As part of Outlink's #OutlinkOutLoud campaign this summer, we will be interviewing several key members of organizations that do amazing work in local 2SLGBTQ+ communities.
You can view our interviews with the organizations below. Click on each tab to see an interview for a different person. Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity. Opinions expressed are those of the interviewees, and are not necessarily reflective of the views or positions of Outlink as an organization.
PAM KRAUSE (she/her) - CEO for Centre for Sexuality
Published Thursday, July 6th, 2023
Q: What is your name, the name of your organization, and your role? How long have you been with the organization?
A: Pam Krause (she/her), CEO for the Centre for Sexuality, and I have been with the organization for 22 years. I started as a manager in 2001. In 2004, I became the executive director.
Q: In three words, can you describe the organization?
A: Teach, train, advocate.
Q: Can you tell us about the history of your organization and why it exists?
A: We are currently celebrating 51 years as an organization. It started as the Calgary Birth Control Association in 1972, and that was a response to new legislation that decriminalized birth control, abortion, and homosexuality. The origins of why we exist, that our founders saw [to], was to support women with their sexual reproductive health and their rights.
Shortly after the organization was created, the founders could see a need for both public awareness and education. So, in 1973, we began offering comprehensive sexual health education in Calgary schools and in the community. [This became more formalized in 1975.] Over the years the roots of our organization are in both education and human rights.
The focus of the work was surrounding credentials and education. Throughout the years, we specifically focused on certain programs dedicated to specific populations. Our 2SLGBTQ+ work started in the 70s with a lot of advocacy for the community. By the mid-90s, we were asked by Calgary schools and educators we had close relationships with if some of our programming could be on anti-homophobia. Since 1997, we have been doing that work in Calgary schools.
Over the years, we continued to build on our programming to specific demographics. We have one for boys called WizeGuys and one for girls called the Girls Program. We have now expanded to offer a Healthy Relationships Program for 2SLGBTQ+ Youth, and a new program dedicated to transgender & nonbinary youth called From Me to We. Everything we offer is focused on the fundamentals of what we do, which is sexual well-being and healthy relationships. In many of our 2SLGBTQ+ [programs] it is a focus to help build community or help to tap into current communities that exist. Camp fYrefly is about supporting youth, with a focus on helping them find connections in the communities that extend to spaces similar to GSAs.
We really exist, and continue to exist, after 51 years to help increase the comfort and skills in people addressing sexuality and their identity. The goal is for people to be more connected in the community and see a reduction in social issues in our time, such as intimate partner violence and bullying.
Q: Can you tell us some of the services, programs, workshops or opportunities that you offer to the community?
A: For the general youth population, mostly via schools, [we offer education on] relationships and sexuality, including diversity and respecting everyone. It is all about inclusion.
Specific programs [include] the Healthy Relationships Program for 2SLGBTQ+ Youth and From Me to We.
Camp fYrefly occurs every year and it’s a leadership camp. This is all in an effort to build connections while also reducing isolation [for 2SLGBTQ+ youth].
We also offer specific services for men who have sex with men. We have STI & HIV testing in our space about a couple nights per week. We also have a program called Totally OUTright for people who identify as male. [We do education on] risks associated with HIV, building connections, while also empowering [participants] to be sexually safe and educated on their well-being.
We have a training center on various topics. 40% of that training we do in social, health, corporate, and many different sectors, is [about] creating a culture of respect for our 2SLGBTQ+ communities. But again, 40% of the work we do is training, [from] lunch-and-learns [to] organizational policy reviews. It’s very comprehensive, as it’s clear we need it.
Q: What is something that you love to do outside of work?
A: I love to garden and travel. My favorite place I’ve ever traveled to is Newfoundland. The trip was one of the best experiences of my life. One of my other passions is learning about community. The way they do community in Newfoundland is somewhat unique, but there’s just something about it that is quite magical. I also like to spend a lot of time with my cats and my partner, whom I have been together with for 32 years. I enjoy the time we get to spend together to be free and silly.
Q: Why is it important to continue to empower queer voices today and how does that align with your organization?
A: There has never been a more important time to do everything we can to make sure the people in the queer community know that they are loved, heard, supported, and to know there are people who are committed to see them thrive. It’s such a central part of our organization, because we know the power of creating connections and building community. To ensure that there are safe spaces that are also affirming is so critical. My experience growing up was lonely, with no one to turn to for emotional or peer support, and it was really tough as a queer identifying person.
When I see the youth in Camp fYrefly as an example [of those] who are socially isolated, and are seeking more community connection, that’s the reason why I come into work. I strongly believe that we have gone down a path of people saying, “Oh, people need this, or they need that. They’re struggling,” but it’s not them, it's the society that is the true barrier.
We see queer lives thrive every single day at our organization. [As] an organization, [we] believe that with skills, tools, and support, you can go anywhere. [You can] be anything, which leads to self-belief of who they are, and what they can achieve.
Our allyship towards transgender and nonbinary communities has to be super elevated, due to the hatred and violence [we face] working in schools (from our perspective). [In many cases,] we have people who will privately say they support us during Pride season. But we need those supporters to come out now to work towards advocating on behalf of the community.
When I think about the mainstream media, it’s time to speak up now. There has never been a better time. I hope we can play a role in that allyship, and also in advocacy. It's just heartbreaking to see what is happening, but [we are] uniting together with great organizations such as Calgary Outlink. But it takes more collective voices to counter those very loud voices.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share?
A: I have been active in the 2SLGBTQ+ community since 1992. It was two years after our first Pride, which my partner was one of the organizers. When I came here we didn’t have rights as 2SLGBTQ+ people. It was a long time before trans people got actual rights, and it was a constant fight. It was really hard to get people within our own community, as well as the mainstream community, to build support.
I have seen dramatic change over the years, for sure, but it also makes me more vigilant. I will admit that I thought we were on a really good trajectory; I thought that 2SLGBTQ+ communities and people were being embraced. Progress was happening, the mainstream [media, communities] was stepping up in [its] understanding and support. To see how quickly things can erode and how basic human rights are up for grabs, sometimes it brings me right back.
More than anything, my passion continues to be fueled no matter what. What I see everyday, with the people I work with, and the youth we interact with, is that there is a resolve that collectively, it will be better.
Talking to a 12 year old, or seeing one of our trans or nonbinary youth in the From Me to We program, it does give me a great deal of hope. All social movements obviously go through peaks and valleys. But until my dying day, I will tell you, I think that we just have to keep up the fight, and continue to show our support.
I think again, every single day about all the things that are said in the media. [With] all the news from Florida [for example], the 13 year olds reaching out to [us] are hearing all of this. It just ups the ante for us to have to do our work even more, be there even more, and offer support and services even more.
I just have to say, the work that Outlink does is very meaningful. I’ve known many generations of Outlink. I think one of the things that is most important (and is easy to forget), is the importance of peer support. Outlink’s determination to link out to other resources is one of the most important parts of the work that we do in the community, because we need to be there for people at whatever stage they’re at.
I’m a cynical optimist. I really do believe in people. I think [that idea] does extend to the work of the Center. Our passion, determination, and willingness to make sure that the work that we do is reflective of what people need is central to what we do.
Centre for Sexuality is a community-based organization delivering programs and services to support healthy sexuality across the lifespan. To learn more about their programs, and to find their social media pages, click here to visit their website.