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Home  Programs & Services Totally outRIGHT Toronto

Want to learn how to be a leader while meeting other young guys who are passionate about community and their sexual health? 

Totally outRIGHT Toronto is a free online sexual health program for young, gay, bi, queer men. The program started in Toronto in 2015 and has over 300+ participants. One recent grad described Totally outRIGHT Toronto's broad-based approach to sexual health as "the guide evert queer guy coming out needs to thrive in life."

The next series (Series 28) is happening virtually on Saturday afternoons (from 1 to 6 pm) and Wednesday evenings (from 7 to 9 pm) on the following dates in 2021: November 6, 10, 13, 17, 20, 24, 27 and December 1 in 2021. 

Register Here

If you are interested in the program and want to be reminded of all Totally outRIGHT Toronto’s Special Events by email let Rui know to put you on TOTO’s VIP List.

 

Frequently Asked Questions About Totally outRIGHT
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What is Totally outRIGHT?

Totally outRIGHT is a FREE leadership program for young gay/bi/queer guys who want to meet other guys and participate in workshops that will help them build knowledge and skills that can prepare them for leadership roles in their personal and professional lives.

Who is Totally outRIGHT for?

Totally outRIGHT is for young gay/bi/queer guys who are 18-29 years of age. We welcome trans guys, HIV-positive and HIV-negative guys, and guys from racialized communities.

When does Totally outRIGHT take place?

With the current situation involving COVID-19 we are offering the program online in smaller sections spread over weekday evenings and a Saturday afternoons.

The program takes place three times a year over four weekends, typically on a Saturday. They usually occur in February/March, May/June and in October/November. The program runs from 10 am to 5 pm over each of the four Saturdays. Lunch and breaks are scheduled into these days.

What do I need to access Totally outRIGHT online?

Totally outRIGHT Toronto is offered through Zoom and Google Classroom.  It’s best if you have a laptop or desktop that streams video.  A private place away from others and distractions is important too, for your confidentiality and the confidentiality of others participating.  Earphones and mic that you can plug into your computer are handy too.

What do participants get out of Totally outRIGHT?

Participants of Totally outRIGHT have the opportunity to:

Totally outRIGHT is an opportunity to:

  •  develop leadership and advocacy skills for both your professional and personal life
  •  connect with interesting guest speakers who have contributed immensely within the gay/bi/queer community
  •  meet other young gay/bi/queer guys outside of a bar/online setting

After graduation, there are opportunities to:

  •  network with friends through alumni events and online groups
  •  receive notice of job and volunteer postings with ACT and other AIDS Service Organisations
  •  sit on the advisory committee to influence future programming

Is there a cost to participate in Totally outRIGHT?

This is a free program.

What are the topics are covered in Totally outRIGHT?

All segments are designed to be highly informative and interactive and are supported with printed materials.

Where did Totally outRIGHT come from?

Totally outRIGHT was created and piloted by the Community Based Research Centre in Vancouver.  Based on the “Sex Now” data from the 2002 and 2004 surveys, and with funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada to develop an HIV prevention program for young gay men, the program began in 2005 and has been run annually since 2007. Today, Totally outRIGHT is run by a range of organizations across the country, including the Health Initiative for Men in Vancouver, ACT in Toronto, and the EMHC in Edmonton.  ACT was the first organization to implement Totally outRIGHT outside of BC.

For more Totally outRIGHT program history in English.

Pour l'histoire de Totally outRIGHT en Français.

Curriculum
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Sexual Pleasure, Risk Reduction, HIV, STIs and Accessing Sexual Health Care

Several components work together to provide participants with the basics on how HIV and other STIs are transmitted, how and where to get tested, accessing appropriate health care and how sexual pleasure can be explored and supported within this framework.

Gender and Sexual Identities

Different gender roles, expressions and identities are discussed with the option to explore and ask about identities the group is unfamiliar with and to explore how why and how people come out or choose not to come out to larger segments of community.

Mental Health and Stigma

A panel of speakers exchanges their own experience with mental illness, either on a personal or professional level, with a focus on resilience and what was helpful. This module is specifically designed to explore the strengths members of the community employed when facing mental health problems and life stressors common in Gay, Bi, Queer communities.

Anti-oppression and Leadership skills

This module is designed to look at some basic concepts of how oppression works and how people in positions of leadership can put in place systemic ways of running organizations that strive for equity.

Public Speaking and Confidence Building

A hands-on experience designed to increase self-confidence and improve communications skills addressing group sizes that increase over time and escalate in complexity and challenge. Exercises include individual and team work.

Drug Use and Harm Reduction

This workshop, delivered by a worker with experience in the harm reduction field, covers the safer use of drugs common in the gay, bi and queer men's communities (including alcohol), and what to do practically to reduce harm if you or your friends come across substances.

