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  • Writer's pictureAlmeera Eman

2SLGBTQ+ Considerations for a Gap Year (a starting place)


Are you a gapper or do you have a gapping kid part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community? You are not alone and this episode is for you! A gap year is truly the perfect time for self-discovery, growth, gaining confidence and finding supportive communities (like us at CanGap!).


Michelle shares valuable resources and special considerations for travel and when looking at programs.


Topics Discussed

  • Gap Years are tools for mental health and self discovery, an amazing opportunity to redefine who you are after leaving your high school experience. This is your time to set up your life for the next step.

  • Special considerations for travel, navigating obstacles and resources that will make this easier.

  • Resources for parents and allies of the 2SLGBTQ+ community


Resources Mentioned In This Episode



Connect With The Canadian Gap Year Association



Transcript


Are you a gapper or do you have a gapping kid that's part of the 2SLGBTQ Plus community?

You are not alone and this episode is specifically for you. I also touch on some important information for allies, so please share this with your allied friends and family. And let's jump into any special considerations you may need as your fabulous self on your gap year.


Take a listen.

Hey there and welcome to the Gap Your Podcast. My name is Michelle Dittmer and I am your host and Gap Your Expert. Today's episode is long overdue. I have been recently prompted by the stories of rising hate crimes and policies negatively affecting the 2SLGBTQ Plus community. All of these things are coming into place that are fundamentally putting our 2SLGBTQ Plus peers at risk. This is where this episode is being inspired from because in the news recently the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which is one of the largest advocacy groups in the U .S. issued a travel advisory for the state of Florida for not only black and people of colour but also 2SLGBTQ Plus folks. Also the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ Plus rights organization, joined in and it just really, really hit home. This is a conversation we haven't yet had on the podcast.

So I wanted to bring this to light and have a conversation about it. I'm very respectful in that I am an outsider of this community and I'm bringing this conversation as a white, straight, cis woman who spends a lot of time educating myself on the 2SLGBTQ Plus community, the issues, and I care deeply, deeply about my active allyship, but I am not part of this community. I am not an expert. I am just here to be a jumping off point, a conversation starter, and I'm going to be pointing you in the direction of organizations and resources that are going to help you connect with community members themselves who can share more intimately about this topic. And there are some folks that you can find on Instagram that might be good to give a follow to, like the handle, the globe trotter guys, that's a good one, or Lesby Traveling, L -E -S -B -E Traveling, really great accounts to follow that you might want to check out to see some lived experience and to give them some love as well.

Now, on this topic, I don't even really know where to begin. I think where this topic really started to shine through and the numbers started to really peak up was last year the Canadian Gap Year Association hosted a scholarship for people starting their gap year and we invited folks to self -identify if they belong to any marginalized groups. And over 30 % of the respondents identified themselves as part of the 2SLGBTQ Plus community. So if that was one of you, hello, we see you, we love you. Or if maybe you didn't apply for that, maybe you're feeling like you're the only one and that is not true. This is proof that you are not alone, not only in your journey of gender identity and sexuality and sexual expression, gender expression, but you are not alone in the gap year community. So I hope that brings you a little bit of comfort that there are so many folks out there who are going through similar things and this is a podcast to help support you specifically on your journey.

Now, in looking at those numbers, being as high as they were, I don't think it's a surprise because often high school is a time when young people start to understand their own sexuality. And gender and gender expression. And it's a time when folks feel safe that they start to express that part of their identity. We come into our sexuality during puberty and all of this is happening in high school. And so when we feel safe that starts happening, whether you are part of the 2SLGBTQ or not, this is just the time of life when it happens. When we feel safe to be able to express that part of who we are. Now, why this is pivotal for the gap year side of things is moving out of high school feels like a fresh start. It is the time when you can get involved in a new community that maybe never knew the previous iteration of who you are. It's getting that freedom to drop that last chapter of your life and to begin a new one. And that can be very, very liberating, especially if your previous iteration of who you are isn't how you are showing up in your life today. And this is that kind of butterfly moment where nobody who knew you as a caterpillar is going to look at you and still see that caterpillar. You just show up as the butterfly and the people who know you and meet you in this new place know you as that butterfly and who you are currently today and how you are showing up today. And that is a very, very powerful thing, especially if there was trauma associated with that caterpillar stage, with that previous iteration of who you were. You can show up and you can be in that fresh start spot. So that on your gap year can be exactly that because you have the freedom to choose almost everything you take control of who you hang out with, what you're exposed to for the most part. We can't control all of that. What systems you're interacting with. This is an amazing break from moving between formal systems that are often maybe behind or not as progressive when it comes to recognizing the uniqueness of every individual and how they show up in the world from filling out maybe gender limiting forms or figuring out residence rooms or having to enter into an unknown community that may not be supportive of your full identity.

