LGBTQ community leader began volunteering at 16
Along with big parties and colourful parades, Toronto’s Pride Month is a celebration of people within the LGBTQ community who have played a part in the fight against discrimination, promoting awareness and embracing diverse identities.
Every year, Pride Toronto grants Honoured Positions to community leaders. This year, University of Toronto student Jordyn Samuels was given one of those accolades – she’s the Youth Ambassador for Pride 2016. A look at her credentials and it’s easy to see why she’s deserving of the honour.
The fourth-year student with a double major in equity studies and sexual diversity studies has 10 years of experience working with LGBTQ community groups under her belt – and she’s only 26.
At 16, Samuels volunteered for a community health centre where she was trained in equity and anti-oppression. Since 2010, she has worked with Supporting Our Youth (SOY) – a community group that looks to better the lives of LGBTQ youth. It is also the organization that nominated her for the ambassador role.
On June 29, she’ll be participating in a panel discussion about the intersection of black and queer identities at the 519 alongside speakers such as Associate Professor Rinaldo Walcott. She’ll also be marching in the Pride Parade on July 3.
U of T News spoke with Samuels about her involvement in the LGBTQ community. Here’s what she had to say:
On gaining influence:
I’ve always been doing a lot of volunteer work in the community. I’ve always been very outspoken and very political so people have been drawn to my opinions.
On changing people’s minds:
The most meaningful part of my work is definitely the feedback I get because when it comes to equity and anti-oppression, you dedicate your life to being [on] an ongoing journey of unlearning and relearning. So when I’m out there doing my workshops, I get feedback from people who may not have been able to have certain conversations before or may not have had the resources in any kind of background in things that they’re not used to when it comes to LGBTQ education and awareness.
On finding out she was named Pride Toronto’s Youth Ambassador:
At first it didn’t sink it because I don’t do the work that I do for honour or recognition – so at first it was a cool thing to add to my resumé but then as I posted it on Facebook and I got overwhelming responses from friends saying ‘there’s no other person who deserves this more than you,’ it showed me how much of an impact I’ve had on a huge amount of people over the past 10 years.
On what can – and can’t be taught in school:
[U of T has] helped me have a starting point to do more research for myself. A lot of my courses have shaped my mind over the years – helped me unlearn, helped me poke holes in some of the normalcy and also to be able to be aware of the systems that are around me that I’m also complicit in.
On Ontario’s new sex-ed curriculum:
Even though the sex-ed curriculum was updated, there’s still a lot of backlash from parents. Some parents are pulling their children out of school therefore they won’t get the education therefore when they are around LGBTQ youth or could be LGBTQ youth themselves, they won’t get access to that kind of education.
When it comes to bullying, it pushes LGBTQ youth out of school which is why Triangle Program exists – which is a school for LGBT youth. I went there after I graduated from my Catholic high school because I was being bullied.
On her new venture:
I just opened up my own company – a consulting company called Journeys in Equity that focuses on providing workshops and trainings to anyone – to schools, to high schools, to universities to services providers… on social justice, LGBTQ education and awareness, equity, anti-oppression and sexual health.