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Jayan: Youth Activism Today and Tomorrow

May 23, 2024

Jayan hosting the Trans Day of Remembrance event with Nicole

“In a perfect world, I would love to just be a teenager.”

Jayan has been attending our Building Power Youth Advocacy Program for a year, and his passion and leadership are obvious to anyone who meets him. Last year , Building Power planned protests, and built capacity through workshops on topics like harm reduction and crisis de-escalation. They engaged in art therapy, got acquainted with their rights, and partnered with city archive institutions to curate a beautiful exhibit connecting our past with our present and future that was featured at The 519. 

“It’s really cool to be able to have these resources in my life. I also run the Asian Student Alliance at my school, and through Building Power I was able to get guest artists to come in and talk to us,” he says. “Before Building Power, activism involved a lot of dead ends. I had no idea where to start.” 

As anti-trans and queerphobic hate activity rises in Canada, much of it targeting 2SLGBTQ+ youth, Building Power participants are refusing to lie down. “If a child is an activist, we’ve already failed that child. In a perfect world, I would love to just be a teenager,” Jayan says. “It doesn’t matter if it’s fair or not. The question is ‘What we’re going to do about it?’” 

Since being part of Building Power, Jayan has gotten more comfortable in front of a crowd. “I don’t enjoy public speaking. I’m your average art school kid who’d rather be behind the camera,” he says. But last year he took a big leap and co-hosted The 519’s Trans Day of Remembrance (TDoR) event with Nicole Tanguay, The 519’s 2SGBTQ+ Older Adults Program Assistant. “There was so much love in that room. It was really impactful.” 

Jayan posing with other particpants and staff at the Building Power Graduation event

(Photo: Jayan at the Building Power graduation event, 2023)

At 18 years-old, in a political climate where many seek to invalidate trans youth, Jayan often feels pressure to be an all-knowing authority for his peers. He says TDoR, where he got to connect with trans elders, was a reprieve from that. “Nicole and I had this moment where they said, ‘Thank you for showing me that the kids are gonna be alright,’” he says. “That was really special; to see how much it meant to them to see me prospering despite everything that’s happening.” 

As for the future, Jayan is hopeful. “We’ve always been here, through every political climate humanity has ever known,” he says. “There’s a narrative that we’re all sensitive snowflakes, but what are we if not resilient? Even if you’re not an activist, or you don’t come out to anybody, you are brave. You are anything but fragile.. 

Building Power: Youth Advocacy Program gives 2SLGBTQ+ BIPOC youth tools to create change. The program partners with organizations all over the city to create enriching experiences for budding activists to further enrich their own communities. Building power meets Wednesdays at The 519.