Craig Wynn, Digital Youth Work Officer, talks about his experience of working at LGBT Youth Scotland during lockdown and how we launched our very own online community for LGBTI young people in Scotland.
"The last few weeks have been strange, to say the least. Some days are mind-numbingly boring, others are intensely stressful. They're almost all experienced from the same room, day in, day out. Obviously that experience isn't unique to me, but it's definitely been the most challenging few weeks of my time at LGBT Youth Scotland. But I can proudly say that I look forward to walking those few metres to my desk every morning to start work.
Here's why it's been so exciting: we've just launched our very own online community for LGBTI young people across Scotland. This was always our plan, but it was due to launch much later than it has. When the lockdown started, we had no choice but to end all youth group meetings and move online as quickly as possible. We first relied on Facebook, where most of our groups already had a presence, but we knew it wasn't the perfect solution - many young people simply don't want to use it now and they have valid concerns about their privacy.
Fortunately, we were in the final stages of setting up a Discord server with unique channels and roles tailored to our youth groups across Scotland. Discord is a platform originally built for the gaming community, but it's now loved by users of all ages across the world. It brings people together around common interests and allows for powerful moderation and security controls.
In late March, we doubled our efforts to bring the launch forward and we now have over 200 young people from 25 youth groups online. Each of the groups meets once a week in their own private channels and all users can meet new friends and engage on a range of topics in the general channels. With voice, video, screen sharing and even custom LGBTI emojis, it's a beautiful space for young people to connect and enjoy themselves.
It hasn't been easy but, without a doubt, it's given us even more reason to be proud of the work we do here. With Pride events cancelled all around the world, it was vital to give young people a platform that's safe and welcoming to all of them. While they might not get to dress up, come together and celebrate their identities this year, they now have their very own space to confidently express themselves and celebrate the fact that, no matter what, we're all #StillProud.
Hear more from one of the young people using our Discord server here.
I spoke to one of our youth workers in Edinburgh, Ceridwen Ball, about how Discord has helped so far. Ceridwen runs two of our youth groups, InfiniT and Polari, as well as our Youth Commission on Gender Recognition. "The community is really buzzing," she says. "We've already seen young people discussing activism, sharing positive pics, and posting learning opportunities. I've seen young people who are rurally-isolated now connecting with others from across the country."
As a youth worker who's used to running groups in our physical spaces, it's been a huge change of gear in a short time. But compared to Facebook, Discord's made the process a lot easier, says Ceridwen. "It's great that young people can choose whether to engage through voice, video, text, or all three," she explains, adding, "I feel connected to the youth commission more than ever and engagement has gone up."
And despite the loss of one of the most important events on the LGBTI calendar, Ceridwen explains that Pride will live on this year: "It's something our community has always been great at; coming together to celebrate. We're still doing that, one way or another!"
Nicola Booth, our Head of Youth Work, shares similar views. "I’m so proud of all the work we’ve done at LGBT Youth Scotland to create a digital community for young people, particularly at this time when connecting with others is so important," she says. "It’s amazing that we've been able to provide a safe and welcoming space where young people are free to be their authentic selves."
On missing Pride, she adds, "While we aren’t able to physically attend any events this year, we can still come together as a community. We're still proud!"
To learn more about why we're #StillProud, and how you can take part too, take a look at our Pride Savings Calculator.