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International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia  

Reaffirming Our Commitment to the 2SLGBTQAI+ Youth at Covenant House Vancouver 

The world has made progress on 2SLGBTQAI+ rights – but there’s still a long way to go, especially for young people.  

This is why May 17th is so close to our hearts, here at Covenant House Vancouver. The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia celebrates and advocates for the rights and acceptance of the 2SLGBTQAI+ community worldwide.  

This year’s theme of “No one left behind: equality, freedom, and justice for all” especially resonates with us, as well. We have always firmly believed that all youth deserve unconditional love and absolute respect, and 2SLGBTQAI+ youth are no exception. Our commitment to creating an inclusive, safe, and supportive environment for all youth, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression is unwavering, as is our dedication to advocating for 2SLGBTQAI+ rights. 

As Kadee (she/her), Lead Spiritual Care Practitioner at Covenant House Vancouver puts it: “For youth to have the experience of ‘I am loved, I am welcomed, I’m respected, not in spite of who I am, but knowing exactly who I am,’ is something that they take from Covenant House, that serves them for the rest of their lives. And then, they advocate to make that true for others.” 

A Day to Celebrate Inclusion and Push for Progress 
The UN established the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia in 2004, to bring attention to the discrimination and violence experienced by Two Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and non-binary people.  

The choice of May 17 isn’t arbitrary: it commemorates the World Health Organization’s decision, on this day in 1990, to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. While some time has passed since then, and society has made progress, it’s not so long ago, either – and there is still a long road ahead to eliminate prejudice and promote true equality.  

Discrimination and stigma continue to cause inequality and the marginalization of 2SLGBTQAI+ people. Some countries still criminalize consensual same-sex relationships, for instance, leaving 2SLGBTQAI+ people vulnerable to human-rights violations, limiting their access to health services, and making them more vulnerable in the face of humanitarian crises.  

Here are a few Canadian statistics that illuminate the issue closer to home: 

A Hard Truth About 2SLGBTQAI+ Youth Homelessness  
As the data above illustrates, 2SLGBTQAI+ youth are disproportionately represented among homeless youth. In our years of working with these young people, we see that the vast majority end up on the street because they’ve been rejected by their families and communities.  

Life on the street is incredibly challenging for all young people, but 2SLGBTQAI+ youth have unique needs, and are at an increased risk for exploitation and violence when they are precariously housed. So, the effects of this rejection are compounded by discrimination, and a lack of acceptance in other areas of life. This in turn makes 2SLGBTQAI+ youth more vulnerable to mental health issues such as depression, as well as violence, exploitation and inadequate access to essential services.  

At Covenant House Vancouver, we understand these challenges and are dedicated to offering a space where 2SLGBTQAI+ youth can find the support and acceptance they deserve. And the effects can be powerful. “We watch youth move from being profoundly unwell when they arrive at Covenant House to flourishing,” says Kadee. 

Our Commitment to Inclusivity 
To help ensure we’re serving 2SLGBTQAI+ youth as comprehensively as possible, all Covenant House staff are required to undergo inclusion training as part of their onboarding. Back in 2014, we worked with True Colors United to assess all of our programs, policies and spaces and for inclusivity, and identify areas for improvement. This led to the creation of our Rainbow Advisory Committee – a team dedicated to ensuring that we use best practices to serve 2SLGBTQAI+ youth. Our committee is made up of staff from various departments who work tirelessly to make our environment more welcoming and affirming for all young people.  

Covenant House Vancouver Resources for 2SLGBTQAI+ Youth 
This commitment is reflected in everything we do, and the resources we offer for 2SLGBTQAI+ youth. Our approach is trauma informed and resilience focused, and geared towards empowering these young people to build on their strengths and to develop coping strategies for long-term well-being.  

We offer 63 beds in our short-term Crisis Program, with spaces for youth identifying as female, male, trans, non-binary, and Two Spirit. Trans, gender queer, non-binary and Two Spirit youth can request the space they feel most comfortable in.  

We understand that traditional shelters might feel unsafe or unwelcoming for many 2SLGBTQAI+ youth. By providing dedicated spaces and events, we ensure that these youth have access to resources and a community where they can be themselves without fear of judgment. Our staff are trained to respect and affirm each young person’s identity, to ensure that everyone feels seen and valued. 

Our Drop-In Centre also hosts a monthly event specifically for 2SLGBTQAI+ youth, to help them find community and support. 

To foster community and a general sense of acceptance, we also offer events, workshops, outings, and services across our programs, specifically for this community. Creativity, play, and fun are also a big part of these offerings — a reminder that, despite hardship, queer youth deserve to celebrate who they are and find their own unique expressions of joy. For example: 

  • Mental health care and community-specific art therapy 
  • An active partnership with Qmunity, a BC-based queer, trans and Two Spirit resource service and drop-in centre 
  • Participation in Vancouver’s Pride Parade   
  • 2SLGBTQAI+ volunteers, particularly for outings in the community and fitness classes 
  • A subscription to OUTtv in our lounges, to promote visibility 
  • 2SLGBTQAI+ nights at our Drop-In Centre that include spa treatments, board game tournaments, and other fun activities 

Join Us in Supporting 2SLGBTQAI+ Youth 
We invite you to join us in acknowledging the importance of this day and to support our mission of creating a place for 2SLGBTQAI+ youth to thrive. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of 2SLGBTQAI+ youth, and advocate for a world where everyone is respected and valued for who they are.