The GenNext Advocate program is our brand-new volunteer initiative, offering a great way to connect with people and organizations who want to make a difference and learn about the unique challenges facing our region. As a GenNext Advocate, you can deepen your community connections, develop your professional skills, and make a meaningful impact.
In honour of Pride month, we’d like for you to meet an advocate who is no stranger to our work. Long-time supporter of GenNext, Giancarlo Cerquozzi, shares what Pride means to him, why he chooses to advocate for 2SLGBTQ+ issues in his community, and why he supports GenNext.
Tell us a bit about yourself
Hi! My name is Giancarlo Cerquozzi (he/him). I am a 32-year-old cisgender queer professional dedicated to advancing Gender-Based Analysis Plus and 2SLGBTQ+ allyship within the federal public service. Decolonization, equity, diversity, and inclusion are my guiding principles.
I work and live in Ottawa—the unceded and unsurrendered traditional territory of the Anishinaabe Algonquin Nation. Growing up in Ottawa was pretty neat! Being able to experience the Parliament Buildings, the Rideau Canal, and the various national museums were super special as a young kid and teenager.
I enjoy cooking, watching horror movies, and thrifting for mid-century modern furniture and vintage clothing in my spare time. I have a major sweet tooth and could easily eat an entire strawberry-rhubarb pie for breakfast (yum!).
Why did you want to become a GenNext Advocate?
I am particularly passionate about advocating for the 2SLGBTQ+ community and advancing awareness around 2SLGBTQ+ themes such as: gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation; inclusion and representation; and intersectionality.
GenNext East Ontario is addressing discrimination and lack of inclusion head on, and I am privileged to join them in their cause.
What does Pride mean to you?
Pride, for me, is multifaceted.
Pride is honouring and remembering the marginalized 2SLGBTQ+ peoples who fought for us to even have a ‘Pride’… it is honoring and remembering those who came before me and were trailblazers in the fight for equality.
This year marks 50 years of formal organizing, within Canada, under the banner of Pride. On August 28, 1971, roughly 100 people from Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and the surrounding areas gathered in the pouring rain at Parliament Hill for Canada’s first gay liberation protest and march. These folks presented a petition to the government with a list of ten demands for equal rights and protections. Simultaneously, twenty 2SLGBTQ+ activists demonstrated at Robson Square in Vancouver. This marked a turning point for the 2SLGBTQ+ movement in Canada and speaks to the true meaning of ‘Pride’.
Pride was a riot that sought to create true, equitable and intersectional liberation for the 2SLGBTQ+ community. Pride is about creating a world where 2SLGBTQ+ people can live authentically and openly, every single day, without fear of violence. It is about removing systemic barriers that limit the 2SLGBTQ+ community from achieving equity.
Pride is a reminder that 2SLGBTQ+ people are everywhere—in every city, every day of the year, every month of the year, and every year that will come. While Pride has shifted towards a festive and celebratory ‘event’ culminating in a parade, it remains a social movement seeking to create safer spaces for the 2SLGBTQ+ community and other marginalized communities, including Indigenous peoples, Black people, and racialized people.
What are your hopes for the future of Pride in our region?
I hope that the 2SLGBTQ+ community, and its allies, continue to use Pride to:
How do you advocate for 2SLGBTQ+ issues in your community? Tell us a bit about how you like to take action and what led you to get involved with GenNext.
2SLGBTQ+ folks often struggle with ‘coming out’ in the workplace. For many queer people, the decision to live authentically at work is contingent on whether they perceive their work environment and colleagues to be inclusive.
I have personally experienced workplace harassment and discriminatory comments/actions because of my queerness. These actions and words caused me great harm, and negatively affected my work performance, interpersonal relationships, and mental health.
Although difficult, these harmful experiences led me to get involved with GenNext and to become a Pride Ambassador within the federal public service. We must challenge the status quo to create meaningful and inclusive change.
Tell us about an 2SLGBTQ+ voice, advocate, or creator in your community who you admire.
I am incredibly thankful for the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity. Their work supporting gender and sexual minorities, and fostering allies/allyship, has fundamentally benefitted Pride and the 2SLGBTQ+ community of Ottawa.
I particularly love their 2SLGBTQ+ teaching resources as they are incredibly thoughtful and easy to understand. As well, they are great tools for folks looking to better acquaint themselves with the 2SLGBTQ+ movement and community.
Previously under the leadership of Jeremy Dias, Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah was named the new Executive Director in July 2020. Debbie is a first-generation Ghanaian-Canadian, Black cisgender queer woman whose 2SLGBTQ+ social justice and anti-racism work will lead the Centre to new heights.