“Queer all year”

“Queer all year”

< Back to Articles | Topics: Cover story | Contributors: Emily Bednarz

According to recent census data from Statistics Canada, Nova Scotia leads the country in gender-diversity. About one in every 300 people identify as trans or non-binary in our province, and Halifax is the second most gender-diverse city in all of Canada. On the one hand, this data serves as an excellent prompt to promote 2SLGBTQ+ initiatives and businesses in our city, especially during Pride season. On the other hand, it can feel like every month brings its own hashtag. What does meaningful change, all year long, look like?

In this cover story, we celebrate and promote 2SLGBTQ+ businesses and consider how we can weave Pride into our everyday business practices. Every business owner we spoke with identified actionable ways the business community can meaningfully affect change in our 2SLGBTQ+ community. Given the recent census data mentioned above, it is imperative that the local business community acknowledges Pride season, but — perhaps more importantly — that we grow beyond it.


Eastern Shore’s Gallery

easternshoresgallery.com

Eastern Shore’s Gallery first opened its doors during the initial waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. In January 2022, owner Anthea Taljaard purchased a new premises in Head of Chezzetcook — the former St. Barnabas church.

The historic building is a fitting place for the eclectic gallery, which brings together Taljaard’s love of art, diversity, and business. “I love finding the beauty inherent in life,” she says. “Art embodies that for me, and as I have a business degree, it's been wonderful to make a living creating and doing what I find pleasure in.”

“Business can play a role in opening minds to accommodate and embrace that which is different among us, not as an anomaly to be entertained, but rather as a strength and complement to a community. Business can be powerful and enabling when it chooses.”

Anthea Taljaard Eastern Shore’s Gallery

Taljaard was born and raised in South Africa, meeting her wife in the Middle East before settling on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore. She aims to attract more people to the area by way of the gallery. “Our purpose is to promote the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia and Canada as a diverse, vibrant, and creative tourist destination,” says Taljaard. “We use art and our in-house artists and staff to do this.”

The pandemic brought its challenges to Taljaard, along with finding and the right team members and acceptance in parts of the community. The new space, however, has fostered a new sense of belonging for Taljaard. “Moving to our own premises and being unhindered in our ability to create something unique to us, inside of a strong Chezzetcook community, has helped with acceptance and feeling that we belong,” she says.

Creating a welcoming space has been liberating for Taljaard. “Everyone is welcome with us,” she says. “I love being able to provide a fully inclusive social and business space in the gallery and host events that openly reflect this.” In April 2022, Taljaard added a South African Kitchen to the space. The kitchen serves up authentic South African street food and functions as a “mini multicultural hub,” says Taljaard.

The gallery team is now planning on opening a permanent outdoor barbeque space that will host concerts, markets, and other events. “We are a one-stop destination for shopping, arts and crafts, and delicious food,” says Taljaard. “If you have not had an opportunity to come out, please pop by!”


Rooted Rose Community Acupuncture

rootedrose.ca

There is a splash of bright blue on the corner of Wentworth and Portland in downtown Dartmouth. The colourful storefront belongs to Rooted Rose Community Acupuncture, which first opened its doors in 2021. Ever since, owner and acupuncturist Bria Goodreid has been working to bring acupuncture to a broader community.

The “Community Acupuncture” movement traces its beginnings to 1970s New York City, particularly in South Bronx and Harlem, says Goodreid. “It was originally used to help the community overcome addiction and substance abuse problems associated with the opioid crisis,” she says. “Community Acupuncture is now used to treat a wider range of conditions, including chronic and acute pain, anxiety, depression, headaches, nausea, and menstrual problems.”

The key to community acupuncture is accessibility, adds Goodreid. The typical fee for an acupuncture session can run upwards of $150. “In a community acupuncture setting, the range is much lower,” she says. “There are a range of payment options to choose from. You choose what you can afford, no questions asked!”

The flexibility of the sliding scale model is motivating for Goodreid. “Providing treatment plans that people can work with is really rewarding,” she says. “Ultimately, we want to give our patients affordable care, with more consistent and long-lasting results.”

“Provide your staff with training on inclusion. Teach your staff not to gender people as they enter your doors, ask people for their pronouns, and provide gender neutral washrooms. All people deserve access to safe public bathrooms. Gender neutral washrooms make a huge difference in the safety of trans and gender non-conforming people.”

Bria Goodreid Rooted Rose Community Acupuncture

Goodreid says her approach to client service is simple: “Just treat people with respect and cater to their individual needs.” She admits that while the recent census data hasn’t impacted this approach, the data underscores the health needs of the 2SLGBTQ+ in our province, especially when it comes to receiving gender-affirming care.

Businesses also need to demonstrate real, impactful supporting for the 2SLGBTQ+ community, says Goodreid. “I love seeing all the inclusive Pride flags posted outside local businesses. It sends a message of safety for sure,” she says. “But do you have policies in place to protect and empower your 2SLGBTQ+ staff?”

Goodreid acknowledges the challenges inherent in being a 2SLGBTQ+ business owner. “But as a white person who can pass as cis and straight, I know I have a lot of privilege,” she says. She takes the opportunity to highlight some of her favourite local businesses run by Black entrepreneurs: Delectable Desserts, R&B Kitchen, tREv Clothing, Bad Publicity, Bailly Fragrance, Queens & Kings Natural Products, and Sankofa Afrikan Gifts. She recommends visiting the Black Business Initiative’s website for more opportunities and recommendations, adding that she would love to see a similar platform created for businesses owned by 2SLGBTQ+ entrepreneurs.

