Dear Queer Yukon community,
As we wrap up 2023 — and I start my second year as Queer Yukon's Executive Director — I wanted to share with you some of what we've been working on this year.
At the start of the year, we opened up The Cache, our Whitehorse community space, for regular drop-in hours. Four days a week, from 2pm and 5pm, anyone can stop in and browse our library, have a hot beverage, ask questions and get support, use our gender-neutral shower, lockers and laundry facilities, and walk out with gender gear, toiletries or other needed items. On Thursdays, we are open until 7pm with activities including monthly movie nights and crafting meet-ups.
In Dawson, we started hosting monthly community dinners that showcase 2SLGBTQIA+ talents and bring community members together for food and good company in a 2SLGBTQIA+-centred safe space. This fall, our Dawson office moved in with the Dawson City Music Festival, giving us space to open up weekly drop-in hours for Dawsonites as well.
Pride 2023 drew our highest attendance yet, nearly 1,500 attendees across 16 events in Whitehorse, Dawson City and Watson Lake. Over the summer we also saw many of you out and about around the Whitehorse area as we hosted hikes and lake days for our Hot Queer Summer.
In terms of more tangible supports, we distributed close to 250 items of Gender Gear, and provided nearly $40,000 in emergency utility payments to community members facing housing insecurity. At the same time, we upgraded our interfaces to allow more seamless online ordering for folks accessing gender gear from outside Whitehorse, and to protect the privacy of people needing utility payments. We continued to distribute Direct Aid (toiletries, clothing and other basic needs) to 2SLGBTQIA+ Yukoners through our 3 community locations — and we partnered with the Whitehorse period pantry to provide free menstrual products outside our Whitehorse space.
In August, we hired the territory's first 2SLGBTQIA+ Health Navigator! Aude and the health and education team have been hard at work making connections, setting up secure storage for personal health information, and talking to community members about their needs. Look for a full launch of our health navigation service early next year! Meanwhile, in 2023, we also started offering bloodwork and vaccine clinics in a 2SLGBTQIA+ safe space, and we look forward to expanding those services in 2024.
On the advocacy front, we developed three new 2SLGBTQIA+ inclusion workshops in the spring and have given trainings to healthcare professionals, parents, educators, and other members of the public. We’ve also begun offering one-on-one consulting to community partners and service providers to be more inclusive to our community. At the same time, we’re making sure to support projects led by our 2SLBTQIA+ community: we host three peer-led support groups in our Whitehorse space, and provide space and financial support to queer-led events throughout the year.
We already have big plans for 2024! In the next few months, we will be expanding our youth outreach to communities outside Whitehorse, publishing the findings and recommendations from our community-based research into 2SLGBTQIA+ experiences accessing services, launching a full-fledged health navigation service, and creating more space for peer-led support groups.
As a young and growing organization, so much of our work is invisible — a lot of behind-the-scenes planning and researching and trial and error to build the structures and policies that will set us up to work for 2SLGBTQIA+ Yukoners in a long-term way. But we always want to hear from you with ideas, suggestions and feedback! Watch for a new website and more ways to stay connected and involved in 2024. In the meantime, you can always email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or stop in and say hi!
Dear Dr. Hanley,
Since October 7th, we have witnessed in horror the tremendous loss of innocent civilian lives in Israel and Gaza. The vast majority of these deaths are in Gaza and include many children. Thousands more are displaced with little or no essentials for life.
We know that where basic needs and safety are scarce, those at the margins of society — including sexual and gender minorities — suffer disproportionately. As an organization that works to expand access to housing, healthcare and other basic human rights, we are horrified at these attacks on civilian life. We ask that you and the government of Canada call for an immediate and ongoing ceasefire.
