The LGBT YouthLine has been helping Ontario’s youth for 25 years…
By LGBT YouthLine
Do you remember your first Pride? You could have been carefully choosing your outfit for your first Pride parade, community fair or get-together. You were likely a bit anxious and excited – you were readying yourself to join spaces that were finally meant for you. No permission needed. These were your people.
COVID-19 has changed the world, and during a typical Pride Month, many of the 2SLGBTQ+ youth we talk to every month would be donning their rainbow garb, spreading glitter on their cheeks, and getting ready to celebrate with folks who understand who they really are. Searching for feelings of safety and community, these youth were waiting for their Pride – whether that was at a march, a drag show, a Pride prom or a small gathering of friends.
That’s changed this year. Pride celebrations, as we’ve known them, are closed to the public. Like everything else, real-life Pride events are cancelled, and 2SLGBTQ+ youth are paying the price this summer.
Youth are reporting feelings of isolation, cut off in sometimes remote communities that might be accessed only by bush plane. Many had no safe spaces in their daily environment even before COVID, and even those who had a safe space as well as school friends who accepted them, are now finding that their friends are available only virtually, and they may not feel safe contacting them in front of disapproving parents. Having lost the community spaces and groups that allowed them to explore safely and without judgment, they have no one to ask questions and explore their sexuality/gender with.
Black and Indigenous youth face the additional trauma of watching hate crimes rise and nightly news shows filled with stories of police violence against Black and Indigenous people. Without the touchpoints of community in place for many youth, the impact of isolation and loss of community is heightened. Some are feeling unsafe. And all are feeling the lack of delight and anticipation that usually surrounds summertime for our communities.
While Pride started as a protest – and continues to live up to its roots this year – we believe there’s still joy in it, too. We are still here. Pride is still happening. It just may look a little different this year.
When we attended Prides around Ontario last year, we heard from youth who long for a sense of community. And community can and does happen online – it’s often the only community for many youth. At YouthLine, we work to foster peer support spaces, online and offline, that let 2SLGBTQ+ youth ask questions, share joy and excitement, or talk about the issues that affect them. This past year, we heard from 1,200 youth through a needs assessment, who expressed high levels of isolation and a need for more opportunities for peer support, community spaces and safety. They need an outlet and a place to express their feelings and feel joy in their experiences. We’re there to be that outlet.
In our 25 years of operation, we’ve learned that 2SLGBTQ+ youth are resilient. They reach for joy, and they’re bringing back celebration, no matter if the streets remain empty this year. We launched our #Dare2Imagine campaign this June to help them find joy in the minutiae of what being part of our community means, and to imagine a world where they wouldn’t need our services, because being 2SLGBTQ+ would simply just be.
If you want to help us reach more youth across Ontario, visit youthline.ca/pride to find out how you can help. No matter what that looks like for you, we wish you a happy and safe Pride!
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