2 min

A fun path to leadership

Camp Fyrefly offers queer youth leadership training

Credit: Xtra West files

CALGARY-Alberta’s queer youth are going to camp in Edmonton this September in a first-of-its kind event. Camp Fyrefly will give youth age 14 to 25 a chance to shine at the three-day event.

There’s a profound need for the camp in a province where homophobia is still rampant, says co-organizer Kristopher Wells.

After all, says Wells, queer youth in Alberta still face multiple barriers to mainstream acceptance. Public displays of affection can still be dangerous. Youth who come out of the closet are often kicked out of their homes by conservative parents and, especially in rural Alberta, gay youth can feel extremely isolated and have nowhere to go for support. Many queer students end up dropping out of school because they can no longer bear the constant harassment.

Wells says organizers have chosen to call the event Camp Fyrefly because “fireflies are unique. They’re not often seen but fireflies exist on every continent except Antarctica-just like GLBT people.”

Wells says the goal of the camp will be to “help youth shine and show their inner light.”

Another goal is to build a gay youth network across the province, so that youth can provide each other with support. As well, Wells says, organizers are hoping to create future leaders in the queer community.

The day camp will include sessions on building leadership skills, fighting homophobia through art, dating and relationships, creating gay-straight alliances and much more.

Wells says quite a few gay-straight alliances have started up in high schools across the province in the last few years-and that reflects the positive changes happening in the province.

“I think the stereotype (of redneck Alberta) is being broken. There are still some challenges,” says Wells. “There’s still pervasive homophobia in Alberta, but we don’t let it be a barrier anymore. Kids are seeing they can make change.”

Wells says more youth are standing up for their civil rights in the province and many gay youth are starting to thrive and to become leaders in the larger community.

Camp Fyrefly runs from Sep 3-5 at the Bennett Centre in Edmonton. Registration closes Aug 20, 2004. There’s a nominal $5 fee to participate in the camp.

The camp is being put on by the Edmonton queer youth group Youth Understanding Youth, and by Out Is In, a University of Alberta gay youth project that uses art to fight homophobia.