According to Andrew Shopland, being part of the gay community isn’t just about making friends and having fun; it’s also good for your health.
“We know from local research that gay guys who are more connected to community have significantly better health outcomes,” the 25-year-old says.
Shopland is the recently hired project coordinator at YouthCO’s Mpowerment, a youth-focused peer-support program that hopes to broaden HIV education through workshops, social events, information sharing and activities in social spaces outside of bars, clubs and other traditional gay venues.
“Once someone is established in the gay community and has a group of friends, then they can create that sort of space informally,” he says. “But for people who are newly out or new to the city, or just don’t have that social network yet, it’s a point of entry into the community.”
Before landing at YouthCO, Shopland was an active volunteer in Victoria’s gay community. He was a coordinator for the Pride group at the University of Victoria (UVic) and was involved in starting UVic’s positive-space network.
He’s most proud of co-founding the Creating Connections events that aimed to connect Victoria’s various gay groups.
“There was the student groups, a group for senior lesbians, a group for middle-aged gay men, but they never really interacted the rest of the year,” he says. “It was also meant to create intergenerational community. The groups were segmented by identity but also very much by age. I realized I only knew people in their 20s.”
The Top 30 Under 30 has begun! Join the discussion on our special Facebook event page dedicated to this project.
And check back tomorrow when we reveal #29 as Xtra celebrates BC's best and brightest young queer leaders.