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Developing and questioning one’s identity is a rite of passage during the teenage years. This can be a difficult process, and sometimes especially so for LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersexual, asexual) teens.  Once a month on Thursday evenings, beginning Sept. 19, the Evanston Public Library’s Teen Loft will launch a Teen Safe Spaces Group geared toward supporting and building community for LGBTQIA+ teens.

The goal of the Safe Spaces group is to build community, knowledge, self-awareness and the ability to advocate for one’s self and others around the issues of identity and sexuality. Research shows that many youth in the LGBTQIA+ group (especially youth of color) are bullied and struggle with mental health issues. These teens may be on the margins or isolated. Creating a safe space at the Library speaks to this need for acceptance and community.

The Loft’s Safe Spaces Group will use a youth-led model, offering mentoring along with creative programming to cultivate community. The group will strive to support members’ growth and knowledge about queer community. Activities will range from storytelling and sharing personal histories to field trips, service projects and mentoring. Future plans include visits to other Safe Spaces groups in Chicago and the integration of a justice/outreach program.

The Safe Spaces program will take place at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month, beginning in the third-floor Loft at the Main Library, 1703 Orrington Ave. Registration is not required. Those with questions may call the Loft at 847-448-8625.

More information about the acronym LGBTQIA+ is available at https://lgbtqia.ucdavis.edu.