends, peers or individuals themselves.
Whether it's through self-acceptance, volunteering to help educate and provide resources for others, or sharing a message through art or music, the nominations submitted by you showcase the wide range of ways to create positive change.
From now until the end of the month, we will be sharing the stories of those nominated. Check back here for updates, and you can also find the stories shared on our CBC Toronto Instagram and CBC Toronto Community Twitter. You can also read about the artist who designed a special work for Pride Month here.
Meet our nominees below:
Carlos Idibouo I Kween Mallika I Lucas Kilravey I Michael Alonzo I Berkha Gupta I Anthony Patrick Manieri I Kai Dayle I Mark Julien I Jeffery Martin I Michael Erickson I Andrew Schonbe I Tim Lagman I Casey Oraa I Emily Maxwell and Nathan Sartore I Michael Wu I Jorge DaCosta I
Submitted by: Doug Kerr, Executive Director, Dignity Network Canada
Why Carlos deserves the spotlight:
"Carlos Idibouo is originally from Côte d'Ivoire and has lived in Canada since 2006. Carlos identifies as Black, queer, feminist and gender non-conforming. In his home country, he was the founder of Arc-en-ciel Plus, one of the first LGBTIQ organizations in Côte d'Ivoire. Since arriving in Canada, Carlos has been involved in many community organizations supporting refugees, immigration, and people living with HIV - including FrancoQueer, Egale Canada, and the AIDS Committee of Toronto. In 2018, he was part of a widely celebrated campaign by Casey House to smash stigma against people living with HIV, the June's Pop-Up Eatery.
He also continues to work on human rights, gender-based violence, sexual and social diversity at the international level. He has been a volunteer for Dignity Network Canada since its inception in 2015 and became one of our Board Members in 2020. We are so grateful to have Carlos in Toronto and he brings so many gifts to our city and country and think more people should know about his amazing and often selfless contributions to our communities at home and abroad."
Submitted by: Viraj Ketkar and Nilay Joshi
Why Kween Mallika deserves the spotlight:
"I feel there has to be representation for all people of color. Beyond that, Kween Mallika is a brilliant dancer and really funny queen. She has so much potential for the work she does that she deserves this recognition! The hard work she puts in drag to make a change in society and making her Indian fam so proud.
Mallika defines compassion, love and sass. I've got opportunity to meet with her and that one meeting was sufficient enough to convince me about her amazing personality. I've been in touch with her since then. She is comfortable in her own skin and sets the stage on fire."
In her own words:
"My drag avatar is inspired heavily by Indian traditional folk dances, classical dance styles, Indian mythology and Bollywood movies.
I was born and bought up in India, where drag is considered to be as a taboo. After moving to Canada, I started doing drag around 3 years ago. My drag journey has inspired many LGBTQIA+ people from the South Asian community. Many people come up to me and tell me how seeing me perform at clubs and online has helped them accept themselves and be who they are."
Submitted by: Suzanne Johnson
Why Lucas deserves the spotlight:
"Since Lucas started law school at Osgoode Hall in 2015 he has done everything he can to empower, mentor and support the LGBTQIA2S+ community. At Osgoode, Lucas served as a Program Coordinator with Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC). He built new partnerships to offer Osgoode and U of T law student pro bono support to Egale and Rainbow Railroad. Lucas also assisted in the successful launch of PBSC's first Trans ID Clinic and helped the model spread to law schools and cities across Canada.
As a lawyer with Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, Lucas has worked tirelessly to increase LGBTQIA2S+ recruitment and representation in the profession and ensure critical partnerships and voices are supported.
Just this year, he spearheaded the first 1L LGBTQ2S Bay Street Firm Hop, inviting first year LGBTQIA2S+ law students from across Canada to tour nine of Canada's leading firms. Lucas also organized the first national LGBTQ2S+ legal mentorship program in Canada, pairing first year LGBTQ2S+ law students from across Canada with mentors at ten Bay Street law firms. Lucas' advocacy for the LGBTQIA2S+ community has already had an impact not only in Toronto but across Canada and he is proud to shine!"
