A comprehensive study consulting Hamilton’s LGBTQ2 community has found there is a severe lack of dedicated queer spaces in the city.
Mapping the Void is a report that includes the results of a 2018 needs assessment survey and is the end product of three years of work from LGBTQ2 community members. It was presented at a public event at Mills Hardware on King Street East on Tuesday evening.
Suzanne Mills, an associate professor of Labour Studies at McMaster University and a member of the city’s LGBTQ2 community, said the idea for the study came in 2016 after the closure of the Steel Lounge, Hamilton’s last gay bar. That year, The Well — Hamilton’s LGBTQ2 community wellness centre — also closed its doors after a decade of providing support and connections to housing and mental health services.
“We couldn’t just decide what the community needed so we wanted to make sure that as many people in the queer community in Hamilton as possible had a voice in being able to say both what their experiences were of living in Hamilton, as well as what they wanted to see,” Mills, who was one of the study’s authors, said.
The study started off as a grassroots and community-driven effort and eventually received a federal grant in partnership with the AIDS Network of Hamilton, Halton, Haldimand, Norfolk and Brant.
Between June and September 2018, more than 900 members of Hamilton’s LGBTQ2 community responded to a survey that covered a variety of topics, from education to income and health care.
One of the major findings of the report was that respondents felt disconnected from the LGBTQ2 community in Hamilton and wanted to see dedicated queer spaces, services and events.
“People really, really desired more social spaces,” said Mills. “Even through the process of doing the research study, people would come to our meetings about research, and they didn’t want to participate in the research — they wanted to connect with other people.”
The report includes a quote from one respondent, who wrote: “It is a sad situation when there is not a gay bar in the City of Hamilton, particularly with the fact we have over 500,000 people.”
The study also found that there are significant barriers to accessing mental health care for community members, especially people who are transgender, bisexual or pansexual. Those barriers included cost and a lack of health-care providers who are respectful or knowledgeable about the needs of those groups, according to the study.
Mills said the team involved in the study hopes the findings will help inform health-care institutions, city officials and other organizations so that they can make decisions that will improve the lives of Hamilton’s LGBTQ2 residents.
“We also really hope that people within the LGBTQ community are able to use this report to advocate for things that they want in the community or to get funding or to try to build a space or to actually to use it to spark initiatives,” Mills added.