St. Louis Queer+ Support Helpline
Growing up in Singapore as a trans-masculine, genderqueer, pansexual individual, Luka grew up feeling alien and different, without any LGBTQIA+ role models to look up to or queer-affirming peers to talk to. Luka’s country criminalized their sexual identity and clamped down on any space for self expression. And while a new generation open to diverse identities was growing in Singapore, it was not until Luka moved to St.Louis, Missouri, USA, that they found the courage to come out and own their identity in public.
“I only found the courage to come out when I joined the St. Louis LGBTQIA+ community, and found myself in a much more queer-affirming environment," says Luka, who was determined to help others who are in a similar position, find a safe, affirming and supportive space for them to be who they are without judgement or discrimination.
While things in St. Louis were better than they were in Singapore, Luka discovered that the LGBTQIA+ community there faces higher rates of violence, employment and housing insecurity, medical, mental and sexual health disparities and barriers to accessing identity affirming resources to help them address their needs. Reflecting on their personal experience, Luka sees that LGBTQIA+ oppression stems from the “cis-heteronormative social and cultural attitudes that become entrenched in public policy and entrenched in social structures by cis-het people in power.” This results in isolation, stigmatization and fear - an experience that Luka knows all too well.
"I had always wished that there was an unconditionally supportive, non-judgmental queer-affirming peer I could confide in and feel understood by,” admits Luka, which is why they co-founded SQSH—to create a resource they wish they had, and to give back to the community that welcomed them. SQSH is the only regional peer support helpline for LGBTQ people, and is run entirely by a team of volunteers. SQSH provides mental health support and connection to a curated database of over 1,000 affirming resources in Missouri to LGBTQ people in need.
SQSH has an incredible track record of success and relies on a feedback loop of community input from callers to develop its programs and resources. Luka is in the process of publishing SQSH's comprehensive resource database for the community, as well as raising funds to pay SQSH leaders to work full-time on the initiative. They hope to develop a sustainable structure for the organization -- and to continue to support LGBTQ people across Missouri.
"I envision a future where all queer humans will have opportunities to thrive in a just and equitable world. A world not divided into “helper” and “victim,” but one everyone will be seen as capable and deserving of both giving and receiving help,” says Luka.