Across the province, child and youth mental health service agencies are doing incredible work to support the LGBT2SQ+ community. Pride Month held in June is to celebrate diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions. It is also a time to honour its history and progress made towards recognizing and protecting the rights of the LGBTQ2S+ communities.
CMHO recognizes that we need to do our part to advocate for appropriate mental health care services for our children and youth who are apart of the LGBTQ2S+ community. We must make sure culturally competent services are available to embrace diverse beliefs, values, sexual orientations, and backgrounds.
Pride month festivities and events may look different this year due to the pandemic. However, it is still important to celebrate the impact LGBTQS2S+ individuals, advocates and allies have made in our communities. Here are a few ways our members are commemorating pride month this year.
Spirit of Pride
Children’s Centre Thunder Bay has taken part in Thunder Pride since its inception in 2011. CEO Diane Walker believed it was especially important to keep the spirit of pride alive this year. As a result, a small ceremony was held at the city’s waterfront centre for employees. In addition, Marinna Read and her husband donated a bench after asking local artist Pia Sharpe to paint it with a rainbow design. It’s a symbol that represents love and unity.
Recognizing GLOW club
GLOW which stands for Gay Lesbian Or Whatever, is an LGBT2SQ+ support group aimed at giving youth an outlet to talk about the issues they face, connect with others and find resources. When GLOW club started at Dufferin Child and Family Services more than 20 years ago, meetings were held on Tuesday nights. The group met on cheap night at the movies so that kids could tell their parents they were at the theatre. “So they’d have an alibi,” said Andrew McCreary, founder of the junior group for children aged 11 to 14. GLOW is one of the few groups exclusively designed for LGBT2SQ+ children and youth in the community of Orangeville.
How has Pride Month Impacted Youth?
We recently did an interview with Rachel and Diya from The New Mentality. They both answered a few questions on coming out, access to support, community, history and much more.
Here’s what they had to say!
What activities have you participated in this month for Pride, and how has that supported your overall mental wellbeing?
Before Covid-19 hit here, I lived in a space where I had an incredible and supportive 2SLGBTQ+ community around me. But with the pandemic, I had to move away to stay with family, and that sense of community is a lot harder to find here. It doesn’t mean I’ve stopped looking though, and with Pride Month, I’ve been trying to find ways to connect with people virtually. Lately, I’ve been having Zoom calls to hang out with other 2SLGBTQ+ youth and have been watching/ reading more 2SLGBTQ+ content online (if you haven’t seen it yet She-Ra is AMAZING!). It definitely doesn’t replace what I used to have in person, but it’s helped me feel less isolated and has given me a small way to celebrate Pride month.
This month I’ve also been engaging in more of the politics of Pride. The history of the 2SLGBTQ+ community is one filled with both struggle and radical compassion. So for me, part of the way I’m participating in Pride this year is learning more about our history and about the BIPOC 2SLGBTQ+ people who have been the leaders of this movement and paved the way for the rights I have today.
The Pride Parade is always the event I look the most forward to since it is the most inspiring and freeing to participate in, however, this year since I can’t celebrate at the Pride Parade, I created a way for me to still fully reap the wellness benefits of Pride. I’ve decided to do a small project every week related to Pride to express my identity and acknowledge myself as a part of my wellness, and these small projects range greatly. One of the small things I decided to do was to come out to a member of my family, while a more lighthearted one was to decorate my room in Pride related items. As well, I have been finding more 2SLGBTQ+ role models online and hearing their experience over a variety of platforms. Since I am not able to leave my house during June because of COVID-19, I have been partaking in online ventures much more, and have found a lot of ways to still experience Pride Month. I have been doing a lot of online research for myself about the history in Canada and India (where I immigrated from) of 2SLGBTQ+ advocates and educating myself on how and to what extent the community has been accepted or denied rights in the past.
I’ve also stayed connected to my friends in the community and had some really great conversations that led me to a very liberating decision. I always kept long hair because people around me told me it made me more “feminine” and was even told with short hair when I was 6 years old that I wouldn’t be allowed in the washroom because I looked like a boy. This technically isn’t tied to my sexuality, but it is tied to my expression of it, and after 17 years of being afraid of not pleasing others and being “too masculine,” I finally chopped off my hair and am now strutting around with a very, very short bob! This small step might not mean a lot to anyone else, but I feel more myself than I have in a long time, and this was part of my growth this Pride Month 🙂
Looking for resources?
Families in Transition is a resource guide created by CTYS for families of transgendered youth
CTYS provided a list of resources and services for LGBTQ2S+ individuals
Rainbow Health Ontario and CMWA Ontario compiled information related to mental health and the LGBTQ2S+ community
Here’s a variety of resources on sexual orientation and gender identity by CHEO
SkyLark has a youth outreach worker (YOW) on-staff to work with LGBTQ2S+ youth ages 12 to 24 and their families.
SickKids has a Transgender Youth Clinic to provide information on medical options and treatment
Check out GLOW, a weekly social youth group that works to build self-esteem, a sense of connection to community, and pride about diverse sexual and gender identities.
Youth Advocating Anti-Homophobia Awareness (YAAHA) is a group for LGBTQ2S+ youth in Scarborough.