Typically, there are few places that LGBTQ teens have been able to drop in and just be themselves. That place now exists in Canby.
Called 'The Living Room,' it is a space for teens, age 14 to 20, to come on one day a week from 4-7:30 p.m. for the next six months—possibly longer if funding continues—at the Canby Public Library. The day will remain private.
The Living Room is the brainchild of Carolyn Russel, whose daughter came out to her recently.
As she did when she first found out, she continues to be involved, helping to provide safe spaces for LGBTQ teens.
"We provide peer support, which is often related to mental health issues. But these afternoons are less formal than a support group. Many of these youth often are dealing with mental health issues," said Aryn Zanca, program manager.
The drop-in group works with teens who are trying to figure out who they are and gives them the ability to do so in a safe place, Zanca said. Or, she added, teens who just want some space without prejudice or hurtful teasing.
The 3 1/2-hour venue also is a time for them to hang out with others like them, play games and more. Some activities include crafts, movies, television and board games. Teens also typically are always hungry, so there are sweet and salty snacks as well as fruits and vegetables.
The themes and ideas for activities come from a core group of five to seven youth leaders.
The drop-in is not limited to LGBTQ, but also to people they want to bring along, such as friends, allies and family.
The group also offers several group activities throughout the year. There is an alternative prom for teens who aren't allowed to bring the person they want or to dress to their unique identity.
It's a typical prom and a free event.
The group also offers a Gay Straight Alliance Summit, which is a full day of workshops with keynote addresses by an adult and a teen. The workshops focus on various issues such as funding, raising awareness of LGBTQ people and healthy relationships.
There's also Pride weekend in which the teens attend the Pride Parade in Portland on Sunday, walk in a Trans March on Saturday and hold a Clackamas County Pride Barbeque and potluck on Friday night of Pride Week.
PFLAG is parents and friends of lesbians and gays providing support and helping others that want to support LGBTQ. A new group is the Canby Transgender Alliance, which started last spring. "It's founded to help educate and provide outreach and community development for LGBTQ people in the Garden Spot," concluded Zanca.
For more information, contact @thelivingroomyouth on Instagram or call or text 503-901-5971.
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