You know what they say – when one door closes, another opens.
This has exactly been the case for the Ehrlo Counselling True Colours group, which is a space for LGBTQ2S+ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirit) youth to discuss important issues that matter to them.
Despite COVID-19 closing in-person meetings, virtual sessions have allowed youth from across Saskatchewan to participate. Usually, it would just be youth from the Regina area.
“This way we can have people engage who wouldn’t be able to engage if we had it in person,” explained Sydney Campbell, a clinical consultant at the agency. “It eliminates the transportation barriers, and in some cases, it allows youth who live in communities that don’t have much support for LGBTQ2S+ people to gain access to that support.”
Since the pandemic began, members of True Colours have met regularly online and have hosted various education sessions.
It had been quite the undertaking to get everyone up to speed.
Sydney and Kristie Panchuk, a counsellor, had to make sure youth in Ranch homes were in a quiet environment when joining a meeting.
“We’ve worked really hard to try and reduce those barriers,” Kristie said. “There has been youth engaged on the same device, whether it’s a computer or tablet, so we’ve been trying to make sure we’re hearing everyone’s opinion and work through the details of that.”
Even though it’s all online, a sense of community quickly developed, Sydney said.
Youth ask each other important questions in the chatbox during the video conferences, and some have even taken it upon themselves to mentor those who are younger or newer to the group.
“It’s a really neat opportunity for them,” Sydney said.
Kristie added, “They are relying on each other to answer questions because Sydney and I have identified strongly as allies. We’ve encouraged them to bring their own knowledge because we are in the learning process. It’s really nice to see them answer each other’s questions.”
It’s important these youth have this community, especially during times of great isolation.
“A lot of them have mentioned how hopeful they are to have this community, where they can feel accepted,” Sydney said. “For those who live in places where there isn’t much support for people of the LGBTQ2S+ community, it’s even more important to have this be virtual.”