Saskatoon

How to Qope: OUTSaskatoon urges youth to choose art

Ben Lindsay and Tiffany Strachan bring experience and authenticity to a new program at OUTSaskatoon that uses art as a coping mechanism for LGBTQ youth.

New program helps LGBTQ youth deal with addictions

Ben Lindsay (L) and Tiffany Strachan (R) act as facilitators for a new program at OUTSaskatoon that uses art as a coping mechanism, and an alternative to drugs and alcohol. (CBC)

Ben Lindsay gets it.

Growing up queer, Lindsay found themselves without stable housing, having to "couch surf" with other members of the LGBTQ community.

We talk about homophobia and transphobia a lot in our community but when you think about that as a person and it gets internalized, you know that's a lot to deal.- Tiffany Strachan

It exposed Lindsay to late night parties, drinking and drugs.

"That wasn't necessarily my intention when I was young but that is the environment I ended up in and I think that's the environment that a lot of folks end up in."

Lindsay and Tiffany Strachan bring that lived experience and authenticity to a new program at OUTSaskatoon that uses art as a coping mechanism for LGBTQ youth. They teach young people to choose art, instead of turning to drugs and alcohol.   

"Our community had a deep rooted, history in this topic of substance use," said Lindsay. "Folks went to clubs or bars as a safe place to go to."

"We talk about homophobia and transphobia a lot in our community but when you think about that as a person and it gets internalized, you know that's a lot to deal with," Stachan said. "Sometimes substances can help us cope with that."

Express, not repress 

The program they've started is called Qope. The idea is to channel the emotions that some youth try to numb with drugs and alcohol into art.

"We've picked some pretty relevant art areas," said Strachan.

"We are doing spoken word and poetry … this week we are looking at tattooing, like how you would draw the tattoo art, that kind of stuff, and then next week we are going to be looking at traditional arts, Indigenous traditional art." 

So far, the two believe the program is working. Young people are showing up, telling their stories and sharing their feelings through art.

"I think because we listen to them. You know Ben and I have heard these conversations from the youth before of like I just want to talk about it. And so we've just made a space for that," said Strachan.

with files from Saskatoon Morning