Relationships: Knowing What You Want and How to Get It

The first part of this module is a panel of speakers sharing their relationship experiences with monogamous and polyamorous relationships in a variety of contexts. All of these men offer different views on being happy in a relationship while facing challenges and exploring their needs. Participants are given the opportunity to explore what their own values might be, and sharpen their negotiating skills. The activities in this theme are equally applicable for participants who are or want to be single or in relationships.

Body Image for Gay/Bi/Queer men

Many guys feel the beauty standards for the average gay man’s body are very high and worry about the implications for all of us who do not see ourselves as achieving those standards. This module looks at the current research in the field with an experienced researcher. It also gives participants time to reflect and discuss what they value most about themselves.

Organized Community Responses to HIV

Social Marketing Campaigns and Activism: Starting with a review of how the community in Toronto began responding to HIV, the unit’s final goal is to leave participants with clear concepts of mounting group responses to HIV that encompasses community based political activism and social marketing campaigns. The unit is currently being redesigned to allow from small group interactive learning with hands-on applications of key elements learned.

Jobs Careers and Staying Connected to the Gay, Bi Queer Men's Sexual Health Field

A diverse panel of speakers with expertise in the social service/research fields of queer men's sexual health talks about careers and volunteering. Perspectives include what people have found rewarding about working in this field and how their lives have been affected.

Program Impacts
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In our latest survey of program graduates over several years:

  • 91% felt Totally outRIGHT had an impact on how they viewed sex
  • 82% became more aware of their risk levels for HIV
  • 81% felt there was an impact on how they viewed people living with HIV
  • 73% learned some surprising new sexual health information
  • 60% tried to get PrEP into their sexual health risk reduction precautions
  • 45% discussed viral load/treatment options with HIV positive partners
  • 45% stopped assuming sex partners were HIV negative
  • 36% started testing more frequently
  • 36% started using condoms and other barriers more frequently
  • 18% (2 people) made plans to use PEP and 1 person actually used PEP in an emergency situation

We further support graduates of the program by introducing them to the network of graduates in a closed Facebook page, through special events, and by following up with case work issues that were introduced in the program.  We make job announcements available to Totally outRIGHT Toronto Alumni and try to connect them to peers and supportive older gay mentors we know of who can talk to them about their chosen field of study or profession.

As one graduate put it: “The most impactful change Totally Outright gave me was putting me in contact with Social Worker services (counselling services) that were available at ACT.  I was 'matched' with John Larsson and what I thought was just going to be a few weeks ended up ended up being nearly two years. Seeing him was an integral part of my growth and I will forever be grateful.”

Although we have had successes, there are clearly challenges facing young gay, bi and queer men today, particularly when their identity is subjected to more than one type of oppressive barrier that they may face.  For example, even in a city as big as Toronto, Totally outRIGHT can be challenged by trying to find a queer positive doctor for an individual, and also supportive of that individual’s gender if they are trans. 

We know HIV has disproportionately affected not only queer youth but sub-groups of youth, in particular African, Black and Caribbean youth.  Recognizing this, we pay particular attention to African, Black, Caribbean and First Nations youth in the registration process, we try to identify learning barriers in all the young men who register, we look at how we can leverage resources to help economically disadvantaged youth; we are mindful of keeping our faculty as diverse as we can; we try to pay attention to youth in the program who seem particularly withdrawn; and we follow-up with any case work that arises during the program. 

Totally outRIGHT Toronto has lead ACT in some instances of equity seeking measures, such as introducing the concept of acknowledging the land on which the program operates as the traditional lands of First Nations groups as part of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation measures. 

Participant Testimonials
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Participants reactions to the speakers, our community faculty:

“It was the first time I encountered topics that were so relevant, considering that much of what is covered by Totally outRIGHT is still taboo in many social circles. Too often, the curtains are drawn on the experiences and realities of gay men."

"I think in a perfect world we wouldn't need Totally outRIGHT, the fact that the program has been so successful and has been useful to many folks, speaks to a void in our education system that has been there for a long time."

“I gained a far better insight into the meaning of U=U and the available treatments for HIV. This was one of the reasons I went on the course, as I wanted to learn more.”

 

“His recount of the historic events was absolutely riveting and breathtaking! THANK YOU for such a wonderful opportunity to partake in learning such valuable history.”

“Great community and excellent speakers.”

“LOVED this presentation. Great to know that something like this exists for the community.”

“There was positive impact on my self-esteem, body confidence, relationship/dating, and substance use.”

Participants’ feedback on the Totally outRIGHT leadership experience:

“I’ve had the opportunity to meet amazing people and hear some of their stories……It definitely made me feel closer to the LGBT community……You went above and beyond to ensure all of us felt welcomed.”

