Canadian researcher discusses his experience of Pride, combating LGBTQ2 youth homelessness, and why he is filled with hope.
Alex Abramovich is a Canadian researcher who focuses on LGBTQ2 youth homelessness. One of the few researchers in the country who concentrates on this area, Alex has been working with city council to help identify and address the needs of LGBTQ2 youth experiencing homelessness. This year, Abramovich will be an Honoured Trans* Individual at the Trans* Pride March. Here’s what Pride means to him.
Every year during the month of Pride, I write a reflection piece on all that has happened in the past year. This year, I would like to share my reflection piece with the public.
To me, Pride is a time of celebration, inspiration, and reflection. It is also a time for people to come together and unite as a community. It is a time to celebrate all that we are and all that we have fought for and continue to fight for. It is a time to thank all the queer and trans elders who worked so hard to pave the way, so that we could come out and be who we are.
This year is different, because this year we invite people from all over the world to Toronto to celebrate World Pride. This year, LGBTQ2 communities across the globe come to Toronto to show the world the importance of LGBTQ2 rights and equality.
This is my 15th year celebrating Pride. For me, Pride has always been political. Pride marks the anniversary of both of my coming-out experiences. I first came out as queer 13 years ago, the day after the Pride parade. I will never forget that day. It was the day that my heart broke for the first time and the day that I lost a little bit of my faith in humanity. But I don’t want to rehash what happened that summer. I want to focus on all the good that came out of that experience and how it led me to the work that I do today.
My second coming out was when I came out as Alex four years ago during Pride. I will also never forget that day and how amazing it felt to introduce myself as Alex. I got the word “listen” tattooed to my forearm that Pride. Now I am forever reminded to listen to that voice inside. That was also the Pride during which I collaborated with Youthline to help raise awareness about LGBTQ2 youth homelessness.
Pride is about making space for all the queer and trans folks who are silenced, made invisible, and pushed to the margins on a daily basis.
This year I am so grateful to have been named one of the honoured trans individuals. It gives me much happiness to see that Pride Toronto has recognized that the work to end LGBTQ2 youth homelessness deserves to be highlighted. I have spent many years trying to raise awareness to the issue of LGBTQ2 youth homelessness. I am continuously inspired by all of the young people in our community who I have worked with over the years and who have been courageous enough to open up to me and share their stories and experiences of what it is like to be an LGBTQ2 youth today and what it is like to be a young queer and trans person experiencing homelessness.
I do this work for the young people, in hopes that they will not have to know what it feels like not to have a home simply because they’ve been brave enough to be themselves in a world that forces us, every single day, to be the same as everyone else.
This year, more than ever, I am filled with hope. People are not only paying attention, but they are also ready to implement change. I believe things are about to get much better.
Over the past year there has been much focus on the issue of queer and trans youth homelessness in Canada. The City of Toronto has also started to respond to this issue by formally working with a group of individuals and organizations to address the needs of LGBTQ2 youth experiencing homelessness. I have also been working with organizations and policy-makers across Canada to work out solutions to the issues faced by LGBTQ2 homeless youth. We have certainly come a long way over the past year. But still there is much work to be done.
People often talk about how “safe” Toronto is for LGBTQ2 people and how homophobia and transphobia no longer exist. While Toronto may be safer for queer and trans people than many other cities in the world, homophobia and transphobia are alive and well in this city.
Of youth experiencing homelessness, 25 to 40 per cent identify as LGBTQ2—but Toronto does not yet offer the services necessary for providing safety and support to our young people. The shelter system is still not safe for LGBTQ2 youth, and support services are still not supportive for all youth. Sadly, homophobia and transphobia are rampant in Toronto’s shelter system.
Even though Pride is a time to celebrate and be proud, I would like to encourage everyone to think about and raise awareness of the issue of LGBTQ2 youth homelessness, because so many of our queer and trans youth will be struggling to find a safe place to sleep and a hot meal to eat, not just at Pride, but all year round.
This Pride, I celebrate the fact that people with the power to implement change no longer need to be persuaded that the shelter system must be changed so that it becomes safe, accessible, and supportive of LGBTQ2 youth. They now understand.
I am inspired more than ever to do more for our community and to keep fighting—so that life will become easier for LGBTQ2 young people and so that we can eliminate the critical public health and social justice problem of LGBTQ2 youth homelessness.
This Pride—WorldPride—let’s come together to put an end to LGBTQ2 youth homelessness, and let’s help Toronto live up to its reputation as a safe and supportive city for all people.