Express is a weekly drop-in group where newcomer and immigrant queer and trans youth from across the globe gather, share ideas and have fun. Express also provides direct support to youth to assist with immigration and refugee claims.
Who: young people between 16 and 29 years old who are immigrants, newcomers, refugees, refugee claimants, or non-status in Canada who also identify as part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) community. Most of the participants are young people coming from countries and/or cultures where it's not safe, legal or easy to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and/or queer (LGBTQ).
When: Tuesdays, 6:30-8:30pm
- Weekly meetings: during the meeting, we are able to make new friends, enjoy a light dinner, find out information and resources, and have a fun time. Dinner and tokens provided. Child-friendly, Languages spoken: English, Spanish, Urdu
- Getting support around your refugee claim: Many of the youth participating in EXPRESS are refugee claimants on the basis of their sexual orientation. The project provides significant direct support to these youth in this process as well as the personal and emotional support they receive at the weekly meetings.
- Getting connected to Toronto’s LGBTQ+ communities: You will find a lot of good information and links to make new friends, find out about other groups in Toronto, and learn more about LGBTQ+ communities.
- Finding other LGBTQ+ youth positive programs and services in Toronto: You will get connect to some other cool programs out there such as mentoring, arts and media, sports, social support, youth of color projects, and much more.
- Events, projects and activities! Throughout the year, we run different activities (movie nights, field trips) that you are welcome to participate in. We also do partnerships with other organizations where you can do fun things like ski trips, canoeing and lots more.
- Meet for one-on-one support! Sometimes you may want to just meet for a one-on-one meeting and talk about what is going on in your life and get some answers. You are always welcome to contact Aamer and find a time to meet that works for you.
- Anything else that you need. If we don’t have the answer, we will try to connect you to someone who does.
What Express youth say
“I’ve made friends and been invited to activities outside the group. All of this has made me feel less lonely and more connected. I look forward to the group every Tuesday.”
“I went through difficult moments and the Express group gave me support I needed to stay strong”
“I really enjoy coming to this group; it’s like home away from home”
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT
Thank you to the Toronto Pearson International Airport and Propeller Project for its support of SOY Express.
About the Facilitators
Aamer Esmail is the Community Engagement Coordinator at SOY and Sherbourne Health Centre, and he coordinates the Express program. His experience includes working in partnership with several LGBTQ+ newcomer programs across Toronto as well as programs that support Queer Muslims and Queer South Asians. He has been connected to Express since 2003 when he first joined it as a participant.
Olimpia Boido is a community worker who is passionate about intercultural relations for equity. Using this angle, she has been working with a number of communities, including newcomer queer communities and newcomer women survivors of violence, at the grassroots and structural levels. Olimpia has been involved in Express since 2009.