Submitted by: Kellum Jaymes, colleague, Friends of Ruby
Why Michael deserves the spotlight:
"I would like to nominate Michael for all the hard work and dedication he has not just to our youth but to our community as a whole. As the volunteer coordinator, Michael has personally trained more than 40 volunteers and checks in on them as they come in for their shifts. These volunteers receive support from Michael just as our drop-in youth do. Michael is also involved in the community through his work at YMCA Sprott house, where he works a few times a month as a support worker and I know that he brings the same authenticity, love and acceptance to the youth that he supports there.
I know that Michael brings his joy everywhere he goes and it has been such a honour to work and learn beside him the short time that I have. Michael has created an environment where our youth and our volunteers are supported and encouraged to be their whole, true selves and it has been amazing to watch."
Submitted by: Colan Wang
Why Berkha deserves the spotlight:
"As the Executive Director of LGBT YouthLine, Berkha works tirelessly to support 2SLGBTQ youth across Ontario. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a difficult time for everyone but has disproportionately impacted 2SLGBTQ youth, who face higher barriers to accessing healthcare services to facing higher rates of isolation and anxiety. I have seen first-hand how much energy Berkha puts into their work, from traveling across Ontario to hear from as many youth as possible, to creating online forums for youth to connect with one another. Pride Month may look a bit different this year, but Berkha has worked tirelessly to create different ways for us to stay connected and celebrate the resiliency of our community.
Berkha never passes up an opportunity to include other people, whether it's by inviting them to a fundraising event they wouldn't otherwise be able to attend, or by shining a spotlight on all the fantastic work that 2SLGBTQ youth are doing. Berkha has positively impacted countless people, including myself, and I am so proud to call them a friend. "
Submitted by: Jacqualine Haller
Why Anthony deserves the spotlight:
"Anthony is an exceptionally talented Photographer who happens to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community in Toronto. A couple years ago, he had the inspiration to start a global movement around highlighting the importance of mental health around positive body image. This movement is specifically for men. As Anthony so eloquently puts it, it is not about excluding women from the conversation around positive body image, this project is simply meant to include men in the conversation that already exists.
He has travelled all over the world photographing men in the LGBTQ+ community who have struggled in some way with body image and has made a name for himself globally for such a wonderful and important cause. I had the opportunity to join Anthony at a photo shoot in Poland in October 2019. As you know, the LGBTQ+ community is not supported there. It was not only incredible to watch Anthony work, but those who came to be photographed blossomed through the process. You could visually see these men let go of the heaviness of personal judgment, that they have held onto for years. It was an exceptional experience of healing through the form of art."
Submitted by: Jewel Aub, parent
Why Kai deserves the spotlight:
"My eldest child Kai is an amazing Black musician and beat producer. Kai is also transgender, non binary. Even while suffering from severe anxiety and depression for years, Kai still gets up every day and pushes through.
I can't even imagine having to deal with bigotry and racism on top of homophobia nearly every day. Can you imagine what it's like to deal with that when you have severe mental health issues? Kai is working so hard to overcome this disease. Now they are really starting to get their career in music noticed, and I am ever so proud of them. Kai really deserves a shout out. "
Submitted by: Stacy Kelly
Why Mark deserves the spotlight:
"Relentlessly bullied for being gay in middle and high school, Mark internalized that hatred and homophobia for many years. He lived his life in denial, trying everything that he could not to be the thing that his bullies hated so much. As a result, he was homophobic, scared, full of shame, and for the longest time felt like he had no voice.
Years later, just as he finally accepted himself and finally found the gay love of his life, he lost father to Alzheimer's in 2006. His father never got to truly know his son. Combining his love of mythology, theology and irreverent, campy wit, Mark created a story, called Justin Case and the Closet Monster about how to navigate life's challenges having one foot firmly in the closet and the other planted on the path of self-acceptance. It's the conversation that Mark should have been able to have with his dad.
Mark was a high school teacher and helped many LGBTQ youth through "Rainbow Groups" in Kingston and Belleville. He was also the 2019 artist-in-residence at Camp fYrefly, Canada's only national leadership retreat for LGBTQ+ youth. He used his graphic novel, and the power of narrative through art, to provide these youth with an outlet for telling their stories."
