Lydia Luk remembers finding her first queer space, at 17.
“It was me, the friend that brought me and two others. We were all in the closet, and we all went to the same school,” she says of the now-defunct Richmond youth drop-in group.
“It didn’t really feel like a community at that moment.”
Rather than let that experience deter her, she started attending the Gab Youth program in downtown Vancouver: first as a youth, then a volunteer, then as a youth worker and then as the program coordinator.
She says her journey out of the closet was slower than that of many of her contemporaries.
“When I first came to Gab, I was still living at home, firmly in the closet, and had no intention of leaving home. Almost all the other youth were on their own, because they had moved to the city or had been kicked out because of their sexuality.”
The first time she gave a workshop at a local high school, she used a pseudonym.
“Of course, I kept forgetting the fake name and wouldn’t answer to it, so halfway through I started using Lydia,” she says, laughing.
Now 29, she has spent most of the past decade organizing and facilitating in queer spaces.
“It’s my life. I can’t imagine not doing it.”
“People can call me an activist, but I think it’s really about caring about the people around me,” she says.
Today, she works full-time as a community organizer with PeerNetBC, providing training, resources and support to peer-led initiatives across the province. Her specialty is mentorship and training in anti-oppression work.
In addition to her day job, Luk attends Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) in Surrey part-time and is the elected queer representative at her student union. One of her long-standing goals has been to launch KPU’s fledgling Positive Space Campaign.
“The easy part was getting the university to agree,” she says. “However, actually getting them to implement it has been a whole other set of challenges.”
“At most other schools, positive-space programs have been running for years already. The really sad part is that a lot of these schools already have other supports for queer and trans students, so positive space is just one piece of a larger pie,” she says. “At Kwantlen, that pie is basically non-existent, so the need is that much greater.”