The Lesbian and Gay Xpo – widely known as the LGX – will return to Ottawa on Oct. 4 after a five-year hiatus.
And the showcase for LGBTQ-friendly businesses and organizations is back by popular demand, organizers say.
“Honestly, I’m really excited to have it back,” says Lorilynn Barker, sales team leader at Xtra, the city’s main LGBTQ publication. “I think it means the world to the community.”
The event, originally run by Xtra, was put on pause in 2009 after about nine years running, when it outgrew its Jack Purcell Community Centre location, Barker explains. “We were taking a one-year break and then we were going to come back in a new location and be bigger and better, but in that time there were a lot of staff changes and changeover and it just never got back on track.”
Five years later, Donald Walker, an active member of the community, suggested reviving the event while sharing a cup of coffee with his friend, Justin Minnes.
“There were all kinds of people asking about it over the last four or five years and I thought, why not revive it? So that’s what we decided to do,” says Walker.
Minnes and Walker, though involved in the community, had never been a part of the LGX organizational process before, so they put together a team to help with the revival.
“When Donald and Justin got in touch with me and said that they wanted to revive it, I was absolutely really excited about it,” says Barker. “I’m glad that they took the bull by the horns and are going running with it.”
Together, with help from Barker, as well as Burke-Robertson lawyers Naila Parsons and Jonathan Ferris, they began planning the rejuvenated LGX.
The expo will be held at its original location, the Jack Purcell Community Centre, and will include guest speakers, opportunities to learn more about community resources and booths hosted by supporting businesses, such as The Ministry of Coffee, Kasuwade Friendly Tech, Investors Group, Wilde’s and Registered Massage Therapist Karen Munro Caple.
Parsons will be speaking at the event about the benefits of wills and powers of attorney. “I want to make sure people understand … how the law works,” she says.
The event will be a “reincarnation” of the LGX from five years ago, following a relatively similar format, says Parsons. But there will be some noticeable changes.
The expo will be smaller this year, but Minnes says the plan is to continue the expo annually and bring it back to “full speed” over the next few years.
The topics at this year’s LGX will be different from the past as well, Walker explains. “There are newer issues now with gay parenting, gay adoption, divorce, and even from the insurance side,” he says.
“The questions have evolved over time,” adds Jeremy Dias, director of Jer’s Vision, a youth-led organization focused on anti-bullying and anti-discrimination. “When it first started, the LGX was really about connecting LGBTQ people who are facing discrimination in some sort of way… It was really a challenge to be queer at that time and there was a need for a concrete response,” he says. “Today however, we don’t see the same challenges.”
Jer’s Vision will have a booth at the expo, along with other community organizations, such as the Children’s Aid Society, the Ottawa Senior Pride Network and Pink Triangle Services.
Minnes says the expo will have more of an education focus this year. “Hopefully, everyone that comes can get at least one piece of information or connection that will help them.”
The expo is “not just about the businesses,” Walker emphasizes. “It’s more about the gay community (seeing) what’s out there socially as well as what’s out there on the business side.”
The LGX is meant to bolster connections within the LGBTQ community and the small business community, says Minnes.
“We have a reputation as a pretty staunch government town, and so it’s nice to know that there is this whole collection of small businesses out there that are willing to help people out regardless of orientation or gender or any of that,” he says. “It’s just about helping people.”
For more information about the Lesbian and Gay Xpo, visit: http://lgxottawa.com