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Celebrating Canada's 2SLGBTQI+ Communities

Youth In Profile: Alexandre E. Belnavis

Meet the trans artist who is giving back to the community that has always supported him…

By Courtney Hardwick
Above picture (L-R): Julien Johnson, Manon Massé and Alexandre Belnavis at the 2018 Gala des prix Leviers brought to you by ROCAJQ

Born and raised in Montreal, 21-year-old Alexandre E. Belnavis is an Afro-Latinx, trans artist and activist who is already making a mark on the Montreal LGBTQ+ community. As the queer and trans outreach coordinator at AIDS Community Care Montreal (ACCM), he’s working to eliminate transphobia from the organization. He’s also a board member at Project 10, an organization that works to promote the personal, social, sexual and mental well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, intersex and questioning (2LGBTQ+) youth. In his spare time, he’s probably re-watching Euphoria, and looking for ways to use art to communicate his own struggles and help other LGBTQ+ youth in the process.

How did you get involved with Project 10?
After the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016, I wanted to volunteer or work at an LGBTQ+ organization, and I found out Project 10 had a summer camp. I was 17 at the time, and going to P10 as a participant was the first time I had the chance to be in a space around other queer folks. I was someone who was very isolated socially, and P10 really helped me break that feeling of isolation. They helped me move out of a toxic home situation and go through the process of changing my name, and they also provided my first binders for free. It was a safe space I really needed when I was that age and the more time I spent there, the more I started giving back, and now I’m a regular volunteer.

What is your role with P10 now?
Before COVID-19, I was going in one or two times a week to help out with little things like organizing clothing swaps, cooking, and just being there to talk to younger participants about whatever they wanted. I’ve also been on the board since 2017 and I get to help make big decisions for the direction of the organization.

How important was it for you to have the opportunity to spend time with other queer and trans people?
Before, I had never been in a space where my pronouns were respected and my identity was respected. Just being around other people who know what you’re going through and don’t treat you like the odd one because of it, it really helped me be a lot more confident in my trans identity. And my confidence has helped a lot of other trans folks around me because often, in my life, I have been the first trans person people knew. Without P10, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to also help others.

What is one of your proudest moments so far?
One of my biggest accomplishments so far was when my colleagues at P10 nominated me for an award for all the work I’ve done for the organization. It was incredible to feel appreciated and know that my efforts are really helping people. It made me feel confident that I’m headed in the right direction, and I want to continue giving back to the Montreal LGBTQ+ community as much as I can.

Do you have any role models?
Troye Sivan was my safe space as a kid. He had a YouTube channel and I was 13 at the time when I first started watching him. He was a queer man who was exploring what it means to be queer and trying to be confident in that. Seeing someone else going through the same things, even though I didn’t know at the time what I was going through, that really helped me.

What are some of your plans for the future?
I’m an artist and I hope to have a career in art and theatre. I love art, acting and music, and it has been such a big part of my life since I was a kid. I would like to combine my activism with my art and share my life experiences through visual art and writing.

COURTNEY HARDWICK is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Her work has appeared online at AmongMen, Complex Canada, Elle Canada and TheBolde.

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