Saskatchewan·#iamSK

LGBT mentor sharing story of lonely struggle to help youth feel less isolated

Christian Andrews says he felt so unsupported growing up as a member of the LGBT community that it was essentially a “one-man journey.” Now he’s travelling the province to share his story with high school students to make them feel less alone.

Christian Andrews wants to ensure a better future for LGBT youth

Christian Andrews had a lonely struggle as an LGBT teen. Now he's sharing his story to help other young people feel less alone. (Submitted by Christian Andrews)

Christian Andrews says he felt so unsupported growing up as a member of the LGBT community that it was essentially a "one-man journey."

Now he's travelling the province to share his story with high school students to make them feel less alone.

"They feel like they are isolated a lot of the time, and they might see older people or celebrities, but they don't think that they can identify with those people," said Andrews in an interview with CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend.

"So to have somebody that is around there and has come from a place where they didn't have support and is able to do well in life is a really big eye-opener for them, that they can make it through that."

Andrews, a University of Regina education student, has been nominated for CBC Saskatchewan's #iamSK project. He was nominated by a teacher in Churchbridge, Sask., who was inspired by his work raising LGBT awareness.

Christian Andrews (centre) works as a counsellor with Camp fYrefly, which runs a leadership retreat for LGBT youth. (Submitted by Christian Andrews)

Struggle for support

Andrews speaks to the students about some of the challenges he has faced, including his experiences trying to set up a Gay-Straight Alliance club at his high school.  

He said the principal at the time told him there wasn't a need for it.

"Meanwhile I had a lot of students come to me and come out or say that they were questioning themselves," said Andrews.

"It was a really big inner conflict because I was also struggling with the same issues and so were my peers and we had no support whatsoever, from the school or the community."

Andrews turned to the internet for support and guidance. At the time, he clung to the idea that things would get better after he left his home town, and that he would be more free to be himself when he went to university.

Youth shouldn't have to wait

"That I think is the sad part," said Andrews.

"We shouldn't be asking our youth to do that, they shouldn't be asked to hold on, they should be supported where they are in the moment."

He said LGBT students were not the only ones who would benefit from more support in their hometowns, pointing to suicide rates and drop-out rates among students.

Andrews said he often hears from young people who say they are unable to come out because they feel unsupported.

He said he tries to bring support to students by travelling the province and working as a counsellor with Camp fYrefly, which runs a leadership retreat for LGBT youth.

Through his work speaking to high school students, he said young people had told him they had more hope for the future after hearing his story.

"They had tears in their eyes when they were telling me this and that just really struck home for why I started doing this in the first place," said Andrews.

CBC Saskatchewan is embarking on an ambitious storytelling project to mark 2017. #iamSK will share stories of people who are helping lead us today or building our future in Saskatchewan. Are you or someone you know a leader, innovator, newcomer or community builder of our province? Nominate someone or yourself today for #iamSK: Saskatchewan's people, places and faces.

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend

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