It is not always easy for youth to be Black and LGBTQ. Black LGBTQ youth must contend with multiple forms of social exclusion that can make it hard to feel like they belong and are valued and respected. Racism in broader society can leave them feeling left out of the LGBTQ community, while heterosexism, homophobia, and transphobia can also leave them feeling pushed out of their families and the Black community. With these barriers to two of the three most important determinants of mental health, it is no wonder that Black LGBTQ youth have high rates of substance use and mental health problems.
The Substance Abuse Prevention Program for African Canadian and Caribbean Youth (SAPPACY) at CAMH is working to link Black LGBTQ youth to culturally and racially sensitized support services that attend to the broader factors affecting their mental health such as discrimination and social exclusion, and to build understanding and acceptance in Black communities for LGBTQ youth.
SAPPACY’s annual One Love forum, for example, aims to bridge the gap between Black LGBTQ youth, families, and the wider community. Black LGBTQ youth leaders share their stories at One Love to help participants understand these youths’ realities and break down stigma against LGBTQ people. Youth leaders also participate in drop-in discussion groups at community agencies across Toronto.