Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On the Prowl for Queer Youth Space

In Seattle, the Capitol Hill area is well-known for its LGBT community. Gay-friendly bars, clubs, bookstores, theaters, music venues, and events scatter the blocks along Pike and Pine. Rainbow flags flutter from many windows of both businesses and homes. But in the welcoming community, a group of individuals feel out of place: young adults.

As a recent article on GoPride.com states, "With so much of the [Seattle] community based in spaces with age limits, alcohol, or costly admission, many events and networking opportunities systematically exclude youths." While more and more youth are coming out at younger ages, fewer and fewer have a central place to celebrate pride in Seattle. Thus the Queer Youth Space project began in 2009.

Unlike the nearby Lambert House - "a safe place for queer youth ages 22 and under", which has provided shelter and resources for struggling LGBT teens since the 1980s - the QYS seeks a place for social community building and events. Kyle Rapinian, who was eighteen when he began the project, set the ball rolling.

After a three-hour forum in 2010, where fifteen youth met to discuss the space problem and related issues, Rapinian set up weekly meetings to put together the QYS goals, set a plan, and begin the resource search. From there, the "Three Wings" idea became official. Three Wings (TW) refers to the name of the coveted new free center for young adults, and was named for the three main goals of the space itself:

1) Cultural Activism Lab: a venue for different kinds of food, art, and culture, and rooms for performances, classes, and community events.

2) Wellness Collaborative: a set of resources (like counselors, peer advisors, academic assistance, and health/legal guidance) to address problems for LGBT youth.

3) Research & Education Institution: a collection of leaders who promote and advocate necessary change in the community.

Mainly, however, the QYS group wants to fight boundaries and open doors. As their website states: "Physical space allows us to challenge entrenched heterosexism in more powerful ways. What the space's form promises to be is something very special and very queer: a space that (by definition) cannot be measured, traced, or pinned down."

In June 2010 (after a 60+ page proposal), QYS was awarded a Large Project Fund grant and the hunt for space began. Since then, the group has tried to obtain at least eight different facilities, but have been met with bad luck, unyielding landlords, buildings lacking wheelchair accessibility, and other frustrating issues.

But Rapinian and company haven't given up. The search continues and the plan hasn't changed. Once a space is secured, the group believes it will only be a matter of months before Three Wings is open, free, and available to "provide queer youth with opportunities to build communities."

To donate to the Queer Youth Space project, click here.

Photo credit: www.capitolhillseattle.com

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