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Mentorship for LGBTQ2 youth can be a matter of life and death

By Pia Araneta Global News

Posted June 19, 2021 6:00 am Adapted June 21, 2021

B Adair wants to be the mentor he never had growing up in [rural Alberta].

A lack of queer education and representation meant learning about his identity as a transgender man on his own while fighting depression and suicidal thoughts his entire life.

“Transitioning saved my life,” he says.

“Once I became comfortable with my own identity and started learning everything I possibly could, I wanted to share that knowledge.” - B Adair, Diversity & Inclusion Consultant,

Adair, 36, now works as a diversity and inclusion consultant — receiving emails, Facebook messages and phone calls from all over the province — from struggling kids or parents hoping to better understand their children.

“Being a mentor for others has been incredible,” says Adair, adding that he’s inspired by the kids he meets through his work.

The importance of mentorship and representation is paramount for LGBTQ2 youth. Considering queer and trans youth face higher rates of depression, suicide and substance abuse — alongside unique everyday challenges — a role model could mean the difference between life and death, advocates say.

Older generations have been paving the way for younger LGBTQ2 people trying to navigate the world, advocating for more queer-inclusive education or creating safe spaces themselves.

For Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah, connecting with other queer Black women has been instrumental in her “coming in” experience. Growing up, her friend’s mom took her to Toronto’s Dyke March, which allowed her to “see (herself) in the future.”

“Seeing Black lesbians from Jamaica or Latinx feminists … it opened up a window for me,” says Owusu-Akyeeah.

As the executive director at the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, she prioritizes inclusivity when working with queer and trans youth, especially because queer spaces can oftentimes be very white, she says.

“It’s important to recognize that Black, Indigenous and people of colour are navigating racism (and) colonialism on top of homophobia and transphobia,” she says.