“…I didn’t feel like I was really part of the gay community…But I feel more encouraged to stay connected to the community now, and working with a group helped me to come up with a topic I felt passionate about.”

“…building confidence, building something new to inspire others, and knowing that we can shine as gay men…”

Faculty
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Often one series can utilize up to two panels of speakers, three individual faculty in a stand-alone session and a handful of peers who graduated from the prior series to help deliver the curriculum.  This is an example of past faculty involved with Totally outRIGHT Toronto:


Adam Busch, MSW, RSW (He/Him)

Adam is one of ACT’s Community Counsellors. He provides counselling to gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, at ACT, Maple Leaf Medical Clinic, bathhouses. His job includes assessment, counselling and referral services, assisting with issues related to: sexual health, substance use, HIV stigma and disclosure, mental health, isolation, racism, adjusting to life in Canada, shame and guilt, body image, relationships, and sexuality and gender identity.

In the past Adam has spoken on to the group about basic flirting and cruising techniques and navigating the dating scene.


 

David Lewis-Pert  (He/Him)

David is an adjunct college lecturer, consultant, facilitator, writer and playwright. He previously worked in the HIV/AIDS sector as a Research and Prevention Program Coordinator for the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention where he led the Canadian adaptation, implementation and evaluation of the Many Men, Many Voices (3MV) intervention. David completed graduate studies at York University in Toronto, where his area of research was the use of community-level interventions and Black GBT men.

In the past David has sat on our relationships panel and has addressed topic of spirituality and being queer.


Michael Fanous, Pharm.D., R.Ph. (They/Them)

Dr. Michael Fanous is an HIV/AIDS activist serving the LGBTQ+ community in Toronto since 2002 as well as the founder of medsEXPERT Clinic + Pharmacy on Church Street - the first queer health center focused on LGBTQ+ health in Canada! Besides great healthcare services, Michael also creates educational programs which have assisted thousands of queer individuals and healthcare professionals with accessing HIV treatment, prevention (such as PrEP and PEP), Hep C rapid testing, STI treatment, trans hormones, and the newest addition at medsEXPERT - a province-wide PrEP Clinic serving all of Ontario extending from their main location in the heart of Toronto's Church-Wellesley neighborhood.

Michael lectures at Totally outRIGHT on PrEP, PEP and Treatment as Prevention.


Martin Campbell (He/Him)

Martin is an award-winning author and business executive who is dedicated to helping people improve their lives. From being Scarborough’s first gay sex education councillor to writing about bringing understanding, unity and joy into your life, his focus has always been on people’s needs. He believes that being gay provides many of us with strengths and insights that most people do not gain in a lifetime. With three of his long-time partners dying from AIDS related illnesses, he is no stranger to loss. Yet it was those three traumatic events which provided him with the opportunity to grow stronger. Martin has always been thankful for what each of his partners gave him in life, but also thanks them for what they have granted to him through death.

Martin almost always sits on the relationships Panel to talk about loosing a partner and dealing with change.


Tim McCaskell (He/Him)

A long-time Toronto writer, activist and educator, Tim was a member of The Body Politic collective, Canada’s first national magazine for Lesbian and Gay Liberation from 1974 to 1986. He was also the chair of the Public Action Committee of the Right to Privacy Committee which fought back against police raids on gay baths in the early 1980s, and part of the Simon Nkodi Anti-Apartheid Committee in the late 80s.

As a founding member of AIDS ACTION NOW!, an activist group which won access to experimental treatments and funding for medications in the 1990s, Tim is well placed to discuss community responses to HIV in the history component  of Totally outRIGHT Toronto.


 

Justin Chander (He/Him)

Justin is a first-year student in his Master's Degree in Urban Planning at Ryerson University. He previously graduated with his Bachelor's from the University of Toronto Scarborough. He is passionate about environmentalism and social activism and has committed his time to many LGBTQ initiatives and groups such as ASAAP, ACAS, CTYS, and Engage CEC Toronto. He has been involved in Strength in Unity which deals with mental health activism within Queer Asian Communities and has spoken at the Mental Health Summit with them. He has continued to advocate for Mental Health as a Mental Health Ambassador. He is also an emerging pop singer-songwriter and a writer. Justin often sits on the Totally OutRIGHT mental health panel.


 

 

 

For specific questions please contact the program coordinator at:

 

Rui Pires
rpires@actoronto.org
416-340-8484 ext. 228

Facebook: Rui Pires at ACT


Click and Download Our Resources Below  to Share Online or to Print.

Totally outRIGHT Fact Sheet

Totally outRIGHT Series 28 Poster