Inuvik’s new club for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth had its first meeting on Monday.
The Rainbow Club, which is scheduled to run every Monday from 4:00-6:00 p.m. at the Inuvik Youth Centre, was created to offer much-needed support to the community’s LGBTQ community.
“I really want them to see that there is support in the community and that there’s people that they can talk openly and act openly in front of without fear of judgment,” said Ali McConnell, executive director of the Inuvik Youth Centre.
“I just want it to be a safe space. They deserve a safe space to hang out and have fun.”
The club, which is open to LGBTQ youth as well as community members who support them, held a kick-off dance on Friday night sponsored by the Girls Action Foundation.
More than 30 youth from Inuvik and surrounding communities were in attendance.
One Inuvik youth, who asked not to be identified, said they were eager to attend the club’s weekly meetings.
“I’m looking forward to it, because it’s a great way for people to meet like-minded others outside of school.”
Another said it would be a great way to safely express gay pride in the Northern community. “It’s about time someone made a club like this,” they said.
Danny Jellema, a teacher at East 3 Secondary School, is helping McConnell get the club off the ground and brings with her years of experience working with Rainbow Clubs in other parts of Canada.
“There was always an LGBT club in every school I ever worked in – I was always a part of it – and I came up here and there was nothing. I thought it was odd,” she said.
“I think if you’re in the North you might feel like you’re the only self-identified LGBT kid. It’s not like you’re going to school in downtown Toronto where there is a whole high school just for LGBT kids. I think here you might feel a lot more social isolation.”
McConnell and Jellema set about creating the club after being approached by numerous youth who shared personal struggles with their sexuality.
“Hopefully by giving them an area where they are together and can be social, seeing other people are going through the same experiences, they can connect those links and might feel more comfortable stepping out and having a voice,” McConnell said.
“One of the kids looked at me when I mentioned we were going to do it and her comment was, ‘You mean there’s adults that aren’t going to be mad at me?’”
Jellema said another goal of the club is to give youth the opportunity to get involved with national organizations aimed at LGBTQ youth.
“We want to give them leadership opportunities and opportunities to travel outside of Inuvik to find other LGBT clubs and kids to broaden their scope,” she said.
“It’s a chance for kids to get together and see what’s outside of Inuvik, where the opportunities are.”
“However they see activism, and however they see fighting for their own rights and developing their own voice, I’d like to see that develop out of it,” McConnell added.