Alumni Story: Lau Mehes

Lau Mehes’ work is so related to her Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice (GRSJ) studies, that she says she feels that her work now as a QMUNITY youth worker is an extension of the GRSJ major.

“I learned about oppression and social justice and feminism from my classes, and my work is now based in a social justice framework.”

Lau Mehes, QMUNITY Youth Worker

“How hasn’t it been useful? GRSJ kind of helped me understand how I wanted to live in the world, how I wanted to be as a human. I learned skills in research and writing and everything but the best thing that I took away – I don’t think a lot of people get to come away from university with it – this is my understanding of the world and how I want to live in it.”

What would she say to a prospective student considering stepping in to GRSJ? “Oh my God, do it,” Lau says. “Don’t go to university without taking a class at GRSJ”.

“I learned about oppression and social justice and feminism from my classes, and my work is now based in a social justice framework”, she says.

Lau’s workplace, QMUNITY , is BC’s queer resource centre – the hub for the lesbian, gay, trans*, bi and queer community program, training and advocacy.

As a youth worker with QMUNITY, Lau is involved with four different programs:

  • frequent drop-in’s for GLBTQ2S (gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans*, queer, two-spirited) youth to feel safe and
    supported and to build social networks.
  • one-on-one support with youth for those identify as queer or trans* with issues around gender identity or sexuality
  • anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia workshops in schools
  • special events – Queer Prom, the Pride Youth Dance, and performance cabarets

After graduating with her double major honours in both Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice and in History her jobs included one as researcher with Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre and Ending Violence Association of BC where she worked on the ‘Be More Than a Bystander’ campaign about ending the cycle of violence against women.

In terms of envisioning her career, the light bulb first went on for Lau as a cabin leader for UBC’s CampOUT – a four-day grassroots, community-based summer camp committed to creating an inspiring and welcoming space for queer, trans*, two-spirit, and allied youth 14-21 that was created in response to a study by UBC’s School of Population and Health. While a staff member of Access and Diversity Lau ran CampOUT workshops including ‘Consensus Organizing in Diverse Queer Communities’ and ‘An Intro to Power, Privilege, and Anti-Oppression’ which she developed with much of her GRSJ coursework in mind. The next year, as Cabin Leader, witnessing transformational experiences for participants and volunteers also became transformational for Lau.

“I fell in love with the work that they were doing, I was just totally inspired by it.”

Now with QMUNITY, that passion continues. “This is like being able to do camp all year long, and camp was such a magical place for me, that place just lit me up”.

“I get to work with these incredible youth. They are so intelligent and the whole way they look at the world is so inspiring, they are really, really magical humans. They have absolutely faced a lot of adversity. It is so amazing to be able to help give them the tools they need to succeed.

It’s so incredibly rewarding to see youth who have been struggling and that you’ve supported start to come into themselves. There was one youth who decided he wanted to transition and we supported him through the whole process. Finally he came in one day and was getting his first shot of testosterone – he came in and wanted to share that moment with us.”

She is motivated by witnessing youth taking on more and more leadership roles, and by feedback from those who were struggling telling her, “I’ve become such a different person because I came to gab.”

Her role as a community worker is receiving recognition — recently Lau was profiled in the media, selected as one of Vancouver’s Top 30 Under 30.