As families gather to celebrate the holidays, Spectrum Waterloo Region is reminding the community that not everyone has a caring support system.
Spectrum executive director Scott Williams points out that many 2SLGBTQIA+ people are left feeling isolated this time of year.
“We know from the OutLook Study that 42 per cent of respondents had to move away from their family or friends because of gender identity, and 30 per cent because of their sexual orientation,” Williams said.
“The Children and Youth Planning Table's 2021 Youth Impact Survey found that only 51.2 per cent of respondents with gender identities other than boy or girl felt they received the emotional help and support that they needed from their family.”
It’s an alarming set of statistics that Spectrum works tirelessly to combat, but unfortunately there's still a lot of queerphobia in the community, Williams says.
“In some cases it comes from socialization within a particular religious or cultural group,” he said.
“Studies show that between 25 and 40 per cent of homeless youth identify as 2SLGBTQIA+. Sometimes, these are children and youth who are kicked out of their homes because their families refuse to accept them because of their gender or sexual identity.”
For 2SLGBTQIA+ people in the community that don’t necessarily have a safe space to go this holiday season, Spectrum will be a place to turn to.
On Dec. 25 they’ll be running a secular Celebration of Chosen Family from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.
The event will be run both in-person and virtually to accommodate all comfort levels.
Williams hopes to use this time of year to remind people to be kind.
Being an ally can take many forms, from being a supportive adult to youth who may not have one in their life, to being an active bystander and speaking up against homophobic comments or transphobic jokes.
“I'd remind people that not everyone has loving parents or other biological family members to be with,” he said.
“Whether you are celebrating one of the many holidays that take place at this time of year or not, there can be added stress and sadness for 2SLGBTQIA+ people who are isolated. It's a good time of year for allies to reach out and connect with members of chosen or found families to make sure everyone is safe and has what they need.”
As is the case for everyone in the community, the holidays and new year provide a time to reflect on the year that was.
Williams is happy with what was accomplished by Spectrum but is also looking ahead to tackling more issues going forward.
“We've accomplished some wonderful things, and managed to help many people find community,” he said.
“I'm also thinking about the needs that are not yet being met and all the work that still needs to be done. Spectrum's vision is of an inclusive community where all 2SLGBTQ+ individuals are welcomed, celebrated and supported as their authentic selves. We strive to create programs and events that help participants find a sense of belonging. Belonging is crucial to overall well-being”
To learn more about Spectrum visit ourspectrum.com.