Meet QMUNITY, a non-profit organization that works to improve the lives of queer, trans, and Two-Spirit people across Canada.
Hi Community, Jack here with another Jane Community Story for you. I’m excited to introduce you to another Jane bursary recipient, QMUNITY. I was so fortunate to be able to sit down and talk to Kole Lawrence about all the good QMUNITY is doing to empower LGBTQ2SAI+ people across Canada. Kole is the counselling and support services coordinator working at QMUNITY.
Tell us a bit about yourself and QMUNITY?
My name is Kole Lawrence I use he/him pronouns. I’ve been working at QMUNITY since September 2021 as the Coordinator of the Counselling and Support department.
The entire purpose of QMUNITY is to serve the Two-Spirited, trans, gender diverse, and queer people of BC and provide a safe space for LGBTQ2SAI+ people and their allies to fully self-express while feeling welcome and included. Our building serves as a catalyst for community initiatives and collective strength and is located in downtown Vancouver, which is located on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded homelands of the Coast Salish Peoples (specifically on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations).
QMUNITY has several different programs that are all designed to help the oppressed people of LGBTQ2SAI+ communities. QMUNITY’s counselling, which I oversee, is one of the organization’s legacy programs that’s been running for nearly 50 years now. The counselling program has been in its current state for 13 years now, offering reduced-cost counselling and in some circumstances, free counselling for folks who are unable to afford to pay.
Our counsellors work on creating productive, non-judgemental relationships with the people they see and help them explore their life and the changes they might like to make while respecting worldview, values and personal resources.
With QMUNITY being part of the LGBTQ2SAI+ community for half a century, I’d love to hear more about how your team helps this community?
🗣 We recognized that there’s an inherent disconnect in the privilege and disenfranchisement of these populations we serve. Our goal is to help make these people feel less oppressed.
QMUNITY itself works in many different pockets. There’s the research component, which is used to explore inequities and barriers in access to education to actively influence systemic change. But also to ensure that marginalized communities not only see themselves reflected in surveys and studies but also see their interests reflected in the results and reports.
Then there’s our more community-focused component which involves many different programs, with our main goal being to make tangible, life-changing differences in the lives of individuals. We work to ensure that communities across BC develop through volunteerism and support innovative programs and services.
Can you tell us about some of the programs QMUNITY runs?
We now run a hybrid program that serves queer youth all across BC. Initially, it was only drop-in events that happened twice a week, where we provided a space where young people can hang out and seek support, as well as meet and connect with other queer youth. Now we also offer that same great connection with our online events. They’re a great space to talk about identity with their peers and QMUNITY facilitators. Our aim is to help them be better equipped to deal with issues related to gender, diversity, and queerness. I grew up in a town in the interior of BC called Kamloops and I would have loved a space like this to connect with my peers.
We also run a program that helps serve the queer older adults in the Lower Mainland and across the province because we know that finding inclusion, belonging, and meaningful connections can become more challenging as we age.
I know that QMUNITY helped Jane implement pronouns in Jane’s intake forms. How has that helped you and the community you are serving?
It made such a difference for us. We were passionate about helping Jane get this implemented. We had just started using Jane heavily and that was one thing that we were excited to see Jane not only accommodate, but bring to the entire Jane community so quickly. We loved that Jane knew the rationale behind the why and why it was important not only for us but so many others.
I’d love for you to let people know why it is important to use a person’s pronouns and allow them to affirm that to other people?
I think for the people in my life who have used a certain pronoun, a certain name, or a certain identity for most of their lives it is a huge step to change something about themselves that feels truer and more authentic to themselves. It’s a really big thing to do at any time in your life. So for me, I want to make sure that I’m doing the thing that supports and acknowledges them for who they truly are.
If somebody is telling me that they have certain pronouns, it’s the least I can do at that moment to respect them.
People are making these huge steps in their lives which take a lot of courage. Especially to be able to walk into a room and say, “You might assume that these are my pronouns, but they’re not and I’m not comfortable using those. You might think that it is binding because it’s the name I was going from birth or five years ago, but it’s not anymore”. It just feels like the least people can do is take a moment to respect those choices.
I’d love to hear about a recent success that has come to fruition since you joined QMUNITY?
I think one of QMUNITY’s biggest successes happened within our Counselling program. When I got on board we had a waitlist upwards of six months for our fee-for-service program.
Since I joined, we’ve been fortunate enough that we’ve been able to recruit five incredible counsellors who have been excited to be able to take on a lot of clients that had been waiting to work with us.
