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A Safe Space: 2SLGBTQ+ Summer Courses

A Safe Space: 2SLGBTQ+ Summer Courses

Despite many strides around public awareness of the vast landscape of gender identity and sexual orientation in recent years, many teens are still fighting battles with self-acceptance. The pandemic has had a detrimental impact on the mental health of those in the 2SLGBTQ+ community. In response to the unique needs of this community, Outward Bound Canada has created courses uniquely for 2SLGBTQ+ identifying youth inclusive spaces to make new friends and feel comfortable being themselves.

“Before this trip, I was really scared. I didn’t think I could do it. I thought that maybe the other kids would hate me, or that my body wouldn’t be able to handle the pace, or that I would buckle under some of the challenges. In the end, I was far more capable and suited to this expedition than I ever could have expected. More than that, I grew throughout the trip: my backpack got slightly easier to pack and to carry, my tent was sturdier every time I set it up, and my cooking skills improved from meal to meal. I learned a lot more than I thought I would about camping, “leaving no trace,” and just existing in nature. I also made some friends, which, for a young queer person, is an extremely valuable gift.”

– a participant on our Rocky Mountain 7-day Backpacking for 2SLGBTQ+ Young Adults, and recipient of the Youth Access Fund

The 2SLGBTQ+ courses are similar to other Outward Bound expeditions, where youth have the opportunity to explore the outdoors while learning valuable life skills. However, they are unique in that everyone who participates, including the instructors and students, identifies as part of the same community and discussions are often based on the specific issues the group faces due to their identities. The prime goal of the 2SLGBTQ+ courses is to remove the societal pressures and assumptions of gender so students can engage in activities that they may not be comfortable otherwise doing. 

I can’t thank you enough for the work and vision of creating a 2SLGBTQ+ trip. My child had the most incredible time and returned with a million stories, emotions, and skills… But really, it is hard to convey through email — I know you can’t hear the tone of my voice as I write this to you — but as [they] said, it was life-changing. They were blown away by the chance to be in a “safe space” where everyone was queer and could be so open and expressive and themselves. I’m a queer parent and I told a number of my queer friends that [they were] going on this trip and ALL of them were like, “Wow, OMG, I wish something like that had existed when I was a teen!” — Parent of 2SLGBTQ+ Participant 

The Head of Eastern Canada who oversees the 2SLGBTQ+ Ontario Wilderness course, Marika Chandler, shared that as someone who grew up in a rural community, her wish is for more youth from isolated areas to have the opportunity to build an inclusive community. She noted that the turnout of new faces this summer was amazing. “The experience gave participants’ time to reflect and separate from technology to have a deeper love for nature, build long-lasting friendships and space to express themselves”.

Based on the success of this year’s courses, OBC is proud to be running three courses for 2SLGBTQ+ youth in 2023 — one in Ontario, one in the Rockies and one on the West Coast