2SLGBTQI+ communities

In Canada, there are about 1 million people who identify as members of 2SLGBTQI+ communities. This represents about 4% of the population. But there is not much information available about cancer statistics for these communities. We do not know as much about their physical health, and some groups within 2SLGBTQI+ communities have their health issues less studied than others. But research from around the world shows that cancer rates can be different among 2SLGBTQI+ communities compared to the general population.

2SLGBTQI+ communities face unfair treatment and discrimination in healthcare and society, which creates big problems when it comes to getting the right care and achieving good health outcomes. In Canada, many healthcare providers assume that everyone is heterosexual and cisgender, which means they do not always consider the unique needs of 2SLGBTQI+ people. Because of this, many members of these communities have had bad experiences with healthcare providers who are not welcoming, trained or informed about their needs. Though the experiences of gender and sexually diverse communities are often grouped together through the 2SLGBTQI+ acronym, trans and non-binary people typically have worse experiences and outcomes in healthcare and cancer care.

No one should face a cancer diagnosis alone or lack access to the information and care they need. But for members of 2SLGBTQI+ communities and their loved ones, there can be unique challenges and barriers that make a cancer experience more difficult than it needs to be. The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) acknowledges its responsibility to provide cancer information, support and practical services to 2SLGBTQI+ communities, as well as advocate for healthy public policy and fund research focused on advancing health equity.

Who are 2SLGBTQI+ communities in Canada?

For CCS, 2SLGBTQI+ refers to people who identify as Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or questioning, and intersex. The "+" indicates other identities and experiences that fall outside the dominant heterosexual and cisgender (non-trans) identities (e.g. asexual, demisexual, pansexual).

an English term used in some Indigenous communities across North America encompassing a wide variety of Indigenous concepts of gender and sexual diversity. Two-Spirit people often serve integral and important roles in their communities, such as leaders and healers. There are many understandings of the term Two-Spirit – and this term does not resonate for everyone. Instead, people may identify with a term specific to their nation, as many Indigenous languages have words for gender and sexual diversity traditionally found in their communities. Two-Spirit is a cultural term reserved for those who identify as Indigenous.

a woman who is attracted to women

a person who is attracted to people of the same gender. The word can refer to men or women, although some women prefer “lesbian.”
a person who is attracted to people of more than one gender
an umbrella term referring to people whose gender identities differ from the sex they were assigned at birth. "Trans" can mean transcending beyond, existing between, or crossing over the gender spectrum. It includes, but is not limited to, people who identify as transgender, transsexual, non-binary or gender non-conforming (gender variant or genderqueer).
an umbrella term used and reclaimed by some whose sexual orientations or gender identities fall outside the dominant heterosexual and cisgender identities
a period where a person explores their own sexual or gender identity, reflecting on such things as upbringing, expectations from others and how they see themselves. The person may not be certain if they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans and may be trying to figure out how to identify themselves.
an umbrella term referring to people born with sex characteristics (external or internal sex organs, chromosomes or sex hormones) that fall outside of the strict binary of male or female. Being intersex is a naturally occurring variation in people. Typically, intersex people are assigned one sex, male or female, at birth. Just like everyone else, people who are intersex have a range of gender identities.

CCS has released Advancing Health Equity Through Cancer Information and Support Services: Report on communities that are underserved. The report describes the gaps, barriers and challenges faced by 10 identified underserved communities, including 2SLGBTQI+ communities. It offers insight on how to better engage with and improve supports for these communities who, like all people in Canada, deserve access to cancer care.

Our programs and services

All CCS staff are offered diversity, inclusion, belonging and equity training. This training helps us ensure that our physical spaces like lodges, camps and vehicles, as well as our services over the phone, chat and email, are safe, welcoming and inclusive.

Our cancer information, support and practical programs are for everyone in Canada, but here are ways that they support 2SLGBTQI+ communities in particular.
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Cancer information

Understanding cancer can help ease the anxiety of a diagnosis. Find information on more than 100 cancer types, covering the entire cancer experience. Our cancer information is for all people in Canada and we use inclusive language to provide a written environment where everyone feels welcome.
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Community Services Locator

Our Community Services Locator helps people with cancer and their loved ones find services and programs like support groups, wigs and prosthesis, financial help, places to stay and more. Use the “Services for” filter to find resources and support services for 2SLGBTQI+ communities.
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Cancer Information Helpline

The Cancer Information Helpline provides information and support to people with cancer and their families and friends. Our information specialists are trained on the unique experiences of people from 2SLGBTQI+ communities with respect to healthcare and cancer care. They can answer questions and connect people with resources including those for 2SLGBTQI+ communities.
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Wheels of Hope

If you need to travel across town or across the province to receive cancer treatment, the Wheels of Hope team can help you get there. Wheels of Hope drivers and staff are committed to providing a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment where every person is treated with dignity and respect.
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Lodges have a welcoming, family-like atmosphere. Lodge staff have implemented a statement of understanding and code of conduct to ensure a safe space where people can be their authentic selves. We also attend diversity, inclusion, belonging and equity training workshops which help us understand how to create a safe and inclusive atmosphere.
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Online cancer support community

CancerConnection.ca is a safe online community that provides meaningful connection, information and peer support to people with cancer and their families and friends. Our longstanding commitment to inclusivity has resulted in a warm and inviting space where our members can come together to share as much or as little about themselves including sexual orientation and gender identity.

Helping you quit

The Expand Project is striving to both start and expand conversations around nicotine and tobacco among queer and trans young adults ages 18 to 29. If you are considering quitting smoking and you’re looking for support, the Expand Project can connect you to queer and trans culturally competent quit coaches and nicotine replacement therapies (NRT).
To learn more about other communities that are underserved, explore our health equity work.