Queer Youth Space Begins Official Services at New Capitol Hill Home

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Nestled between the Via Tribunali Pizzeria and the Emerson Salon on a crowded Pike Street block, two unassuming glass doors lead to the city's first Queer Youth Space (QYS). Three years in the making, the organization is finally ready to offer educational, support and advocacy services in their new Capitol Hill home.

QYS Board Member Jude Watson began voicing the need for a queer youth safe space when he was 16. For such a gay-friendly city, Seattle had precious little to offer that demographic. Age barred them from the Hill's LGBTQ clubs and bars, while all-ages venues came with a distinct heteronormative slant. Watson and his contemporaries believed nothing would change unless the community united to build its own home.

"Nothing about us, without us, is for us," was Watson's adopted slogan.

So pink "We Need Queer Youth Space" stickers began to populate park benches and light posts as the call to action grew louder. This year, the city of Seattle listened. The QYS board received help from the Neighborhood Matching Fund. The grant was both a blessing and a challenge. It would pay for the project, but only if the center was set up in Capitol Hill. Finding a space that met QYS needs of function and accessibility at Capitol Hill prices was tough--until 911 East Pike Street came along.

When the paperwork was notarized in August, Watson -- now 20 -- was positively gleeful. Everyone involved celebrated with a big open house days later. But the work wasn't finished. The organizers spent the next two months renovating--painting the barren walls, sourcing furniture and buying equipment. Luckily, QYS's community partnerships were happy to lend a hand, and sometimes a couch. Now the Space is furnished with a projector for movie screenings, an office and a private counseling center, created out of a former closet. Yet it's the location's transformative quality that the organizers are most excited about.

"The beauty of the space is that it's so big and open," Watson said. "We can do whatever we want with it."

QYS organizers and friends celebrated the acquisition of a space with a big open house in August.

"Whatever we want" is already turning out to be a hugely diverse roster of activities. In its inaugural week of official operation--November 26th to December 2nd --QYS will be hosting a Queer Feast (Monday), Safer Sex Workshop (Tuesday), Radical Queer Literature Day (Wednesday), Relationships Discussion Group (Thursday), Open Mic Night (Friday),Queer Youth Dance (Saturday) and a Speaking Out Skill-share Workshop (Sunday). All events are free and open to the public.

"There are so many different ways to get involved and so many things we offer, that everybody can find their niche," Watson said.

The programming medley is based on the Space's "Three Wings" philosophy. The first wing stresses the melding of art and activism, encouraging visitors to get creative in the Space's workshops and showcase their talents in a public forum. The second provides youth with health, wellness and sex education resources, largely by teaming up with existing organizations like Lifelong AIDS Alliance and Northwest Network. The last wing delves into advocacy, providing research and education on queer needs to the public at large. By addressing all three wings in their programming, QYS hopes to become more than a physical haven of acceptance, but a respected, young and queer voice in the community.

In the meantime, Watson is looking forward to Monday's Queer Feast. The annual event will have free, homemade food (a huge boon for the disproportionate number of homeless, LGBTQ youth), performances and old friends.

"It's such a bonding experience," he explained. "I'm so excited to have the whole community in our own space this time, doing an event we used to do elsewhere."

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The expansive open space of the QYS will be suitable for a wide range of programming and services.

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