The waitlist for these programs is now less than a month. That’s been a big step for us and very exciting because it’s now at the point where if somebody says that they’re interested in counselling, they’re not necessarily going to have to wait for months. It’s more about how can we get you to see somebody that you might be a great fit with right away.
That’s a great achievement, and I imagine with the move to telehealth around the world you’ve been extremely busy?
Yes, I think it is something that clinics, counselling agencies, and offices are experiencing everywhere. With the pandemic, there has been an influx of the number of people who are interested in counselling, which is great, but it also means a lot of waiting and that’s not so easy for a lot of folks.
We were so fortunate to be able to get more counsellors to join us. The flip side of being so busy is that it’s great that a lot of people are looking at where they’re in their lives and acknowledging that they might want to work on certain parts about themselves or specific issues. We get to help so many more people with questions related to transitioning, dysphoria, or coming out which we’re so glad about.
The pandemic can certainly be seen as two-sided. People are more interested in their well-being and seeking help, with that said, what have been some difficulties that QMUNITY has faced during these past few years.
You’re right, it’s such a positive that we can reach so many more people online, but in another way that can certainly be seen as negative for some of our community members.
The pandemic has had a direct impact on our group meetings, which is one of our pillars here at QMUNITY. Our peer groups were used to meeting in person every week and in some cases twice a week.
These groups are really important for a lot of folks. We have older adults, who are mostly estranged from their families because they have come out and their only community or network of people are those people that they’ve met with here every week for the last four-plus decades. It was really hard for them when that ended all of a sudden.
The silver lining is that QMUNITY developed spaces online pretty quickly for our different groups. So while it was difficult for us in the beginning, we are glad to continue to host virtually. Again, looking on the bright side, because everything is online now we have folks coming in from Smithers and St.John that can join our youth groups or our seniors’ groups where they wouldn’t have been able to attend before.
Tell us a little bit about your time working with Jane?
We’ve been using Jane for a year now. I work with seven different counsellors that use Jane for all aspects of practicing here with us at QMUNITY. They’ve all stopped paper charting and everyone charts on Jane now. Everything I’ve heard and experienced has only been positive because it’s been so much easier to set a standard for all our counsellors when meeting with clients.
It’s been extremely easy to choose from the selection of different templates in Jane’s Template Library for our intake forms too. We like how everything is very standardized and it’s nice to have everything just there and ready to go. It’s a beautiful thing.
In fact, we’ve been introducing Jane to more of our departments and becoming increasingly more and more reliant on it.
I’d love to hear more about how you are using Jane across QMUNITY?
We’ve been branching out quite a bit with the help of Jane. We saw how it was helping our counsellors, so we talked about it quite a bit for our youth and employment program. We knew it was the obvious choice, especially for starting our brand new employment department from scratch.
The program helps connect people who are gender diverse or queer with jobs that are suited for them. We’ve just onboarded a new staff person for this, and we have four more people joining her team. It’s been quite an explosive branch of our community right now and they’re exclusively working with Jane.
Similar to our counselling program, our youth specialists and our volunteers have their own Jane Payments which is such an easy way to take care of the money aspect and keep everything consolidated. It’s also been helpful because they can create and keep their note-taking, charts, and scheduling of appointments all in the same place.
For people that are looking for practice management software, why would you recommend Jane to them?
For people that are running a counselling practice or similar programs, I would recommend Jane to them because it saves you a lot of time. It’s all very easy to navigate and everything is in one place which just makes your life a whole lot easier.
🔍 I believe Jane allows for a higher degree of best practices for clinics and practitioners.
We’re in a virtual world now. You no longer need to write down notes, keep a calendar above your desk, or fill up a filing cabinet with your charts. There are a million different platforms that can help run a practice, but Jane can make all those things happen in the same place which makes it so easy and efficient.
Is there anything coming up that you might like to share?
We have a lot of peer groups that run weekly, bi-weekly and monthly. They’re all listed on our website and we’re always so excited to get more people involved with them.
The people that have joined find them to be very valuable, especially with summer on the way, it’s a great time for people that are interested to reach out and connect with their peers.
The peer programs are growing quickly, which is quite exciting and there are a lot of different opportunities in both of these spaces to get involved.
Before we finish our chat, I would love to know what you think QMUNITY’s superpower would be?
My answer is influenced a bit by the fact that I grew up in Kamloops, and how important it would have been if I had a place like QMUNITY growing up.
I think if QMUNITY had a superpower, it would be being a really meaningful place for queer people and gender-diverse people across all of British Columbia. It truly is a place that makes every young person feel safe, and they have a community that’s not so out of reach.
Resources from QMUNITY
If you would like to learn more about all the great work that QMUNITY is part of or to learn more about them follow these resources below.
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