If they live outside of Ontario, gay, lesbian and trans youth reaching out for help have very few places to turn.
That’s about to change. Stacy Green, president of PFLAG Canada (parents, families and friends of lesbians and gays), says the organization is preparing to launch a national peer-support help line, similar to the Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youth Line, which services Ontario. The hotline will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, offering crisis counselling and peer support.
Green says the help line answers an urgent need in Canada.
“This will change the face of the LGBT community across the country,” he says. “This will fill a hole in Canada. Right now there is no national support line geared specifically to gay, lesbian and trans youth.”
Green says PFLAG aims to launch the crisis line in September.
From March 18 to 25, PFLAG plans to meet with stakeholders and other potential partners in the community to discuss the plan and hear feedback and ideas. One of those potential partners is the LGBT Youth Line. “Our service may cross over, so we are inviting all similar services to the table,” he says. “We want to know how we can put this together with the highest amount of impact possible.”
Along with community partnerships, Green says PFLAG will also be looking for financial investment. He says about $1.2 million will be needed by the end of the first year.
Like the LGBT Youth Line, the PFLAG service will be peer-to-peer, so youth will speak to a voice on the other end that can draw on personal experience, someone who’s “been there.”
“It won’t be volunteer-run. We will be paying staff,” he says. “Our board stressed that the people answering the phone know exactly how the callers are feeling and what they’re going through because they were there themselves.”
Green doesn’t know yet if the office will be based in Toronto. “The office may be in Moncton or Fredericton. We will probably have one in Alberta. We’re a national organization, so we are trying to link our chapters together across the country.
“We are targeting the entire country for this. Anyone with questions about gender identity, sexual identity, sexuality, anything like that. We will work with schools.”
LGBT Youth Line’s acting executive director, Brandon Sawh, says any program or service that helps gay youth across the country is very positive. “More people helping gay, lesbian and trans kids is a great thing.”
“Good for them. It’s wonderful news,” he says. “In fact, expanding our service to serve all of Canada is something we’ve had in our plans as well. That’s been on our radar for a little bit. PFLAG has chapters all across Canada, which is lovely, so we will probably help them.”
“There’s a real need to form these services, peer-to-peer, youth talking to youth,” Sawh adds. “An older adult doesn’t always understand as well as someone who has lived through it and experienced it.”
Anyone interested in getting involved or learning more about the project can contact Green at firstname.lastname@example.org.