When a queer kid finally finds a place where she belongs, she tends to want to recreate that feeling for others.
After being outed on her 16th birthday, Kayla Miller found a second home at Pink Triangle Youth (PTY) and, since then, has been committed to making Pink Triangle Services a warm, welcoming place for youth to be themselves, have fun and grow their confidence.
“In the first little while after I came out, it was a pretty shitty time,” Miller says. “That was until I met another lesbian in my school.”
Her new friend introduced Miller to the Ten Oaks Project and helped her to connect with the nascent advisory committee for Camp Ten Oaks. The monthly meetings offered a way for Miller to connect with local queer youth, but she was looking for a more cohesive community.
Miller’s grandmother decided to intervene.
“Most of the time I was hanging around on the internet because I didn’t have many friends,” Miller says. “My grandmother took me to Mother Tongue Books, and she asked the lady that worked there if there were any [queer] youth groups that I could go to because she didn’t want me meeting people off the internet. She suggested PTY.”
After that, Miller wasted no time getting involved in whatever projects she could. She won the 2009 Capital Xtra Hero Award in the category of Youth Activist of the Year for her work with Pink Triangle Youth, Rainbow Families, the Ten Oaks Project and the Algonquin Alliance. She has been a familiar, smiling face around many of Ottawa’s queer organizations for almost eight years now, but it’s at PTS that she has invested the most time, effort and love.
Miller became a volunteer facilitator soon after she started attending PTY in 2005. About three years ago, she began to work there part-time and then made the move into a full-time position on May 11.
These days, Miller is the volunteer and programs coordinator at PTS. Most of her activism and community work is now done within the walls of PTS.
Recently, PTS has turned its focus to poly folks and queer people of colour because of a dearth of available programming in the Ottawa area. Poly focus groups will take place this summer to determine potential directions for programming and workshops, which will get rolling in September after PTS moves into its new digs.
This means that the home that all the service users and staff have known for the past five years is going to change again. But Miller insists the move is for the better and PTS is definitely staying in the gaybourhood of Centretown.
In the meantime, PTS has started a monthly drop-in group for queer people of colour, which launched on May 29 and is filling a particularly yawning gap in services in the national capital region.
“It was something that we heard a lot of demand for, and we were able to offer a group,” says Miller of the monthly, all-ages group that will be part social group, part discussion group and part support group. It takes place the last Tuesday of each month. “We’ve got more volunteers now who happen to be queer people of colour and who happen to have the skill set and understanding to facilitate a group. It all came together in a perfect storm.”
While the new programming is a group effort, it exemplifies Miller’s mantra in her work with PTS: that no one suffer from loneliness and isolation and that people have an opportunity to get what they need from their community.
“I have these four friends — John, Andrew, Curtis and Kiel. Our names, put together, spell out JACKK. That’s what we call our group of friends,” Miller says. “My favourite thing that has come out of my time at PTY and PTS is that I developed this strong core of friends who have really become my family. I want everyone to have the opportunity to make a really great group of friends like I did. I don’t want anyone to be lonely.”
Pink Triangle Services
251 Bank St, Suite 301ptsottawa.org