An Open Letter
I see the need for a LGBTQIA+ mentoring program because of my own personal experience when I was growing up. I am a gay man; I come from a religious family and I grew up in Singapore - a place where homosexuality is still illegal. When I was younger, I struggled a lot with my sexuality and self-acceptance.
Without positive queer representation in mainstream local media, and while living in a conservative household and having no one in my life that reflected gayhood in a positive way, this made me loath myself and stopped me from exploring my sexuality in a time when everyone else was going through their own personal development. In addition, it also made me pull myself away from my friends and family for fear of being outed, which left me lonelier than ever and made me very depressed.
Back then I always wished for someone to talk to, someone who could understand what I was going through and for someone to tell me that it’s ok to be gay and that things will get better. I would have done anything back then just to have had a safe space for me to be myself and to discover my true identity.
Founder of Open Kitchen
Not feeling accepted by family, trouble with bullying in school, and fear of being outed
The Big Issue
Unfortunately, Lutfi's experience is not unique to LGBTQIA+ youth. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 40% of LGBTQIA+ youth say that the community they live in does not accept queer people. LGBTQIA+ youth are twice as likely to be bullied or physically assaulted in school. Most of them say that their biggest problems are not feeling accepted by family, trouble with bullying in school, and fear of being outed; in contrast the biggest problems for their hetrosexual and cisgender peers are classes, exams, and grades.
Additionally, evidence suggests that due to discrimination, isolation, and queerphobia; LGBTQIA+ youth are at higher risk of mental health problems such as depression, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and alcohol and substance misuse.
Empower youths and help them embrace their best self through mentoring
At Open Kitchen, we want to tackle these issues head on by providing youths with the support they need. We want to empower youths and help them embrace their best self through mentoring and the joy of cooking. We match LGBTQIA+ youths with a mentor, where they are invited to cook meals together and socialise - the goal is to help normalise their shared experiences and to learn from each other in a safe space. Ideally, Open Kitchen will pair mentees with mentors that have a shared similar background and/or similar circumstances when growing up.