Did you know that Teen Health Source has been around for 25 years! Started in 1993, Teen Health Source has grown from just a phone sexual health info line into a total phone/text/email/online chat peer education service PLUS this very blog that you’re reading RIGHT NOW! To help celebrate our 25th Anniversary, we’re checking in with some of our previous volunteers to see what THS was like when they were on the lines, and where they’re headed now. Today we’re hearing from Isa!
Teen Health Source when I volunteered there was probably similar to what it is today — a few of us in a basement answering questions on various platforms about sexual health. It was super fun and volunteering with Teen Health Source is always the first thing I recommend when anyone asks me about volunteering opportunities. Perhaps one of my favourite memories from volunteering with THS was when we were practicing hypothetical scenarios (so we’d come up with questions for other volunteers to answer, as a way to practice our peer support #skillz) and my co-volunteer sent me a message pretending to be a girl worried about her sex life with her boyfriend. This message ended with the incredible line: “I miss his pickle :(“. What an amazing way to start off our first shift together.
I wanted to be involved in sexual education, largely because there wasn’t really any at my high school, and I needed to rack up some volunteer hours to get that diploma. Teen Health Source was a great way for me to do both of those things!
Firstly, Teen Health Source was the first space I’d ever been in that was explicitly queer-positive. I didn’t know what I was missing until I started volunteering with THS and was no longer the odd one out in a sea of straight kids (many of whom, as it turns out, ended up coming out years later. Win?). Teen Health Source also connected me with other amazing opportunities, such as volunteering with PPT’s Filling in the Blanks program, and gave me super valuable skills which have helped me in my current work at the Sexual Education Centre at U of T [Link] and other places. I also made lots of friends who I still keep in touch with today!
Probably the biggest change I can think of is the new Ontario sex ed curriculum, which was released I think in Fall 2015. That was a super exciting change for me to see, since I grew up with little to no sex ed! There’s also been a perhaps more gradual shift — when I was a THS volunteer I was the go-to person for sex ed questions, since lots of my peers didn’t have access to or didn’t know how to access sexual health information online or in person. Nowadays, though, teenagers are often the ones teaching me about innovations in sexual health and sexual education!
I really like sharing the affirmations deck that some of the volunteers involved with PPT’s Filling in the Blanks team made — it’s a deck of cards with affirmative statements (such as “The gender(s) of my partner(s) do not determine my sexual orientation” and “You are not “too much.” You are exactly enough,” among many many others!), many of which are queer- and trans-specific, and others which are broader. It’s available for free online [Link] and I think physical copies are available at Planned Parenthood Toronto as well. Also, I do honestly recommend Teen Health Source to lots of my peers, even those who are no longer teenagers, when they have sexual health questions! It’s an amazing resource 🙂
Thanks, Isa! For more in our 25th Anniversary series, check out teenhealthsource.com/tag/25-years
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