Earnest discussion groups have their place, but on Friday nights you just want to have fun.
Pink Triangle Services (PTS) and Etc Ottawa, the youth arm of Capital Pride, are collaborating on Queer Youth Café, a weekly social night for LGBT and allied youth aged 18 and under, taking place at PTS on Fridays from 7 to 11pm.
Hannah Watt, chair of Etc and a PTS board member, says it’s important for youth to have a safe space to relax, meet people and have fun.
“It’s something that Etc has wanted to do for a number of years,” she says. “We think that there needs to be more drop-in spaces for youth in Ottawa. There needs to be more things for them to do that don’t cost money and are easily accessible for youth.”
As prominent local queer organizations, the collaboration between Etc and PTS is a natural fit, Watt says. Etc has many youth on its email list interested in local events, while PTS has the space to house the café nights, she adds.
“I think PTS’s space is beautiful, and it’s a place that’s meant to house a community,” Watt says. “It’s meant to be filled with members of the queer community at all times. It’s just perfect for that. It’s homey — it has its kitchen, its couches and meeting rooms.”
While the Queer Youth Café might become a venue for hosting local arts groups and performers to showcase everything from poetry to music, Watt says it will be up to the youth to decide how they want to spend their Friday nights.
“It’s definitely going to be up to the youth, so we’ll see what they want to be doing as they get into the space,” she says. “We’re giving them the option of not having it that structured if they don’t want specific entertainment or specific events each week. If they want it, then we’ll go for it and we’ll find it, but we’re going to let it evolve into what it’s going to be.”
Watt, 18, is passionate about youth having a safe space to have fun. Once you hit the teen years, you don’t want to hang out at home all the time, and boredom can lead to a whole host of problems, she says.
“I think youth being bored is a terribly dangerous thing,” Watt says. “I think it’s an incredible waste of a young person’s mind and their time, and also I think youth not having extracurricular activities, social spaces, things to do and get excited about is a big thing that leads to youth sneaking into bars, which is incredibly dangerous.”
Whether you’re bored, frustrated that everything that looks fun costs so much money, or interested in meeting new friends, Queer Youth Café is open to youth of all genders, identities and orientations, she says.