Several young queer advocates were recognized on June 24 at the 14th annual Ontario Youth Awards Gala.
The awards were presented on the Glenn Gould stage at the CBC building in Toronto.
It's a cause that new Youth Line
co-chair Jeff Cooke feels is important and meaningful. "It's a good platform to recognize [youth]," he said. "They're all young individuals who are doing things people in their 30s aren't, and you can't help but be proud."
Even though Cooke is only 27, he says this kind of recognition wasn't available when he was growing up, which is why he's motivated to help provide it for other young people. He adds that events like the gala offer leadership examples and social infrastructure for future advocates.
Cooke points to Ricky Rodrigues, a former award winner who co-hosted the gala with Dainty Smith. Rodrigues continues to do work within the community.
But this ceremony, as Rodrigues put it, was a time to put the work aside briefly, celebrate and honour new people.
Gabe Holt won the award for outstanding personal achievement.
For Outstanding Contribution in an Academic Environment, the honour went to the cast of Interrogation, a one-act play created by a Windsor high school about a trans hate crime. Director and social justice activist Chris Rabideau was thrilled with the opportunity for the group of 20 to take a bow in front of the audience. "They were developing their own stories . . . they took ownership over themselves and ownership over into the community. When people see ownership happening, they say, 'Oh wait, that's someone's life.'"
Arthur Peltier, the play's lead, also won for Outstanding Contribution to Trans Youth Visibility.
For the cast, it was more than just a play. The group spent five days putting together the script, and they say reaching out to the community was just as important. Workshops were held before the performance and personal stories were incorporated. The group says 3,000 people in their blue-collar city of 200,000 saw the play. Rabideau was most impressed with the police, who gave feedback and learned lessons from the play. They also apologized for their historic conduct in regard to trans individuals.
University of Toronto student Gabe Holt won the Outstanding Personal Achievement Award for his contributions to VicPride!, Teach and the LGBTOUT drop-in centre. Holt, who was closeted in his conservative all-girls' private school, gave a humbled and heartfelt speech that endeared him to the crowd of 250. He added humour by "thanking the academy" and made a critical remark about a Grade 10 teacher saying he'd realize he's actually a woman someday.
As honorees and attendees got to know each other at intermission, Holt met the cast members of Interrogation. His immediate reaction was to say, with all sincerity and honesty, "Thanks for existing."
The Spirit of Will Munro Award: Ill Nana
Outstanding Contribution to rio rodriguez
Outstanding Contribution to Community Empowerment: Brenda Smith
Outstanding Contribution to Health and Social Services: Spencer Sawyer
Outstanding Contribution to trans youth visibility: Arthur Peltier
Outstanding Contribution to Arts and Culture: Michael Lyons
Outstanding Contribution to Queer Social Justice: Lali Mohamed