A popular fundraiser for men's health is taking off within Canada's gay communities, and in doing so, is changing the face of prostate cancer one moustache at a time.
Millions of Canadian men have embraced the benefits of hitting the gym, rolling out the yoga mat and staying active in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but at the core of men's health sits a topic that even for gay men - a community that has a stereotyped propensity for being more in touch with their man junk – is still an uncomfortable one to talk about.
For the last seven years, a group dedicated to the advancement of education and research into prostate cancer and men's health has taken over the month of November, slapped a moustache on it and branded it Movember in an attempt to make the topic more approachable, visible and engaging at the same time.
Men from all walks of life, both gay and straight are asked to shave their faces baby smooth on November 1st of each year and let their ‘staches grow wild; becoming walking talking billboards for the Movember cause and raising money at the same time. Canadians officially entered into the Movember movement in 2006 and last year alone over 119,000 “Mo Bros” raised $22 million for domestic charities.
While 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, nearly 50% of all men will be diagnosed with some form cancer in their lifetime, and given that the disease knows no sexuality it is important that men in the LGBTQ community take note of these statistics and incorporate regular screening into their routines.
The Movember movement in of itself does not have a specific LGBTQ mandate that reaches out to gay men in their communities, but according to Pete Bombaci, the National Director of Movember Canada, it does offer an online platform for any guy who is interested in signing up, joining a team and raising money for a worthy cause that supports men’s health.
“From our perspective,” said Pete Bombaci “we put as much effort behind the gay community as we do the straight community because prostate cancer, or any cancer, doesn’t focus on whether you’re gay or straight and we certainly reach out to people across the country from all different walks of life.”
“The amazing thing about Movember,” echoed Bombaci “are things we hear about every day about people who are inspired to take this campaign and adapt it to whatever makes sense in their household, in the business and in their community ... in fact our gala party last year in Vancouver was hosted by a drag queen who was maybe one of the funniest people who I have ever seen in my entire life.”
The Movember movement has organizing committees in 13 cities across Canada in which men and women (also know as Mo Sistas) from all walks of life and backgrounds are encouraged to take part and help plan and steer the direction of Movember activities in their communities. Those committees fully embrace, accept and encourage participation from the LGBTQ community.
Taking part in Movember is as easy as visiting the organization's web page, creating an account and getting in on the action from the get-go, or for the less facially hair inclined it’s even easier to take part by supporting those around them donning a proud moustache or by donating and spreading the word about the cause.
Numerous LGBTQ organizations across Canada this year have jumped on board to raise money for the Movember cause for a number of reasons, one being the death of outspoken LGBTQ rights advocate and NDP leader Jack Layton who battled with prostate cancer before passing away in August to another undisclosed cancer.
A community of Mo Bros have created a “Movember for Jack” network on the campaign website for interested teams to join and raise money together, already amassing just over $100,000 at the time this article went to print. One of those members, a Montreal resident named Justin Ling had even deeper reasons aside from honouring Layton for getting involved.
“This is a sort of cavalier attitude towards prostate cancer that is far too common,” said Justin Ling “and it's why, ironically, Movember exists, especially in the gay community which has been so torn apart by the AIDS epidemic. We don't tend to think about the other more preventable dangers that lurk.”
“Gay men aren't anymore immune to prostate cancer any more than straight guys,” opined Ling. “If anything, considering we've been plagued by such a terrible disease for so long, we ought to be more vigilant and aware about the other dangers,” he added.
Given that prostate cancer is over 90 percent curable if detected and treated in its earliest stages, regular screening is key in lowering the rates of death in men, yet many still shy away from the topic because of long held fear of the test itself.
Although the somewhat invasive “digital inspection” is still one of the tools used in the screening process for prostate cancer, most men are still unaware that a blood test is now available that prescreens a large percentage of men from even needing the old “finger up the butt.”
If there’s one thing that gay men, and men in general can take away from the Movember movement is the knowledge that with a little vigilance and effort, proper screening for prostate cancer can not only save their lives, but that talking about the issue can help other men learn more about their options and encourage them to get tested as well.
For more information please visit the Movember website at: http://ca.movember.com/