Redefining being ‘mad’ and ‘queer’

We’re All Mad Queers looks to build community and challenge views on mental health

The Community Action Centre (CAC) is supporting We’re All Mad Queers, a drop-in session for folks who self-identify as being on the LGBTQQ2SIA spectrum, and having mental health differences.

The drop-in is designed for participants to share their experiences, express their creativity and build community. Facilitator Arielle Sugarman emphasized that, for folks who have felt marginalized by society because of their queerness and their experiences with mental health and its treatment, the creation of a space where mad and queer identities can be explored in a tender way is key.

“Sharing stories and possible elements of your own truth, and to see that reflected through another (person), it’s something that’s really important,” said Sugarman, who is also the CAC’s disabilities students’ support staff.

The first session of We’re All Mad Queers, which was held on Nov. 22, and focused on what the term “madness” meant to the participants. Mad as a term, Sugarman explained, “has been used along with words like crazy to cause a lot of harm to folks who experience mental health differences, and who have been negatively impacted by the psychiatric system.”

Sugarman added that part of confronting what those terms mean is understanding that, “mental health is something that folks experience in different ways and it’s not inherently something that is a positive or a negative, it’s just a state that people can experience.”

Advocates for challenging how mental health differences are treated in psychiatry recently gained traction at University of Toronto (U of T), where the Bonnie Burstow Scholarship in Antipsychiatry was announced in October. Named after Bonnie Burstow, a long-time critical voice on psychiatry, the scholarship aims to “foster research, policy, and social change informed by the critical resurgence of the anti-psychiatry movement.”

Sugarman acknowledged that critical views on how mental health is treated seem to be gathering steam right now, but folks don’t necessarily have to be anti-medication or anti-psychiatry to identify as mad.

The second session of We’re All Mad Queers is happening on Tuesday, Dec. 6 between 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the CAC’s St. James campus office in room 165 B.

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Redefining being ‘mad’ and ‘queer’