Supporting Our Youth (SOY) is an innovative community development program of Sherbourne Health Centre. SOY works to support the health and wellbeing of all queer and trans spectrum youth by running groups, programs and events and by providing one-on-one support for queer, trans and questioning youth who are 29 years old and under.
SOY works within an anti-oppression framework to:
At SOY, we use queer and trans spectrum as broadly and inclusive as possible. Sometime we also use LGBTQ because people are mostly pretty familiar with that acronym (and know that it includes more than just the four letters!) Finding the right language to describe our identities, experiences and communities is a tough task. And that’s okay. Words can’t capture our beautiful and complicated identities. Often our sexuality and genders are journeys at once comfortingly universal and painfully unique.
At SOY, we strive to celebrate all folks who feel like they belong with the spectrum, including but definitely not limited too lesbian, gay, bisexual, fluid, omnisexual, pansexual, two-spirit, intersex, asexual, trans, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, queer and/or questioning.
Since 1998, SOY has worked to improve the quality of life for queer and trans spectrum youth by nurturing a sense of identity, community and belonging.
The idea for a community-based program involving LGB youth and adults first came of out of a 1996 provincial conference on the needs of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth. After the conference, the Toronto Coalition for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual youth, with a grant from the AIDS Bureau at the Ministry of Heath, consulted with queer community members through a 6-month study. The study found that there was a division between queer and trans youth and adults that meant youth felt alienated from the overall queer and trans community at a time in their lives when they felt most vulnerable and isolated.
In 1998, the Coalition received a 3-year grant from the Trillium Foundation to run a community development project run at Central Toronto Youth Services. The project was designed to create opportunities for queer and trans spectrum youth in the areas such as arts and culture, employment, housing, mentoring and sports and recreation. Still funded by Trillium, SOY continued to run at CTYS until 2003.
For the first 10 years of SOY, the program was run by an advisory committee made up of volunteers from the Coalition. The committee provided guidance and direction, practical support, fundraised and helped hire staff for a growing number of initiatives.
In 2004, SOY became a program of Sherbourne Health Centre.
Today, SOY runs more than 12 groups, various annual events and a dynamic mentoring program. SOY staff and volunteers have won many different awards and SOY has been supported by many different funders and donors. Over 250 youth continue to access support at SOY every week.
Thank you to all of our supporters and partners!