In calling for a ceasefire, we join other governments, individuals and organizations including 35+ LGBTQIA+ organizations from Southwest Asia and North Africa, Canada’s Queer Muslim Network and organizations including Trans Health Saskatchewan, LGBT Youthline, Native Youth Sexual Health Network, progressive Jewish organizations in both Israel and Canada, leading feminist, queer and trans scholars, and a broad coalition of Canadian faith, humanitarian, and labour organizations including the Public Service Alliance of Canada which represents Queer Yukon Society workers.
Duane Gastant Aucoin
On behalf of the Board of Directors, Queer Yukon Society
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A month ago, hundreds of Yukoners came out as a community to show our unflinching support of 2SLGBTQIA+ youth and SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity-inclusive) education in schools. Together, we vastly outnumbered and outlasted the “1MillionMarch4Children” protest against SOGI education in Whitehorse, and sent a powerful message of support to 2SLGBTQIA+ youth and their peers across the Territory.
Now, the national movement against queer & trans lives has planned another round of protests on October 21st, 2023. Organizers of the Yukon protest have been relatively quiet since September. The time and location of a local follow-up protest has been kept out of the public eye, likely in hopes that secrecy will prevent supporters of 2SLGBTQIA+ students and educators from once again drowning them out with displays of love and care for our youth.
We may not know when or where the next anti-SOGI protest will pop up, but we maintain our unwavering support for the queer, trans and questioning youth of our community. Youth of every gender and orientation deserve an education that includes them and their experience.
We are alarmed and dismayed by the growing surge of anti-trans and anti-queer organizing in Canada, including calls for a protest against sexual orientation- and gender-inclusive (SOGI) education on September 20th both nationally and here in Whitehorse.
Inclusive educational spaces are vital to the safety and wellbeing of youth of every gender and sexual orientation. Seeing themselves, their friends and their families reflected in the curriculum has been shown to improve youth mental health, drastically reduce suicide risk and improve educational outcomes. This is true for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth, but also for their peers and for every child, teen and young adult who learns that they will be supported no matter who they turn out to be.
In the Yukon, we are lucky to have strong youth leadership and supportive educators creating safe Gender/Sexuality Alliances and Rainbow Rooms across the territory. The Yukon Government has enshrined protections for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth through Bill 304, adopted last year, and the Department of Education affirmed their commitment to inclusive schools with an updated SOGI policy this fall. Nearly 500 of you marched in this year’s Pride parades, with many local businesses and organizations stepping up to sponsor and support the events.
However, we cannot be complacent. Supporting youth requires ongoing action, and we call on our political leadership, local business and nonprofit partners, neighbours, friends and allies to take action now to show support for trans and queer youth and the educational environments they need.
Here’s how you can show up next week:
The Porter Creek Secondary School's Gender and Sexuality Alliance Responds to Protest Against SOGI Policies and Affirms Commitment to Child Rights
The Porter Creek Gender and Sexuality Alliance on September 19, 2023
PCSS Rainbow Room, Whitehorse – The students of Porter Creek Secondary School's Gender and Sexuality Alliance (PCSS GSA), wish to address the upcoming protest scheduled for September 20th by parents opposing Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) policies and curriculum in schools. As students who have been at the forefront of advocating for the rights and well-being of 2SLGBTQIA+ youth, we are deeply concerned about the impact of this protest on our community.
The PCSS GSA was formed in 2019 in response to the urgent need for support and safety for 2SLGBTQIA+ students who felt marginalized and unsafe, both at home and at school. Many of these students had experienced discrimination, bullying, and even violence, leaving them feeling dehumanized. In response, we established the Yukon Territory's first Rainbow Room, recognizing that a safe and inclusive environment is essential for effective learning.
Our journey for equal rights began when we advocated for the modernization and full implementation of the Department of Education's Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity policy. The completion of phase 1 of this policy update in the 2023/24 school year marked a significant milestone in ensuring safer and more inclusive schools for all students.
We also joined forces with the F.H. Collins Secondary School GSA to successfully petition the territorial government to ban conversion therapy, a practice we view as torture. Bill No. 9, The Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Protection Act, was passed unanimously in 2020.