So that gap year gives you that freedom to choose all of those new interactions and maybe pick the ones that you know are going to be safe. So some to us LGBTQ plus community members need that mental, emotional and sometimes physical break from those oppressive systems and have some freedom to pause, to breathe, to be themselves authentically before maybe having to enter back into systems that may not fully be quite there and fully

supporting you. So for those of you who are also maybe not out yet or not in a position where you are safe to express who you are, a lot of people on gap years have the ability to have an experience away from other people who know your family and friends. So maybe this is a program across the country or around the world where you can arrive in that destination as your authentic self and you can express yourself without accidentally being outed and that can help you to build the confidence to figure out because you're going to

have some tools and some time to be able to have the confidence to have that conversation with folks at home upon your return.



So gap years fundamentally are a good time for everyone, but as you can start to hear, there are some of these additional benefits for members of the two s lgbtq plus community. Now, let's talk travel for a second. So travel for those within the community can be extra stressful and stressful for those who love members of the two s lgbtq community because not everywhere around the world, not even everywhere in Canada has the same openness and understanding and is accommodating and respectful of all of the different ways that humans show up. So looking at their additional layers, like looking at the laws and policies in the in places in the destinations that you're traveling to finding lgbtq friendly accommodations and even just deciding how much of your sexuality or gender expression is safe to share with the world in all of these different locations can be really, really challenging, let alone navigating airports and borders with passports that maybe have your birth assigned gender or

your all of these things are layers when it comes to travel that you have to consider as a member of this community and the list goes on and on and on.


This is not an extensive list. But in my experience in working with my friends and my peers and working within the travel industry, there these are some of the things that I have seen that folks need to take into consideration as they are traveling. So like I said, I do have some experience, but I'm not an expert in this topic, but I do know who is. So there is IGLTA, which is the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, and their website has got you covered. So they have lists of country by country safety advice. They have accommodations. They have specific travel agencies or group travel opportunities for members of the community.


So if you're traveling on your gap year, this is really where you should start or at least reference at some point before you buy those plane tickets or before you commit to a travel organization of any kind. It really is a hub of supportive, informative resources that could save you a lot of hassle, a lot of stress and even your personal safety. Now, if you are choosing to travel with an organized group, make sure you're asking all of the questions, all, all of the questions. And this is where you need to be confident in who you are and in your specific needs. While many organizations will promote that they are to us LGBTQ plus friendly, a lot of them don't have representation on staff that would be able to know all of the things that you need to look out for as a member of that community. So I'm not saying don't travel with them. I'm saying make sure you have yourself advocacy hat on and don't be shy to ask the questions and ask for what you need because this is your safety. This is your enjoyment. This is your gap year experience. So ask all the questions. Ask them questions about their policies for discrimination and inclusivity. Ask them about their policy around rooming situations. Ask them about emergency medical care for trans folks. Ask them about border crossing procedures. Ask them if they are aware of local cultural norms that need to be abided by. And if you're not satisfied with their answers, find another travel provider. You deserve to feel supported and safe during your experience. You deserve to have an enjoyable time where you are. All of your accommodations are being met. You are being respected and you are able to show up in a way that you are comfortable with and that you are able to have your very, very best time.



You can also do a Google search for 2SLGBTQ plus programs to see what's out there. That's specific for community members. So for example, did you know that outward bound Canada has programs specifically for the 2SLGBTQ plus community. It's a matter of doing the most research that you can and not being shy about putting in those parameters that are going to make you feel safe, comfortable and allow you to have the best time ever. Now, for parents and family members, I think one of my very favorite resources in general for anyone who's supporting or wants to support the 2SLGBTQ community and especially youth is an organization called P flag Canada and all of its regional chapters. I've had the chance to interact with several of their regional chapters.



Incredible human beings, incredible volunteers, very knowledgeable and really, really helpful in every question I have ever had. So if you can donate, support them financially, volunteer with them and make use of their services. They really are there to help allies, to help family members find the best ways to support your people and the larger community. Now, like I said at the beginning of this episode, I am not by no means the expert on this. I'm not a member of this community, but I do have connections with many organizations that are part of this community or do specialize in this. So that's where I want to start with you is you can check out all of the organizations I mentioned in this episode. We have them linked in the show notes, so that's the starting spot.



You can also reach out to CanGap and book your free consultation call for your particular questions or your particular circumstances. We at CanGap, we are a safe and affirming space. We honor everybody for who they are and where they are at in their life. And we want you to feel comfortable asking all of the questions. And if we don't have the answers, we want to work with you to figure that out. We're not going to leave you in a lurch. And we're not going to say we can't help you.


We will work together with you to find the answers to your questions. So as me, Michelle Ditmer, as CanGap, I want to give everybody out there all of our gay lesbian trans by all are too spirited. All of the folks part of the LGBT community. We want to give you a big shout out, a big hug. We love you all. We support you and we hope that you have amazing gap years.


And as we are publishing this in the month of June, wanted to wish every single one of you a happy pride and all the very best on your gap years. And keep yourselves adventuring and don't hesitate to reach out if you need any additional support. Thanks so much, guys. Have a great day and keep on adventuring.

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