The Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans Youth Line handed out its 13th annual Community Youth Awards at an emotional gala at the 519 Community Centre on Friday, June 10, honouring nine outstanding young queer people and youth-led organizations.
One of the evening’s highlights was the presentation of the first annual Spirit of Will Munro Award, a $10,000 grant to establish a project that uses the arts to build a lasting, youth-friendly community for queers. The award is named after activist, artist and Youth Line staffer Will Munro, who died last year. John Caffery and Lex Vaughan gave a tearful tribute to their friend before presenting the award to the Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance, a club devoted to developing ballroom talent and helping youth develop the confidence to strut their style wherever they go.
Members from the Kiki Ballroom vogued down the aisle to thunderous audience applause after the award was handed to the group’s organizer, Twisted.
Perhaps the most emotional moment of the night came with the final award of the evening, for Outstanding Contribution to Arts and Culture. The award went to Alvaro Orozco for his photography documenting refugee issues in Canada. Just last month, Orozco had his deportation order stayed by Immigration Canada after more than 10,000 people signed a petition demanding he be given the right to stay.
In a tear-filled speech, Orozco thanked those who helped him along his long journey crossing six countries en route from his home in Nicaragua, which he fled when he was just 12 years old. Acknowledging that he is still awaiting his permanent residency status, audience members cheered “Welcome home” as they rose to give him a standing ovation.
Each of the award recipients showed bravery and leadership in their contributions to the queer community, from Beckie Lindsay, who started her school board’s first gay-straight alliance, to Morgan Page, who created Trans Girls United Against Violent Assault to help trans women deal with intimate partner violence and organized counter-protests against the Homewood-Maitland Safety Association to support trans sex workers.
“I never thought when I arrived in Toronto from Hamilton with an eighth-grade education that I’d ever receive an award for anything,” Page said as she accepted the award for Outstanding Contribution to Community Empowerment.
Compass, a North York social group for queer youth labelled with intellectual disabilities, was given the award for contributing to queer youth visibility, in recognition of the video documentary Our Compass, which was made by the group members. The video, which presented the stories of eight youth members, helped shatter stereotypes when it screened at the Inside Out LGBT Film Festival, winning the Canadian Jury Recognition.
The full list of award recipients is below:
Spirit of Will Munro Award: Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance
Outstanding Contribution to Social Justice: Nedal Sulaiman
Outstanding Contribution to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Two-Spirited and Queer Youth Visibility: Compass Drop-In Group
Outstanding Contribution to Community Empowerment: Morgan Page
Outstanding Contribution to Trans Youth Visibility: Jake McPhee
Outstanding Contribution to an Academic Environment: Beckie Lindsay
Outstanding Contribution to Social and Health Services: Peter Gindl
Outstanding Personal Achievement: Ricky Rodrigues
Outstanding Contribution to Arts and Culture: Alvaro Orozco