The Queer Yukon Society is launching a youth council to provide feedback on Whitehorse programming.
“We’re really hoping a lot of folks come out and help us dream and plan in these sessions,” said Annie/Hakim Therrien Boulos, Queer Yukon Coordinator.
The Queer & Trans Young Adult Council is open to youth living in Whitehorse aged 19 to 25 who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, queer, intersex, asexual and/or two-spirit.
Applications are open now and close on Sept. 10. Twelve applicants will be selected and invited to six brainstorming sessions in the fall.
The council will represent Queer Yukon’s first initiative working directly with youth, Therrien Boulos explained in an Aug. 19 interview.
“We’re still quite a new organization and we do have some contacts with youth … but we also know that there are many more queer youth out there who we would love to get to know,” Therrien Boulos said. “We would love to be able to offer them services that they want to see.”
That might include support finding employment, housing or health care, they continued. Conversations will also broach the possibility of a pride centre or dedicated gathering space.
“We are definitely hoping to have in-person programming and a space in which to meet,” Therrien Boulos said. “So, we’ll be dreaming up what that space might look like, and where it might be, and what would make it feel like a welcoming space.”
Creating that safe space to connect and find support is invaluable for queer youth, they explained.
“(Youth programming) is so important. It’s important for all youth to have spaces that are safe for them, where they are valued and taught and cared for,” Therrien Boulos said.
While all youth need structures of support, it’s particularly true for queer youth.
“Queer youth are at risk – they’re often facing barriers, conversations and internal dialogues that straight, cisgendered or non-queer-identifying youth aren’t facing. So, it’s really important for folks who are marginalized in any way … to know that they have community by their side.”
In the Yukon it’s particularly important, as there are less obvious routes to accessing services and community than in larger centres.
“For myself, having moved from a city, it is definitely harder to find community here and harder to find places where queer folks are,” Therrien Boulos said.
“There’s a long way to go up here – but there’s also a lot of people who are doing really incredible work … and doing their best to provide those services.”
Selected council members will receive an honorarium for each session attended, as well as a meal and transportation or bus tickets.
The six sessions will be guided by two Queer Yukon staff members, but the council itself will guide the structure and details of each meeting.
A community agreement will also be established to protect the identity of those in attendance and create a safe space for open conversation.
Contact Gabrielle Plonka at firstname.lastname@example.org