Frank came to The 519 in 1991 as a youngster. Struggling at the intersections of a conservative faith and his sexual orientation, he yearned for community, love, acceptance, and affirmation.
It was at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Youth Toronto (LGBYT) community-led group that Frank found that space — to be, love, heal, and grow. He affirms that coming to The 519 helped save his life.
“If I hadn’t come to The 519, I would not have been here today. And I bet you, I’m not the only one. The history of this place, and what it has done for so many people…how do you measure that? It’s truly priceless.”
During his time with the group, Frank met Enrico Franchella whom he loved dearly, and lost to HIV/AIDS in 1996. Enrico’s name is engraved at the AIDS memorial behind The 519, continuing to live on in his community, and in Frank’s heart, of course. Frank recalls words from his eulogy for Enrico…
“New journeys and beginnings never have endings. For we are not here to see through each other, but to see each other through.”
Almost 32 years later, Frank is an established, professional artist who proudly lives with cerebral palsy and madness. Embracing his Mi’kmaq heritage, he celebrates his gay identity. Originally a choir vocalist, over the past fifteen years, Frank has distinguished himself as one of Canada’s most prominent power wheelchair choreographers and dancers. He is truly living life authentically and to the fullest.
Now teaching dance to participants of The 519’s 2SLGBTQ+ Older Adults Sunday Drop-In programs, Frank is giving back to his community, in the same space that made a difference to his life. Dance is for everyone, he affirms.
Not just that, like all of us, Frank feels like the journey of learning and inclusion is a lifetime one.
“I’m 49 years old and I’m still learning things. I’m learning about gender identity, pronouns, my biases. That’s what I value most about The 519.”
As Frank prepares to celebrate his 50th birthday next year, he’s looking forward to walking on sunshine, and continuing to be his own beautiful self.
Content warning: This story discusses suicidal feelings, homophobia, HIV and death, ableism, and body image issues.
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