Why We STILL Need Queer Youth Space

A queer youth makes his statement loud and clear










Article posted on Seattle Gay News

In July the City of Seattle Neighborhood Matching Fund Program approved of an 80-page grant proposal. This gives a separate committee of the Queer Youth Space known as the Three Wings $100,000 to open the safe space that many queer youths had been advocating for.

Half a year later, this space still does not exist.


Community Match

“The $100,000 is for the community match,” one of QYS’s founding members, Kyle Rapiñan, said. “We have more than $100,000 worth of volunteer time, but the amount of cash on hand is lower than that. We need to have a safe cash fruition to do what we want to do.”

Rapiñan explained that the funds are contingent on a physical space with a secured lease.

Eden Lord, a member of the Three Wings Board of Directors, said, “What we need primarily is a space on Capitol Hill that is close to bus lines, stores and where people hang out.” The space needs to be where there’s an “alive” street. They also want to find somewhere that is accessible for the differently-abled, and somewhere where they will be able to have performances in the evenings without noise complaints.


Finding a Space

The QYS committee has had difficulty finding the perfect space and a landlord who would negotiate a lease with them. In order for them to open their cultural arts center, they will be dependent on extra help from the community.

“We need a down payment of about $10,000 for the first couple months of rent,” Kyle Croft, another member of both QYS and Three Wings, estimated. He and several others are now searching for more donors and other grants to apply for but said that “it’s hard to ask for money if we don’t have a space yet. I think we’re going to be launching a fundraising drive pretty soon.”

Croft added that QYS is working with Vera Project to host an all-ages queer dance party at Chop Suey on April 1st and that other fundraisers are in the beginning planning stages.

“Adults say that it’s okay for (queer) youth people to come out, but they don’t have places that they can go to that aren’t directed by adults.


Fundraising Difficulties

Rapiñan, Lord, and Croft emphasized that they want their events to be accessible to all their constituents. Thus, they have had a difficult time finding spaces to hold events compared to queer-related organizations. Hosting a fundraiser in a popular 21+ Capitol Hill bar can be as simple as setting a date, time, and creating a Facebook invite list. For QYS, that isn’t possible. One of the reasons why QYS took form in the first place was because of so many fundraisers that involved pricey fancy dinners that most youth can’t afford and events in spaces that are ageist even if they could.

“It’s hard to be queer and under 21 in Seattle,” Rapiñan said. “Adults say that it’s okay for (queer) youth people to come out, but they don’t have places that they can go to that aren’t directed by adults. There needs to be more of a partnership between queer youth and adults. I think that QYS is an avenue for that.”

In order for QYS to be such an avenue, the Three Wings campaign needs to find a space. After they find a space the cultural arts center, also known as the first wing, would be able to open. It would allow for events such as open-mic nights, rummage sales, concerts, and dance parties to take place.


An Active Space

“We’d like to have an open social space, not like a drop-in center. We want an active space,” Croft said. There would be a lot of focus on art in a broad sense. Also, they’d have materials handy and the space to show and make art. “One thing I was interested when I was writing the grant was to make the space non-hierarchical. The people who are coming to the space are the people who own it. The constituency has power over the space and can react and change things as it sees fit.”

The cultural arts center of the Three Wings campaign would also like to open a café, but the square footage for the space cannot be paid for with city money. The City of Seattle Neighborhood Matching Fund Program prohibits them from using any part of the grant to make money to generate further revenue for the space.

After the cultural arts center is created, the second wing, known as the Wellness Collaborative Center, would be added. “In its youngest form, it would provide mental health services to youth. It would expand to workshops focused on youth care and wellness. Also, it would help young queer people who don’t know anything about what’s out there to get the services that they need,” Croft said.

The third wing, the Research and Education Center, would involve working with other organizations on the hill and getting them to be more queer youth friendly. It would also be a space where queer youth can partake in anti-oppressive and activism. This training will be led by a coalition of queer leaders and educators—youth and adult alike.

Lord will be graduating this June with a Master of Social Work at the University of Washington. “I would be there to offer whatever resources and support that I have. I would be 100% behind it, but they wouldn’t necessarily need my help.”


Location Finding

Members of the Three Wings campaign will be looking at a couple more locations this weekend in hopes of finding a space to set their plan in motion. Until then, the general sentiments and ambitions of the campaigns’ members stay strong.

“I got involved with QYS because I felt so hopeful and inspired by this project. I feel energized and awake by being part of this. I’m inspired by the other adults and youth on this project,” Lord said smiling.

“Any adults who want to get involved who have special skills or want to help with fundraising are totally welcome to be involved,” Rapiñan said. “For this to be successful, adults will have to collaborate with us if they want to change society and if they want to help queer youth. I think that adults need to look at the stats. 40% of homeless youth are queer, but there are no queer shelters for youth under 18. Also, the only dance space for youth is Neighbours after 2:00 A.M. There needs to be a lot more of a welcoming environment for queer youth.”


The Future of QYS

After large-scale events such as the ‘Mutiny’ and ‘Pink Prom’ took place last year achieving massive amounts of publicity. A lot of people are waiting to see what will happen next with the QYS and the Three Wings campaign. Despite becoming quieter after receiving the $100,000 its members insist that 2010 was an amazing year for them. They believe 2011 will be even better.

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