Youth centre for GLBTQ youth envisioned

Posted on 1 August 2011

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By Joëlle Pouliot, The Gazette July 30, 2011

People take part in a Gay Pride parade in downtown Seville June 25, 2011.
Photograph by: REUTERS/Javier Diaz

MONTREAL – As the Divers/Cité arts and music festival unfolds in the city, the Montreal Youth Coalition Against Homophobia is cooking up a plan to open a youth centre for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders ages 14 to 25 that would act as a safe and supportive hangout for Gay Village youth.

“The project started out because the Village doesn’t have an area dedicated to youth. Right now, everything offered there is focused on consumption,” said coalition president Bruno Laprade.

“We need a place for the young gay community to meet up without being in a bar or a store, to talk about different subjects and where everyone feels welcome.”

Two organizations already offer services for GLBT youth in Montreal – Projet 10 and Jeunesse Lambda – but they are under-funded and can offer only two evenings of activities per week between them.

The aim of a new youth centre is to double or even triple services and activities for the young GLBT community.

People between 14 and 25 are at a period when they begin to experiment with sexuality and love. Although there are lots of youth clubs on the island of Montreal, they don’t always target the realities faced by GLBT youth.

“When young people walk around the Village they often get approached to work in the sex industry,” Laprade said. “It happens a lot, and there are a lot of recreational drugs going around. We want them to experiment and discover their first love safely.”

He said for some young people, the general perception of the Gay Village stops them from going. “For some, the Gay Village is a welcoming community and a place of liberation, but for others, it’s a ghetto, it’s hypersexual, it’s unsafe.”

The youth centre project is still taking its first steps, however. A year ago, the Forum jeunesse de l’île de Montréal – a consultative body representing more than 500 youth groups – committed to financially supporting projects that promote sexual diversity. But it still needs to vote on whether and how it can support a youth centre.

If it passes, the project could be developed further by September. The Montreal Youth Coalition Against Homophobia would then be on the lookout for a space to rent out, ideally on Ste. Catherine St.

“I think that’s a great project,” said Adam West, 21, a student governor at Concordia University who works at the Divers/Cité festival information booth.

“I don’t think I would necessarily go there because I have a great community of friends at university, but for kids who don’t have a community like that, it’s perfect.

“It’s hard sometimes to have a space for queer people, even in an open city like Montreal.”

Laprade stressed that a place for GLBT youth isn’t just about providing a hangout – it’s about giving them a voice.

“We don’t hear about GLBT youth very much in the community or in the media,” he said. “We hear about them committing suicide, but not about what their life is like, their struggles with finding accommodation, their relationship issues with family, friends and lovers. It’s never said out loud or heard.”

He said although Montreal’s Gay Village is known around the world, it should not attract only older generations, but younger ones as well.

“I just don’t see how people could not or would not support this project,” a confident West said.

jpouliot@montrealgazette.com
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http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Youth+centre+GLBTQ+youth+envisioned/5181678/story.html

Posted in: Canada, LGTB