Submitted by: self-nominated
Why Robyn deserves the spotlight:
"I have been a POC drag performer born and raised in Toronto for almost 20 years, watching CBC my entire life. My life struggles have been my motivation to help others to understand what I know and how I got to where I am today.
Now, I am a Registered Nurse working on the front-lines of COVID-19. I'm also working on my masters while advocating for marginalized and disadvantaged populations in our community. I deserve a spotlight because I have been marginalized my entire life and would love to inspire the next generation who feel oppressed, depressed, devalued, and discriminated against. As an artist, educator, and healer, I have a very wide perspective of the world and I believe that big changes start from self-reflecting and understanding the unique gifts within each of us."
Submitted by: Andy Wang
Why Michael deserves the spotlight:
"He is a tireless and dedicated advocate for LGBTQ2S issues. As an educator, he infuses his classes with equity and advocacy. As a community member, he has kept the Glad Day Bookshop running, providing an accessible, welcoming space to all members of the LGBTQ2S community, including BIPOC people.
When COVID-19 hit, he spearheaded an emergency fund for LGBTQ2S artists, performers and tip-based workers, raising over $250, 000 and supporting over 1000 community members. For the past year, he has been the chair of the board at Pride, leading the organization through structural change as well as managing staff, public relations and volunteer support. He continues his work in the community, running Glad Day TV - programming Trans, Queer and 2-spirited content on Facebook and Zoom."
Submitted by: James Morrison
Why Andrew deserves the spotlight:
" Andrew is a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community and provides many crucial services related to sexual health to people in Toronto and across Ontario. Last year, he launched an Ontario-wide online clinic and pharmacy (The PrEP Clinic) that provides sexual health testing for everyone across the province, free on-site testing and treatment at his Toronto clinic, and has vastly improved prescribing access to HIV prevention medication for all of Ontario through their unique online app-based appointment model.
Most people he helps are in the LGBTQ+ community. These services currently are not government funded and Andrew has made The PrEP Clinic more of a project vs a business to focus less on profit in order to be able to provide all these services.
Most recently he launched "What Pride Means To You" for Pride Month to celebrate diverse artists in the community and share their talents online. Andrew also works to educate other healthcare professionals to provide Safer Spaces and educates on LGBTQ+ inclusion in healthcare. In addition, he teaches at an Ontario college and includes education on LGBTQ+ health with a focus on transgender health, as well as HIV in high-risk groups. Last year he co-developed the first ever national pharmacy guidelines for LGBTQ+ health and has brought LGBTQ+ care to the forefront when he was featured in a national pharmacy magazine. In addition, Andrew has supported several LGBTQ+ organizations, provides regular online outreach within the LGBTQ+ community, and is a strong advocate."
Submitted by: self-nominated
Why Tim deserves the spotlight:
"As an out and proud gay man, I am an active member of Toronto's LGBTQ+ community. I am an outreach volunteer with the AIDS Committee of Toronto where I go to Toronto's Church-Wellesley Village to help educate our community on LGBTQ+ health. HIV/AIDS is prevalent in our community and the education system does not teach about different sexualities.
In response to that, I teach topics including safer sex practices, safer methods of substance use, accessing medication, and mental health wellness with the focus primarily on queer people's health. I am also part of Scotiabank's Inclusion Committee. We are a group of employees dedicated to fostering an environment where people in the workplace feel comfortable to live free from judgement. I help create a safe space for employees to be their most authentic selves through marketing campaigns and organizing lectures on inclusivity. I also provide employees with resources about topics like being out in the workplace and teaching coworkers about queerness.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have moved my activism online to make my resources available for all. Sexuality and pleasure can be particularly confusing for LGBTQ+ people, so I offer coaching services to our community in order to better navigate the complexities of our sex lives. This involves eradicating sexual shame, incorporating harm reduction techniques, and practicing sexual wellness. Although my work is focused on helping the LGBTQ+ people of Toronto and the GTA, it is my hope that through this work we can help build a world free from all forms of discrimination so that we may have a truly accepting community."
