The Ottawa Senior Pride Network (OSPN) began in 2008 at Centretown Community Health Centre (CCHC). CCHC has a long history of supporting queer health in the city. At first, OSPN held meetings with a variety of groups that support or serve seniors. The idea was to talk about how they could help, or work with, our community better. Then, in 2010, with a grant from the New Horizons Program from the Federal Government and a lot of support from CCHC, OSPN held a large community event, Taking LGBT Aging Out of the Closet.
Many people volunteered to help OSPN reach out to isolated seniors and get them connected to community. We built educational programs to work with health care and social service agencies. Some volunteers looked at human rights issues for LGBTQ2+ seniors (50+ years old). We started planning social events like dances and movie nights.
In 2018 OSPN hosted a Visibility in Action Forum. This was a chance for queer seniors to celebrate our vibrancy as a community and shape the future of our network.
When COVID made us cancel all in-person events, a group of volunteers put their heads together and soon had our community connected on Zoom and other systems. Meditation, movies, discussions and coffee dates continued online.
Today, OSPN has over 1,000 members!
We envision a world in which LGBTQ2+ seniors are honoured, actively included in their communities, and have access to appropriate services and facilities when they need them.
Through our network of diverse queer seniors and allies we work to create:
We are committed to human rights, safety, social justice, and social inclusion.
We build on the strengths and resiliency of LGBTQ2+ seniors as active agents in our own well-being.
We value the diversity of the LGBTQ2+ aging community and recognize that people have many identities and may be affected by many forms of marginalization.
We build respectful working relationships with allies and others.
We believe that all queer seniors have a right to culturally-proficient health care and social services.
We are committed to building welcoming and discrimination-free environments for everyone.
We respect people’s right to choose how and when they disclose their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
OSPN has grown and changed to meet the needs and interests of our community. We have three core streams of activity:
OSPN uses the acronym LGBTQ2+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, Trans, queer, two-spirit, plus) to respect the diversity in our community and the many ways people define themselves. We use LGBTQ2+ and queer to mean the same thing.
OSPN commissioned local queer designer Glenn Crawford of Jack Of All Trades Design to create its distinctive ‘leaf’ or tree logo. The icon itself represents nature, knowledge, growth and strength: the ‘roots’ of the senior members of the community who built the Ottawa-Gatineau queer community from the ground up in the 1970s and 80s, the ‘branches’ of the community leaders and activists who followed, and the ‘leaves’ who are the future generations who will access OSPN’s services as the needs of the community change. This is a tree of knowledge, a family tree of ‘logical’ family as opposed to ‘biological’ family, in the words of famed author Armistead Maupin.
The eight colours of the OPSN icon reference the original eight-coloured rainbow Pride flag as designed by Gilbert Baker in 1977. Each stripe in his original flag had meanings, as follows. Therefore, the OPSN leaf/tree icon also represents Baker’s original meanings for the flag.
OSPN’s tagline, “Generations of Pride,” reminds our members and allies that our community has been around for many generations, both before and since the modern queer rights liberation movement, and that we will continue to be here for future generations to come.
OSPN pays respect to the Algonquin Anishnaabeg people, who are the traditional guardians of the land on which we live, play and work. We acknowledge their longstanding relationship with this territory, which remains unceded. We pay respect to all Indigenous people in this region, from all nations across Canada, who call Ottawa home. We acknowledge the traditional knowledge keepers, both young and old. And we honour their courageous leaders: past, present, and future.
OSPN has four Strategic Directions to guide its activities from 2020-2023:
1. Find the money and develop supports needed to effectively engage queer seniors and allies to achieve our mission.
2. Promoting affirming and safe health care and community supports is core to OSPN’s mission. This requires continued strategic focus to ensure the needs of queer seniors are addressed as health care and social services keep changing.
3. Increase opportunities for LGBTQ2+ seniors to take part in social events and feel connected.
Developing a strong, connected, visible queer community is core to the mission of OSPN. We focus on finding ways to bring queer seniors together and continue to find spaces where they can meet and become involved.
4. Collaborate to advance the interests of the broader LGBTQ2+ community.
OSPN has built strong relationships, working with partner groups. Our work raises awareness and understanding of the unique needs of queer seniors and helps people and agencies change how they serve us. We also work with other queer-led and queer-serving groups to expand our reach and benefit the broader LGBTQ2+ community.
OSPN’s organizing model leverages the strength and capacity of our community volunteers combined with support from our organizational partners and funders.
Different funders recognize the unique needs of queer seniors fund our core programs and project-based work.