April 5, 2017 SOY Official Comments
April 6th marks SOY's 19th anniversary, a time to celebrate the hard work, dedication and incredible accomplishments of everyone who has helped shaped SOY as a mainstay of support for the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ youth in Toronto. A huge thank you to the many remarkable staff, mentors, volunteers and clients who have contributed to SOY’s evolution over the last 19 years!
The Supporting Our Youth (SOY) program opened its doors on April 6, 1998 as a community-based intervention to facilitate contact for youth with positive adult role models and for youth seeking peer supports. For 19 years, the program has provided access to basic needs, while facilitating safe spaces for LGBTQ youth to connect and create community.
The history of SOY has evolved from the extraordinary gains gay men and lesbians made between 1969 to the early 2000s: securing legal protection, equity and visibility within mainstream Canadian society. There was an increased awareness of struggles around gender identity and sexual orientation for LGBTQ youth at younger ages but few resources due to major cuts to health, social services, public housing, education and other relevant programs. LGBTQ youth were extremely vulnerable in the face of the homophobia, transphobia and stigma in society.
Over the past 19 years, and since SOY’s inception, much has changed. The notable gains of gay men and lesbians have also expanded to include trans and gender nonconforming communities, and there has been a strong emergence of a “queer” community that has begun transcending traditional gender and sexual identities. However LGBTQ youth still face a number of barriers: LGBTQ2S youth continue to experience discrimination when accessing youth serving organizations, emergency shelters, and housing programs and high rates of homelessness. Needless to say, there is work to be done.
As we look forward towards our 20th anniversary, SOY is in the process of completing an evaluation that has given us an opportunity to better understand the work that we have done - and the work that is needed. We hope that over the next months, our staff, clients and the LGBTQ community will join us as we redefine what it means to cultivate diverse, inclusive and welcoming community, create opportunities and spaces for youth to grow, explore and experience a sense of belonging and celebrate all queer and trans spectrum youth.
This feature was supported by the following informational resources: