On November 19, 2021, 2LSGBTQIA+ advocate leZlie lee kam was honoured with Community One Foundation’s Steinert & Ferreiro Award: a commemorative award and $10,000 cash prize that celebrates unsung heroes for their contributions to the Canadian 2SLGBTQIA+ community. leZlie is the 16th recipient of this prestigious community award, which was presented at the annual Canadian LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce Black & White Gala.
leZlie came out through LOOT (the Lesbian Organization of Toronto) in 1977. As a peer counsellor on the LOOT phone line, leZlie helped to facilitate the coffee house/drop-in program for interested parties and members and was instrumental in putting dykes, lesbians and gay men of colour in the Toronto Pride parade through advocacy with The Proud and Visible Coalition (1992), World Majority Lesbians – A REVOLUTION OF COLOUR (1993 – 1998) and Queer Womyn Colouring The Century (1999). leZlie was also instrumental in organizing Island Spice (1999), a monthly celebration for 2Spirit, dykes, lesbians, gay men and trans people of colour.
For decades, leZlie has been fiercely committed to raising the proud and joyful visibility of 2SLGBTQIA+ seniors, ensuring out individuals don’t feel pressure to retreat into the closet as they age. From recently serving since 2016 as the only openly queer representative on the Provincial Liason Committee of the Ministry of Senior Affairs and Accessibility, to co-organizing and hosting International Day of Older Persons queer events, and developing 2SLGBTQIA+ Best Practice Guidelines for service providers in Ontario, leZlie is a huge force in creating visibility and dignity in ageing as a 2SLGBTQ+ individual.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the crisis in long-term care (LTC) reached new, unthinkable heights, and already marginalized queer seniors within LTC went unrecognized by provincial bodies meant to protect them. Drawing upon experience with home care and working with the Ontario Senior Pride Network (OSPN) and MPP Dr. Jill Andrew, leZlie quickly mobilized to bring attention to this crisis of invisibility. The coalition issued a lengthy report, which was submitted to the Ontario legislature in 2020, and due to their advocacy, the term 2SLGBTQ+ seniors was read into provincial parliamentary records for the first time in history.
“It is our distinct honour to present leZlie with this year’s Steinert & Ferreiro Award,” says Community One Foundation Co-Chair Andrew Mainprize. “As an advocate for many who feel they don’t have a voice, leZlie has led by example to inspire, promote growth and create change at the heart of the Canadian LGBTQIA2S+ community. We’re delighted to add leZlie to this incredible list of impressive and accomplished agents of change.”
About the Steinert & Ferreiro Award:
The Steinert & Ferreiro Award was founded in 2005, through a bequest from the estates of Fernando Gumercindo Ferreiro and Jonathan Steinert. Ferreiro immigrated to Toronto from Santiago, Chile in 1973 to earn his doctorate in Psychology at the University of Toronto and established his private practice. While on vacation in San Francisco in 1985, he met Jonathan Steinert and the two very quickly fell in love. Jonathan relocated to Toronto and assisted Fernando at his practice. In 1990, Jonathan was tragically diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour and quickly succumbed to his illness. Two years later, Fernando quietly passed away from AIDS in Casey House.
While not persecuted for his homosexuality in Chile, Fernando felt a certain degree of discrimination in Canada, hoping an organization would promote individuals who, through either the arts or sciences, made a significant contribution to the understanding and acceptance of gays and lesbians in the community. Fernando chose the Lesbian and Gay Community Appeal (now Community One Foundation) as the organization to carry out his wishes.
About Community One:
Established in 1980 as the Lesbian and Gay Community Appeal, Community One Foundation provides grants to LGBTTIQQ2S community projects in Greater Toronto Area including Durham, Halton, Peel and York Regions, focusing on the areas of arts and culture, health and social services, and research and education. The Foundation also promotes community philanthropy through strategic partnerships such as the Bill 7 Award and the LGBT Giving Network.