How LGBTQ+ Youth Clubs Can Help and Support Queer Youth

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LGBTQ+ youth at Dr Mz, Caerfyrddin Credit: Laurie Elen Thomas

Laurie Elen Thomas

In January 2021, I created a survey on LGBTQ+ discrimination in schools, which I shared with my peers. The purpose of the survey was to provide proof to teachers that a club with resources supporting LGBTQ+ youth was really needed.

Unfortunately my time as sixth elder ended before the Covid precautions and so it was not possible to hold a physical club. I only had one survey left with 50 responses that would haunt me:

“I was threatened with being beaten”

“They said, ‘You don’t belong in our world. “”

“I have repeatedly advocated and suggested over the years that we as a community have more resources and support for LGBTQ+ youth because every day at school I see the toll that this puts these young children through.”

These voices motivate me. This is what reminds me why I put so much energy into advocating for queer representation.

Hoping to help them, I realized that young LGBTQ+ people in Wales might have part of the answer as they start campaigning for LGBTQ+ youth clubs.

One such defender is 16-year-old Ellis Peares, who as a member of the Youth Senate for Wales campaigned for such support clubs to become more common in schools. According to Peares, school groups in Cardiff allow young people to have their voices heard on issues that matter to them and to plan several types of activities such as making badges for Pride.

These school clubs, which provide opportunities for students to communicate honestly with staff, are popular in more industrial areas and could be useful for opening up discussion.

However, ignorance still has a hold on some schools, creating a need for after-school clubs. In Wales there are clubs in various locations including Cardiff and Caerfyrdd.

Volunteers

The Caerfyrddin LGBTQ+ Youth Club is run by a group of volunteers, including Gwilym Roberts, who has run numerous gay youth groups since 1996.

Gwilym, along with volunteer Aled Gustafson, hosts bi-weekly get-togethers that provide a safe space for all LGBTQ+ and questioning youth under 21.

Club activities range from video games and talks to trips to Cardiff and aerial painting. Gwilym explained that while school groups weren’t a bad idea, an outside group has the ability to reach students who are no longer in school and are much more likely to be led by gay adults.

In his experience, the best gay youth groups are those led by gay men.

“There is something about queer enablers that adds a flavor that is not pathologizing; meaning that he does not see homosexuality as a problem that needs to be solved.

He explains that groups run by well-meaning cis-het people “trying to be nice to gay people” often fail to connect with young LGBTQ+ people.

Having queer people facilitating the creation of safe spaces for gay people creates much-needed local representation. Aled, who has worked with Gwilym since the club was founded in 2019, told me: “I see that this group of young people are so young and know each other so well. I’m excited because even ten years ago I couldn’t have done this.

The club is based at Dr Mz’s Clubhouse, a modern and comfortable space. Club meetings can range from movie nights to hangouts or trips. While visiting there, I had a chat with Becky and her son, Nathaniel, who has been a regular with the group for 2 years.

Support

Becky first discovered the group when she went looking for ways to support her son after he came out to her. Talking to both of them made it clear why these clubs are so necessary.

Nathaniel said: “I can’t say I feel happy and safe at school because I just don’t. I have no friends ! It makes me unhappy to have to go.

Becky explained: “He had people giving him Nazi salutes because they knew they were putting gays in concentration camps. He had people take his legs off, and he was in the air and fell on his spine, almost cracking his neck. All this before he was even 14 years old.

For them, an LGBTQ+-focused club was hugely important because it gave Nathaniel space to be himself freely while also providing Becky with a support system for parents of LGBTQ+ children.

While the kids are having fun, their parents meet up at a local cafe for a friendly chat.

And he’s not the only one finding solace in the club. Jamie, 16, said: “Coming here is an escape. There is hardly any representation that looks like me. Here there are so many. It just reminds me of myself. I feel good here. »

To research

Just like us, a UK-wide charity for LGBTQ+ young people, recently published its research which found that LGBT+ respondents were nearly twice as likely to do whatever they could to avoid go to school.

Although the teens at the club all experienced various forms of physical, sexual and verbal harassment during school hours, there was one alarming commonality in all of their experiences.

Administrative incompetence. A long line of teachers and senior staff who hear but don’t actually listen. Even some of the best educators are subject to the trap of allowing homophobia.

In a study of Stone wall9 out of 10 teachers admitted they had no training to deal with homophobic bullying.

Impact Cardiff’s Dragpact Fundraiser 2022. Photo Laurie Elen Thomas

Fortunately for current and future students, this does not have be a problem. The resources available to teachers and staff are increasing. Both Stone wall and Just like us providing free resources to schools, both staff and students, to help create safer and more understanding school environments.

They also offer a course for those wishing to start a club and training for staff on how to support their students and effectively tackle homophobic and transphobic bullying.

Clubs like Caerfyrddin and Cardiff are brilliant and sorely lacking, however, they should not be seen as the only possible solution to a safe space.

Every student has the right to receive his education in an environment in which he feels safe. To not have to cower in corners, hide from peers who have been fed uninformed hatred.

This security begins with the system itself; it starts with teacher training and not pretending that young children can’t understand queer love.

For those looking to start a club, those online Resources are yours to use. If the obstacle is financial, check what other groups are doing. There are a number of ways to go about it – Caerfyrddin’s group has a small budget as it is attached to a youth project while Impact Cardiff organizes fundraisers and artwork created by its members.

These groups and the resources available prove that we, as a society and as a country, are perfectly capable of change – we just have to be brave enough to take that first step.


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