Weren’t you called “It Gets Better Yellowknife”, why did you change your name?

When we founded in 2011, we decided to take inspiration from the It Gets Better Project based in California. The It Gets Better Project was started by a gay activist, Dan Savage in response to the large number of queer children killing themselves in the United States last September. The program initially started with celebrities posting videos on Youtube spreading the message to young kids that although times are tough right now, they’ll get better. Soon, thousands of people, organizations and groups were posting these videos and the entire movement gained world-wide recognition.

We were inspired by the work Dan Savage and his team were doing, but since then, we’ve grown into something entirely different. Our new name, Rainbow Coalition of Yellowknife (RCYK) captures the essence of what the organization has become: an alliance of community members and the queer community working together to support LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning) youth.

Why do you use the word ‘queer’? Isn’t that offensive?

At the beginning, lots of conversations happened about how we should label ourselves. The more we talked about it, the more we realized that queer was really the only word that could fit us. Many programs call themselves gay organizations—we see flaws in this because we are not only catered to gay youth. Some groups use the acronym LGBTQ*—we see flaws in this because not everybody is covered by that acronym.

At one point in history, queer was a very insulting word. It has been used historically to demean, marginalize, oppress and instill hatred on non-heterosexual or non-cisgender people. RCYK does definitely not believe that this word is no longer ever used in insulting contexts, however the word “gay” and “lesbian” are used as insults all the time as well. IGBYK strongly believes that a major part of creating a safe space in Yellowknife for young queer people is allowing people the choice and opportunity to reclaim words that feel comfortable for them. We are setting the example with the word ‘queer’.

Nowadays, many young members of the community refer to themselves as queer because they feel as if it’s more inclusive to all identities that fit outside of the norm. RCYK is just as much for the 17 year old girl who likes kissing girls sometimes as we are for the 14 year old boy who’s in love with his male best friend. You don’t have to be just gay, lesbian or bisexual for us to support and love you. You just have to be ready to learn.

What are you hoping to achieve with RCYK?

Mostly, we just think it’s important to exist in Yellowknife. Growing up in a town where you feel like there’s nobody else like you can be really hard, and we want to fix that. So we generally just support the projects that people come to us with.

We’re hoping to expand into bigger and better things, but that takes people-power, and we’re an entirely volunteer-led initiative. If you have an idea for a project, let us know and we’ll see how we can help you!

Aren’t all these identities too much? People seem to just be making stuff up now.

At RCYK, we understand that many people who don’t feel a connection to certain identities may feel like they’re invalid, not legitimate, or made up. However, we also understand that all identities were “made up” at some point or another.

We don’t believe that it’s our place to tell somebody whether or not their identity is legitimate. Our mission is to create a safe space for all people who fall under the queer umbrella and their allies, and we understand the word queer to mean anybody who is not exclusively heterosexual or exclusively cisgender (not trans).

It may seem odd to those who’ve never heard of many of these identities, but we believe that it’s important to recognize them as valid because they are ways that young people have begun to understand themselves as different than those who are exclusively heterosexual or exclusively cisgender.

What about straight kids? Don’t they need help too?

Yes! Straight kids most likely struggle with stress, anxiety or emotional issues on a regular basis as well. It Gets Better Yellowknife acknowledges that young people deal with stressful situations no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.

That being said, young queer people deal with a variety of issues that straight young people most likely will never deal with such as unacceptance from their parents due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, blatant disrespect from teachers or other students based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, the expectations to educate people on their own identity.

RCYK is an organization that acknowledges these alternative situations that young queer people may face and promises to create safer and more effective ways of improving acceptance of all kinds, and not only in terms of sexual orientation or gender identity.

And it’s important to remember, that just because you’re straight, it doesn’t mean you’re not queer! Trans people can be straight too.

I want to help! What can I do?/I need help with a project! What should I do?

Email us at info@rainbowcoalitionyk.org and we’ll find something for you to do! And check out our Facebook for upcoming events!

I’m a young queer person, and I kind of want to talk to somebody.

Email us and we’ll respond as soon as possible to arrange some support for you! If you don’t have a computer, are uncomfortable asking us for help, or would rather an alternative, please let a trusted adult know and ask them to help you with finding support and a safe environment.