3 ROCQY executive members meeting at pride. Rachel (she/they) standing on the left is wearing red jean shorts, a navy hawaiian button up short sleeve shirt with red flowers and green palm leaves on it, and a burgundy t-shirt underneath. They are also wearing safety pin earrings with the word ROCQY on them. Rachel is white with long brown hair, brown eyes, and smiling. Mabe (they/them) is standing in the middle with short blue jeans, a blue and white plaid shirt, with a purple t-shirt underneath that has the ROCQY logo on it, rainbow suspenders, a rainbow bowtie, a panama hat, sunglasses hanging out of their pocket that have a rainbow frame. Mabe has earrings that were beaded and has rainbow eyeshadow on. Mabe is white with short brown hair and brown eyes and is smiling. Nathan (he/him) standing on the right side is wearing blue jeans, a dark blue button up short sleeved shirt with heart shaped pride flags on it, and a red t-shirt underneath. Nathan has a sticker of the ROCQY logo on his shirt and is holding onto a transparent water bottle with a black lid. He is white with strawberry blond hair, a beard and mustache, and blue eyes. He is wearing glasses. In the background there are people standing off the the side, a trailer and a golf cart, trees, and a large brick building.

Building Community One Step at a Time for Rural 2SLGBTQ+ Youth: Mabe Kyle

The Stigma-Free Society reached out to Mabe Kyle and asked them to share their experience with stigma and mental health as a rural youth in the 2SLGBTQ+ community. Mabe is a poet and co-founder of the ROCQY (Rural Ontario Community of Queer Youth).

Mabe Kyle (they/them)

Maker of poetry, pottery, and photography who loves being creative.
Adventurer who calls many places home across border lines.
Builder of communities who enjoys being active.
Embracing friends, family, and their neurodivergent mind.

Keener for desserts served at every meal with the sweetest tooth you may find.
Yearning for disability justice and liberation for the collective.
Learning how to express gratitude and be kind.
Embodying a life without binaries who is very introspective.

the thing about weeds is they’re
only weeds if they’re unwanted.
the child in me was a dandelion
excluded from bouquets of flowers.

find ways to grow resiliently
through cracks of pavement,
in a garden among flowers planted,
even when you’re unwanted

the lion in me roars as I transition
into a white flower full of seeds
let the wind pick me up and carry me

you may bury me
but I will grow again,
bring new life,
let my wishes soar high

Mabe (they/them) on their farm standing in front of a pen with a wooden gate and sheep are inside the pen. Mabe is wearing a purple plaid button up short sleeved shirt, jeans, and work boots.Three identities that I hold close to me are being queer, being disabled, and being rural. These are identities that I was born with and that I proudly choose to identify with. Identities that have left me feeling ostracized and isolated, as well as identities that have brought joy and community into my life.

I grew up believing this narrative that I could not be both queer and rural. That if I wanted to be queer and accepted, I needed to move to the big city where I could find community. I had spent my teenage years deeply closeted and suppressing my queerness and gender. When it came time to begin my post secondary education, I decided to move to Toronto. However, I quickly realized that as a rural person, I didn’t quite fit in there either. My home community is where my heart remained and where I wanted to continue doing work.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I had moved home after living abroad for the previous two years. I knew that I had to use this time I was spending at home to address serious underlying issues from my mental health struggles that I had been procrastinating working on for years. I tried to find a therapist, but I faced multiple barriers. Even when looking for funded therapists online, I faced stigma and ignorance around being a queer and trans person. One therapist even mentioned in an email that he did not have a lot of experience working with the 2SLGBTQ+ community as he was from a small town. As someone who has lived on a farm for most of my life, that even further erased my experiences of being rural and queer. From my travels around the world, I have come to truly understand that 2SLGBTQ+ people have existed in every human culture since human culture began, even in the most rural and remote places. The difference is how safe people feel living in their communities and being the most authentic version of themselves.

In June of 2021, I was part of a research participation project on 2SLGBTQ+ youths’ experiences of accessing mental health care during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the common barriers that was brought up was rural access to mental healthcare – especially mental healthcare that understood and respected 2SLGBTQ+ people. After discussing the barriers that we faced as a group, we were to come up with a solution. The solution that I suggested was to create a peer support group virtually by and for rural 2SLGBTQ+ youth. For me, having community and a sense of belonging is what has helped my mental health recovery and healing journey. I wanted to create this for other rural 2SLGBTQ+ youth who might be isolated in rural communities, and not have access to 2SLGBTQ+ communities or have a sense of belonging in their home community. Through further discussion and planning, we came up with ROCQY, the Rural Ontario Community of Queer Youth.

To ensure that this idea wasn’t left in research reports and became a tangible grassroots organization, we worked hard to apply for a small grant, run a series of care and wellness workshops, collaborate and curate a zine. We also attended several pride celebrations across rural Ontario, from Haldimand-Norfolk to Strathroy to Kawartha Lakes and places in between. At ROCQY, we are continuing to organize and build the communities that we dream of and want to live in; communities where 2SLGBTQ+ youth can heal and thrive.

let there be a garden of wildflowers
who were made to believe
that they were weeds,

let them grow and make their home together
let them be each other’s family

let them nourish the butterflies who have transformed through metamorphosis
let them nourish the bees making sweet honey
let them enrich the soil through their gifts uniquely

let none of their petals be love me nots
let them thrive

I dream of a community of healers
spreading sustainability for a future
where dandelions are valued
as the wildflowers they are, bringing beauty

To learn more about the ROCQY, browse their Facebook page and follow them on Instagram.
Listen to Mabe and Blake’s interview on the Clearing a New Path Podcast, and check out the affirmation deck created by members of the ROCQY!
Mabe was also featured in the Trans Canada Project: you can watch their interview here.