PFLAG brings support to young adults in Durham Region

Two PFLAG YA facilitators Donny Potts and Lisa Pare.
Photo by Jasper Myers

PFLAG YA facilitators Donny Potts and Lisa Pare.

The transitional time from childhood to adulthood can be stressful for many people. For those who are LGBTQ it can come with specific challenges, but one group in Durham Region aims to give support.

PFLAG Young Adults (YA), a group specifically for 18 to 29-year-olds, was created for young adults by young adults.

“PFLAG YA was created out of a necessity for our youth here in Durham Region,” said Donny Potts, vice-president of PFLAG Canada and a PFLAG YA facilitator.

“There was that space between our youth programs and adult stuff. We had a lot of young adults that needed a space.”

PFLAG YA was started almost three years ago by PFLAG Canada – Durham Region. The idea came from Camp Rainbow Phoenix, a youth leadership camp, for 13 to 17-year-olds, run by PFLAG Durham Region. Young adults who were “aging out” needed a group to cater to their specific needs. There was nothing else for them, so PFLAG Durham Region took their suggestions and PFLAG YA started to take shape.

“As a need has been there, it’s been fulfilled,” said Potts. He said the need for such a group wasn’t there in the years before, but the population between the ages of 18 and 29 in Canada is larger now.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2016 about 6.2 per cent of young people ages 15 to 34 identified as gay or bisexual. As well, another Statistics Canada survey in 2014 found that almost half of LGBTQ youth 15 to 34-years-old reported they experienced discrimination in the five years prior.

PFLAG YA is a first of its kind for PFLAG Canada. It aims to meet once a month and provides a supportive and social atmosphere for young adults who are part of the LGBTQ community, as well as their allies.

“They have a space where 18 to 29-year-olds, who aren’t bar-goers, who want a space to connect, that’s what they’ve got,” said Potts. “It’s grown. We have about 15 young adults that attend now, and they take care of their programming.”

Potts and Lisa Pare are the facilitators but they recognize the group is made up of young adults, so they let members decide what they do each month together.

“We’re facilitating the group more on the lines of just kind of keeping the structure, where the YA group itself is more facilitating the group,” said Pare.

The group decides on outings or meetups for each month, such as games nights and bowling. The majority of the members are college and university students. Members pay to go to outings, but Potts and Pare make sure everyone can participate regardless of their financial situations.

But now, Pare wants to see what else the group can do.

“I would honestly like to see a meeting, and then do something fun. Where the meeting we’re picking what we’re going to do and then we can talk about any issues they want to talk about or anything brought up,” Pare said. She wants to see what volunteer or charity work is out there for the group as well.

The YA group has had its ups and downs, according to Potts, but has been positive for PFLAG Durham Region and PFLAG Canada. “It’s a program that national is looking at, and there’s been talk that it could be a program that we could create to share amongst our 50-plus chapters.”

Potts said other chapters across the country would be able to implement a program like this if given the proper tools.

“It’s something that’s needed,” said Pare.

“because I find that there is a large number of LGBTQ young adults that really are looking for the linkage to the community, the support to know that they fit in.”

PFLAG Durham Region also has PFLAG T & T (Teens and Tweens), and the YA group is starting to work with them to integrate members who are aging out, hoping to alleviate some of their anxiety.

Joining is as simple as showing up to one of their meetings. The PFLAG Durham Region website has information on where they meet and how to join their Facebook group.

PFLAG YA meets on the third Thursday of each month, and hopes to run an annual retreat each summer, something they’ve done once before.