Artist-activists discuss their own mentors and the ways they have become mentors for others
Reymond I know me growing up, I knew no queer people so me going into high school, I was like one of the only out kids. So all the questioning kids would come up to me and just like, start orbiting like I was this giant gay planetary body and they were all my little satellites, my little moons. (Reymond’s cat contributes to the conversation) Just orbiting around me trying to figure themselves out. And it- honestly, it was the best thing because I actually, I think I helped a few people, and that felt really good.
Liz At least in my experience, you're never like- you wake up and you're like, “I'm a mentor today”. But then all of a sudden you notice younger people, and you realize that they kind of are looking up to you as a queer person who's older than them. You know, I think it's interesting, I started out working in like certain spaces when I was younger and I would look up to older queer people and now I'm one of the older people and I notice teens or like young adults type vibe looking up to me, which is kind of a surreal experience because I'm like- you don't see yourself in that light.
Mairead You never know when just being yourself is so meaningful for someone else. And in that case, you heard it, but there could be ten other times that day where you being yourself was meaningful to someone else. And I think that's amazing when you’re existing as a queer person. You never know when you just being there is so meaningful for someone else sometimes.
Arwyn I've been very inspired by queer people that I met in their openness, I suppose, which then allows you to connect more deeply. So in that respect, in that sense, that's what I've been trying to model, be just very open about my queerness wherever I go, use my pronouns wherever I go, and not hold back because in that courage of saying it, I am welcoming someone else to the conversation.
Alessia I get a lot of inspiration from the people around me and them being passionate about the things that they do in life really excites me and it keeps me wanting to explore things.
Liz As a queer child, there is that sort of latching on thing, any one queer person or even someone who has an aura of queerness, you almost like want to emulate them. I remember being like that as a kid.
Madeline Yeah no, I've had a little bit of a different experience where I've actually in- I guess- my periphery, I've had queer people. Like when I was a little kid, between the ages of probably like what, two to nine. We had lesbian neighbours. My parents were friends with them, and I didn’t see it as any different which I thought was really cool. I didn't think anything of it at the time and now looking back I'm like whoa, that's a big thing to have lesbian neighbours, and also have it be normal. Like it was just this facet of life.
“Growing up, the only gay rep I saw on TV was stereotypes. That placed a lot of ideas in my impressionable young mind about what gay was and how gay people acted (none of which is true).
These stereotypes stuck with me so much that I found myself judging myself for exhibiting behaviours that I saw labelled as ‘too gay’”
“My trans role model was a friend. I saw how transphobia hurt them and also how they took on educating people in a calm, clear purposeful manner. I try to channel this kind of open-hearted love and acceptance.”
"In my 20s I am still looking for people to tell me "how to " be queer. I have many queer friends but no "older wiser" queers to guide me on my way”
“My biggest role models have always been people that loved the things about themselves that I hated about myself. They taught me to take pride in myself”
“I wish I knew that I would find community and love as a young queer person...it never felt like I would, but I have, woot woot”
“My mentor is a Mohawk woman named Brandie who is a Land Defender and friend. She has simple, straightforward ideas about love and acceptance, and she lives these ideas fully in her art form. She connected me to my grandmother and from her I'm learning about the importance of ancestor reparations”