Our commitment to promoting the importance of respecting youth's unique identities and ensuring their safety in schools led us to propose Bill No. 304, which was passed into law in 2022. This landmark legislation mandates that 2SLGBTQIA+ youth in Yukon schools are supported with safe spaces, activities and organizations, marking a pivotal change for students like us.
The AIDS crisis and the lost generation it tragically claimed within the 2SLGBTQIA+ community underscore the critical importance of SOGI inclusion in policy and curriculum in schools. This devastating chapter in history serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of discrimination, stigmatization, and a lack of education around sexual health. Including SOGI topics in education not only honors the memory of those lost but also ensures that future generations have access to comprehensive, inclusive knowledge that can prevent further suffering and discrimination. Parents who protest SOGI education often unknowingly perpetuate the same barriers to understanding and empathy that contributed to the AIDS crisis, emphasizing the need for compassionate and informed dialogue to promote a more inclusive and accepting society.
In addition to the pressing issues surrounding SOGI policies and curriculum, it's essential to acknowledge the alarming suicide rates among marginalized youth, particularly 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals. Studies have shown that these young people face a significantly higher risk of suicidal ideation and attempts due to the discrimination, bullying, and lack of acceptance they often encounter. Addressing these disparities in mental health and well-being is an integral part of our mission to create safer and more inclusive schools for all students. We believe that promoting understanding, empathy, and support for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth is not just a matter of policy but a matter of life and death.
We invite our local leaders in politics, religion, and other organizations to speak out against intolerance and ensure that our hard-won protections continue to save the lives of rainbow youth.
In response to the protest, the PCSS GSA will attend Child Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA) Training at the invitation of Yukon' Child and Youth Advocate Office (YCAO) and Communities Building Youth Futures (CBYF) Yukon. We will work with government, First Nations, and private organizations to ensure that children's perspectives are included in policymaking, aligning with the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which was ratified by the Government of Canada in 1991. The CRC emphasizes the rights of all children to be treated without discrimination and to receive an education that promotes tolerance, respect for diversity, and human rights.
We want to express our gratitude to our community members and allies for their unwavering support. Your presence today is a testament to the importance of standing up against adversity and discrimination. We thank Queer Yukon for its support of our group and the Two-Spirit, Trans, and Queer community at large.
We also extend our appreciation to those who have visited and supported the Rainbow Room, the PCSS Administration and staff for their ongoing support, educators from around the territory, and the Department of Education for increasing its focus on SOGI issues.
As youth leaders, we are aware of the growing polarization in the national dialogue surrounding 2SLGBTQIA+ rights. We call on all of you to rise up and speak out because, as we know, lives are at stake. We are committed to drowning out ignorance and hate with knowledge and understanding.
To those who are planning to protest against SOGI policies, we know that change can be hard. We've been in a place where it felt like the world was against us. But we found strength in each other, in our GSA, and in our shared belief that everyone deserves safety and acceptance. We transformed our own lives by advocating for change in our schools and our territory. Our journey wasn't easy, but it proved that coming together, fostering understanding, and embracing diversity can create positive change. Our story is a testament to the power of love, acceptance, and unity.
We want you to know that what we're advocating for is not a threat, but an opportunity for growth and progress. We're here to say that, from our perspective, the policies we're championing are the right path. They're the path to safer, more inclusive schools where every child can thrive without fear. We invite you to reconsider and join us in creating a brighter future for all children. Let's prove that love and acceptance can triumph over fear and prejudice.
Silence = Death
Students of the PCSS GSA
About queer yukon society
Queer Yukon Society supports, promotes, and organizes events for the LGBTQ2S+ community and our allies in Whitehorse, Yukon. Officially incorporated in 2018, Queer Yukon has been organizing Yukon Pride since 2013, as well as many other events to bring together LGBTQ2S+ and allied Yukoners to build a strong and vibrant community.