SaskQTY’s SPACE for Queer and Trans Youth

0
1407

2SLGBTQ Regina’s Hub for Empowerment

Take a short ride on the number four bus towards Walsh Acres from the university, and you’ll soon end up at the doors of SPACE (Saskatchewan Queer and Trans Youth. Across from Excalipurr Cafe, the building sports a wide Pride flag in front of the window and opens up to a lounge full of bean-bag chairs, a long table, board and video games, and a bathroom stocked with free menstrual products and safe needle disposal. The first thing I was asked when I came in for my interview with staff was: would I like anything to eat or drink? There was a kitchen in the back full of juice boxes, sodas, packaged ramen and various other snacks that I could help myself to. In short, I felt immediately welcomed, and could tell steps were taken to make me feel that way.

I was at SPACE that day to interview staff member Nate Pelletier-Littletent and program director Raphaële Frigon about the operation, purpose, and benefits of SPACE as a recent addition to Regina’s 2SLGBTQ+ network. Frigon, originally an artist and queer and trans activist in Montreal, now oversees SPACE along with co-director Emmy Rittenburg. Pelletier-Littletent is a Grade 12 student and works with the programming and day-to-day socializing that happens at SPACE. As part of his job, Nate is involved in planning the many that SPACE hosts every week, and was the first staff member I was directed to as someone knowledgeable about what SPACE had to offer the community. Frigon’s knowledge of the broader purpose of SPACE and its history helped me fill in the fine details.

SPACE is the physical location associated with the SaskQTY network, which is itself a program of UR Pride. While the Pride centre serves as an on-campus resource, the SaskQTY network, officially launched on April, 25 2019 aims to offer resources to a wider community. It offers SPACE as a “community hub” (according to UR Pride’s press release) for the SASKQTY network as well as all 2SLGBTQ+ people and programs in Regina. “This project represents an investment of $218,000 in the community from Canada Service Corps [in] support,” the press release reads.

As for why UR Pride embraced such an ambitious undertaking, Frigon cited a sincerely held belief in the power of community for 2SLGBTQ+ empowerment.

“SPACE foster[s] community and space for young 2SLGBTQ people to learn about making changes in their communities,” she said of its primary purpose. Having such a “home base” for SaskQTY fights isolation, she continued, and puts somewhere in place from which to plan meetings, meet new people, and just hang out like we were doing at that moment.

“Part of the work [of queer and trans activism] is having a space where we don’t need to explain ourselves to cis and straight people.”

Nate’s positive experiences with his job at SPACE seem to be a testament to this purpose in action. His day, he tells me, consists mostly of chatting with people who came to SPACE’s “drop-in hours,” starting at 4:00 every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday until 8:00 (7:00 on Thursdays). This drop-in, he said, is intended for everyone of all ages and designed to be relaxed and welcoming. People who come to SPACE may simply be looking for a safe place to spend their time, or an open door away from home. “There are planned things [during some drop-in hours], but also just talking days,” he explained. Pelletier-Littletent estimated that the age range of youth they saw drop in was on average 12-16 year, with a lot of variation. As for how these youth came to know about SPACE, he suspected it was mostly by word of mouth. This in itself illustrates how needed SPACE is – resources for queer and trans youth are scarce, and a new place to find them is being immediately utilized. As Frigon said to me about planning SPACE events, “build it and they will come.”

SPACE is Pelletier-Littletent’s first job – what he agreed is a great first experience in the working world – which he says has given him skills in time management and project planning, and sets him up with great experience if he ever wished to work with 2SLGBTQ organizations in the future. Mainly, the position helped him personally become more comfortable talking and opening up to new people. He also says he has felt more comfortable with himself since his hire.

“[SPACE is] a good place to meet people who are kind and unique,” he said. Nate didn’t know that SPACE existed before he was hired, but once he realized it was there, he quickly became an advocate of its benefits. “It’s just a really cool place. I would love for more people to check it out.”

For university students who haven’t seen SPACE, or been to many of its programs, you are in luck: according to Nate, SPACE will soon be launching a new youth group on Wednesdays from 5:00 to 7:00 called “Group Z,” as a result of sizable age gaps in the kinds of people they see come in. The age range of Group Z is 16-21, capturing late high school and early university year students. For those older than this range, there are still plenty of events at SPACE well-attended by the community at large. These have included zine-making workshops, cross-stitching nights, origami, movie nights, Halloween parties in both fall and July, and Dungeons & Dragons nights. Pelletier-Littletent said that these are all ideas that have been naturally pitched in regular conversation – things that the community wants. In keeping with this spirit, any community member is also welcome to pitch an idea for an event to SPACE.

After the blow taken by many of us from a deeply concerning meeting at the Regina School Board, SPACE is offering safety and community that can be life-saving. Frigon said that the easiest way to support this much-needed place for queer and trans youth is to simply come and see it. She also encourages students to go to the UR Pride website and be aware of its other programs, such as the Trans Resilience group (on campus) and Monarch Mental Health, a free drop-in clinic for 2SLGBTQ youth and their loved ones.

“This space is for you. it is yours to use. So come on down!”

Comments are closed.