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Category Archives: Youth Okanagan

Queer & Quarantined

How the COVID – 19 Pandemic and Self-isolation is Affecting Queer People

The COVID-19 pandemic and the personal responsibility of self-isolation are likely some of the most difficult situations that we will experience in our lifetimes. The pandemic also adds another layer of stress and challenges to those who are historically disenfranchised, such as indigenous peoples, those with low incomes, and of course, queer people. 

I decided to speak with some LGBTQ2+ community members to see how the pandemic was affecting them. This project is intended to show how we are united against a common threat and are not alone in our struggles.

I first spoke with Raymond Koehler, human rights advocate and coordinator for the Senior Gay Men’ group for Kelowna. Raymond has over 30 years of experience as a community frontline health care support worker, but now, “as a 70-year-old cancer survivor with diabetes and a traumatic brain injury,” he has been forced to self-isolate, as he is extremely susceptible to COVID-19. 

Raymond remarks that his “life experience has led [him] to believe that one of the worst possible outcomes in life would be to be left with the feeling of being alone.” In [his] case, “although only a very few of his family contacts remain in place and are great distances away, [he] has been ‘gifted’ with the love and support of longtime companion, husband, and full-time caregiver, Manuel.”

He acknowledges that many queer people do not have this privilege, and is grateful for the blessings he has been given in life. Manuel manages all necessary errands, including a monthly trip to the Central Okanagan Community Food Bank, and the pair have been stoutly supported by their medical team throughout this stressful time. 

Raymond still continues to act as a spokesperson for the Senior Gay Men and other community-based programs through computer and telephone. He highlights how important these community relationships are to him.

This is a common theme amongst queer people, many whom are struggling to cope without having ‘regular’ community interactions. However, Raymond is confident that “we will find ways to ‘carry on’ with a gratitude attitude,” and sends digital hugs, solidarity, and pride!

This article was written by James Sieben, the Youth LGBTQPOC2+ Okanagan contributor for Kelowna.LGBT

YO – Gender Stereotyping is F#*ked

What I’ve Noticed About Gender

For trans people, ‘passing’ is a privilege that not everyone is afforded. If someone doesn’t pass as the gender they identify as, they can be faced with discrimination, denial of services, harassment, and assault.

I came out as trans this past summer, and am currently in an interesting stage of my transition where I usually am able to pass as a man, but there are still very occasional instances where I don’t.

When I pass as a man, people are surprised when I tell them that I work as a nanny, and some even say, “No, but what do you really do?” I originally was taken aback by this shocked reaction, as this was just considered typical when I was presenting as female. Now, I am sadly starting to expect disbelief and even resistance from these statements. However, familiarity of this sort can lead to de-sensitivity and in turn, being less willing to act, which terrifies me.

However, the most significant thing I’ve observed about gender since I’ve come out is the toxicity of misogyny.  I have noticed that people are kinder and more respectful when I pass as male, versus when I don’t pass as well, or when I was presenting more feminine before I came out. People greet me openly and seem more willing to listen to what I have to say. In contrast, the more friendly receptions I received while still presenting as female consisted of older men calling me ‘sweetheart,’ ‘dear,’ or ‘honey.’

I obviously knew that misogyny was extremely prevalent and harmful before I came out, being directly affected by it when I was viewed by others as a girl. However, experiencing the profound differences in the way I’m treated firsthand is almost beyond belief, and I am beyond disgusted and shocked by how extensive it truly is.

Trans men and those trans enby people who present as more masculine have a unique perspective on gender and misogyny. Many of us have experienced gender-based discrimination in relation to femininity before coming out, but now have a certain level of male privilege that comes with passing.

Therefore, it is so important that us transmasc folx use our newfound male privilege to speak up for those who aren’t given the same platform, listen and integrate the perspectives of all women, and call out chauvinistic attitudes to dismantle the patriarchy and ideals of toxic masculinity for everyone.

Written by James Seiben, a Youth Okanagan contributor for Kelowna.LGBT

YO – LGBTQPOC2+ Youth in Sports

A personal story by our Youth Okanagan contributor, James Sieben

Involvement in sports is one of the biggest parts of my identity. However, when I came out as trans this summer, I risked losing that part of myself.

I play volleyball and ultimate frisbee and have competed at the National level in both sports. I was a pretty solid female player who had a hopeful career in front of her.

Then, I came out as a man.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret coming out at all. I probably wouldn’t be alive if I hadn’t. That being said, the sports world is very difficult to navigate as a queer person who doesn’t fit into ‘typical’ binary expectations of gender, and it can be quite unforgiving.

Once I started testosterone hormone replacement therapy, I started to match up against my cis male counterparts. I found I was rarely able to keep up with them, and felt I had lost all the progress I worked so hard to achieve. I had established myself as one of the better female players, but now as a man, I was at the bottom of the proverbial totem pole.

Most cis men have the upper hand in sports due to testosterone, muscle mass, bone density…. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Pair this with the very binary-centered sports culture, and you get a twiggy trans guy being constantly misgendered and surpassed by other men (and women, too).

To be quite frank, I cried a lot and thought about quitting almost every day. But then I thought about who I would be without ultimate (and sports in general), and I didn’t like what I saw. The truth is, I have been involved in sports from the time I could walk. Sports have become as much a part of my identity as my being a trans man is. If I wasn’t involved with sports, I don’t think I would be me, like I was still in the closet.

I have started training harder to get myself up to a level where I can compete against cis guys, and I have begun being a lot nicer to myself. Whenever I get frustrated, I try to remember that most of the guys have had upwards of fifteen years to train with the advantages of testosterone and I’ve had just about four months.

I’ve also used my position on the board of directors for the Kelowna Ultimate Players Society to design a policy that seeks to acknowledge the exclusive culture of sports, particularly for those with diverse gender identities, and to promote respect and inclusivity for all players.

If you want to read the full policy, check it out on the Kelowna Ultimate website: https://kelownaultimate.com/inclusivity and if you want to give ultimate a try, come on out to one of our many events: https://kelownaultimate.com/leagues!

Etcetera is hiring a new Facilitator

Etcetera Facilitator

Competition Number 1B05-2020-009

The Bridge is recruiting for an Etcetera group facilitator.  The position is responsible for developing community-based group support activities with youth, age 11 to 18, who identify as LGBTQ2S+.  The incumbent works closely with youth, health and social service organizations to develop activities that address the needs of youth.

Full posting available via – https://www.indeedjobs.com/the-bridge-youth–family-services/jobs/df6d169bcc9377bc89d5