Jeunesse Lambda is a LGBTQIA+ youth organization that is run by and for LGBTQIA+ identifying youth. They provide a variety of services from support, workshops and discussions to gender affirming gear, clothing and haircuts. We spoke with their intervention coordinator, Maxim-e Gabriel-le Gosselin (iel/they/them), to find out more about them.
Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.
We are a by and for LGBTQIA+ youth organization, meaning all of our participants, staff and volunteers are queer and trans folks under 30 years old. We provide a variety of services from support, workshops and discussion to gender affirming gear, clothing and haircuts. We have in-person drop-in as well as an online Discord server. We have tons of LGBTQIA+ books that youths can borrow, we give free food, STM tickets and harm reduction material. We can help as well with all the steps of a name and gender marker change, I could go on. Above all else, we are a safer space for socialization, education, empowerment… and fun!
What problem does it aim to solve?
At the core, we want to break the isolation that LGBQIA+ people face, especially youths, and even more since the pandemic.
Many queer people meet and socialize with their peers mainly through dating apps, in bars and other adult commercial venues, which leaves teens and many other people out in the cold.
Our weekly activities and Discord server help to alleviate this loneliness, to create important connections and to foster a sense of community.
We also aim to educate regarding discrimination, gatekeeping, systemic oppression, and other issues queer youth face on a daily basis. Moreover, we try to help and improve their overall mental health, including by reducing gender dysphoria through our very popular Gender Gear program and make-up kit, as well as our Transversal Health program (Santé Transversale) which pairs youth with queer/trans-affirmative mental health professionals for five free appointments.
When did you start/join it?
I started all the way back in December 2016, I helped with food and logistics until I joined the board a month later and did more admin/finance tasks. Things were peaceful for a few years, I helped hire our first two employees (since our foundation in 1987!), then came the pandemic. By that point, I was president of an active board, I helped a few volunteers setting up a new meal delivery service and an emergency financial assistance program. September 2021 was a very special month: after almost 5 years as a volunteer I was hired as the organization’s first intervention coordinator, a position I still hold today.
What made you want to get involved?
At the time, Lambda only had a very small team of struggling volunteers that obviously needed a hand. I didn’t have much experience, but I was quick on my feet and I wanted to give back to my community. I was also just getting started on my bachelor in sexology at l’UQÀM and wanted to put what I was learning to good use.
What was the situation like when you started?
We had no staff, all our services, communications and administration was run by a couple of busy volunteers. Once we paid rent, we had maybe a thousand dollars to organize our weekly drop-ins. The organization had been surviving for almost 25 years, but every other year key people left and knowledge was lost. The last cohort of volunteers lived through the Orlando shooting and going to the Montreal vigil for its victims galvanized them. We lacked the means, but we had many hopes and dreams. It was a very effervescent moment in Lambda’s history.
How has it changed since?
One thing that is very noticeable is how the vast majority of our current participants and team members are now trans and non-binary. Our team has also grown a lot, going from one to four employees in the past year. We have a strong and knowledgeable board, a dozen reliable volunteers, and I supervise our very own sexology intern.
The range of our services has also massively increased: we started our Gender Gear and Transversal Health programs, our Littéraqueer library, our Discord server and support for legal transition among others.
Moreover, our opening hours have changed and improved: previously we were only able to offer Friday nights (6 pm-9 pm). Now we’re able to open on Fridays (4 pm to 9 pm), on Saturdays (12 pm-6 pm) and, starting in March, on Tuesdays (4 pm-7 pm). Considering the various schedules of our participants, more and more youths can benefit from our services.
What more needs to be done?
A lot! We would love to do more education in schools for instance. Participating in LGBTQIA+ representation in the media and promotional campaigns would be amazing. I strongly believe that gender and sexual diversity needs to not only be normalized and tolerated but welcomed and celebrated. Access to name and gender marker change, gender neutral bathrooms, as well as medical transition (hormonotherapy, gender affirming surgery and procedures) remains a big challenge for our youths.
While all community organizations deserve enough funds to function, organizations specifically devoted to the 2SLGBTQIA+ communities still aren’t proportionally financed. Lambda is not at the same level as similar youth organizations that offer services to mostly cisgender heterosexual populations. I personally know we could really put more funds and staff members to good use.
How can our readers help?
You can follow us on social media and talk about us to LGBTQIA+ youths you know who could benefit from our services. We can’t afford to spend a lot on promotion, so every bit helps! In general, going to protests and vigils, talking about LGBTQIA+ issues, calling out bigoted opinions and uplifting LGBTQIA+ voices also helps us in the long run.
If you can afford it, you can support us by making a donation through our Canadon page. With our limited funding, it really makes a huge difference.
Do you have any events coming up?
Every Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons, we host different events (activities, workshops, discussions, drop-in) for LGBTQIA+ youths in our space at l’Asterisk (1575 Atateken street). Beginning in March, we will also open on Tuesdays to offer study sessions during the school year (called Lo-fi queer: to study and relax) and trans drop-ins during the summer. During the summer, we try to offer other activities, in addition to our biweekly activities.
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
One of our Asterisk roommates, AlterHéros! It’s an online inclusive, anti-oppressive sexual education platform. Through the Ask your question! platform, youths can ask any questions about healthy relationships, sex, sexual health, gender identity and much more, and receive a complete, in-depth, peer-reviewed answer. AlterHéros also offers support and organizes bimonthly in-person and online drop-ins for LGBTQIA+ neurodivergent youths.
Feel free to check out their website to learn more about them.