New space for LGBTQ youth in Tignish to 'be themselves'
'I want to be able to help people through the same type of stuff that I went through by myself'
For a couple of hours each month LGBTQ youth in Tignish, P.E.I., will be able to come together for a new peer support program, starting this fall.
The program is being offered by the P.E.I. Queer Youth Collective, in partnership with PEERS Alliance.
All we need to do is open up a space and, you know, open up our arms.— Alana Leard
Finding spaces where LGBTQ youth feel able to express themselves can be challenging said Alana Leard, a local youth worker and volunteer with the collective.
"The drop-in is there to create a space for people to be able to come in and be themselves, feel safe," she said.
A need for increased support
Youth will have the option of taking part in a variety of activities during the drop-ins including tutorials on how to apply drag makeup and Pride-related crafts.
As of now, the closest available peer support program is located in Summerside.
Leard said youth in Tignish are known to make the hour-long car trip to access the Summerside program.
"We just know that through talks with youth workers in the schools that there has been a lot of youth looking for some type of resource, some type of support around queer issues and coming out and finding themselves," Leard said.
At least 20 youth from the area have expressed interest in the program so far, she said.
'It's okay to be you'
Leard moved to the Tignish area about four years ago and said homophobia continues to be an issue LGBTQ youth face in the community.
"I hope that with doing this people — even if they are going to end up moving away — will explore themselves a little more, that they'll feel comfortable coming back because I know a lot of people who just won't come back," she said.
"That's just what happens when there's no support and nobody there to say, 'Yes, it's okay to be you.'"
As a member of the LGBTQ community, Leard said, she understands how crucial community support is.
"I want to be able to help people through the same type of stuff that I went through by myself," she said.
"All we need to do is open up a space and, you know, open up our arms," Leard said.
The drop-in support group will meet at the Tignish Employment Resource Centre beginning in September and is expected to take place every third Monday from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m.
The peer support program will also be available in Charlottetown and Summerside.
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With files from Jessica Doria-Brown