Our People, Our Community, Rural Youth
ROCQY: A Community for Rural Queer Youth
Sophie Samek in conversation with Mabe Kyle
October 3, 2023
Rural Ontario Community of Queer Youth (ROCQY) is a grassroots organization that aims to unite 2SLGBTQ+ youth from across Ontario. Cofounded by Mabe Kyle and their team, ROCQY began as a peer support group that stemmed from a Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) research project. Gradually, it has evolved into a community network accessible to Queer youth living in rural areas.
The motivation behind ROCQY is simple. “People deserve to access community, whatever community looks like,” Mabe explains, yet safe access is not always available. Mental health resources and support systems are rare in rural Ontario, especially for Queer youth. ROCQY helps fill this void by acting as a support system that emphasizes social justice, equality, and the importance of health and wellness. Despite being a new organization, ROCQY has already hosted a workshop series highlighting sexual health, spiritual wellness, community care, self-care, harm reduction, and trans healthcare. The organization has also attended multiple pride events in rural towns to establish their presence.
As a student and proponent of expressive arts therapy, Mabe combines personal and creative expression with mental health advocacy. ROCQY, for example, has worked with communities to produce a zine, a self-published magazine that highlights themes of futures, love, community, and resilience. At the core of ROCQY initiatives, Mabe maintains mindfulness towards mental health and a desire to “support people who live at the intersections of having mental health problems and being queer and trans youth in rural spaces”.
Mabe’s advocacy is palpable and influences the direction of ROCQY. Currently, the grassroots organization is preparing a larger scale multimedia project that examines what the intersection of queer and rural looks like for individuals in both communities. Using an accessible format, the project aims to film, record, write, and host events that highlight the community Queer individuals have created and how it is thriving. Mabe also hopes that this project will reduce the “backwards thinking” stigma often associated with rural communities. “There can be isolation when it comes to the intersectionality of being Queer and rural, however our lives are very nuanced,” Mabe observes, “it's not one way or another and I want to be able to portray this nuance throughout the series”.
To produce this project, Mabe is looking for individuals to interview who identify with these intersections. If interested, please feel free to reach out to ROCQY via their social media. As well, you can follow ROCQY’s journey and get involved with the community through their platforms.