Connecting York’s queer community to the support they need

(Riddhi Jani)

Many 2SLGBTQ+ students have to manage the mental health turmoil from being marginalized for their identity, as well as being affected by the student stress their fellow cishet peers manage. According to CAMH, mental health services are underfunded by approximately $1.5 billion in Ontario. This results in either highly expensive, uneducated mental health counsellors, and/or require extended times on waitlists.

“It can take a toll on a person’s mental health if they are not able to express who they are and are forced to keep it bottled up. If they are new to a certain place like York for example and are unaware of the services or how welcoming York is to queer people, they may feel like an outsider,” says Meagan Boucher, a third-year film production student.

Found in a 2018 Survey, 2SLGBTQ+ Canadians were found more likely to consider their mental health poor when compared to heterosexual Canadians, in addition to having higher thoughts of suicide or having a mood or anxiety disorder. 

Members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community have to manage mental health distress unique to the queer experience, from dysphoria or anxiety to having to come out to unaccepting family and friends. A lot of strides have been made in queer history, but our next steps should be towards funding mental health services.

The intersectionality of being 2SLGBTQ+, living on a student wage, and struggling with mental health issues, leads 2SLGBTQ+ students to an even larger lack of support. Rachel Wallingford, a first-year psychology student states that in their opinion, “York offers a variety of support; however, it is not made too obvious, which makes it difficult to reach out.” 

The students who do find these resources are helped in a number of ways, with everything from community referrals, access to a resource library, as well as 2SLGBTQ+ events on and off campus being provided. York has a variety of 2SLGBTQ+ student-run groups such as Trans Bisexual Lesbian Gay Asexual at York (TBLGAY) and the Centre for Women and Trans People (CWTP).

A student involved in TBLGAY who wishes to remain anonymous states, “The support group helps queer students by giving us a safe place to vent about what’s going on in our lives without judgment.” 

The student goes on to say that “because the support groups are intimately familiar with being queer, they provide helpful advice in that specific front, as well as general advice. Thus, I would say that it’s a good experience to try.”

Indeed, York offers many resources that range in support. Both the Sexual Assault Survivors Support Line and Leadership (SASSL) and Centre for Women and Trans People offer peer support. SASSL also offers referrals to survivors of sexual violence.

2SLGBTQ+ students struggling with mental health issues should not have to work harder to find these resources and support. It is also understandable if students have a distrust in these mental health services given the lack of proper funding, education, and accessibility in regard to the 2SLGBTQ+ experience.

York has done a commendable job in establishing 14 different 2SLGBTQ+ supports, but the next step could be making these supports more well known to the public, potentially in the form of targeted advertisements.

About the Author

By Kalyani Sivakumar


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