If you’ve ever felt curious about acupuncture, Goodreid recommends scheduling a free consultation at Rooted Rose. “If you’re new to acupuncture or new to us, we have a great starter package, she says. “Once you come for community acupuncture and feel the euphoric effects, you’ll want to be coming back.”


Simply Good Form

simplygoodform.ca

When Cynthia Sweeney learned that she was the parent of a trans child, she immediately began seeking information and resources to help her family. The search was challenging. “We didn’t have the full story or access to accurate information,” says Sweeney. “This systemic ‘unknowing’ within our society is harmful.”

This experience drove Sweeney to found Simply Good Form in 2019. “I was inspired to address the void in awareness, intentional policies, and communication tools around inclusion for employees, clients, students, and community members,” she says. “I began creating a platform that would bridge this gap and engage business professionals, service providers, and educators.”

Simply Good Form works to close information gaps and foster new connections through education, engagement, and collaboration. “It is nearly impossible to find a DEI consultancy that can speak to every aspect of marginalization and inequality,” says Isaac Cook, Senior Inclusion Educator at Simply Good Form. “This is why we often collaborate with fellow DEI experts across Canada — to provide our clients with a wide range of expertise. We are always learning to do better and be better for our community.”

Sweeney adds that businesses working towards inclusion need to be thoughtful in their approach — and get comfortable with discomfort. “There really is no space for business leaders and professionals to approach inclusion without true intention,” she says. “This means embracing difficult situations with an open mindset, recognizing biases, and unlearning barrier-perpetuating habits.”

“Seeing businesses embrace Pride with rainbows and flags is great if it inspires a conversation. I would like to see more businesses leading the way by getting the tools to be intentional about it. There are years of struggle, erasure, exclusion, and lost lives embedded in those bright rainbow colours. There is a responsibility for everyone to be part of changing this narrative.”

— Cynthia Sweeney Simply Good Form

Without this close examination, businesses and organizations risk further harm to members of our 2SLGBTQ+ community. “Growing up being one of the few openly queer and transgender people in Truro was incredibly isolating,” says Cook. “Today, as a queer professional, I feel it is important to be openly and unapologetically me — not just for myself but for the 2SLGBTQ+ community as a whole.”

Cook sees the newly released census data as a call-to-action. “Recognizing that transgender people exist coast-to-coast is vital to developing policies and initiatives that protect our communities,” they say. “Now that the data is out there, our presence and the need for more 2SLGBTQ+ centered spaces, especially throughout Nova Scotia, is evident.”

The Simply Good Form team is motivated by the need to create positive change — and seeing the fruits of their labour is its own reward. “It is incredible to see how many equity-focused initiatives are blossoming in Nova Scotia today,” says Cook. “I am excited to be a part of Simply Good Form and support like-minded initiatives for years to come.” Sweeney agrees: “I am grateful to be raising a family in a place that values inclusion and celebrates diversity,” says Sweeney. “We still have a long hill to climb, but there is no other place I would rather be.”

If you are interested in boosting inclusion in your workplace, visit the Simply Good Form website to see their full program offerings. Members of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce gain a special PRIDE Access Pass throughout July and August!


Venus Envy

venusenvy.ca

In 1998, Shelley Taylor saw the need for a queer, feminist, sex-positive space in Halifax — a place to find books, resources, and sexual health and pleasure products. A few years later, Taylor opened an additional store in Ottawa, Ontario.

While Venus Envy has shifted and evolved over the years — changing hands from Taylor to current owner Marshall Haywood in 2008 — the ethos remains the same. “Over the past two decades, we've expanded and grown, always with a keen interest in social justice and deep roots in our community,” says Haywood. “Our curated book selection reflects our values: on our shelves you'll find books on feminism, queer culture, Indigeneity, disability, Black Studies, sex work, fat politics, gender identity, as well as a large selection of queer fiction and poetry.”

When it comes to their products, the Venus Envy team’s approach to client service is driven by their enthusiasm and strengthened by their personal experiences. “As a staff, we are passionate about creating a space that feels safe for people to explore their sexuality and gender identity,” says Haywood. “As a queer and trans business owner, I want to create an environment that is explicitly welcoming to those who might feel othered in other retail places.”

Interested clients can also expand their knowledge beyond the bookshelves at Venus Envy. “Education is an important aspect of our business,” says Haywood. “We host workshops on a wide variety of topics related to sexual pleasure, health, and wellness. Our workshops have been held virtually via Zoom through the pandemic, and we are excited to be getting back to in-person sessions — while still offering virtual attendance for accessibility.”

Venus Envy won Gold for the Best Independent Bookstore as part of The Coast’s 2021 Best of Halifax Awards. Haywood is grateful that their book collection can be recognized in this way, especially after the challenges the business faced during COVID-19. “We had to move to a new location last year, with not a lot of time or money,” he says.

The relocation started in February 2021, says Haywood. “We found out that the space we had called home for 22 years in the Tramway Building was going to be renovated in a way that made it impossible for us to stay,” he says.

The Venus Envy community came together to lend support. Former staff members created a GoFundMe, and within 24 hours, they raised $20,000 to fund the May 2021 move to 1727 Barrington Street. “Moving was a real team effort involving current and former staff, as well as friends and community members,” says Haywood. “I am so grateful to everyone who helped us.”

Haywood encourages the community to come and visit the new space. “Our new shop is beautiful,” he says. “We're in a lovely heritage building with big windows, high ceilings, and exposed brick walls. We're loving the vibe of this new space and are excited for everyone to come visit!”

< Back to Articles | Topics: Cover story

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