Submitted by: Don Collymore
Why Casey deserves the spotlight:
"Casey is a long-standing and deeply committed activist. As chair of Queer Ontario's Political Action Committee, he was pivotal in the fight to give all Ontario students the right to form Gay Straight Alliances. He has also served as Vice-Chair of Queer Ontario. He co-founded and has been a key organizer for the annual Night March. Night March gives space for LGBTIIQ+ people and our allies to connect to the political and justice-focused origins of pride and queerness. He also works advocating for Maggies, a lobby group for sex workers to have the right to work in dignity, free from harassment.
Casey is a committed labour activist and works hard to bring his queer and worker politics together. He is the Vice-President of COPE Local 343, a union representing over 1600 members across 93 collective agreements. In the wider Labour movement, he has served as the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) Equity Vice President representing LGBTQ Workers and represents COPE on the Solidarity and Pride Committee at the Ontario Federation of Labour.
As well, Casey is an author and artist. He works in multiple mediums, bringing an intersectional lens to politics, identity, justice, and allyship. He recently wrote and co-produced the graphic novel "Champ" (2018-2019), which deals with the challenges of modern life and grappling with the intersections of identity. He has contributed poems to "Stonewall's Legacy: a Poetry Anthology," edited by Rusty Rose and Marc Rosen in 2019.
What motivates Casey to get involved in community activism for the past 15 years? A strong desire to see positive change in the world, where equality and fairness is paramount over fame, popularity, and capital. Growing up as a biracial gay man in Hamilton, Casey experienced first-hand racism from an early age. He understands how it is to be an outsider, and strives to give those voices on the margins a chance to be heard."
Submitted by: self-nominated
Why they deserve the spotlight:
"During the pandemic, Nathan and I decided that we wanted to create an online safe space for the LGBTQ+ community, and specifically focus on creating content for queer disabled folks like ourselves.
We started a YouTube channel and have been making videos on different queer and disabled topics. Our content focuses on breaking down boundaries and eliminating stereotypes. We've made videos about LGBTQ+ stereotypes, invisible disabilities, diversity at Pride, identity, and more. Right now is a time when it is so important for people to come together, and we want to be a part of making a positive change and impact in our community."
Submitted by: Lisa McDonald
Why Michael deserves the spotlight:
"As a young gay man living with HIV, Michael moved around the globe trying to find somewhere where he would feel safe to express his sexuality. In the winter of 2019, Michael arrived in Canada as a refugee without any supports.
At that time, Michael didn't know much about HIV or the gay community. He participated in training and events to learn more about his health, HIV/AIDS, the LGBTQ community and his new city. Now, despite being new to the country, Michael contributes to multiple AIDS service organizations and volunteers his time, making him an integral part of the community.
Although newly diagnosed, Michael wanted to participate in an episode of Casey House's podcast Positively Speaking to raise awareness and educate others about HIV. In the podcast, Michael describes metaphorically coming to Canada in darkness; and how once here, he lit a candle for himself, and that the supports he has found since also light candles for him so he can see through the darkness.
Michael is a quiet and diligent worker, quick to notice when someone needs help and stepping in without fanfare. His thoughtfulness and bright smile make him shine.
This past March, Michael participated in June's HIV+ Eatery as part of the kitchen crew, preparing dinner for guests alongside a team of peer and professional chefs. His efforts helped raise awareness and smash stigma around HIV, while also raising funds for Casey House. He smiled the entire time.
We are lucky to have Michael as an active member of our community. He makes a difference by supporting his peers, and by educating and challenging misconceptions and misinformation; advocacy that is not easy for someone recently diagnosed. In his short time in Toronto, Michael has become a role model."
Submitted by: self-nominated
Why Jorge deserves the spotlight:
"With Arco-Iris, the LGBTQ2 Portuguese-speaking Association of Toronto, I have been front-lines fighting for gay rights in the Portuguese community since 1999. I continue to fight sexual orientation discrimination in our Portuguese community."